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Frugal Advice - Cars

February 11th, 2011 at 09:46 am

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.


The easiest and most cost effective frugal move for us, has most definitely been not spending a lot of money on cars over the years.

I am sure we could do even better not buying cars in the first place.

But, we love our cars, and there is a huge convenience factor. We just know that we don't have to spend a fortune to own cars.

Anyway, I probably have heard a million excuses over the years, why my broke friends couldn't possibly spend less than $20k - $40k on their vehicle. (Yes, some couldn't possibly spend LESS than $40k!)

This one comes up often, but I it still leaves me speechless. In a recent discussion about cars and car payments a friend stated, "Well, I will always have a car payment because I *need* a reliable car."

Yes, and there is no possible way to get a *reliable car* without a car payment? Rolleyes

Oy vey!

I've bought cars for the price tags of $800, $1500, $5k, and $8k, and $13k.

Not ONE of these cars was unreliable in the least.

The $1500 car I Drove for 7 years - it died in its 20th year of existence.

I won't bore you with the details of car #2 & #3. They were both EXCELLENT cars sold long before their time due to personal circumstances.

Both our current cars were bought 1-year-old, for $8k and $13k, respectively. One is a little compact, the other is a minivan - hence the price range. These were both bought at a dealership, so have a little extra cost in there, compared to the other cars we all bought privately.

We've never owned a car with a warranty of any kind. This substantially decreases the cost.


Anyway, I feel blessed to have learned very early on that I Didn't need to spend a fortune on a reliable car. I learned that lesson from my parents, who sold me their 13-year-old 1981 Toyota for $1500, when I turned 16.

My parents sold me their car because I Was their 16-year-old daughter. We all agreed that reliability was the #1 thing I needed in a car, and that was what they could give me. Safety and reliability. (#2 - they didn't want me to go into debt for a vehicle).

I couldn't tell you how many times I drove that car ALONE on 500-mile round trips, to visit friends in So Cal and in Tahoe, etc. All through college I worked multiple jobs. I don't remember ever having any car issues that prevented me from getting to school, work, etc.

& so I learned very early on that I didn't need to spend a fortune for a reliable car. Probably the best financial lesson I ever learned.

Sure, I Was lucky in being able to get such a reliable car from a family member. BUT, I've had the same experience with any cars we have bought.

My second car was a "like new" convertible I bought for $5k. IT was an older model that had just basically never been driven much. When I bought that car I easily drove 40k miles per year, for my job.

People have since told me I only drive old cars because I don't need to drive a lot. I couldn't possibly understand what it's like to drive a lot for my job. Rolleyes Well, it's kind of the opposite. Why would I spend a fortune on a car I am going to drive into the ground very rapidly???

These days, our commute is small, but we spend a lot of time driving a 200-mile range to see family and friends. When we vacation we tend to drive long distances.

& so I can agree that having a reliable car is extremely important. But I suppose I just feel blessed to know that I don't have to spend a fortune to have that peace of mind.

P.S. I have found over the years we spend less to maintain our vehicles, than average. We take good care of our vehicles. Older cars also mean cheaper insurance, cheaper tags, etc. I don't believe our other car ownership costs are "more" simply because our cars are older. I have found the opposite to be true. Don't get me wrong - older cars need more maintenance. BUT, the low insurance, tags, etc., generally offset those costs. Plus, we have a trusted mechanic which saves us a fortune in auto maintenance.

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