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You plonk your cash down on that desk, and that’s the last time you’ll see it. At least, until you sell your latest automotive-based mistake. We all know that feeling, the dull anxiety in the stomach, trepidation building; that is the feeling of buying a new (to you) car. Buyer’s remorse, in some form or another, is basically inevitable.

Nobody ever really knows how to feel when they buy a car. Some people feel great, elated, or excited. Some see it as another problem. For me, buyer’s remorse has set in for every single one of my thirteen car purchases. The onset varied; sometimes I got it immediately, sometimes a few days in. It depends heavily on the sort of purchase I committed to.

I felt it just recently when I bought my new-to-me 2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R. Admittedly, I had very specific reasons for having serious, debilitating, fuck me, I fucked up buyers remorse. The car began making a pretty rough rattling noise just a few miles away from the dealership. My stomach sank deep. 

Yes, I checked the car thoroughly on the test drive and initial inspection, and no noise was present. I even checked the fluids on the test drive and saw that it, in fact, had some oil in it, and some coolant. It sounded great. Nothing was wrong. So what could have changed in the 24 hours between inspection and purchase?

I spent the entire drive replicating the condition, and repeatedly bashing my head against the rapidly closing mental walls that surrounded me. The elation of the new purchase never came that first day, and that is massively disappointing for a new car. At that point, what is the point? I was already working out contingency plans for when the title arrived in the mail…

You see, buyers remorse can tap into the very worst tendencies of your mind. It’s psychological, with physical effects. Quickly, your inadequacies, insecurities, and your fears all exist in your fogged, panicked thinking, and the leaden lump at the pit of your abdomen. This was the first time I ever bought a second car at all. I’d never had the money to even think of it. It was a genuine mental barrier for me, to assure myself that I did deserve to spend this money, to live beyond simply what I need and introduce myself to buying things I just want.

I had to remind myself that I am a much different person than 18-year-old Chris trying to find a car that works for the commute, but is also fun, and does it all on a shoestring budget. I had to work through my first-generation instinct of survival, and look beyond. I had to teach myself to reap the rewards of the work I love doing. The first cars I purchased were heavy with buyers remorse, but somehow youth suppressed those emotions, and let me face the difficulties of car ownership fearlessly.

All I had to do was drive my GTI again, and realize that it’s all OK. The old car gave me the space to feel secure, feel okay, and work through myself in a familiar space. The value of that cannot be understated. I got used to moving through cars without the chance to reconcile my feelings about it, and launch myself into new and unfamiliar spaces. 

The night I got the Outback home, I did another fluid check. Just to be safe. What did I find? A bone-dry oil sump. Shit. The engine idled okay and didn’t sound like it was hurt, so I got some oil and topped it off. It took three entire quarts of oil. How did I miss that?

Either way, I’ve driven the car about 200 miles, mostly on fire roads, and it is flawless. Now, I get to reap the rewards of my work, and feel elation about my new purchase. 

Buyer’s remorse sucks, and so does the fact that it seems to be unavoidable. Maybe that says something about my taste in cars… but I bet you know the feeling I’ve been describing even if you make careful car purchases. The upshot is that, as long as you do your due diligence, remorse shouldn’t last too long. And if it doesn’t go away, well, back to Craigslist!

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