your mileage may vary
no word of a lie, the other day i gave a ride to some friends (my car is 9 years old to give you some context) and they assumed from its appearance and condition that it was brand new. this is not a coincidence, for i purchased it with extremely low mileage and in like-new condition, and i have washed and waxed it regularly for as long as i've owned it, as is clear was done by the previous owner before me. but it is also testimony to a philosophy i share in common with the fram oil filter man, that "you can pay me now or you can pay me later" is one of those automotive laws of the universe that stands by every day of our lives to either reward or punish, depending on how well we're listening.
i'll take a moment to brag that i've done very well for myself automotively over the years, so you can count me solidly among the "pay me now" philosophers who have proved to themselves and anyone who will listen (though it seems kids won't, or don't at first, but i guess that's the way parenthood goes), that it's easier to invest in a car each and every day you own it than to live in constant frustration for how it will let you down if you don't. even skeptics can kinda sorta see the logic with preventative maintenance like oil changes and brake jobs and such, but extremely few people i know go out of their way to invest so heavily in the exterior of their automobiles. it's just appearance, right?
yes, this is the part where mileage does, indeed vary...
first of all, road salt eats cars the way teenagers eat potato chips, and rinsing your ride through the snow months here in the northeast US is the minimum you can do to save it from rust, corrosion and the failure of various undercarriage parts, like steering, brakes, etc. most people, i'm afraid, skip even this step, and you can tell (at least i can) by looking at a car after even just a few years that it's breaking down because of it. worn shocks and tired springs, after all, don't just wear for their own sakes, but the resulting rough ride takes its toll on literally every element of the automobile. yet people just wait for stuff to break, and then complain about how expensive it all is. even the summer sun, pleasant as it may seem through an air conditioned window, does the same thing to your automobile that it does to you when you sit out in it all day long every day, which is to say, burns it right up, fries the rubber and other plastic parts to a crisp, and softens up your paint to the point where it's even less resistant to salt than ever before.
yet, think about it--at 12 bucks a pop for a wash and wax every month of the year, you're not even dropping 150 bucks per annum, which, if you've ever had your car repaired lately, isn't even a down payment on something seriously wrong as a result of not doing it. AND, you get to cruise around town in a sweet looking ride that makes you feel good about yourself at the same time. throw in a garage roof to keep the sun, wind and falling snow at bay, and you could be driving the same car your entire life if you really wanted to. (i so dearly wish i hadn't beat my 1970 chevelle malibu to death, i so dearly do). it's all about taking care.
most folks, however, take their shortcuts and fall out of love with their dulling and dilapidated duisenbergs and let it all go to rust and ruin, and complain about how expensive it is to afford a replacement. (go ahead, cry me a river...)
jim croce sings a bit about the end state of such an impoverished predicament, too.
lowell car wash rocks!