For the first time ever, my wife and I have managed to roll a car’s odometer over the 100,000-mile mark. Neither of us has ever had a new car. Most of the cars that I’ve owned have had over 100K on them when they have entered my possession. We’ve seen several cross that wondrous 200,000-mile mark, and we have had one intrepid little BMW 3-series that we managed to get well over the 300,000-mile marker. When we passed that one on, it had something in the neighborhood of 350,000 miles on it. We had to replace the differential twice, it had a salvaged 5-speed gearbox in it, but the original, un-molested engine would purr like a kitten, despite all of its fluid leaks.
At that point in time, we had two non-running Civics (which have since found new homes), a Prelude in a jillion pieces all over the garage (still there), and the BMW. Jenni had the BMW parked at work when a co-worker decided to slam her Jeep into it. The car was still very usable, but it was clear that we did not want to put the time, effort, or money into fixing the car to see how much beyond that 1/3 million miles we could push it. I worked at a Ford dealership at the time, and someone had just traded in their sub-one-year-old Nissan Sentra on a new 3/4-ton pickup (right before the initial massive gas price creep in 2005).
I saw that little 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R SpecV and decided to look a little more closely at it. The insurance company had made a repair estimate on the BMW, and we started looking into what options we had. The Sentra was new enough that it still had a factory warranty on it. I want to say that it has something like 25,000 miles on the clock. The dealership quoted me a price that was quite attractive. Yes, we could have gotten a new Sentra for that price, but it would not have been the high-compression 2.5-liter mated to a 6-speed mixer atop a stiff suspension with aluminum alloys wrapped around enormous Brembo brakes. It would have simply been a drowsy people mover.
Jenni and I took the car for a test drive one day after work. We had been looking for something light and nimble, with four doors and five seatbelts, newer than anything that we had previously driven, with a little more punch under the hood than your typical people-mover, and we still wanted it to get decent gas mileage. Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check. It looked like we had a winner! We inquired about a trade-in on the beat-up BMW. They told us that they might be able to give us $500.00 on it. I looked at the possibility of selling the Bimmer outright, and it looked like we would be lucky to get $1200.00 out of it in its well-used condition. As it turned out, we donated the old car to a single mother in need through AM Vets or some such organization so we could write it’s book value off our taxes.
We were able to get a good loan through our credit union, and used our insurance settlement as a down payment. About a year ago, we were able to refinance the car for a far lower interest rate. The car is sitting just outside the office right now with 100,005-miles on the odometer. To date, we have done fluid and filter changes, replaced the radiator hoses, several sets of tires, replaced the front and rear brake pads on only one occasion, had it in the body shop twice, and it has had two repairs under factory recalls. There is an exhaust hanger that I need to replace, and now it needs spark plugs, an accessory belt, another oil change, an air filter, and another 100K-miles, apparently!
This has been a great car. I really miss my Hondas, but we have enjoyed this Nissan. Honestly, I miss the wagon format. I’m not crazy about owning a black car, and would not have purchased this one had it not nearly dropped into our laps. It’s difficult to fault it for reliability or a nagging maintenance schedule. I would eventually like to do some performance work to it. A turbocharger would be nice, but I wouldn’t even need to go that extreme to give it a little more oomph. If we did that, I would probably de-badge it and put those cheesy brake-dust shields under the wheels to hide the giant, Italian calipers and make it a real sleeper.
Perhaps in 2012, when we have run it over the 200,000-mile mark, we will trade it in on some high-strung micro-wagon in a non-neutral color. Until then, I look forward to many more years of this car serving the family.