Driving an Old Car in New Zealand=Anxiety

Mazda Familia at a campsite in New Zealand.

I’ve been fortunate enough to live in a wonderful country. At the same time, however, I’ve been cursed with an old car to tour the said wonderful country. Okay, I shouldn’t say cursed. I chose this car (as did Daniel). But when you’re on a bit of a budget while traveling, you try and choose the cheapest options. Whether it’s accommodation, food, or attractions, you obviously want to keep the price as low as possible.

Although it’s not always the case, sometimes you really get what you pay for.

When we met the Bloody Legend it was hard to turn down the $900 car. (That’s $775 in US dollars!) All we saw in the car was its price. We didn’t take in consideration that it was nearly as old as I was. (It’s a 1993 Mazda.) We didn’t mind that there wasn’t either a radio or cup holders. We didn’t think too much of its constant puttering noises either. 

After all, the Bloody Legend had recently passed its Warranty of Fitness (WOF) when we bought it. I figured the car should be fine, and so far it has been since we bought it four months ago. We drove all around the North Island, and even made it to our final destination–Wellington. I’d say we’ve gotten our money’s worth.

Yet driving the Bloody Legend is a complete nightmare for me. I’m not only on the other side of the road than to what I am used to, but also this car is a piece of crap that can’t handle New Zealand roads.

I wish we would have tested the car up a proper New Zealand hill. I wish we kept our options open, and didn’t settle on the second car we met. I wish we did consider the year it was made in, and those horrible puttering noises. But since I’ve no experience buying a car on my own, (that’s what moms are for!) we settled on the 1993 Mazda Familia, which we later named the Bloody Legend. 

Mazda Familia parked on New Zealand street.

The Bloody Legend could be the butt of “Yo Car” jokes. You know, like, Yo Car is so slow, my grandma could outrun it. Or Yo Car is so old, George Washington was its first owner. You get the idea: it’s old and it’s slow.

When the speed limit on the highway is 100km (62mph), the Bloody Legend can only get going to 85km (52mph). If it reaches 100km, I’m afraid parts are going to start falling off.

Considering the Bloody Legend can’t go the speed limit, I start to form a queue behind me. (And there is a law here that if you have at least 5 cars behind you on highways then you must pull over.) Since there are an abundance of two-lane roads, I’m often holding up a line of traffic behind me because there isn’t a passing lane. In other words: I’m breaking the damn law.

During my time driving here, I’ve learned two things about kiwi drivers: they’re impatient and take corners very rapidly. As a Florida driver, I know what it’s like to be held up behind a slow person, but also as a Florida driver I’m not really used to driving up mountains, so I take those curves quite slowly. (Daniel may say otherwise.)

Now I’m the cause of others getting annoyed while driving, and because I’d hate to be an inconvenience to others around me, I push harder on the gas. Cue Bloody Legend whining and wailing. Cue Daniel shouting, “DON’T MAKE THE CAR WORK HARDER THAN IT HAS TO!”

Camping out of a car in New Zealand.

When a line is forming behind me the only thing I can do is to try and pull over. But often times this happens when we are going up windy mountain roads where there isn’t really a safe place to pull over. So I continue to make the Bloody Legend work harder. While Daniel continues to get frustrated with my driving.

It’s no surprise that the majority of our fights are taken in the car when I’m driving. Perhaps you’re wondering why doesn’t Daniel just drive? For two reasons: he does not have a license and he is also the navigator in the relationship. I have very little sense of direction and heavily rely on Susan Junior, my iPhone’s GPS. So even if he were to drive, I’d be the navigator and we’d likely end up getting lost (even with the help of Susan Jr).

As I’ve learned in our relationship, he is someone who needs to be in control in a lot of situations, otherwise panic ensues. While I’m someone who would rather let someone else take the reigns. As you can see this doesn’t work too well because I’m stuck driving and taking the reigns. While he’s left in the passenger seat with hardly any control to how I drive. Thus, the anxiety levels rise. Arguments proceed, and we both end up sitting in silence pissed off at one another.

See? Traveling with a partner isn’t all that glamorous.  

Of course, it’s not all bad. There are a couple of benefits to having a really old car. For instance, I’m not as worried about someone breaking into the car, like when I had my much newer 2006 Acura. Someone can’t even steal a radio from the Bloody Legend, just an Eeyore stuffed animal, which Daniel won out of a claw machine. [Side note: How many people ever win something from those?!] But perhaps the best reason to driving an old car, drivers behind me might believe I’m an old person and that gives me an excuse to go slow.

A 1993 Mazda Familia in New Zealand.

2,304 arguments and hundreds of miles later, I did somehow manage to get us to Wellington all right. The Bloody Legend may not have gotten us to see some mountain where Lord of the Rings was filmed, but we did get to see and smell the sulfuric pools and geysers in Rotorua. (And who doesn’t love the smell of eggs?!)

I know it’s not going to be the last argument I ever have with Daniel in the car. We do have the whole South Island to explore in the summer time. Although driving an old car in New Zealand may give me anxiety, I guess it’s just another part of the whole experience of traveling and living abroad.


  1. says

    Oh Jamie, this post made me laugh so much! Not at you guys at all, but because I have the same anxieties. And like Dan, I like to have control over situations or I start to panic.

    The funny thing is, when we were moving to NZ (not anymore — all related to my financial anxiety!), Shawn said to me “Don’t worry, we’ll just buy an old beater car.” You can imagine the scenarios that ran through my head — basically your entire blog post!

    • Anxious Travelers says

      Haha. Any time the car starts to make a new noise (or any noise!) I’m scared the wheels are going to fall off and we’re going to crash. I think the thing I fear the most is the car breaking down. I just think it’d be horrible to slow down traffic behind us…I’d feel awful! Plus pushing our car to the side of the road while people watch. Ugh. I almost don’t want to get into the car again incase it happens!


Leave a Reply