Amortizing air conditioning

You will recall that Jennifer and I initially decided on deferring repairs on the car’s air conditioner, on the grounds that the expense is both great and optional. Optional, at least, in the sense that you can drive without it — not necessarily that you’d want to. It became somewhat less optional after our trip last weekend: at 4½ hours each way, it was manageable, but it wasn’t necessarily comfortable. Sweat left behind on every surface our skin came into contact with, that sort of thing. That was enough, at least, to get me thinking:

It seems to me that either we replace the air conditioner now or not at all. The car is eight years old, which means that its useful life is not only finite, but short in relative terms: I originally had hopes for five years, and we’re now three years in; a few years past that would be a definite plus. Let’s say, generously, for argument’s sake, that this car has five years left to it. The air conditioner will cost (more or less) the same whether we replace it now or in a year or two; the difference is that we’ll get five years’ use from it if we replace it now, rather than three or four years’ use if we replace it later. It’s not like a window unit you can take with you when you move: the air conditioner’s useful lifespan depends on the lifespan of the car it’s installed in. Therefore, it’s more frugal to replace it now, and get more years of life out of it.

Another way to look at amortizing the air conditioner’s costs: How many long-distance road trips will be required over the car’s remaining lifetime, and will the cost of that air conditioner be offset by the savings made by driving (two people) over flying? Almost certainly, given that almost all of her family is in the Maritimes and almost all of mine is either in Alberta or Manitoba.

Trouble is, now is not exactly the best time for us to pay for it. Oh, we’ll manage something, but it probably will involve cutting back on optional expenditures, such as the very trips that the air conditioner would make possible. A classic catch-22: we can’t really make long-distance trips by car without an air conditioner, but we won’t have the funds to do so once the air conditioner is fixed.

Now, if we hadn’t bought the new computer, the funds for a replacement air conditioning would, frankly, have been rather easy to find, but even if the computer hadn’t shipped before the compressor failed, I think we’d still have gotten the computer first. I’ll spare you the details, but it was simply a higher priority, and needed to be bought when it was bought. It was the right time to pull the trigger on that purchase, inasmuch as it is also the right time to replace the air conditioner.

The timing, in other words, sucks.