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Are You the One? Wading back into the market after being dumped (by my car)

A year after beloved Saturn's grim death, I'm finally ready to move on

Published September 20, 2013

One year and six months ago, I lost the love of my life. After years of faithful service, my 1996 Saturn took its own life in spectacular fashion. During the ensuing mourning period, I decided I wasn’t ready for a replacement. So I opted to spend a year off-road and, for once, take my time choosing a nice, new vehicle.

Since then, I’ve been walking, biking, renting, taking transit, taking test drives, and learning an awful lot about cars in the process. In the months ahead, I’ll be reviewing the cars that are vying to fill the very big, very worn-out shoes my Saturn left behind. Come along for the ride if you like. I may occasionally venture down the wrong road and bring you with me. But as long as you’re wearing a helmet everything should be just fine . . .

Choosing a car is like choosing a life partner. You have to know what matters, what counts, what suits your personality and satisfies your desires. Choose the wrong one and you’re in for years of misery and heartache. Choose the right one and your life is a dream.

I’ve been on the wrong side of the dream for most of my life — I’ve had clunkers I don’t even want to talk about because you really don’t need that visual — but I accidentally lucked in on a dream car a few years back.

And when I say dream, I mean in terms of its service to me. My 1996 Saturn was average-looking at best, but it cost me 750 bucks and it never gave me a moment’s trouble. It asked for nothing but gave me everything it had, and I adored it. If it had given me a ring, I would have said yes.

The thing was unstoppable. I drove it like a wild woman; I pushed it all the way to 363,000 kilometres and then, and only then, did it start to whimper. Its back hurt. Its knees gave out. It limped, it wheezed. But I couldn’t bear to let it go.

Besides, it had become a running joke now. Part of my “cachet.”

“You’re driving a 14-year-old car?” people would say, their voices breaking into a guffaw before they could even finish the sentence.

“Yes. Yes I am.”

I was proud of it. I knew it was from the wrong side of the tracks but I was hooked. I couldn’t imagine life without it.

And then, one day, it imagined it for me.

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The end came swiftly for my beloved Saturn. Its battery died, so I charged it up and went for a jog, leaving it idling so it could fully juice up. When I rounded the corner on the way back, a gaggle of giddy children ran toward me.

“Your car is on fire! Your car is on fire!” they shrieked gleefully. “It’s gonna blow up!”

Well, I ran the last leg of that block like Perdita Felicien, except without the hurdles. I don’t think I could have done those, even for the Saturn. (I’m not as young as I used to be, although you’d never know it to look at me.) I saw the trouble before I saw the car. Huge clouds of acrid smoke billowed into the air, and although I can’t remember if there were flames, in my heart, I felt like there should have been.

The poor dear. He was done.

He had been wanting to die and I wouldn’t let him. So he took his own life, offing himself right there in my driveway.

I had him towed away and donated his husk to the Toronto Humane Society. They gave me a charitable receipt for $150, which I thought was a nice way for him to go. He liked puppies (or so I like to think).

That was a year and a half ago. I simply wasn’t ready, financially or emotionally, to move on to another love at that point. Instead, I decided I’d take a year off, try taking transit to work, walk a bit more, sit a bit less. It was a good plan and it worked for awhile.

But after about a year, during a particularly biting winter storm, I decided walking to the bus had lost its charm.

I was ready. I was ready to love again. I was ready to buy a new car.

But which car? I didn’t want another clunker, but I’ve never bought a new car before and I didn’t want to rush into a relationship. The market has changed, the cars on offer, they’re different. They’re — well, they’re amazing. A girl could have a lot of fun in this new-car market before she decides to settle down.

So I’ve decided to take my time, rent a few, test drive a lot, and make an informed decision, but from the heart. My decision will be based on what feels right to me in every way. I believe my new car and I will just click. I’ll just know that this is “the one.”

I hope you’ll ride along with me as I try to find my next true love, that perfect blend of sex appeal, dependability, integrity and fun. The journey begins next week when I go on a week-long date with a dark, sexy stranger: the glamorous Lincoln MKZ.

Marie Sutherland is the editor of Wheels.ca

Email: @ msutherland@thestar.ca Twitter: @WheelsMarie

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