On Labor Day, I crashed my car.

Don’t worry. Nobody was hurt; my beautiful, noble 2004 Subaru Outback took the blow for me. The accident was also ruled not my fault (sorry, man in the 2016 Lincoln; hopefully, next time you remember to look both ways before pulling into the roadway).

But my car was totaled, which meant I had to enter the bitter purgatory that is buying a car.

I waited about a month before beginning the journey because my dad died one week after the crash, and there is only so much trauma a person can deal with in one month. So in October, I began my search.

Buying a car must be easy for rich people. If I could have just walked onto a lot, picked whatever car was shiniest, written a check for $30,000 and driven off, I definitely would have. Unfortunately, down here on Planet 99 Percent, I was working with a budget of $3,500 – my insurance payout. So, with my mother in tow, I headed off to the dealer. (PSA: Always bring backup with you when going to buy a car, especially if you are a young woman. I recommend a middle-aged battle-ax with theatrical training and a law degree.)

Now, I had bought my first car from this dealership with no trouble at all. So I returned because I have a type when it comes to cars, and that type is Subaru. They’re good for Maine winters and have lots of storage space for empty Dr Pepper cans and dogs. (I am not a spokesperson for Subaru.Subaru, if you want to sponsor this column, please call me.)


Unfortunately, this time around, the dealership let me test-drive a car off the lot that had about two tablespoons of gas in it. The car ended up running out of gas in an intersection a mile down the road. I had a panic attack.

When we got back to the dealership, I admit, I went in shrieking. There was swearing involved. My adrenaline was up, I was pissed, and I’m a bit protective of the only parent I have left. The guy behind the counter, faced with this Hysterical Female, blamed me for the car running out of gas. He was of the opinion I should have checked the gas level before pulling out of the lot. I was of the opinion that the dealer should make sure his cars are drivable. This impasse proved insurmountable.

So I turned to Craigslist, where there are great deals if you are willing to risk being ax-murdered. But my mother (who would like it known that she disputes the term “battle-ax” in this column but who would not mind an actual Scandinavian battle-ax for Christmas), figured the guy whose ad said “need to sell old car because we just had a new baby” was legit.

Reader, my mom was right. I fell in love with the pewter gray Impreza immediately. Mom haggled down the price. Our trusty mechanic (hi, Doug) checked it over and said it was a solid vehicle with only minor issues. Also, ladies, here’s a fun fact I discovered: When you buy a used car, literally every single man in your life will tell you to make sure to get it checked out by a mechanic. Even if you’ve bought cars before. They mean well.

Then comes the paperwork. My mom and I (since we still only had one car at that point) spent about four hours sprinting from the town hall to the credit union and back again. Fortunately they had every piece of paperwork ever filled out about the car over its 10-year history. (Shout-out to Daniel, Emily and your awesome kiddos.) I’m still not sure what an excise tax is, but when I filled out the check I had to do some deep breathing and remind myself of all the potholes the government filled in last year. Then insurance. Loan papers. Registration. Buying a car is truly a community effort.

But then I finally got behind the wheel of Lorelei (she came with the name) after the license plates had been changed, after she’d been fixed up. And I drove off all alone. And the sun went down as I crossed the hill. And the town lit up. And the world got still.


Tom Petty is on the radio, and I have a set of wheels again. Which means I can go back to pretending to be a grown-up.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial

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