Variance - Part II

I've always driven a Honda since the time I learned how to drive. My parents drove Honda Accords, I drove a Honda Accord in high school, my first car in college was a 1999 Honda Civic, and when I first started working at K&L I bought a 1995 Honda Accord to make the commute. It wasn't until a few years ago, when one of my co-workers moved to the East Coast, that I bought his amazing 2003 Volkswagen GTI. The car was seven years old and only had 8,000 miles on it. It was in absolute perfect condition because the guy I bought it from was completely OCD about keeping it clean and beautiful. That being said, never during my time owning a Honda, used or new, did I need to bring either car in for anything other than an oil change. Yet, in my fifth year of VW ownership, not a year has gone by when I haven't needed to replace something or fix a rather pricey issue. While picking my car up last night at the garage (I needed a new thermometer in the engine), I asked my mechanic Andrew (who I trust with my life): "So am I needing constant repairs because the car is old despite the mileage, or is this indicative of a larger problem?"

"Honestly? It's because it's a VW. German cars need constant maintenance. It's part of the deal," he replied.

"So I'm trading power and speed for more time in the shop?" I asked in response.

"Exactly," he said.

It all made perfect sense to me, so I wasn't the slightest bit upset at the reality check. If you like to wear nice clothes (which I do), then you can't just throw them in the washer when they get dirty. You need to take them to the dry cleaner, which can cost you upwards of $60 a week if you go often (which I do). That's part of the maintenance. If you like to drink expensive wine (which I do), then you can't assume that just because you spent $200 on the bottle that your satisfaction is guaranteed. There are no guarantees with wine, which is why guys like me shouldn't be buying $200 bottles. If you can't afford to dump $200 down the drain, then you can't afford to drink $200 bottles of wine because you have to assume that one out of every ten bottles is corked, past its prime, was stored incorrectly, or is spoiled in some way for some other reason. That's why people (not me) buy cases of $200 bottles of wine: to protect against the bad beat. You'll probably get at least ten good bottles from a case.

Then there's the maintenance that goes along with wine collecting: wine storage, wine coolers, temperature controls, etc. By the time you're done, you've probably spent another thousand or more just making sure your wine doesn't go bad after you've bought it. That's why you have to pick and choose your battles. I'm not in for the long-term wine game. I can't afford the upkeep that a serious wine cellar requires and it isn't worth it to me ultimately. Clothing, on the other hand, is. Cars? I don't know. I don't know if I care enough about German speed and precision to justify the upkeep, but I completely understand the concept. It's no different than most luxury items, which require all kinds of extra responsibilities. It's never just about the price of admission (see the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels where Michael Caine teaches Steve Martin about the responsibilities of having money and class). Enjoying nice things often means spending far more money than you were originally expecting.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll