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Old farm trucks no longer the best option for new drivers

TooMuch Volvo.jpg

An overpriced used Volvo kept us on the trail for just the right buy.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, May 19, 2018

We are fully mobile — as in “auto-mobile” — now that our twins have turned 16 and are licensed drivers. It’s a development that is both wonderful and terrifying, and one that is requiring us to test-drive a lot of used cars.

Since we tend to drive our vehicles into the ground, opportunities for test-driving do not come around often. Our search for a used vehicle with all-wheel drive and a high safety rating has landed us at some very professional used-car lots and a few others as well.

One thing I enjoy about test-driving used cars as opposed to brand new ones is how the salesman most often does not come along for the ride. Nothing against car salesmen, but I prefer not having one in the backseat while I'm challenging the off-road landing gear of a prospective SUV.

The most eventful test-drive I have been involved in was in 1982. Driving a 1964 Chevy pickup, I slammed into the back of a 1974 Torino that several non-English-speaking men were considering purchasing. No one was badly hurt, but four small guys emerged from the backseat rubbing the tops of their heads.

Fortunately for my insurance company and me, those men were from a country where people apparently do not lawyer up against fellow citizens after unfortunate traffic situations.

Fast forward to last week when my wife, Sharon, and I met at a business on Johnson City’s motor mile that distributes thoroughly used cars. After jump-starting the SUV we’d decided to sample, the courteous salesman noticed that the vehicle’s fuel light was on. He gave us five bucks so that we might make it back again.

We didn’t, but not for a lack of gasoline. I reflexively turned off the car’s motor at the gas pump, and the battery was still without juice. A friendly young man with shaggy hair and mirrored sunglasses offered to give us a jump with his jeep. It was then that we discovered the lack of any key or other such starting device in the car’s ignition slot.

As Mason was motoring me back to the car lot, he apologized for the poor condition of his jeep. I entertained him with stories about the rusted-out International Scout that my father once gave me to drive after I’d totaled several of his nicer vehicles.

I cannot imagine one of my daughters driving a vehicle from the 1960s. One of the twins borrowed my 1996 pickup recently and called for instructions on how to turn off the radio.

When our oldest daughter began driving two years ago, we put her in a 2001 Volvo that weighs nearly as much as that old farm truck I used to drive. Carly’s one mishap involved backing into a Japanese compact, which was practically demolished. The Volvo came through virtually unscathed.

The twins have perfect driving records so far, but we probably will put them in a used Volvo as well — because they are still their father’s daughters and 1964 farm trucks with modern radios are hard to find these days.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him in Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.