Erin McCullough headshot

Do you remember your first car? I do, too, but that’s because I was still driving it up until Tuesday.

When I got my first car, I was a few months into my 16th year. It was this cute little black hatchback a very nice salesman named Ray helped my parents find for me to drive myself to and from school.

Both my parents taught in neighboring school districts, so they routinely had to be at work before I wanted to be awake in the morning, so they agreed to get me a car so that I could transport myself to school and band practices on the weekends and not have to ride with them and be dropped off before the cafeteria was serving breakfast.

I drove that car more than 100,000 miles all over the great state of Tennessee. My “Little Car,” as I fondly named it, took me to college. It took me to concerts. It took me to comedy shows. It took me to Bonnaroo a few times with friends. It took me to work.

But the thing about cars is they age. They get tired. They require more and more upkeep, which costs more and more money.

While I loved that Little Car, with its manual windows and locks - yes, children, gather ‘round as I show you how to literally roll the window up. Your parents know what I’m talking about! - It had also become more and more costly to repair.

In addition to normal wear and tear, like new tires, oil changes and replaced brake pads, I was pouring more and more money into a car that had long since lost its value.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing math in my head, debating if it was better to drop $400 for new tires or $250 for a new wheel when one of mine had a crack in it or $375 repairing my driver’s door handle, which hasn’t worked for the better part of three years.

Being a 20-something women with not a lot of disposable income, those “little” fixes were becoming larger and larger every time I had to take my car into a shop.

You can ask Mike over at Mike’s Tire Brake and Muffler all about me and my car - it’s basically become a running joke between us every time I had to bring my car in for something.

“Hey, girl! What’s wrong with you now?” he’d ask me when I pushed open his door.

“Oh, the same old, same old,” I’d tell him.

This week was the final straw for me and my Little Car, unfortunately.

I was on my way to our Grundy County office when my car started making all the wrong kinds of noises - the kinds of noises that you hear and immediately pull over on the side of the highway before something catches on fire and ruins your date night at the Montana Drive-In - and turned around and drove my car right to the shop.

After about an hour, I got grim news: my front brakes system needed a complete overhaul. It wasn’t just that my brake pads needed replacing; no, this was a full replacement job, with all the bells and whistles, and it wasn’t going to be cheap.

Even worse? It was a non-negotiable fix. If I didn’t get this brakes situation replaced, it was entirely likely I wouldn’t have any front brakes pretty soon. And that’s some bad news bears. The last thing I want to be doing is heading to a meeting at city hall and crash into the doors because my brakes stopped working. Pretty convenient for Tullahoma’s Finest, seeing as they’re right next door, but not convenient for my wallet.

So I had a choice: drop a significant amount of money right then and there, which I realistically couldn’t afford, or do some quick math and get a new car.

I chose the latter.

Thanks to my mother, I now have a brand new (to me), working vehicle. I have my own insurance policy. It’s my first really big “grown-up” purchase, and I’m proud of myself for taking this step, even though my hand was forced.

I got a good interest rate, an affordable monthly payment, and power locks and windows - no more physically rolling the window down for me!

I’m considering it my two-week-early birthday present from Mom.

I still haven’t thought of a name for the new car, though, so if any of y’all have some ideas, let me know the next time you see me around.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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