Principles of Car Ownership

Today’s post is more like a personal mission for me. Several years ago, I promised myself that I would do everything possible, within reason, to get my car to 100,000 miles. Some of you reading this may consider such mileage and wonder why I haven’t gotten something new yet, and some may laugh and wonder why I didn’t pick a more worthy goal like 200,000 miles. In either case, based on my research for the type of car I drive, its upkeep and service history, and its old age for the mileage, I have assigned reaching the 100K mark as a reasonable measure of success. Where I go from there will be another story.

For a long time, I have been of the school of thought that cars should never be purchased new, and should be driven until they are unreasonably expensive to maintain for their value. In addition, they should be paid for with cash and not financed through credit. Now, I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world – we love the smells and feelings of owning a new car, we hate having to visit the repair shop once a month, and we don’t always have enough money to walk into the dealership without needing a loan. But striving to reach even one of these three principles will save you a boatload of money on your car expenses.

Consider purchasing a new car. It doesn’t take long to realize that a brand new car will literally ooze money on its way off the dealer’s lot. This is why dealers try to push “gap” coverage on you at check-out. If you get into a wreck on your way home, you will certainly owe more on the car than it’s used value. Purchasing a car that’s as young as 1-2 years gets rid of the most volatile period of depreciation in a car’s lifespan and shaves thousands of dollars off the lifetime costs.

Consider driving the car until you are so sick of it, you wish someone would steal it already. All right, I’m kidding – I hope no one would actually wish that. But driving the car until the cost of maintenance and repair exceed the costs of a new vehicle is probably a good idea. After all, just read the last sentence – it’s still less than a new vehicle. What may shock you is the relative instability of car repair costs – you go for 12 months spending nothing, then Bam!, you get hit with a $1200 repair. The key is saving for it over the same year, and it becomes a $100/month cost. You can’t tell me you will find a car that cheap.

Finally, consider paying cash for the car. I know that car loans are among the cheaper things to finance in life. But paying interest is still paying interest, and it raises the cost of owning a vehicle beyond the sticker price. Have you actually considered the total cost of your car, including financing? Most people have not. If you save regularly, and commit to purchasing a used vehicle, paying for it in cash is not only an achievable goal, it’s right within your reach.

Tomorrow’s post will discuss how I plan to get my car to the 100K hump, and the most effective ways to invest in maintenance for your vehicle.

Elsewhere today:

Photo by Reiner Schubert

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