"I don’t have enough saved up for repairs on a used car…"

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.

One thought on “"I don’t have enough saved up for repairs on a used car…"

  • February 22, 2007 at 8:39 am
    Permalink

    Hi Dave,

    I agree with you here. Perhaps I am even more aggressive than you in buying used instead of new (in the sense of older to save even more money!). I have never had a problem with reliability while on the road and I drive only “old” used cars: 1989 Mercedes 300e (200k miles), 1987 Honda Civic 160k miles, 1977 Mercedes 240D almost 300k miles. I would not hesitate to take any of them on a road trip from a reliability perspective. From a comfort perspective the 1989 300e is very nice.

    The two Mercedes were over 10 years old when I bought them, it is amazing how cheap they get at that age and, if you are selective, you can get a very nice vehicle in the 5k to under 10k range.

    Additional savings is had on insurance being way less and vehicle taxes being way less. I don’t see how anyone computes it to make sense financially buying a new car. Providing you don’t have a lemon, I’ll concede to the new car buyer that their new car will need less maintenance and “routine” (for a used car) repairs during the first three years or so, so unless you trade them in every three years an old quality use car is best. That trade them in every three years new car mind set is incredibly expensive compared to the approached we have outlined.

    One last thought on the maintenance: My experience it typically not much maintenance is needs for 2 to three years (other than oil change type stuff) and then several items over a year or so and then back to two or three years with not much maintenance. So, the cost during the high repair months may seem high, it is no where near the cost of a new car, taxes and insurance (plus your car is already about is depreciated as it can get and may even be rising in value!)

    Excelsior,

    Bruce

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux