In the most complicated way possible:
1. Complain about your previous vehicle for years. Spend time wishing it would actually CATCH ON FIRE, if at all possible. Let it go to the point your best friend gives that vehicle a silly but accurate nick name. Do this to the point that your significant other decides that a replacement would be the sort of gift that would put him into the husband hall of fame.
2. Have a number of somewhat costly repairs come up and be necessary, none of which are actually expensive enough to warrant replacement.
3. Resign yourself to driving "the Bucket" until the wheels literally fall off while you are driving it. This can, but does not have to be part of an overall attempt to stop complaining about stupid things.
4. Crash said car while out-of-town on a Saturday evening and do a really spectacular job of it, although do not injure yourself or others. (5pm on a Saturday is possibly the worst time to get into an auto accident, particularly if you are 300+ miles from people you know beyond their online handles.) If possible, be travelling with an animal to make obtaining alternate transportation and accommodation particularly convenient.
5. Discover that your insurance company has declared your previous car a "total loss incident." Find out that this isn't, as you had feared, the end of the world, and instead that they will handle this efficiently and seemingly with your best interests in mind.
6. Scrape self out of dead faint on floor due to #5.
7. Go into a tizzy of trying to figure out what the heck you want in a used car. Realize you have no freakin' clue and spend several days dithering about it. If possible, disagree with your significant other about what traits are important in a car. Also, call everyone you've ever met and survey your facebook and twitter peeps in an obscure way that leads to the response "go for the Kermit toaster!"
8. Find useful reference volume that provides some clarity, and helps communicate your values when it comes to a car with your significant other. Discover that such a volume costs only $11 and is in the magazine section of the bookstore.
9. steal underpants.
10. Due to work obligations, be forced to travel an insane distance before completing the process of buying a new car. No stress here.
11. Obtain new vehicle.
(Pictures and more details as soon as I actually buy something.)