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Old 04-12-2012, 08:15 AM
Location: Forests of Maine
24,845 posts, read 37,345,337 times
Reputation: 11555


We were in the mode of only buying 10 year old vehicles, and each year budgeting $500 for preventative repairs. Doing this [taking our vehicles in for repair when they were running fine] worked well for us and we rarely had any break downs. We only got rid of vehicles when they wrecked or when their annual repair bills had climbed too high.

Then after I retired, we moved to Maine. Here there are very few 10 year old vehicles still on the road. We came up here driving 20 year old beaters, and they are a rarity. I had never heard of brake-lines rusting before, but as it turns out it is common here for brake-lines to be replaced at 8 years old.

After a lot of discussion, we decided to buy the lowest price production car new. I researched and listed the four lowest price vehicles. The first one we test drove was a Aveo and my Dw fell in love with it. First new car we have owned. It cost us $10.5K

Monthly payments are what they are, but it did not need any repairs. So there is a balance of sorts. Then after 2 years with it, both rear shocks broke their mounts and punched up through the wheel wells and up into the interior of the vehicle. Roads here are pretty bad [pot holes and frost heaves]

The dealership blamed it on the shocks and replaced them but charged us for the labor. A 'full warranty' only covers select parts of the full vehicle.

So at the end of that vehicle's third year, we got back into discussing your options.

Gas prices keep rising. Old vehicles rust. The roads destroy vehicles.

The tsunami had shutdown manufacturers, so while we made the loop of all dealerships, none of them had any of their low-price models in stock. The lowest MSRPs were starting at $15k and the only thing any dealers had in stock were starting at $18k.

Then we test drove a prius [marketed at $26k].

My Dw did some math. She commutes, she knows pretty close how much mileage she puts on a vehicle each year. Doing our taxes she has all receipts for fuel, so she had the annual operational expenses all summed anyway.

I told her that I predicted that from 2011 I expected gas prices to slowly climb to $5/gallon over the next 3 years. [or higher]

Based on that she figured out the annual operating expenses of operating a prius.

It appeared that the operational expense of her driving a prius [for $26k] would be lower than if we had gotten any of the $18k - $22k vehicles.

Now watching gas prices as they climb, I think that we will see the pay-back point even sooner.

We have transitioned from driving 10 yo to 20 yo vehicles, to now doing a trade in every 3 years.

All in the effort to drive the least expensive vehicle.
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:33 AM
Location: Chicago
2,547 posts, read 3,761,900 times
Reputation: 2623
I bought new because I got a new job that I had to commute 39 miles one way to get to. I also had to finance the entire car which means I was saving money buying new compared to used. I got a good deal on moderately cheap car, only paid 21K at 1.9% APR. I like the thought of having the warranty so I dont have any unexpected break downs.

I am not the most frugel person ever so this method worked for me because I can afford to splurge a little. To each their own, but the MOST frugal way is to NEVER own a car. Its the worst expense anyone can have.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:12 AM
Location: Mid-Atlantic east coast
4,388 posts, read 7,422,976 times
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We purchased a low-mileage used car with good gas mileage--a Ford Focus...cheaper to insure as it was used, and cheaper to run with its good gas mileage. We both work at home, so we got rid of our second car, a Toyota van. Now we run most local errands on our bicycles..so the ten years we've owned the Focus have been frugal indeed.

As my ego isn't wrapped up in the car I drive, an inexpensive car works fine for me.

We wondered if sharing a car would be problematic, but it's been fine.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:24 AM
Location: Denver
2,889 posts, read 5,364,227 times
Reputation: 2529
Had an afterthought...

Best strategy for frugal car ownership...buy a motorcycle.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:33 AM
27,332 posts, read 36,166,738 times
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It really depends on the car's price, terms, resale value, financing terms, warranty, etc.

For example, I got a good deal on a new Jeep Wrangler at dealer closeout with 0% financing. Jeeps hold their resale value exceptionally well over the long haul, and there was a 7-year warranty. So I feel pretty good about it.

What's more, the reason I bought new last summer was because the grotesquely inflated prices for used cars, chiefly because Cash For Clunkers took so many used cars off the market. I was finding ten year old cars selling for almost the same price as I could buy new. Factor in the lack of warranty, and it was an easy choice to make.

However, I'd never buy a car with more than 100,000 miles. Unless you're prepared to spend all your time maintaining and fixing the thing, of course.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:46 AM
9,073 posts, read 14,808,521 times
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Originally Posted by rsh56 View Post
- Drive a stick.

- Make sure it is stable at highway speeds, not loud or hesitant.

- Routine maintenance.

- Pay in full = no monthly car payment (if you plan on driving it till its wheels fall off).

- Check out the diesel-powered cars and drive them.
At this point the savings of a stick shift is negligible. The best reason is your car probably won't get stolen, because hardly anyone knows how to drive one.

But I have one, because I enjoy driving a stick.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:17 AM
Location: Liminal Space
874 posts, read 742,522 times
Reputation: 1125
Thanks for all the food for thought. I'm currently driving a 2001 Toyota with 195k miles and hoping it lasts 100 more, but this thread helps me think about my options for the next purchase. Other things about me, I like small compact practical cars and put about 15,000 miles/year on the car, mostly in-town with some hiking/camping and out of town road trips (I don't commute by car). I'm leaning towards option 2, the somewhat used car - let someone else pay for all the vanity depreciation and then enjoy the remaining 200k or more of use from the car.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:27 AM
Location: Liminal Space
874 posts, read 742,522 times
Reputation: 1125
Originally Posted by jlawrence01 View Post
Zipcar (in Chicago) is a very expensive option.

$60 annual fee
$25 application fees
$8 per hour; $72 per day
Even higher on the weekends

Most people needing a car in Chicago would do better heading outside the city limits (Park Ridge, for example) and renting a car from Hertz for the weekend (a deal is usually about $24/day) or Enterprise ($9.99 per day, 3 day limit, 100 miles per day) on the weekend than Zipcar.

How can you tell who is renting a Zipcar? They are the ones watching the clock to make sure they get their chariot back to the parking spot before it turns into a pumpkin.
I've never found Zipcar worth it either. I lived in NYC without a car for a while and would sometimes take the train up to White Plans to pick up an Enterprise car for $30/day. However I was a poor college student back then. If I had the money I could see how someone would rather just walk down to the corner to pick up the car. Also if you really just need the car for an hour that would be a nice option but generally when I needed a car it was to take a weekend trip.

I would love to go back to being car free as it is by far the most frugal option, unfortunately in California the rent premium to live in a neighborhood where it is desirable to be car free generally exceeds the cost of car ownership.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:39 AM
Location: San Francisco, CA
5,445 posts, read 8,137,341 times
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#4 probably best if you only buy Honda Civics and know more about car maintenance than the average person.

My car is a '99 Civic with 167K miles.

1) Gas (Avg $4/gal, 30 mpg, 12000 miles/yr): $1600.

2) Insurance: $400/yr (no comp)

3) Maintenance: $300/yr (avg)

Total: $2300/yr or about $6.30/day, a little less than $0.20/mile.

Not sure if I can do any better assuming miles driven per year cannot change and a 5%/yr opportunity cost on purchase of new vehicle.

Last edited by ragnarkar; 04-12-2012 at 12:06 PM..
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:42 AM
8,784 posts, read 13,228,109 times
Reputation: 5163
Originally Posted by bentobox34 View Post
I'm leaning towards option 2, the somewhat used car - let someone else pay for all the vanity depreciation and then enjoy the remaining 200k or more of use from the car.
Option #2 doesn't really exist right now. Trust me. I'm a miser who always employed that option. Maybe in a couple years it will come back around, but right now, mainstream vehicles just are not depreciating at the formerly customary percentages.
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