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Taking Back the Wheel

Michael Perry

WE FLEW BACK TO the U.S. last week from Madrid, and were reunited with our car of 12 years. After selling our house in late 2022 and going nomadic, we had headed to Europe six months ago, opting to have our 2008 Lexus SUV professionally stored.

In an earlier article, I recounted the thought process behind this decision. Suffice it to say, we chose this option largely because we had no firm plans for when we’d need our car again, but wanted to know we could have it back—and ready to be driven an extended distance—at virtually no notice. It turned out to be in storage for six months, but it might have been far longer and, in the future, it could be.

For $180 a month, the facility’s staff provided indoor storage and performed monthly maintenance, including running the engine and air-conditioning, cycling all the windows, maintaining tire pressure and fluid levels, and moving the car a short distance within the facility. The staff let us know each month that maintenance was performed and whether there were any issues. We had one issue a few months in: The battery failed to stay charged.

Our battery was under warranty, and we had gotten it from a national chain. The storage facility staff offered to take the car to a local branch, so we could have the problem fixed under the warranty. But the testing showed the battery to be good, which meant that we potentially had a car problem, not a battery problem. That meant an issue could still exist, but at least we’d be prepared.

Getting the car back was a breeze, and everything was as we expected. The staff had put the car on a trickle charger, so it was charged and ready to roll when we got it. Everything inside was as we’d left it. After flying in from Spain very late in the evening, we slept in an airport hotel and took an Uber the next morning to pick up the car.

We’d already set up an appointment for preventive maintenance with a Lexus specialist that was on our route. The day after we got the car back, we handed it over for service and picked up a loaner. Later that day, with a new light bulb and rear brakes, our car was pronounced in excellent health, including its battery and electrical system.  We’ll only have it out of storage for a few weeks and a few hundred miles before we store it again.

Some readers will be thinking it would have been better to leave the car with a friend or family member, or just park it, and save money that way. We considered but then rejected these options. With no set return date, it made little sense to ask someone to care for the car indefinitely, or to just leave it somewhere with nobody paying attention. We wanted to know our car would be immediately drivable whenever we needed it, and there was no one able to store it conveniently and in the way we desired.

A side benefit to storing the car—one we hadn’t initially considered: We can store a few belongings in it. We decided shortly before leaving the U.S. to lighten our load and left a kettlebell in the car, along with roughly a small suitcase’s worth of shoes and clothing. While we were gone, the staff were happy to take delivery of some small boxes and put them in the car for us. We’ll again store some belongings when we hand the car back to the storage folks in a few weeks, before we return to the other side of the pond.

Brief mention of my kettlebell dilemma in my previous article sparked some interest and advice from readers, so I owe an update. As you might have gathered, my bell did not make the trip to Europe but rested comfortably in the car. An Italian acquaintance referred me to a gym not far from where we were staying, and it had the equipment I needed for my kettlebell instructor recertification. That worked out well, but I’ve now been without a kettlebell since June. That’s had a silver lining, forcing me to work more on other skills, but I do miss my bells. I’m glad to have one back in my hands for a little while. But soon enough, it’ll be hibernating in our car once again.

Michael Perry is a former career Army officer and external affairs executive for a Fortune 100 company. In addition to personal finance and investing, his interests include reading, traveling, being outdoors, strength training and coaching, and cocktails. Check out his earlier articles.

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