Have you ever heard of the sunk costs fallacy? Basically, it’s when you keep spending money on something that isn’t working because, well, as much as you’ve spent on this so far, it would be a waste of money to walk away now. A lot of us run into this from time to time; we’ve fixed so much on our machines, they’re bound to be perfect soon, right? As much as this can be wishful thinking for some, it can be the reality for others.
INTRODUCTION: ERIC METCALF, DSMer, 2GNTer
Meet Eric Metcalf. He’s a web applications (computer) programmer from La Grange Park, near Chicago, Illinois. He’s a friend of mine from 2GNT, has a 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX for the track and a 1997 Eclipse RS (2GNT) for a daily driver. A while back, he posted something to Facebook which caught my eye and I thought it was important I share it with you here.
First, a little background on his 97 2GNT. Eric bought the 97 while doing an internship in Portland, Oregon, and drove it back home to Illinois. It would be his daily driver for years. Even now, when he can take the train in to work, he still drives the 2GNT a couple times a week. He says, “It has always been my reliable car for long trips, hot summers, and freezing winters.”
THE FACEBOOK COMMENT
Here’s what Eric posted on Facebook, almost randomly, as an update:
Time passes and you feel like you should just move on to something new. Then something comes up that you need to fix. Spending that time fixing the problem reminds you of all the work and time you spent over the years and how good it feels that you were able to get through it and come out better on the other side. Something new just wouldn’t have as much attachment as what you already have.
Coming out better on the other side. How’s that for perspective? As easy as it is to see the continual problems and repairs as reason enough to cut bait and run – sunk costs, after all – Eric presents a more optimistic point of view. I asked him how he thinks this perspective has helped or hindered him on his automotive journey. He responds:
I may have found new thrills working on and/or driving different cars. I don’t know if anything can beat the first warm day of spring when I can roll down the windows, open the sunroof, hear the engine scream wide open through the gears, and feel the handling through the curves in my Eclipse. This is the first car I worked on myself. It wasn’t in great condition when I bought it. I worked on it little by little, gaining more confidence to do more difficult maintenance, repair, and upgrades each time. Working on the car reminds me of how far I have brought the car since I bought it and also how far it has brought me.
WHY BUY A ROUGH 2GNT?
Eric told me he needed a new car and was actually in the market for something completely different, but always loved the look of the Eclipse. He wanted to get one some day, but they were still priced beyond what he wanted to spend. He spotted a banged-up specimen in his price range advertised in the local newspaper and had to check it out. I don’t know what he had been planning to purchase, but as he puts it, “I had never driven a small, manual car before and it was much more exciting to drive than the car I planned on buying.”
The Eclipse was the first car Metcalf learned to work on. His dad used to fix up cars, but now he was thousands of miles away. With more time than money and a roommate to lend a hand, Eric started where most of us do – performing small maintenance
“The more I worked on the car, the more I found it’s not such a mystery how everything works, and not so complicated that I couldn’t do it myself. Any problems or questions I ran into, I could find the answer in an online forum for my particular car.”
DSMers: THE BEST PART ABOUT OWNING AN ECLIPSE
“The best thing for me is meeting others with the same car. Those with the same taste in a car seem to share more than just that. All cars have their strong and weak points; price, looks, handling, and speed are examples. You choose a car based on these things and I believe this choice is based on your current outlook on life. For example, I’d rather buy a nice used phone for cheap and mod it. It’s cheap, modern looking, and slightly customized but not the most popular or top of the line phone. Which seems similar to my car choice.”
Eric told me he keeps going back and forth between being very involved in some form of motorsport and not being involved at all. He hasn’t been doing much “playing with cars” lately, but can see himself getting back into it again in the future, given the right inspiration. For now, he’s just happy with the DSM the way it sits right now. So long as it keeps running well and looking young, he’ll keep enjoying it.
When asked about the most important thing this car has taught him about himself, Eric replies, “The car has taught me I am capable of learning about and doing unfamiliar hobbies. I’m never afraid to try a new hobby that I have no previous experience with before. Also that there are a lot of friendly people on car forums willing to help you out.”
Sunk cost fallacy. Spend enough time and money on a vehicle – we all do – and you find yourself faced with the question of whether it’s worth it or not. Eric Metcalf reminds us that it is indeed worth it more often than not. The time we spend “playing with cars” is time well spent. We learn something every time we pick up a wrench.
Are you coming out better on the other side as a result of being a gearhead?