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The first car we bought as a couple

A car she viewed as ostentatious and oversized becomes essential

Presented by Chase Auto Finance, the following article is part of "My First Car," a first-person narrative series where car owners share memories of how and when they first fell in love with their automobiles. 

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I'm not sure where my family would be today without our 2004 Lexus GX.

This was the first car my husband and I bought together, the car that helped me launch my Indian spice business, and the only car my girls—both now basically teenagers—have ever known. It's also a car I never thought I'd drive.

My husband, Sandeep Gupta, and I were married in 1999. At the time, I had been driving a Geo Metro that I had owned for 12 years. Even though it was small, that was a great car—it got something like 55 miles to the gallon, and was perfect because it was just me, and I was on the road often as a television reporter at the time. Sometime around 2003 we had just had our first child and I was pregnant with our second. We figured it was time to get something a little bigger. We wanted more space. And the new car would be my car.

Note-free to newly financed

We looked at a handful of vehicles at the time and test-drove a few others, but the Lexus GX seemed like the best fit. We were a growing family and it had an extra row of seats and lots of space behind that.

Initially, I was pretty freaked out about making the switch from my little Metro to this GX. There were a number of reasons. First was the price. It was a bit too expensive for my liking and I wondered how we'd be able to pay for it. The Geo was paid off and we hadn't had a car payment in years. I knew we would struggle to make the payments every month, at least in the beginning. My husband wasn't as worried. He is a serial entrepreneur. He saw the car as an investment.

The second concern was size: It was so big! We live in Chicago and parking is very tight. I was so nervous to park it on the street.

Woman behind car door.

Being cost-conscious

There was another reason I didn't get excited about the GX immediately, and this one is a little harder to explain. Basically, I was embarrassed. I was really sensitive about the message it sent. As I mentioned, at the time I was a reporter. Most reporters couldn't afford to drive around in a Lexus, and nobody else in the newsroom except the top managers had one. I was reporting on the toughest areas in the city and I didn't want to be judged or rub anything in anyone's face.

However, we ended up buying it. We put down $5,000 and financed it over five years. I don't remember the rate but I do remember the payments were somewhere around $400 or $500 per month.

The car had fewer than 50 miles on it when we drove it home. Now it has close to 100,000. Which is to say we've used it really hard. 

This car saw me through a big career move when I opened my own business in 2010 and began selling cookbooks out of the back of it. I've used it to haul stuff all over the place—I regularly pick up 2,000 pounds of Indian spices from a manufacturer down in Zion, Illinois, and drive them to my storage unit in downtown Chicago. Now that it's all paid off, I don't think I ever want to let it go.

And I have no plans to do so.

A life of wear

I've gotten more comfortable with the car, as well. I'm used to how big it is. Parking is easy. When I park in tight spots, anyone working or walking will just stop in amazement. When I use my husband's car, it feels so small!

The funniest thing is that now, instead of having guilt about how nice it is, because the car has so many dents and scratches, sometimes I feel bad about how old it looks.

I've been through so much in this car—as an entrepreneur, as a mom. It was the starting point for our family, really the first vehicle for my business. I can't imagine having done it with any other car. I'm glad my husband convinced me to go with it.

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