I found myself involved in discussion about cars today. Two people are looking to buy something. One’s leaning toward a used car, while the other is bound and determined to buy a new car.
I know which will be retiring first.The logic behind buying used: There are lots of very low-mileage used cars out there, some of which are even recertified, have the bulk of the factory warranty on them, are eligible for an extended warranty, and cost $4,000-$5,000 less than a new car.
The logic behind buying new: For "only" a few thousand more, you get new car with a 100,000 mile warranty in its entirety.
The problem I have with that logic is that I’ve never sunk $4,000 on repairs into a car. The most expensive repair bill I’ve ever faced was $800 for a blown head gasket, and that was on a car that had well over 100,000 miles on it. If you’re paranoid about repairs, you’re much better off, from a financial standpoint, to buy the used car, figure out what the payments on a new car would be, and sock that money away in a bank account so you have it if and when you ever need it.
The person arguing in favor of a new car also argued a new car is more reliable. But not necessarily. A warranty isn’t a guarantee you won’t have problems. It just means that if the problem you have happens to be covered under the warranty, someone else is footing the bill. And no, most warranties don’t cover everything. Sometimes you get a choice between a power train warranty or a bumper-to-bumper warranty which will cover pretty much everything, but that bumper-to-bumper warranty will be a lot shorter.
And a lemon is a lemon, whether it’s new or old. You’re much better off researching what models are reliable and buying one with a little age to it rather than buying something assuming that it’ll be reliable because it’s new. The last thing you need is to get stuck with a lemon and be making high payments on it. Then you have the worst of all possible worlds.
Car companies have programmed us to think we need new cars all the time. It’s a pretty nice scam they have going. They sell us a car, sell us expensive preventative maintenance on it to keep the warranty good, charge a nice fat interest rate on the loan, and then in 3-4 years they convince us it’s time to trade it in for a new one. Then they get to sell the car for a big markup to some other sucker and the cycle starts all over again. Meanwhile, the consumer has nothing tangible or useful to show for it.
Somehow they’re still losing billions of dollars in spite of having one of the sweetest business models ever concocted, but that’s their problem. It shouldn’t be yours.
With proper maintenance (we’re talking things like regular oil changes here), most cars on the road today can go for 200,000 miles. If you’re concerned about breakdowns, carry a cellular phone at all times and get a AAA membership so you’ll have roadside assistance. The cell phone is something most people have anyway, and the AAA membership is a lot cheaper than perpetually making payments on new cars you don’t need.
That’s why the last car I bought was a Honda Civic with about 26,000 miles on it, and I doubt I’ll ever buy a new car again.
Buy a reliable car that you can pay off quickly, and then you can pay your house and other debts off that much more quickly because you won’t be sinking $400 down a bottomless pit every month for the rest of your life.