7 Ways My Clunker Is Smarter Than a Hybrid

By Kentin Waits on 3 May 2010 (Updated 2 May 2011) 47 comments

I’ve always been slightly amazed how the new car market is so readily embraced. I know it takes all those new car buyers to allow us used-car shoppers the luxury of so much inventory. I just want to stay in the ranks of the latter, not the former.

Most people realize buying new often makes little financial sense, yet they justify it through a whole host of rationalizations. Even the federal government jumped on the bandwagon last year by suggesting we all needed to grind up our clunkers and buy new instead — for the sake of the national economy and the environment, no less. Was the result a whole fleet of new fuel-efficient cars on the road, or increased consumer debt and the loss of thousands of serviceable older vehicles? At the risk of sounding like I suffer from an acute case of sour-grapes, I’d like to explore just seven ways in which my old clunker may be a smarter choice than even the newest hybrid. (See also: How to Cut Car Ownership Costs)

1. Fuel Efficiency Isn’t Always Green

By some estimates, more than 25% of a car’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the manufacturing process (this can include design, testing, building, marketing and shipping). Since my used car has already gone through the manufacture and transport phase, it produces no new demand for automobiles and therefore, no additional environmental demand. Even though it only gets 22 miles per gallon on a good day, driving it responsibly arguably produces less pollution than purchasing new. If going green is truly driving (pun intended) your purchase, this consideration should give you pause.

2. Steep Depreciation

Though the jury is out on the long-term depreciation rates of hybrids, most new cars lose as much as 20% the minute you wave goodbye to the dealer. Where else can you lose $0.20 on every dollar with just a signature and a click of a belt buckle? If you aren’t paying for the car outright, add finance charges to the mix and remember, all this delightful financial devastation is occurring to after-tax dollars — dollars that won’t be around to invest. That’s four major hits for every buck spent: one hit from the tax man (payroll tax and sales tax), one hit from depreciation, one hit from the finance company, and one last blow from the loss of earning power of each dollar tied up in your new purchase.

3. Premium Rates

Even if you’re paying for comprehensive insurance on a used car now, premiums go up for later-model automobiles. Hybrids are no exception; more complex engine systems and batteries mean higher repair costs and higher insurance rates. Of course, full coverage is mandatory if you have a car loan — the bank wants to protect its investment. But used cars that are paid-off can be covered by liability insurance only (based upon comprehensive insurance costs vs. auto replacement cost calculations). Being able to control your insurance costs can make driving used even more fiscally prudent.

4. Higher Registration Costs

The fees and formulas vary from state to state, but typically, licensing and registration costs are directly related to the value of your car. Much like insurance, higher car values equal higher rates.

5. Higher Repair Costs and Repair Standards

If you’ve ever bought a new car only to get a scratch or windshield chip a few weeks later, you know that newer cars compel us toward a higher standard of perfection. People are more likely to keep a new car as pristine as possible for as long as possible, and those little touch-ups and repairs tend to cost more too. My old Volvo has a door ding, some weird stain on the hood, and the plastic trim is bleaching out. Besides a compulsive cleaning and wax-job every few months to make it shine, I live with these road wounds happily.

6. The Phenomenon of “Incestuous Affirmation”

This is really just a fancy term for keeping up with the Joneses. It suggests that any major new purchase sets in motion a whole slew of buying activity within a close network of people (friends, coworkers, family, etc.) by affirming the behavior of one member. This ripple effect is felt from the least capable of affording new to the most capable and creates a slight uptick in unspoken standards within the group.

7. New Peripheral Expenses

From add-ons to upgrades, new cars increase standards and raise monetary output. Of course your baby needs premium gas, a hand-buffing each week, and a GPS system. And what about that monthly fee for satellite radio now that first year of free service has expired?

Now, many of these same principles can be applied to any purchase where there’s a reasonable choice between new and used. But our nation has such a love affair with the automobile and such a cultural acceptance of the resulting debt that it begs a bit of special exploration. What are the new economic realities that make buying new less attractive? Are we really in the same position our parents were when they traded up every few years? How do car companies entice us with nickels before the purchase only to damn us with dollars afterward?

Granted, none of the points above explore the amazing safety advancements that some new cars feature. I would never put a price personal safety or begrudge a car purchase with this as the primary motivator. But with such a wide range of later model used cars available, it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. All else being equal, each blemish and bump on my used car is masked by the dollar signs I see behind them — the dollars I save by keeping it in good working order and running smart for as long as possible.

This is a guest post by Kentin Waits. Kentin has worked in web marketing for 13 years and run his own eBay business for 10. In 2009 he published two articles for Backwoods Home Magazine and is currently working on a page-a-day desk calendar on the topic of financial empowerment.

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Guest's picture
Michael Vickers

Backlash in 3, 2, 1...

Andrea Karim's picture

I have a hybrid, and I agree with all of these statements. I think you're as well off buying a cheap, fuel-efficient vehicle than spending a bunch of money on a hybrid car. While I find that my car is cheaper to fuel, the biggest savings in fuel efficiency come from the WAY that I drive. A couple of times during the past week, I had to accelarate more rapidly than normal in order to avoid being run off the road when merging onto the freeway, and the difference in my fuel efficieny (two accelerations! two!) was really drastic.

Guest's picture
Guest

agreed.

my 20 yr old civic cost $3000, gets 37 mpg, and does great at smog check every time.

(but plain old driving less is certainly the most effective way to save on gas.)

Guest's picture
Guest

And it will also allow you to get hurt much worse if you are in an accident as it does not have abs or airbags....but as long as you save a few dollars!

Guest's picture

Obvious observation - you're contrasting new versus used.  If the contrast is new versus new - than high efficiency (aka hybrid) wins, right?  Second, I dont think this is "opportunity cost" - maybe its "risk" - not sure: when I buy a new car - it's new, I am buying it from a dealer, and its under warranty.  We've had two Hondas.  They have been really reliable and what probs they had have been resolved.  Used cars - I dont know how to buy them. Each car is like playing roulette - you dont know how it was treated and abused.  You dont know what condition it is in except for a superficial guess.  Most used car shops are - well they dont have great reputations lets just say.  So okay, I could buy a used car but (a) I would need to invest a lot to become smarter about cars or (b) I accept much higher risk that the car will be junk and opportunity costs for living at the repair shop.    As for factor 4 - you are guessing.  In Virginia that is not true.  Factor 5 - again, reliability.  If you look at Consumer Reports tracking reliability over time, your statement isnt true - when cars are young, they are much more reliable than when they are old.  Say it a different way, you will have more repairs when the car is older.  Factor 6 - who cares about the Jonesses.  Factor 7 - probably the people reading this blog - that's invalid.  If I want to pimp my ride, I am going to do that for a used or a new car.  So this is invalid.  So if I take your valid points - depreciation, fees, insurance, and my points about reliability and buying a car I know is going to work - I think you end up with a different strategy: BUY AND HOLD.  I think people on average own cars for 3 or 4 years??  We own cars for 10.  We drive our cars into the ground.  A big factor is reliability (read Honda).  Buy a good car, take car of it, and own it for a long time ---- oh yeah, and Andrea is right ---- how you drive make a huge difference!

Guest's picture
Kentin

Yes, definitely contrasting new vs. used -- but that is the crux of the article.  New supports new demand, rather than pulling from existing auto inventory.  Your other factor counterpoints all make for a compelling discussion around a topic that gets too little.  Thanks.

Guest's picture
J.

Educating yourself to be able to buy a good used car is a bit of effort with very high return. You can do quite a bit to minimize the risk: run a CarMax title search on it by VIN, bring up the Kelly Blue Book value (online), search Craigslist to see what similar cars are selling for, request that the owners provide you with the service records, have a mechanic do a check-up.

On the flip side, if you're selling, having a neat binder with your maintenance records in chronological order will do a lot to engender trust and make sure you get the full Blue Book value. So plan ahead!

Guest's picture
Guest

You provide valid arguments for a "buy and hold" attitude. If you have environmental as well as financial reasons for this approach, you might want to consider yourself a "manufacturer of quality second hand vehicles"- cars that have been well maintained, that don't have hidden wear and tear that will cause grief to the (probably) low income people you eventually sell to, cars that deserve to exist due to their long life, low fuel consumption etc. Your final sentences suggest you are doing just that.

Guest's picture
Brian

Nicely done.

Guest's picture

We believe in holding onto a car until it dies and can't be brought back.  I'm glad to see that this is at least somewhat environmentally wise.  Also, I'm frankly not that impressed with the gas mileage of hybrids compared to some of the most fuel-efficient normal cars and the fact that the battery is likely to die after an unknown number of short years is also a red flag.  We had to buy another car this year here in France (lost our old one to an accident).  We found a used one with decent gas mileage.  Perhaps we'll be able to hold onto it until someone creates a hybrid worth our money. . .better yet, until we can buy one used.

Guest's picture
Tom

Your clunker is smarter for YOU than buying a NEW hybrid car.  That is your argument. Many of your points are invalid for persons buying a new car anyway.  Ever consider a used hybrid?  

Guest's picture
Brian

Good guest post!

 

One sticking point for me.  You say that buying used "produces no new demand for automobiles" but you could definitely argue that a robust used car market supports the prices of used cars and, therefore, some folks, use the "great trade in-value" as justification for their purchase.  

 

Overall, good and solid points.  I will agree with other responders though that buy new and hold works out better (at least in MY situation.)

Guest's picture
Jennmcn

I have a 1997 Acura CL 3.0 that I bought used. I have never owned a new car and I will never own a hybrid. Neither are worth the money in depreciation. A hybrid is more of a statement than a practical and frugal choice.

I'm going to run this car into the ground and with just 78,000 miles on it, it will take a while.

 

Guest's picture
Mike Johnston

I knew there was some reason I was holding back , I just couldn't put my finger on it . good on you Michael , thank you

Guest's picture
Justmike

Most people are better off staying with their bad mileage vehicle. This is because they haven’t done the math. Take the difference between the cost of the current vehicle and the new vehicle. Then take the difference of what you are/would be paying in gas for the vehicles. Many people would have to keep their new vehicle over 12 years before it would pay for “just” the difference in gas. Then think about upkeep costs on the new vehicle, and go price the batteries. This game is all about $.

 

Guest's picture
Guest

I just heard Clark Howard on the radio and his rule of thumb is if buying new then run the wheels off the vehicle makes sense. If buying used then purchase a 2 to 3 year old vehicle and run it for four years. This I'm sure is looking at the cost of ownership only; $cost per mile to own a vehicle. But if your looking at the financial aspect only it sounds like good advice.

Guest's picture
dave

Mostly sound reasoning why hanging on to an older car makes sense.  But the higher fuel consumption is an issue worth looking into more closely.  For an individual, there is not likely payback for purchasing a car that gets better fuel economy - do the math and the cost savings from an extra 10 mpg doesn't justify a new car purchase. (at 67% of annual fuel spending - I would save about $900/year. Not worth it to me, personally.)  But the savings to society of using less fuel - if every driver were to cut fuel consumption by 30%, the reduced demand would mean less drilling and lower cost of other petroleum-dependent products.

 

I don't believe that hybrids are the answer though.

 

So true, holding on to your current clunker makes sense for you.  But if we put them all together, we can make a needed change.  But then, we should be trying to break out of car-culture altogether.

Guest's picture
Justmike

It would mean less "consumer" spending on fuel when smart type cars become more available, "but" you would pay that much more for everything else. Why? Because 18 wheelers, Busses, and Jets depend on fuel also, it does not really matter if it's the same type, as long as the payment is there. If you do not believe that, just look at the different fuel costs over the last 20 years alongside each other. In time things will change, but from a bottom line view, for "most" people, that time is not now. $

 

 

Guest's picture
Rosa

It's possible to have a car and take steps outside the car culture at the same time - you just have to not plan based on the car.

We chose to live where we can bike/bus commute, we chose our son's childcare partially because it's near home, and we make the extra effort to choose the bike over the car when we're not sure.

So what we have is a car that gets about 25 mpg, but we only use it for about 1/3 of our in-town transportation - that's like driving all the time and getting 75 mpg, only it's a lot cheaper (we have a $9,000 used Toyota and about $2500 worth of bikes/gear/child hauling trailer - only the bike stuff has no insurance/tag costs and minimal repair costs.)

Guest's picture

I think the real value of holding a "clunker" is the mindset that one holds while doing so. I don't mean low aspirations; on the contrary, many people who are frugal do aspire to finer things. The thing is, you want to strategically pick your spots, and focus on what's more important. For many of us, its saving for retirement, unforeseen future medical conditions, child's college expenses, etc. Driving a clunker often means just shifting resources that could be given toward a car, to more important long-term needs.

I'm not knocking the value of hybrids in an environmentally conscious way - rather, I am pro-hybrid. I would just rather drive an older, conventional car that has been well maintained and has already been paid for, instead of buying a newer car. I drove a car to over 200,000 miles before selling it a few years ago. The good thing was that I sold it while it was still in good working order and before repairs were needed. I sold it within a few hours of having it "on the market", and had no guilt that people might have when selling a lemon, because it was a good car. It was a great scenario - I drove a car that was fully paid, extracted more value than I thought I could out of it, and sold it before further investment was needed.

Now, if you could have an old, "clunker" hybrid, that might be the winning ticket!

Guest's picture
Kentin

An important point.  The Achilles Heel of any consumer is being drawn in to all available spending opportunities without being mindful to larger goals.  Frugal folks get a bad rap for being cheap when, in reality, we are just focusing our goals in a different (sometimes not obvious) direction.  

Guest's picture
Kelsey

Good points. I have a 7 year old car, and while that's definitely not very old, it still makes more sense to pay it off and keep it for at least 3 more years before even thinking about getting a different car. And I say 'different' instead of 'new', because my next car will be used, as it is more economical.

Guest's picture
Dave

It isn't economical to be green. Operating a hybrid results in lower polution, but you're carrying around a few hundred pounds of hazardous waste in your batteries. Today's cars (in fact, cars newer than 1977) are much cleaner running than older ones. Recent advances in emission controls have been chasing diminishing returns and jacking up the price by requiring expensive "smog control" features. Fuel efficiency and emissions are linked, but even if your driving habits are poor and your mileage is low, your emissions are still really low, just not as low as possible. Relatively speaking, hybrid or not, all cars from the last three decades are very clean burning cars. It's not the car, but the driver that determines fuel economy. Buying a hybrid just doesn't make enough sense.

Guest's picture
Luke

What ever happened to quoting sources?  I'm in agreement with the article, but where does this 25% CO2 info come from?  

Guest's picture
Kentin

Hi...sure, the source for the 25% figure came from the following study:

Source: Adapted from Chapter Three of Changing Drivers: The Impact of Climate Change on Competitiveness and Value Creation in the Automotive Industry
Author: Duncan Austin and Amanda Sauer
Date: 2003

 

Guest's picture
Guest

Cite for the 25% figure please!

[ Note, I'm not doubting that number, it seems quite reasonable. I would just like a source I can point others to. ]

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with these comments as well.  My grandfather gave me his 1990 Lumina before he passed.  The car only had 80k on the ODO, and was babied.  We averaged 31 MPG while we drove if from Detroit to Phoenix.  After a few simple upgrades (Stereo, Tint), we've hardly had to spend anything on it.  Sure, some basic maintence items needed to be covered, but the costs of repairs in next to nothing, and almost all of the work can be done by a backyard mechanic.  Registration and insure is next to nothing as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

Very interesting article and one that makes sense.  I would by a hybrid if there was one that met all of my needs: 4x4, solid front axle, and enough low end torque.

Another thing to think about is the recycling/salvage aspect of the auto after it gets wrecked or trashed.  Both my wife and I drive Jeep Wranglers (the JK and older LJ) and yes they are not the most economical vehicles (however they fit our needs) but I know when they are at the point of heading to the junkyard, that most of their parts will be scavanged by other Jeep owners, therefore giving the cars a renewed life of sorts.

Guest's picture

Very interesting article about the new hybrid car market .I like the article and hope to see more of such articles.Today people are better off staying with their bad mileage vehicle.people opinion will differ & most would by a hybrid if there was one that met all of there needs.

Guest's picture
baconskoda

This has to be the stupidest article ever.
You are comparing your smart clunker to a new car.
This has nothing to do with hybrids.
None of your arguments even makes sense.
It's all preference and speculations.
Which hybrid needs premium gas?
Which hybrid requires you to get GPS?
Does you clunker have built in GPS?
Why does one get GPS?
Fail on every point.

Guest's picture
Jason

I didn't jump on the Obamania bandwagon when Barack offered me all that dough from his stash. No matter how much he offered me, I wasn't trading in my '95 Buick Roadmaster. I spent $1,200 on a complete tune-up instead. Now my old clunker gets 22 mpg instead of 18 mpg like is used to get and I don't have any car payments.

Guest's picture
cookiemonster

I want to see how 10-15 year old hybrids cost to keep up before I jump on th bandwagon.
My current car is 1995 w/235,000 and still running fine.

Guest's picture
Cheap Yankee

After the old Civic hit the 300,000 mark (I can really relate to that TV ad that has the car with the nickels coming out the air vents), we finally bought a 3-year-old Consumer Reports Best Buy Civic Hybrid that still has 120,000 miles on the battery warranty. Hubby commutes a long way to work (all highway), so with that kind of driving a regular internal combustion engine DOES get decent enough mileage that it -would- take 10 years to pay off the difference in gas savings at the current or a slightly higher price-per-gallon of gasoline. We also researched the service bulletins on each model year and learned some hybrid model years are plagued with weird little problems, while other model years seem to be problem free, so you DO need to be extra careful with the new technology. After 6 months of -much- shopping around, we finally found the exact gently used hybrid model we wanted at a price that will "pay itself" in gas savings at the current price per gallon in approximately 5 years, including the cost of anticipated battery replacement every 100,000 miles.

What finally made the decision towards a hybrid is environmental concerns and deep concern we've passed Hubbard's Peak and our government is still in denial about it. When the inevitable energy crisis comes, it's going to be every bit as UGLY and MESSY as the bank bailouts and I don't care to be housebound while politicians point fingers and say "nobody knew this was coming." Being old enough to remember the gas lines of the 1970's, I say NO THANKS to repeating that whole sordid soap opera!!!

If gas prices suddenly spike back up to $3.50 per gallon (which I am betting they will within the 7 years we are planning on keeping this gently used car) the economics of buying a hybrid or other alternative technology change drastically. What made the decision to pay more for a hybrid is an educated gamble ... if the price spike comes, the only choice will be the old inefficient clunker whose gas-tank we can't afford to fill -or- a brand new hybrid, not a reliable secondhand car. Spending the $1000 more (which we had to do much shopping around to bring down that cost spread) is a form of insurance to us (though perhaps not to someone else ... this IS a free country after all!)

We're keeping our fingers crossed that the unknown of the hybrid battery won't make us regret the decision. In the meantime, the old 300K "baby" still works well enough for local driving. Our eldest will be using it every summer and school vacation break.

Guest's picture
Guest

An economy is money flow. At any point that we may have gas lines like in the 70's, it will affect each and every person in some way. I think that in time the transportation technologies AND prices will become cheaper and better. All TECH takes time.

Guest's picture
SirThoreth

In 2004, I bought a brand new Pontiac Sunfire, which got 26/36 listed MPG (later downgraded to "30 MPG average" by the EPA, which was about right), for around $12000. Financing increased that by nearly 50%.

A year after I finally paid off the vehicle,145,000 miles, and nearly $4000 in repairs later (two new clutches, a brake overhaul, and a rebuilt transmission), I was hit by another driver this past February, and my car was written off as a "total" (the frame, along with the entire front end, was pushed over by about an inch).

My new daily driver is a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle I picked up on the cheap (actually, I traded a '71 Ford LTD Convertible for it, but the previous owner wanted around $2500 for it), and I couldn't be happier. I don't drive the same amount I used to, thus the 15K miles/year the Bug will be handling won't be a problem. Routine maintenance on the Bug might be more frequent (oil changes and valve adjustments every 1500 miles) than the Sunfire, but cost significantly less, and larger repair jobs are much more straightforward to complete, and cheaper to boot.

Guest's picture
Joe Average

We buy cars and keep them forever. For us it is a cheap way to have a car. A few details: I do ALL of my own work so repairs cost me parts only. I have a good selection of tools so I seldom need to buy tools anymore. Secondly, we've worked very hard to learn to just be satisfied with what we already have. We've watched people around us race from one fad to the next one. People around us discarded perfectly good CRT TVs for flatscreens. We'll watch our's until it is "dead". Don't care if we only have a 24" TV. We've watched friends discard gadgets and computers that had alot of life left in them because the next "cool" thing came along. We've watched people around us who got bored with their cars and traded up when they couldn't really afford it. $400+ dollars goes a long way in our budget so we avoid payments.

We drive a '99 CR-V with 197K miles. It has been very, very good and even sports the original clutch. Our other car is a '97 VW Cabrio. It has needed much more attention but generally little stuff that I can do myself. While the Honda looks good still the Cabrio has some rough edges. It will be a challenge to keep both looking good in their old ages. We're discussing replacing the Cabrio with something newer in the next year or two so the Cabrio can be sold with some miles and thus some value in it. I still like it though. Will buy a wagon type vehicle such as a Volvo, Jetta TDI wagon, or BMW. Would buy domestic but the domestics don't offer wagons. They offer sedans, trucks and SUVs. I hear Buick is going to sell the Opel Insiginia wagon here as a Buick Regal (YAY!) but it will be far outside of our budget of about $15K for a lightly used vehicle.

We also have a 200K mile aircooled '78 VW camper and a 125K mile '65 Beetle. Both work well for fall back vehicles - i.e. vehicles to drive when our commuter vehicles are down for a repair. Would not want to drive them daily. The Westfalia van gets maybe 18-20 mpg. The Beetle gets maybe 25 mpg. Both lack proper rustproofing and thus would age quickly in daily use again. They are not as safe as a modern vehicle but I don't buy into the idea that I need to drive a tank with racing harnesses and 39 airbags to be safe. I have to be alert just like when I ride a motorcycle.

What I'd like to add is that you need to make quality repairs with quality parts with a quality mechanic (or yourself where you make it right). Aftermarket parts have qualities that ranges from mediocre to very good. I used to sell aftermarket car parts at a FLAPS. Some of those rebuilt parts virtually promised that the vehicle owner would have to make the same repairs annually. An example would be a radiator for my CR-V. The original radiator lasted about 140K miles and sprung a leak. I tried to have the old radiator repaired. $25. No dice. Purchased an aftermarket radiator for $125. It lasted 13 months. Sprang a leak. Spent a few dollars trying to seal it up. Also failed. Both radiators leaked between the end tank and the core along a crimped plastic/aluminum seam. Bought another replacement radiator and if this radiator fails then I could have purchased an OEM radiator across the counter at the dealer. They know me there now for little things I buy from time to time and often offer me little discounts and conveniences like preordering parts without prepaying. Yes the sales staff are typical - looking for an easy sale but the parts guys are down to earth and helpful. I also have foudn the OEM guys sell me front brake pads for less than the aftermarket "better" pads. These pads are quiet, don't cover the wheels with brake dust, and last ~85,000 mles. The recent $25 aftermarket set I bought promises to wear out at half that 85K figure, blackens the wheels in 3 days, and are noisy all the time. False economy. I have had the same experience with tires. Cheap tires deliver me vibrations and noise and short lifespans. In the long run the better tires have been more satisfying to own and drive. Hope someone finds my rambles useful.

Guest's picture
Cheap Yankee

Thanks for the OEM parts tip for the CR-V (and the good news that yours is still going strong at 197K). The dealer's mechanic told us to expect 200K out of it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I found this very helpful! Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

As the driver of a '96 Sable high mileage vehicle, I do agree that keeping this one running makes better economic and environmental sense for me. However, I disagree with your first point on being green relative to the manufacturing process. The manufacturing cost is a sunk cost--whether I buy or not, the manufacturers will still build "x" number of cars per year. Keeping my car does not change the fact. If all cars were built to order, then this argument would have relevance.

Guest's picture
Phillip

Don't you think that creating demand or supporting demands helps promote more sunk costs tho? I think the writer might be looking at demand as something supported by a more comprehensive market. Less demand = less market = fewer sunk costs.

Guest's picture

The comparison between an old and new relies merely to the beneficial aspect of the thing. Of course the new offers a lot of technological efficiency rather than the old, this is the wise thinking. But for the majority of those considerate believers, it's the value of the car that they embrace.
Well I personally agree with the idea that innovation takes a lot further in terms of productivity as well as cost efficiency. Doing a further calculations would state the basis of getting a more quality vehicle with just the same or a little lesser expense.

Guest's picture
Kate

As a person who has driven "sturdy" old clunkers most of her adult life, I found a validating peer in Kentin and his loyalty to same. As for finding reliable cars, I've always depended on the expertise of my mechanics (two different, over the course of time), who also view and purchase vehicles at auctions, to obtain reliable used vehicles when needed (three total used cars in 23 years of driving them). "CarFax" reports and its ilk also provide useful information as regards avoiding individual vehicles with hidden predispositions to serious fault.

Having said all that, I now, however, find I need to agree with Barlington re: the "buy and hold" strategy being ideal. I purchased my first new car at age 40, and at age 44 intend to drive my Toyota (yes, that's right...) Matrix with 60K miles for another 60K, at least (certainly, for as long as it runs). As most of my miles are on the highway, commuting between Boston and senior-aged parents in Buffalo, a Hybrid just didn't seem to offer much to me, mileage-wise, to justify it's much greater sales/maintenance costs. I average about 35mpg over the road (and utilize public transport in Boston), and that's fine with me...

One little thing I did at purchase which has reduced costs -- I bought a new car from the previous model year. Off the bat, my purchase price and excise tax were steeply discounted; my insurance is lower each year than would have been, and my "new one year old" purchase seems to be holding a decent price as it ages out...

Guest's picture
Brenna

Funny, right before I read this I was just thinking how grateful I am for my '97 Honda Odyssey and no car payment. She's got just over 100K on her, and I'm anticipating about another 4-5 years before she's just not serviceable anymore with major expense. Still, even if I was paying $100 a month in maintenance that's still cheaper than any car payment out there. She get about 22 mpg in normal driving, and if I'm on the highway a lot it's close to 30. Works for me. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy new car's and drive them until they die. In my experience a new car without all the bells and whistles are not that much more than a late model used car.

Guest's picture
Tracy

Great article. It brings up some very valid point and most of which I agree with. Hybrids are still very pricey but at the same time all cars are pricey. I mean if you add up repairs and insurance among other things cars are just a giant debt. You will continue to poor money into cars as long as you have one. Everyone needs transportation now days. It's hard not to have a car.

Guest's picture
Guest

We just bought a 2000 subaru forester for $4600. We replaced the head on the engine for $1500 and put all new tires and gave it an alignment for $700. It's a nice solid car that I expect to have around for a long time. We did a lot of research and talked to people with subaru's before we got it. We are usually die hard VW folks, but have been unhappy with or VW passat and it's slug and electrical problems.

We are thinking about replacing our VW passat. We are thinking of getting a car that has a solid body and putting a brand new engine in it first thing, so it's almost like having a new car.

People always discurage us from buying used when we can aford a new car, but a nice new engine could make it nearly as reliable as a new car.

Guest's picture
Ritas Life

hah, my dad wanted one, talked him out of it though. registration costs weren't cheap, and neither was the insurance! i'm trying to talk him into getting a zippy medium sized hatch, he doesnt really need a 4WD or sedan being a single man and all.

i think getting second hand is ok, but try and get one under 3 years old with an immaculate log book. also the insurance for a smaller and slightly cheaper car is that the insurance is a bit less. and since a car only ever depreciates, makes sense doesnt it?