Time for a New (Used) Car…?

In January of 2006, I purchased my then 7-year-old toyota — my first car ever — for around $7500 cash. I hate decisions, especially when there are many options, so I didn’t do a whole lot of shopping around before making a purchase.

I nearly bought a Saab hatchback and a hideous Chevy Aveo from a dealer before deciding on the much more reasonable toyota from an owner. The car looked pretty nice, a bit sporty, drove well (for what I could tell), and was $7500, less than both the saab and the aveo. Six years later, I think I made the right choice — at least among those options.

But along the way I’ve hit quite a few things… a deer… a pipe… two people (well, they hit me) and other random walls and such. I had my now 13-year-old car (with 190k miles on it) checked out and it needs new breaks in the front ($400) and new front tires ($300?) — $700 of work isn’t a lot, but that doesn’t fix the cosmetic damage which is just flat out embarrassing. To  fix that, it’s $2.6k (new bumper, etc.) So I’d be set back $3.3k just to get my car looking and running reasonably. It doesn’t seem to make sense to spend $3.3k on a car that has 190k miles on it and that also has a small engine leak. The guy at the shop says it probably has about  year left in it– but is $3.3k worth it for a year?

Other options:

  • Splurge: I never thought I’d say this, but I really want a nice car. Not a super lux car or anything, but something newer and fancier, like the Altima 3.5 SL or Camry XLE or even a Mazda6 or Infiniti G35 or Volkswagen CC or Mini Cooper. Even used, these cars run anywhere from $15k – $25k! Yikes.
  • Buy something comparable to what I purchased six years ago. I could even by the same exact car from the same exact year — but with less miles and less damage — for $5k – $7k. It wouldn’t last me forever, but it might be smarter to spend $5k on the same car in better condition than $3.3k to fix up the car with 190k miles on it AND a broken window (that won’t go down) and a broken sound system and that small leak…
  • Spend $700 on the breaks and tires, but ignore the giant bumper issue. Drive my busted car with pride until it stops running or is no longer safe to drive. When the time comes to buy a new car, I’ll have saved even more money, and then I can select either of the above two options…
  • or just get rid of the car — sell it (if anyone would buy it) or donate it, and live without a car for a while. This option is not something I’m seriously considering as I just finally got my license back after my year without it for the DUI, and I feel happy again now that I’m free to actually drive places other than work and home. But it IS an option.
  • Super splurge and buy a used luxury car. I wouldn’t do this, but it is tempting. After all, I’ll only be in my early 30s once — why not get a fun, fancy car before I have kids? I’m talking about a $30k dream car. One that I could never justify buying, even if I were a millionaire (ok maybe if I were a billionaire.)

So… what do I do? I think I need to get out and test drive a bunch of cars, but the problem is my current car isn’t safe to drive until it at least has $700 in repairs — but I don’t want to waste $700 if I’m not going to keep driving it. Meanwhile, I’m overwhelmed by all the options. And i don’t want to spend any money!

Then I look at my networth and think I’ve done a good job in saving $170k by 28, and it wouldn’t hurt to treat myself with a decent car — I mean, I’m still paying $650 a month in rent in an area where if I lived by myself or even with one roommate I’d surely be paying $1200 or more. I do spend too much on food and occasionally on clothes, but I’m still aggressively saving. What’s the point of working if you can’t buy yourself something that you love, like a really nice car? Ugh, but cars are such a waste of money — if anything I should just buy a house, at least that retains its value.

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5 comments

  1. Jenn says:

    It sounds as if you are carefully considering your options. Congrats on all of the savings you have so far! That money certainly gives you choices. As another commenter said, a used but newer low mileage car might be a good balance. If your car is unsafe, you could look into a rental for a few days. In my area, small cars run about $20/day to rent, which may be a small price if it provides safety and gives you more time to find a good deal. I was able to find a car coming off a two year lease with very low mileage in great condition that was (almost) like new, but saved me thousands over buying new. Good luck!

  2. It sounds as though you've already made the decision to purchase another vehicle. With that being said make sure that you get a vehicle that will last and will be reliable for you, a luxury vehicle may not be something that you need but you have put yourself in the position to be able to get what you would like. Long story short make sure you take your time on a decision and don't buy a vehicle that you will later regret.

  3. bianca says:

    I think getting a newer used car is good or even paying for a new one without more than like 300 miles. It doesnt make sense t continuously put money into something that isn't worth it. Good luck!

    1. Please tell me those two people that hit you were in vehicles themselves! And that everything turned out okay for everyone!

      I'm with Bianca; I think buying a "used" car with virtually no miles on it would be a great option. Get all the luxury you're craving at a seriously lower price. Those things depreciate the second they get drive off the lot.

  4. Liquid says:

    So exciting, you're getting a new car. Sell your old one for sure. I think buying a 2 to 3 year old reliable car that meets your needs for the next 5 years is a good balance of not paying the sticker shock of a brand new vehicle, but still drive a fairly recent model that has a/c, cd player, power everything, etc and preferably <50,000 miles on it. Then drive it for 5 to 10 years before switching to a newer car once it becomes too expensive to maintain.

    A new car loses thousands of dollars in value as soon as it leaves the dealership, but old beaters are unsafe to drive and costly to fix. Somewhere in the middle is the right balance for you. Just find a car that fits the beginning range of your balance. For me that's a 2009 honda accord, or nissan altima. But if I had your kind of income, maybe I'll go for the 2008 Infinite G35 or the lexus is250. Decisions decisions (O.o)

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