Author Topic: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?  (Read 977 times)

jfer_rose

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To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« on: January 16, 2020, 12:07:46 PM »
Having made it to the sweet age of 42 without having owned a vehicle (aside from bicycles), I'm starting to give thought to whether I might need one at some point this year. I would love input on what to buy for my needs.

I am lean FIRE and I quit my job to learn woodworking this past summer. I'll be graduating from a one-year community college program in May at which point I hope to get a part-time job working for someone else (I'm thinking finish carpentry, or something similar). Most likely, such a job will require me to own a vehicle to get to job sites throughout the area, but I don't plan to buy one until I know I actually need one.

At some point, I would like to start my own business. This business would require me to haul around lumber and large tools. While the business is a longer-term goal, I've already had friends ask for my help in building things for them such as cabinets and built-ins. So the need to haul stuff could be quite immediate. While I have carried some badass stuff by bicycle, the stuff I would need to carry and the distances I would need to carry them would make bicycling impractical to impossible.

Excuse my stream of consciousness, but here are thoughts/questions you may be able to help with. Hopefully you will see that I want to think outside the box on this decision so I welcome any ideas:
  • How much can you realistically haul in the type of small car that appeals to me most-- say a Honda Fit or Prius? Could I carry large boards of lumber and tools in a vehicle that small? For example, it seems like the lumber I'm using is commonly 8-12' long.
  • Long-term it seems like a van or covered pickup might be most practical (because you can store tools out of the elements and haul significant volume. If you were in my shoes, would you get something like that to start with, or start small and upgrade later when needed? You know how some people are truck people? I'm so very not.
  • Am I crazy to consider this? I quit my highly-paid professional job that never once required car ownership. Now I want my paid "retirement hobby" to be something that adds significantly to my expenses. And yet I am truly excited about this!
  • I heard about someone else in my community who is starting a new business which will also require her first-ever vehicle purchase. I daydream about finding someone like that to share costs with, although that may not be realistic.
  • If I do start a business, could a more expensive vehicle (like a truck or van) wait until I've filed business papers/ Could I then count it as a business expense?

I look forward to any thoughts, comments, or experiences you share. Thanks in advance.

Uturn

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2020, 02:04:41 PM »
Most of your lumber is going to be 8' because that is what the grade calls for.  FAS is at least 6" wide and 8' long.  Most people do not build furniture out of select or common grade.  A business woodworker is going to use more stock than a hobbyist, so you will want to get your lumber at a real lumber yard vs big box store or woodworking supply.  The price difference is huge.  The lumber yard is probably going to see anything less than 8' as scrap and not want to deal with it.

There is a podcast called Shannon's Lumber Industry Update, well worth a listen. 

Sheet goods are usually 48" wide, can your Fit or Prius support that?  I have no idea.  My Forester cannot, so I have a 4x8 utility trailer.  I am also not doing this for money, strictly a hobby. 

Just about everything in woodworking can be done many different ways.  Just because your favorite woodworking celebrity does it this way does not mean that is the only way.  Figure out if you can accomplish the task with tools at hand.  Task can be cutting a joint or moving raw materials or delivering finished piece.  If you dig around in most woodshops, you will find a tool or item that someone purchased because they thought they would need it, not because they actually did need it.


jfer_rose

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 02:31:55 PM »
Most of your lumber is going to be 8' because that is what the grade calls for.  FAS is at

There is a podcast called Shannon's Lumber Industry Update, well worth a listen. 

Sheet goods are usually 48" wide, can your Fit or Prius support that?  I have no idea.  My Forester cannot, so I have a 4x8 utility trailer.  I am also not doing this for money, strictly a hobby. 



Thanks for the tip on the podcast and the overall thoughtful response. Yup, I suspect 8-12' length is what I will need to haul. Good call on the sheet goods too-- standard for that is 4' by 8'. I'm hoping some forum members will have experience with the smaller cars to see what they can hold as I have no idea.

But my favorite idea from your response is a trailer. I hadn't thought of that-- it could be a great solution provided I could find a place to store it.

GoCubsGo

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 02:48:43 PM »
I'll second the 4 foot width idea as being the most important aspect.  I've rehabbed multiple homes and being able to just slide in and stack flat 4 foot wide sheets of plywood or drywall made life soo0 much easier.  No car that I know of can fit a 4 foot wide sheet between the wheel wells.  Your best and cheapest option would probably be a used mini-van.  You can pick up a 5-7 year old Chrysler Minivan for $5-$7K.  It was good enough for MMM

mozar

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2020, 03:11:54 PM »
I have also gone from having an office job to being a carpenter.
Are you building on site or your workshop? Lowes delivers lumber for 75 dollars a pop, but you have to be really organized.
For a prius etc you can look up how many pounds you can put on racks on the roof. Each piece of plywood is maybe 75 to 100 pounds so maybe 3 of them and some lumber. Check youtube for ideas for carrying lumber on a small car.
You can count a truck as a business expense if you are self employed but I don't think you can deduct business expenses for use with an employer anymore. You don't have to file anything to start a business. You just have to keep receipts and mileage for your c schedule.
Have you started applying to jobs yet? Most of them will require you to own a vehicle before they hire you. If you already getting requests I would go the self employment route. After an office career you might have a hard time working with the rough and tumble carpenter guys. And you'll be the new guy to boot. You might get hazed.

MilesTeg

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2020, 04:01:40 PM »
Used minivan or used midsize truck (ranger, tacoma, etc.) would be a good place to start. Both can "fit" the kind of lumber you want to haul, but not necessarily conveniently. The long bed ranger with a bed extender will fit 8 ft lumber flat. You can also consider a used base model 1/2 ton (F-150, etc.) with an 8 foot bed but you'll hear plenty of whining about that on these forums.

You can also consider the minivan or midsize truck with a utility trailer for large dimension loads. Just please do not attempt to tow a utility trailer with a compact car. The MMM implication of "if it has enough horsepower to pull it you're fine" is very bad advice.

trollwithamustache

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2020, 04:15:34 PM »
If the sole purpose of the vehicle is for carpentry work, why not get a small or medium size truck? Gas mileage doesn't matter much if you aren't using it all the time.

jfer_rose

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2020, 04:27:08 PM »
@GoCubsGo -- thanks for the intel. I really had no idea about the capacity of standard cars. I'll start checking out listings for used mini-vans to get a better idea what's out there before it's time to buy.

@mozar -- Lots of good stuff here, thank you! I will be exploring youtube. Sadly, the nearest Lowes is just over 60 miles away, but I will look into whether there are other options for delivery. I see myself working partially on-site and partially in a maker space workshop.

@MilesTeg -- Thanks for your opinions. Can you say more about how to tell if a vehicle is sufficient to pull a utility trailer? My personal preference would be to get as small of a vehicle that will work.

@trollwithamustache  -- A truck would be great if all I were doing was my own work. However, in the short term the vehicle would primarily be used for commuting to a carpentry job working for someone else. Long-term I expect that to shift as I do more work for myself. In the employer visits I've been doing, I get the impression that the person in charge has the vehicle capable of carrying the lumber/tools and everyone else commutes in whatever the commute in.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2020, 04:27:24 PM »
Iím always staggered by the depth of knowledge on this board. Really is an amazing place to ask obscure questions and have people respond so thoughtfully and from a position of knowledge.

MilesTeg

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2020, 05:06:04 PM »
@MilesTeg -- Thanks for your opinions. Can you say more about how to tell if a vehicle is sufficient to pull a utility trailer? My personal preference would be to get as small of a vehicle that will work.

Here's a decent write up: https://www.consumerreports.org/pickup-trucks/how-much-truck-do-you-need-to-tow-that-trailer/

Though I would add a word of caution that most vehicle makers provide tow ratings that are all but fiction (like many specifications/stats). They describe rating under ideal conditions: no bad weather, new tires, working like new brakes, working like new suspension, etc. You want to build in a safety margin. A rating 50% more than you need is probably a good place to start.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 05:10:16 PM by MilesTeg »

jfer_rose

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2020, 05:36:06 PM »
@MrThatsDifferent -- I know, seriously, right?!

@MilesTeg -- Super helpful. Thanks again!! I'm not a car person so this will help me get educated.

Uturn

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2020, 05:59:49 AM »
Most cars and small SUV/CUV these days have a tow rating of around 1200-1500 lbs.  By the time you surpass that limit, your proposed business model will have changed.  Just Google <car make/model> towing rating. 

Here is the trailer I have.  It folds up and rolls to the corner of my garage.  If you are building cabinets, you have the skill to put this together.  Just make sure it is square before tightening all the bolts.  The only downside I see so far is the hinges are exactly 48" apart.  Once you put the bolt through them, you lose the thickness of the bolt head, giving you ~39.5" right at the mid point of the trailer. 
https://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200612544_200612544?cm_mmc=Google-LIA&utm_source=Google_LIA&utm_medium=Trailers%20%2B%20Towing%20%3E%20Trailers&utm_campaign=Ironton&utm_content=37561&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0ZSv1tWK5wIVzZyzCh3BrQIOEAQYASABEgJ8EvD_BwE

ketchup

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2020, 08:05:41 AM »
I'll second the 4 foot width idea as being the most important aspect.  I've rehabbed multiple homes and being able to just slide in and stack flat 4 foot wide sheets of plywood or drywall made life soo0 much easier.  No car that I know of can fit a 4 foot wide sheet between the wheel wells.  Your best and cheapest option would probably be a used mini-van.  You can pick up a 5-7 year old Chrysler Minivan for $5-$7K.  It was good enough for MMM

acepedro45

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2020, 08:25:41 AM »
So getting back to your question, it seems like to pursue your carpentry/woodworking aspirations you will want to get a car. It's hard to find a car that's both a good commuter and a good hauler. You have to pick one or the other, and your choice will probably depend on how likely and quickly you may graduate to running your own business.

If you plan on being in commuter mode for awhile, you're right that something like a Fit/Pruis is the best choice. As others have said, these are suprisingly roomy cars when it comes to stuffing them to the gills with tools or even limited amounts of lumber.

If you think it's possible you will soon be hauling larger quanitites of material, a minivan, work van or pickup may be your best bet.

I would caution you against trying to split the difference with a goofy SUV or something like that in hopes of getting a car that can both commute effciently and haul a lot of stuff.

If it were me making a cautious foray into a brand-new field with uncertain expansion plans, I would get the commuter car first. If I found myself undertrucked a couple years down the road, I could always sell/trade my Honda Fit for something bigger at that point.

It's a twist on the common "I'm planning to have kids in a few years, since I'm buying a new car now, shouldn't I make it a minivan so I can fit everybody" question. No, you should buy the car that suits your needs now, and adjust later if and when your circumstances change.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2020, 08:28:48 AM by acepedro45 »

MilesTeg

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Re: To Become a First-Time Car Owner at 42?
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2020, 10:10:50 AM »
You probably need to consider whether you need a weather resistant cargo hold as well. A van or a truck might be a better choice than a trailer if you think you might have to work around inclement weather.