In support of our editorial theme this month (i.e., testing & maintenance), I thought a more personal view on this topic was in order. My wife and I recently helped fund the purchase of our 18-year-old son's new (i.e., pre-owned) car. Despite the fact that his old ride — a 1993 Toyota Camry with a mere 79,000 miles on it — got pretty good gas mileage and served him well enough throughout high school, the typically reliable sedan had turned into a money pit the last few years, becoming uncharacteristically unreliable.

First, the AC system broke down, which called for a new compressor. Then, the right CV joint started to leak fluid, which called for a replacement boot and seals. Next up, a series of oil leaks called for new pan and valve cover gaskets. Throw in a replacement battery, left CV joint work, front door power window motors (both left and right side!), new plug wires, new tires, and a clunking noise somewhere in the front end of the vehicle (which has still yet to be properly identified), and we had reached our limit. Despite our best efforts to perform regular maintenance over the years, we still faced problem after problem with this vehicle.

To eliminate at least one of our many worries of shipping our son off to college this month, we bit the bullet and helped him buy his dream car — a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria, outfitted with a Police Interceptor package. No fooling! You see, not every young man dreams of owning a hot sports car. My son has yearned to be a police officer for as long as I can remember. In his eyes, this is by far the coolest car on the road.

As you might imagine, my wife and I had many lively discussions on this issue prior to making the purchase. Although it took me quite a while to warm up to this idea, my practical nature eventually overrode my emotions (and fear of abuse from my neighbors and buddies). In the end, I found myself supporting my son's wishes — a most unusual position. Let me share my thought process with you.

Sure, the standard Crown Vic is typically driven by retired men and women who can barely see over the steering wheel, which takes away from a vehicle's “cool” factor. However, a Crown Vic equipped with the Police Interceptor package is actually a very reliable, stable, and safe ride. These vehicles feature heavy-duty suspension components, external oil and transmission cooling systems, an oversized alternator and battery, and heavy-duty shocks. It's this “heavy-duty” nature that makes this vehicle the popular choice of most taxi companies. In addition, as with most fleet vehicles, this car has been very well maintained and subject to a rigid maintenance program. Sure, the gas mileage isn't the greatest, but the car is a true workhorse — and should provide my son with a very reliable form of transportation for many years to come. He's also thrilled to know he's driving a vehicle that was previously driven by a county sheriff.

So whenever you think about the topic of maintenance, remember that spending a few more dollars up-front on the purchase of proven components is always a good idea. It's also important to create regular maintenance schedules for your equipment and stick to them. The benefits of extended life and improved reliability levels are well worth the initial and ongoing investment. So if you happen to find yourself driving around Lawrence, Kansas, anytime soon and jam the brakes in a panic as you pass by what appears to be an unmarked police car, make sure you give a honk and wave to my son. You'll know it's him by the big smile on his face.