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California Will Give You $1500 for Your Old @** Car

Written by Ben Carter

This is a love letter.

On Wednesday, my mother sent my sister, my fiance, my dad and I a text. The text read “HEEEEY!! Um on my way now. Gotta plan a memorial service for Theresa!!! Sniff, Sniff!!!”

You might be alarmed or saddened because my mother mentioned the need for a memorial service. You might also want to know who Theresa is and why she is special enough to warrant a text about the need to have a memorial service for her. Do not shed tears for me or my family. Theresa is a wagon, Toyota Camry. Her model year is 1988… I was born in 1987.

Theresa is the only car I or my sister have ever known my mother to drive. My mother has been a faithful woman to her Toyota Camry. Theresa was well past her good years, years ago. I haven’t personally driven Theresa in years, but this is what I know about her:

Theresa’s odometer stopped working somewhere after 228,345 miles. How many miles the car has actually been driven has been a fruitless guessing game for at least eight years. Theresa’s back windows do not roll down and the speedometer arm shakes. She got a brand new, refurbished engine probably about six years ago and has been rocking a light brown paint job that’s faded on the hood to the point where you can see the steal color of the car. So many years on those California roads stripped Theresa even of her cosmetic beauty. In the last 12 months, Theresa was stolen (and recovered) twice.

But Theresa paid her dues. She took me to baseball games, hockey games, birthday parties and was the first car I learned to drive. I even added to the “mystery miles” by deciding to have a high school sweetheart who did not go to my school and lived 30 minutes away. Theresa and I have enjoyed many late night drives back to Pasadena together.

Theresa did something far more than just survive for about the length of time that I’ve been alive. Though her “prime” ended (literally) decades ago, she provided our family (and mother in particular) the chance to avoid the full cost of a new car or new transportation expense. To be clear, there have been countless internal face lifts for Theresa. The amount of work done on her would rival a Housewife of Los Angeles who is 72-years-old and can’t fathom the idea of becoming old. There were expenses to keep the car up and running, but none of them rivaled the long-term cost of buying a new car.

Theresa’s reign as the “family car” is an amazing example of how an old, beat up piece of junk, that gets joked on by ungrateful kids like myself and my sister, can actually serve a great purpose in helping to keep one’s monthly expenses modest.

In the end, my mother learned the State of California will allow you to retire old cars, and will pay you for it. The photo above shows the picture my mother sent along with her text (yes, her name is "Mommy Carter" in my phone), indicating she’d be “retiring” Theresa. What an amazing bonus that the state would give my mother $1500 for doing so.

Theresa. You’ve been so good to us and you need to know, the Carter family loves you.

What's your “Theresa”? What does she keep you from having to make a big purchase on?

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