Driving can be fun; it’s often necessary. But rarely is it cheap. From buying a car to maintaining it to paying the seemingly endless (and myriad) fees associated with the “privilege” of being “allowed” to use the damn things – repetitive/annual taxes, insurance-at-gunpoint, etc. – many of us end up spending a far-from-small fortune to get from A to B.
Here are some ways to notch that down some:
Never buy more car than you can pay for in cash.
There’s nothing wrong with buying new, as such – if you can afford to do so. And the test for that is, simply: Can you afford to cut a check?
If not, you can’t afford it.
An occasional repair bill is as nothing compared with a regular monthly payment – for the next five or six years. Even if you’re not paying any interest, you’re still paying. Every month, like clockwork. Aguaranteed “x” fewer dollars in your pocket or bank account each month.
And the less you have . . . the less you have. Your money is tied up – pre-committed – for the next several years of payments. Meanwhile, your income may decrease during that time. Or some other major expense may come up. Or perhaps an opportunity – which you can’t take advantage of because . . . your money is tied up.
Some people buy a new car on the easy payment plan in order to have the peace of mind that comes with a new car warranty. But this is not unlike buying an insurance policy. And insurance, for most people, most of the time, is a terrible deal. You are accepting the sure thing of more debt/expense – in order to avoid the possibility of an expense (i.e., an unanticipated repair). But if you have money in your pocket – or in your bank account – paying out for the occasional repair that an older/used/out-of-warranty car might require is no big deal. And if the car doesn’t need repairs, you’ve still got your money.
The best car to own is neither new nor used; neither import – nor domestic.
It is, simply, the paid-for car.
Be realistic about the equipment you need – vs. the equipment you want.
It is the job of the car companies’ PR and marketing arms to convince you that a given new car feature is an absolute must-have. Often, it is marketed to you in terms of your safety – or, your children’s safety. And like so much that marketeers purvey, it’s exaggerated – as well as expensive. Example: Roughly a third of all new cars either come standard with or offer AWD. It is touted as a “safety” feature – and the ads play to people’s fear of getting stuck in the snow. But step back and ask: How many days in a typical year does it snow where I live? If the answer is less than 30 days (and that’s a lot, unless you live in New Hampshire or Colorado) then you ought to be asking yourself whether it makes sense to buy a car based on that – as opposed to the (roughly) 330 days of the year when it’s not snowing. When you’ll be paying more to drive – because AWD not only costs more to buy, it makes a given car heavier – which means it will use more gas than the same car without AWD. It – the AWD-equipped car – will also usually be slower and tires will wear faster. There are also more bits and pieces to maintain – and which will inevitably wear out or break at some point down the line.
The above considerations apply doubly to 4WD (truck-based systems with a two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing). Because while AWD does provide a handling enhancement on dry (and wet) pavement, truck-type 4WD is a no help at all on dry – or wet – paved roads. In fact, it is a liability on dry/wet paved roads because truck-type 4WD systems are not designed to permit the inside and outside wheels to rotate at different speeds when the vehicle is cornering.These systems are designed to enhance traction on uneven surfaces – that is, off-road – and in a straight line. If you engage 4WD on dry/wet pavement, you won’t get a handling advantage. All you’ll get is faster wear and tear of the 4WD components.
And, you’ll be burning up a lot more gas.