A Story About Cars, Entitlement, and Values

by Albie D on November 16, 2011

I was reading a WiseBread article the other day which discussed driving an older car to save money vs. buying a new car (whatever the reason). I’ve always been a proponent of using something until it can no longer be used, or it no longer fulfills my needs. I try to get the most value out of an item that I can.  When it comes to cars, safety and reliability are top priorities. The “status” of the car has less importance to me at this point in my life.

The article got me to thinking about someone I met in college who thought differently. A particular conversation we had revealed that we came from very different worlds, and I think we just had different values in general.  Here’s why…

There were 3 of us… Myself, one of my roommates, and his girlfriend.  We were sophomores at an urban university, living a typical college life. Small apartments, several roommates, cheap unhealthy food, etc. None of us had cars on campus, but we had them at home.

We got to talking cars one day and I asked what kind she had.  She refused to tell me.  I was dumbfounded by this resistance.  What could be the reason for withholding that information?  After some prodding, she later admitted that she was embarrassed to tell me what kind of car she drove.  It was a Hyundai.

“Embarrassed?” I asked.  “Why would you be embarrassed to have a car?  There’s nothing wrong with a Hyundai.  You’re a college student.  You’re not supposed to have nice things yet.”

I don’t recall her exact explanation for being embarrassed, but it was basically that Hyundai wasn’t a very glamorous brand.

Personally, I’d be more embarrassed to drive around in a Mercedes that my parents bought me.  I was perfectly happy to be driving my sister’s old Toyota. To me, this girl came off as entitled.

This interaction gave me a real look into her values, and made me think about my own.  She clearly came from a place where status is important and, apparently, where 20-year-olds drive luxury sedans.  Expensive values.

The fact that this girl was ashamed of her car felt like a slap in the face for me.  She was embarrassed about something that was pretty normal, even lucky, in my world.  At the time I found this obnoxious.

That’s all in the past now.  We had our differences, but I wish her well.  I only hope she has grown to appreciate what she has, and that her values don’t wind up costing her more than she can afford.

This story isn’t about right vs. wrong or rich vs. poor.  People have different economic situations and lifestyles, and we are all free to choose our own values and beliefs.  For me this story is a reminder of where I place my own values.

I drove that old Toyota ’til its last breath, with several surgeries and band aids along the way.  By the time it ran out of juice I was out of school, working, and I paid cash for another used car.  What I value is value itself, and it actually saves me money in most cases.

Have you ever been embarrassed about something you owned?  Do your values cost you, or save you money?

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As a marketing specialist for American Consumer Credit Counseling, Albie has been spreading the word since 2008. He also contributes and designs content for ACCC’s client newsletters, educational materials, and their website, ConsumerCredit.com. Albie loves a bargain, and is a sucker for anything used. Well, almost anything.

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