Author Topic: Another car question  (Read 6293 times)

KulshanGirl

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Another car question
« on: March 01, 2013, 10:47:05 AM »
Face punches welcome.  :)

I currently drive a 1998 Volvo XC70 with 144K miles on it.  It gets lousy gas mileage and costs a ton to repair, which is often.  It was kind of a lemon when I got it but is more or less dependable now, and it's paid for.  The Volvo witch doctor repair shop is a half hour away, so not especially convenient for a newly single mama.

I'm shopping for a car.  I'm not in a hurry.  My requirements are that it gets awesome gas mileage and is super dependable.  High safety rating too.  Everything else is gravy, or lack of gravy.

So far, my two favorites are the 2006 Scion Xa, natch, as well as the 2007 Suzuki sx4.  I don't do a ton of snowy driving, but it'd be nice to have AWD on the heels of the Volvo.  Plus I live in the Northwest near a perty mountain.  I've been glad for AWD in the past enough times that I'd miss it.  But I could do without.

I'm torn between selling the Volvo now while it's behaving, or driving it into the ground while saving money to buy the next car.  I can afford to pay cash today for a car, so that's not a big deal, but I'd rather keep my emergency fund stocked just now.

But really, I want the peace of mind of not fooling with this Volvo any more.  What to do?  When to do it?

 

   

tkaraszewski

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 11:12:05 AM »
Edmunds says your car gets 21mpg city, 27 highway (21 combined), which isn't great, but it's not that horrible, either, realistically. The scion, in comparison, gets 27/34, 30 combined.

So, if you drive the "standard" 12,000 miles a year, you're burning 571 gallons of gas in the Volvo, or 400 in the Scion. That's a savings of 171 gallons, or about $684/year by switching cars, on gas alone. You also have to consider the cost of insurance, and the purchase price of the car. Also, the Volvo being as old at it is, probably isn't worth more than $3,000 or so, so the value of the car can only drop by so much if you decide to keep it until it dies.

The repair shop being half an hour away seems sort of immaterial, especially since you say it's mostly dependable now. It's a one-hour round trip to get it worked on, what, every few months? How much closer is the shop you'd take a different car to?

Plus the Suzuki seems like a pretty mediocre car. I'd rather drive the Volvo, or the Scion for that matter, but I really wouldn't want the Scion either, despite MRM's love for the thing.

No used car is going to give you perfect peace of mind. A used car has to earn your trust that it won't break down, and it does that by not breaking down on you. Your Volvo is already a known quantity here -- you have expectations about how reliable it's going to be. Any other car you get is going to be starting over, and you hope it doesn't break down the day after you buy it. Sure, a scion will *probably* have less maintenance problems than an older Volvo, but you don't really know for any particular car until you give it a try, by driving it for a while.

Flynlow

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 12:18:31 PM »
Which car is kind of an individual question, depending on what your personal needs are, but I had some thoughts on AWD.

Very few people realize AWD only helps when you are accelerating.  It does NOTHING when trying to slow down, or turn.  So if you can safely get up to speed in snow without AWD, you don't need it.  I wouldn't let going to a 2WD car worry you.  If you do deal with snowy, slushy, or icy conditions, get some snow tires.  If you were to get the Scion XA for instance, check craigslist for someone selling a set of stock Scion wheels (many others may work, but double check bolt pattern and backspacing) for $100-200, and put some good-quality snow tires on them.  Change tires once in the fall, when it gets cold, and once in the spring, when it gets warm.  A FWD (or even RWD) car on snow tires will be unstoppable compared to an AWD car on all seasons.  It will be a $500-600 investment upfront including tires, but they will last for years and the fuel economy and reliability improvements vs. the Volvo will quickly overshadow their cost. 

Jamesqf

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 12:54:38 PM »
Very few people realize AWD only helps when you are accelerating.

Or going up hills, through deep snow/mud, etc.  And since the OP lives near a "purty mountain", that might be a factor.

KulshanGirl

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 02:27:58 PM »
The main use for the AWD has been getting up short, steep hills and driveways in patchy ice/snow.  There are a lot of hills here.  Then again, it's mild and it doesn't happen very often that I need it.  I don't go play in the mountains as often as many who live around here, but I do like the ability to go up there.  I know that I don't need AWD.  I've just come to like having it. 

My Volvo only gets around 15mpg city, 22mpg highway.  I'm taking it in for an oil change and tune-up soon, I'm going to have the witch doctor look over the vacuum hoses and everything else that might be an issue while it's there.  I do love my car, I just want to stop worrying about when it's going to crap out, and also knock my gas budget down by half or so.

I think I will probably get it all tuned and lubed and also detail/clean it all out inside, to be ready for whatever comes along.  Trade in, sell, or just enjoy in it's best state for as long as it goes.

frugal_engineer

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 04:29:26 PM »
If the Volvo is now reliable, I'd recommend simply starting a fund for a new vehicle and continuing to drive the old one.  As tkaraszewski mentioned, you'll have to drive any new car a really significant distance to recoup your initial investment.  At 144k, you can probably expect to get another 30-50k miles out of it as long as it continues to be well maintained.  During that time and as you're getting towards the end, build that new car fund, and if you hit a repair worth more than the Volvo then you'll know its time to pull the trigger and just get another car.  I tried to take a look at this in a post on my blog.  The more time you can spend researching what you'd like to drive and test driving the better.  Its not always the best route to get a lower quality car with good gas mileage like a suzuki or a scion.  You might value a better ride or quieter interior enough to justify getting something nicer but a little older or worse on gas in the same price range.  Good luck!

the fixer

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 08:37:47 PM »
I own a '05 xA just like MMM. You can get better MPG than the xA by going with a Toyota Yaris or a Honda Fit. The Yaris is a more barebones car in general, with lots of things optional, so if you find one on the used market just pay attention to what it comes with (e.g. split rear seat or no?). Also the Yaris hatchback is 2-door, but I don't think that should be a dealbreaker; plenty of families have successfully managed driving a 2-door car, so 4 doors is just one more step towards catheter-and-bedpan.

The Honda Fit is going to be more expensive because they aren't as old.

the fixer

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 08:45:50 PM »
Oh, and you said you can wait a few months. That means now is the ideal time to go car shopping for private party deals. Pick two or three models and keep an eye on Craigslist for a deal on any of them. Find the most popular forums for each model and learn the basics about the cars: maintenance, common issues, and do-it-yourself mods and upgrades that might make you realize you could buy a vehicle that doesn't have X feature because you could add it later (like cruise control on the Yaris and xA).

This way, you'll be a more informed buyer when the time comes. And you can save $1000+ on the purchase as long as you can afford to wait for a deal to come to you.

Skyn_Flynt

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2013, 05:57:16 PM »
You do know that Suzuki is shutting down its dealer network in the USA, right? I'd be leery of buying a car from a manufacturer that will not have a presence in the future. Mechanics will be less familiar with the vehicle and parts could be pricey.

I like the middle ground advice given earlier. Start budgeting a few hundred a month towards the next vehicle but squeeze some more life from what you have. 144K miles is not that much. I'm over 208K on my car and my mother is around 190K on hers. Neither of us like car payments and we've just kept repairing what we've got.

Forcus

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2013, 08:05:35 AM »
You do know that Suzuki is shutting down its dealer network in the USA, right? I'd be leery of buying a car from a manufacturer that will not have a presence in the future. Mechanics will be less familiar with the vehicle and parts could be pricey.

That is true... but Suzuki's IMO tend to be pretty reliable, so it might be an opportunity to buy cheap, get new, and have reliability while sacrificing a bit on the dealer service (though, it's not like Suzuki dealers were everywhere already). The parts stream shouldn't dry up since Suzuki is folding its US operations but is still present worldwide.

OP, if you do look at SX4's, look outside your area. My guess is that they got snapped up pretty quick at discounted prices in Washington state. I know as of a month or so ago, there was a brand new awd 2013 SX4 wagon at a dealer near Chicago for around $12k. Areas without as much snow might still have a glut of them.

As far as the Volvo goes, well... parts prices are insane, and with maintenance factored in, even paid for, it made more sense for us to upgrade than keep our 2005 S40 T5 on life support (with 178k miles). Wheel bearings are $200 each while my very similar Focus (similar chassis) bearings are $40 each. And so it goes.

Vilx-

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2013, 08:56:44 AM »
As far as safety goes, Volvo is one of the best out there. Just check the crash tests and safety evaluations. I haven't seen any other car company that took safety nearly as seriously as Volvo.

In gas consumption it's pretty average. My 2004 S60 uses about 7l/100km in summer and up to 9l/100km in winter (not sure how that converts to miles per gallon - I'm from Europe). It's also quite dependable and you can get a lot of miles out of it before you need to get a new one (as you've noticed).

But it's true - the price and parts aren't cheap. In my subjective opinion though, they equal the quality.

Togoshiman

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2013, 09:33:59 AM »
Hmmm... I like car problem questions.  With those facts, I would drive the Volvo until an expensive or dangerous-to-drive repair came along, then sell it for whatever I could get.  That could be tomorrow or 2 years.

The cars that seem to fit your profile might include: Subaru Impreza/Legacy/Outback, Suzuki SX4 (as you've identified), Toyota Matrix and smaller, older small SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, etc.  Light AWD (except the Subarus), all have decent safety scores and reasonable fuel economy.  Without the AWD, any of the standard Japanese small car categories would probably serve you well with good winter tires (Nissan - Versa, Sentra; Honda - Fit, Civic; Toyota - Yaris, Corolla, Matrix, Mazda 2 & 3, etc.).

Personally, I would just grab an Impreza.  My second choice would be virtually any of the other cars on the list while patiently waiting for a screaming deal. 

KulshanGirl

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2013, 09:39:15 AM »
The verdict is in.  I'm going to keep the volvo for now.  It's due for an oil change out at the witch doctor, so while it's there I'm going to have him do a tune up and explore possible reasons why my MPG is in the shitter.  Then I'm going to vacuum out all of the goldfish cracker crumbs and pine needles, shine it up, and pretend that I have a new car.  :) 

But I am prepared and will continue to be prepared for the screamin' deal. 

Also, I am going to get a new bike.  I'm not a fantastic candidate for commuting (yes, facepunch, etc) but I do want to get stronger and ride it on weekends.  There's a cool little thing called a Weehoo, a recumbant ride-behind for small kids.  I might get that combo and enjoy the heck out of summer eves and weekends. 

Togoshiman

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2013, 09:40:49 AM »
PS - Not entirely on point, but curious what fellow Mustachians do.  I love to take a nicely used car and make it my own.  I think too many people focus on getting exactly what they want on the market and frequently overpay for it.  Taking an older car and spending a day detailing it does wonders.  Get a nice used stereo that fits your head unit off Craigslist or an el cheapo from the big box stores and install it, with new speakers too.  Ditto a GPS on the dash.  Get two nice sets of rims, one for summer and one for winter with decent rubber on both.  Get a mild tint on the windows.  Any real deficiencies, find a nice cheap solution, e.g. seat and steering wheel covers, a paint pen and a good wax, new headlight covers and license plate covers (with shiny new plates), etc. 

For a bit of cash up front, you can really turn almost any car into something you're happy driving.  I find this can turn an old beater into something half-decent for not much money, and then you feel frugal rather than dreading getting into your punishment-mobile every day.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 09:42:41 AM by Togoshiman »

thurston howell iv

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2013, 11:29:27 AM »
Kulshangirl: I know you've already made up your mind but I wanted to chime in really quick here.   I think keeping the Volvo is the right choice. I think that when yu go see your volvo doctor that you should have him give you a list of "things to watch for" (ie: things that wear or need replacement, etc.)  This way you could maybe jump online and find out what those things "really" mean to you...  (ie: cost, time, etc.)

I am regularly shocked at how so many people are afraid of their cars as if they were some sort of magical device that could just suddenly explode.  Car repair is not rocket science. (Yes sometimes there's some hard stuff but, it seems as if the majority of issues people have are ones that they could tackle themselves- almost everything you could ever want to know is online too!)  I'll bet the Volvo is not as bad as it seems and frankly if it's cooperating now- why dump it to buy another used car?  (Ever heard of the devil you know...?)  A used car may be someone else's lemon that is currently cooperating... Things to think about.

Togoshiman:  as a mustachian-in-training, I have to agree with your take on the used cars (the necessary stuff- not the fluff like gps and rims, etc.)... I've got a car I purchased with 150k (cheap)- I put new brakes, tires, shocks and a head unit. (and most recently a timing belt). I drive it daily- Gets 36-43 mpg depending on my foot- and currently has 213k!!!  I even did a rust repair that doesn't look half bad. As much as I miss my old luxury cars, I actually enjoy this car for my ability to go anywhere without worry, no car payment, miniscule insurance payment, and limited stops at the gas station. Absolutely zero regrets!!
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 11:40:18 AM by thurston howell iv »

Jamesqf

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2013, 11:36:32 AM »
PS - Not entirely on point, but curious what fellow Mustachians do.  I love to take a nicely used car and make it my own.  I think too many people focus on getting exactly what they want on the market and frequently overpay for it.  Taking an older car and spending a day detailing it does wonders.  Get a nice used stereo that fits your head unit off Craigslist or an el cheapo from the big box stores and install it, with new speakers too.  Ditto a GPS on the dash.  Get two nice sets of rims...

Honestly, this doesn't seem all that Mustachian to me.  Find a decent used car that fits your needs/wants, sure, but the rest?  What's the point of spending money on a GPS, "nice" rims, license plate covers, etc?

GoStumpy

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2013, 01:37:58 PM »
144k miles is still fairly new to a lot of people, taken care of with preventative maintenance can yield 50k more miles no problem, and in the meantime that should give you multiple years to start saving up for a replacement... meanwhile the replacement is also getting cheaper and cheaper :)

the fixer

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2013, 01:54:35 PM »
PS - Not entirely on point, but curious what fellow Mustachians do.  I love to take a nicely used car and make it my own.  I think too many people focus on getting exactly what they want on the market and frequently overpay for it.  Taking an older car and spending a day detailing it does wonders.  Get a nice used stereo that fits your head unit off Craigslist or an el cheapo from the big box stores and install it, with new speakers too.  Ditto a GPS on the dash.  Get two nice sets of rims, one for summer and one for winter with decent rubber on both.  Get a mild tint on the windows.  Any real deficiencies, find a nice cheap solution, e.g. seat and steering wheel covers, a paint pen and a good wax, new headlight covers and license plate covers (with shiny new plates), etc. 

For a bit of cash up front, you can really turn almost any car into something you're happy driving.  I find this can turn an old beater into something half-decent for not much money, and then you feel frugal rather than dreading getting into your punishment-mobile every day.

Don't forget the catheter and bedpan! Then you don't have to go to rest stops :)

I do agree with your basic premise that you can save money by building the car you want instead of buying something stock. I really like to suggest the SX4 + lift kit to people thinking about trucks and SUVs, and I may be building one of those in a year or so for myself. But you seem to be trying to build a luxury car, and while you can certainly do it cheaper than buying a Mercedes/BMW/Audi, that's missing the point.

I used to make lots of alterations and modifications to my car, mostly electrical, because I wanted a car with extra outlets and LED lighting (among other things). I don't do much of that anymore because when you run the math, you're basically just pouring money into a depreciating asset and getting NO return on it. Other than the tires, maybe the headunit, and maybe the tint, none of the above will significantly increase the resale value of a car. In fact, too many mods can make it harder to sell the car (in my case, who wants to buy a car that a 20-something kid spliced and soldered a bunch of wires in?) The only upside from all that work I did was that I did a lot of it myself. The skills I gained are worth way more than what I paid.

MMM would say "the cure to obesity is not bigger pants:" you're not supposed to be driving all the time, so if you make the car unpleasant you'll save money just because you're less likely to drive it.

Vilx-

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2013, 01:18:39 AM »
Used cars - definitely. I haven't checked the prices myself, but most people I know say that the moment you drive a new car out of the dealership, it's market value drops by a half. I'd say that the sweet spot is getting a used car which is about 3 or so years old. Around here those commonly come from people who bought them on operative leases, so there's nothing physically wrong with the car - the previous owner just switched over to a brand new car as the old lease expired. And along the way all the manufacturing defects probably have been taken care of as well.

Of course, you should still give the car a good examination at a tech you can trust before you buy it - you can never know. But that's something you should do anyway.

As for 144k - for a car from 1998 that's awfully little! When I bought my car in 2008 (it was manufactured in 2004 and driven until 2007, as far as I could make out from the papers in Dutch) it already had 100k on it and it's at 150k right now. The engine is said to be able to do 500k easily, if it's properly maintained. For the 1998 Volvo it's probably not as durable, but 144k is still very little. Unless there is really something expensive broken (or it's starting to rust), you should be able to get quite a few years out of it yet. Although you better do the math on that one. A newer car which needs less repairs could possibly be cheaper in the long run.

Just don't buy a Cherry. :P

Left

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2013, 03:41:52 AM »
lol that cherry test made me look into the sx4 vs outback crash tests... and made me wanting the outback more lol I know I know (cost about 20% more ($4-5k)... but looking at how the sx4's crash went, I feel like I have whiplash watching it (my neck is worth more than $5k to me, just saying...)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjkup9lmDSY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wagIs13oMhA

subaru has a flashy hill stopper feature, that I'd never use but it's another "extra" that comes with it

PS I'm not trying to sell subaru, just been doing research myself and I keep coming back to it because of the quality of it, now I just have to find one I can afford >.>

edit: fuel economy isn't that bad either http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32509&id=33049&id=32547 considering it is full time awd with a more power, impreza does even better for a smaller car'

edit: that Weehoo... how safe is it? I feel like a large/quick turn could over turn it and the bike... Or the bike wouldn't have the braking power to stop the extra weight on a large hill if you were going quick. Yeah, people probably wouldn't ride that fast with a baby behind... Also think rocks could be kicked up into baby seat from looks of it. imo this looks a bit safer option http://www.walmart.com/ip/Bell-Classic-Child-Carrier/3915
« Last Edit: March 05, 2013, 03:57:31 AM by eyem »

Forcus

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2013, 08:59:55 AM »

Honestly, this doesn't seem all that Mustachian to me.  Find a decent used car that fits your needs/wants, sure, but the rest?  What's the point of spending money on a GPS, "nice" rims, license plate covers, etc?

I guess it's all relative. Spicing up a cheap car to make it more enjoyable is much cheaper than buying new. Riding a bike is much cheaper than having a cheap beater. Walking is even cheaper than having a bike. There's probably something cheaper than walking but I dunno. So the walker could call bike riding unmustachian, the biker could call the cheap car driver unmustachian, etc.

KulshanGirl

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #21 on: March 05, 2013, 09:34:57 AM »
Regarding the weehoo - Somewhere here is a thread where I elaborated quite a bit on my biking habits after some facepunchery - I'm fairly fit but have a bone issue in my ankles (really, I'm not being a complainypants here) that prevents me from impact sorts of things.  Running, pumping a bike, etc.  I can walk forever.  I can swim forever.  I can doodle along on a flat bike trail forever.  So, my riding habits are thus:  I ride at a slowish, enjoyable pace on flat trails and roads.  My two year old could probably run alongside faster.  :)  There will be no zooming around corners or that sort of thing.  Just grandma-speed jaunts to the library and the parks and trails.  hehe.

Edit to add:  My child is almost 3, so that bike seat in the link won't last for very long.  The weehoo is good from ages 2 - 9 or so, which would give us many years of co-riding.  She'd be on a ride-behind sort of thing soon, I just like the recumbant verson where she's strapped in better.

And as for my car - this thing in it's day WAS the tricked out machine.  It still is - I've got the heated seats (BEDPAN!) and I totally forgot about this - it's got a tow thingy, upon which I could pop a bike rack for my new bike.  Yes, I am going to try to fall in love with this car again.  I'm taking it in tomorrow and they are going to look into my gas mileage issue. 
« Last Edit: March 05, 2013, 10:01:29 AM by KulshanGirl »

Togoshiman

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Re: Another car question
« Reply #22 on: March 05, 2013, 09:59:10 AM »
Haha - responses deserved.  My take is that a little bit of spending up front makes a used car into something nice and fun, which is mostly what people over-pay for when they splurge on new cars anyway.  I'd rather buy a $5000 Honda Civic and spend $1500 making it 'mine' and 'nice' for $6500 all-in rather than buy a $25,000 new car.  That sort of thing.  I fully admit there are more frugal ways of operating.