We bought a new car. FLASHING SIGN, STUPID MOVE!
My wife was able to get a decent deal through GM’s A-1 plan for family members of GM workers, but we still paid over $19,000 for a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am. I proceeded to get into a one car accident with a post at a Popeye’s restaurant and learned another valuable lesson. Well two lessons actually, first I needed to stop trying to punish and/or teach lessons to inanimate objects, they never learn. Secondly, don’t make an insurance claim for any damage around the $1,000 mark. You would be better off paying to fix it yourself. The math does not work out once you factor in the increased insurance rate you will be paying for the next couple of years.
Even though this car would go 120 mph while still driving pretty smooth (thank you North Dakota), we sold it on Craigslist in 2009 for $3,200.
My smartest car move to date was the purchase of a 2000 Ford Focus.
I bought her used with 30,000 miles on the odometer for $5,500. This is the sweet spot, a slightly used car with a good history, a few miles, and a deeply discounted price. I bought my Ford at a Kia dealer who was just looking to get rid of it. I drove the heck out of this car, putting 200,000 miles on it back and forth to work.
Even when my co workers would say ‘why do you drive that?’, my inner mustachian was laughing all the way to the bank. No car payment for 13 years. Every year squirreling that money away, who cares that the windows are manual, there is no cruise control, and half of the key is permanently broke off inside the ignition.
My other efficient car move comes with no bragging rights, we inherited a 2008 Saturn Vue.
Our commutes are brutal with me at 60 miles a day and hers at 80 miles a day. We drove that Saturn until it hit 220,000 miles. Finally one day after doing a Monthly Net Worth and questioning whether or not we were living life as fully as we should, I caved to my wife’s suggestion that perhaps my car was too far beneath our means (and probably unsafe) so we decided to upgrade.
In 2016 we got not one, but two ‘new to us’ cars.
A 2015 Chrysler Town and Country, which is an AWESOME family car. And we bought a 2015 Chevy Malibu. Both cars were used in that they had about 30,000 miles on them, but were priced very well, the Chrysler because the were discontinuing the T&C model and the Malibu because it was an unusual shade of blue (possibly even a ‘please don’t stand so close to me’ shade of purple in certain light).
We paid cash, because I hate Debt. Now we don’t have to worry about our cars for years to come.
SO, in summary, I learned;
- Change your oil, an ounce of prevention is worth your car not blowing up.
- Never buy new, it is a waste of money. The sweet spot is in a one or two year old car that still has low miles and a good CarFax history.
- Never use your insurance unless the damage to be covered is over a $1,500 threshold or you will loose money over the long haul.
P.S. Although we traded in the Saturn Vue for $1,500 credit. The Ford Focus had some interesting life left in her. I was on Craigslist when I stumbled upon an ad for a family who had just wrecked their own car and were in desperate need of a car. Now I was planning on donating my car to NPR and taking the charitable tax break, I was only on Craigslist to get an idea of what it was worth. I fell for their story and called the guy up offering to give him the car and he promised he would one day do something good for someone else. I met his girlfriend at their house and signed title over to her for the price of a menthol cigarette (I quit, but I still miss it).
P.S.S. The State Police call me a week or so later to inform me that my vehicle (they never registered it in their name) was involved in a hit and run accident and had a stolen license plate on it. The best intentions don’t guarantee anything I suppose.
Let’s add one more thing to the list of things we learned;
4. Always take a picture of your signed-over title and make them fill out a receipt. (don’t worry, I did).