I have 10 payments left on my Subaru. I can’t wait to finish! Without my monthly car payment, it will be so much easier to make ends meet and to start putting money aside. I have taken good care of my car and I hope it will last many more years.
Keeping a used car is one of the best ways of saving money. There are many myths, however, that promote the idea that new cars are cheaper, but MSN Money does a good job of addressing these in the article “Keep your old clunker or buy a new car?” The author effectively argues that it is best to keep your clunker as there is “nothing short of the bus that’s cheaper than keeping a car until it crumbles into a pile of rust.” These are the reasons MSN Money provides why you should keep your used car in spite of the reasons you may think up to justify trading in your used car:
- It no longer fits my life. You may have taken up gardening in a big way but still own a Corvette. You may feel nervous about taking your ’78 Ford on a trip to Colorado. Your little Accord may be a tight squeeze when family comes to town. The answer to all: Rent. Why buy a gas-sucking pickup because you visit Home Depot twice a year or a $30,000 sport-utility because you take the kids skiing for a week at Easter? Even at $100 a weekend, renting is far cheaper than a car payment. Plus you get to drive the very latest without worrying about insurance, license tags, maintenance or depreciation. Or try swapping cars with a friend, returning it gassed-up and clean (with the oil changed, too, if the loan was more than a day or two. You want to be able to ask again next year.).
- Those repair bills are really adding up. Then do the math. Does the cost of repairs exceed the cost of a new car? A typical new car is $21,000, about $350 a month for five years after 20% down. A rebuilt transmission might run $1,500, a huge outlay in one chunk, but far less than the $4,200 a year you’d spend on new-car payments alone. If you can’t afford repairs twice a year, it’s unlikely you can afford a new car payment every month. In any case, anybody with a car older than three years should be tucking aside $50 a month for repairs and maintenance. If the gods smile, you’ll never use most of it and you’ll have a tidy sum to blow on your next car.
- I’m nervous driving an older car. Maybe little things are beginning to go: a new thermostat one month, a starter the next. You might simply spend $50 on a AAA membership and carry a cell phone, reminding yourself that even new cars aren’t immune to mechanical failure. The upside of frequent breakdowns is that you’ll get to know mechanics quite well. Find one you like. Flatter him. Pay your bills on time. And the next time he fixes your car, ask him to take a few minutes to see what else will need repair soon.
- The repair costs more than the car is worth. A $1,500 engine rebuild that keeps your ’83 Toyota on the road still makes good financial sense. It’s at this point, however, that all but the flintiest drivers begin to think about upgrading.
I will heed this advice. I have a 2000 Subaru Forester and I have a bit over 220,000 kilometers. I am hoping to be able to keep it for another five years and 100,000+ kilometers (fingers crossed, knock on wood). I have learned my lesson. I will never buy another car if the money is tight. Unless I know that I can spare the car payment times two, I will stick to a used vehicle or the bus if necessary.
I am also fortunate in that I have found a garage that I can trust. The Subaru dealership and garage in my city is simply great. I can trust the guys there: they always do a great job and never do anything unless it is necessary. Quite often if it is something minor (a bolt to be tightened or a fuse to be changed), they won’t even bill me for the work. As such, I know that I will be able to deal with having an older vehicle and the extra repairs that it will invariable need.