Photo credit Raphael Orlove/Flickr

I was on Craiglsist, as I spend much of my time these days, the other night when I came across language that troubled me deeply. (And no, I wasn’t on the part of Craigslist where you find someone to hurl sexual insults at while they clean your apartment for free. I already got someone for that this month.)

It was an ad for a car. For the purposes of this story, the car itself doesn’t matter, but the fact that it’s from well outside any city does. But here’s what the line said:

Car has had one owner since ‘89 and had been garaged every winter. Have all service records for the car since ‘89 as well.

Now, as you probably know, that’s exactly what you want in a used car, especially one bought from a classified ad. Like, textbook example of what you want. All the records so you can trace what’s been done, it’s garage-kept, and has had just one owner, so there’s presumably some consistency in the manner of care and repairs.

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This is a car that has been loved very much, owned by someone smart and meticulous and careful who cares about what they drive. So here’s my question, dear owner: Are you obligated to maintain that same level of care? What’s your responsibility here?

I ask because as I’ve mentioned before, I recently moved from Texas to Brooklyn. I’m between cars at the moment. I wanted to take time to figure out what my budget and parking situation would look like. But I want another car. Unlike some of my predecessors, I believe the guy who runs Jalopnik should own a damn car. I need another car, preferably something old and interesting. And I’ll get one soon.

But let’s face it: this car will likely be street-parked, or garaged in one of those neighborhood garages full of dozens of other cars. It will be maintained as meticulously as I can manage, but it will still face harsh winters. It will contend with the horrors of the city, deal with inattentive drivers and bad parkers and random acts of chaos. Even on the best of days, it will be far removed from its perfect, garaged, one-owner suburban existence.

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In short: It will live a hard life, as all New York City cars do in some way or another. But it will still be driven and loved and enjoyed.

Does the car deserve that? Or do you, as a buyer, have a greater obligation to maintain the same level of care as it’s always enjoyed? Granted, the owner could decline to sell it to someone like me, a city-dweller, because he or she knows what could happen to their former baby. And that’s their right to do so. But does a new owner owe a good car more than that?

Or does none of this matter, and fuck it, it’s a car, you own it now and do whatever you want with it?