Author Topic: Car Dilemma  (Read 3183 times)

Jack E

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Car Dilemma
« on: October 08, 2017, 04:31:01 PM »
Mustachians!

It's a pleasure to be among you and to begin participating in the forums.

Before discovering the wisdom of MMM, I purchased myself an incredibly luxurious 2015 Subaru Outback that cost $29,500 (ouch, I look back on that decision and cringe). Even worse, I only put down about $17k and financed the rest at 1.49%. Stupid.

Fast forward to a month ago--the car gets stolen and totaled! A miserable situation to have to deal with the police, insurance company, etc., but I am finding the silver lining in having the opportunity to make a better financial decision. After subtracting my $1,000 deductible and paying off the balance of the car loan, I'm left with roughly $17k to save/invest and buy a used car.

Here's where things get a bit more complicated, otherwise I would just take the standard MMM advice and go for a sub-$7k Fit, Yaris, or Scion. So, my wife and I are planning a road trip next year, like a big road trip. 6-9 months around the U.S. Naturally, I'm looking at a used Prius.

My basic question is how "used" should it be? I've been looking around and am finding circa 2011 Prii with 90-110K miles for about $7-$8K. If I want us to have a reliable car to take an extended cross-country trip and then keep driving it as my vehicle when we get done, would I be better off buying something slightly newer with less miles and spending more? Say a 2012-2014 with 40-70K miles? Or should I just get the cheaper, older one and drive it until it dies?

Prior to embarking on this trip, my wife will sell her 2003 Corolla for whatever she can get, and we'll have to think about buying her a car when we get back, if we don't create a 1-car or 0-car life for ourselves...

Thanks!

sokoloff

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2017, 04:52:04 PM »
Ballpark the gas savings on the trip.
Let's imagine 9000 miles and a Prius getting 50 mpg and a 2003 Corolla getting 40 mpg.
Prius burns 180 gallons.
Corolla burns 225 gallons.
Delta is 45 gallons or a little over $100, probably barely enough to put plates on the Prius.

If the Corolla is in good shape (or could be put into good shape [like if it needed tires or something]), why not take that on the trip?
You know the car, putting another 9000 miles on it (or 18K miles on it) isn't going to cost much in depreciation when it comes time to sell it [and it's a perfectly good type of car, so why not keep it?]

I wouldn't be afraid to drive a 100K mile Prius, but I also wouldn't be afraid to drive a 150K mile Corolla in good shape either.

middo

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2017, 06:15:36 PM »
+1 With taking the corolla.   I would be much happier taking a car that I know well on a long drive.  I would also suggest if you are planning on getting rid of the corolla, a few more thoysand miles won't change the value of it compared to possible wear and tear on a newer vehicle you buy.

rymmm

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2017, 06:51:05 PM »
I just finished a car search-- and drove new and certified VW golf, mazda3, corolla, civic, prius C, prius, and Honda insight. I do believe that the corolla is the best car for the money when all is considered. It is getting hard to find 2017s, I had gotten some pricing for around 16.5K on a new one. 2017 all of the accident prevention systems are standard, and I think at some point (maybe some already do?) insurance companies will discount for them which may offset the cost of new vs. certified used.

I did find what I believe to the best deal on a certified used 2016 LE-- 14K for a model with 10K miles, and the dealer showed me the vehicle history proving it was a service loaner from the same dealership.

For your budget, I think it is the most car for the money, and do not hesitate to shop around and ask dealers to compete on price. I could not believe the difference in pricing between a few of them. Also, if they have an internet sales person, they seem to be the best people to find a deal and are more seasoned sales staff.

Good luck!

Dave1442397

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2017, 07:06:03 PM »
Check this out. The guy's presentation may be a bit goofy, but he knows his stuff. He paid $1500 for a Prius with a dead hybrid battery, then replaced the battery with a $1000 DIY kit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSwUEVx5G3U&t=0s

Jack E

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2017, 06:31:46 AM »
Thanks guys. After I submitted my post I had a suspicion that taking the Corolla might become a recommendation. I failed to mention that the Corolla shakes violently once you get up to about 60mph, it's tires are towards the end of their life, and the interior smells bad and has plenty of tears in the seats. Basically, we can't imagine spending days on end in it during our trip. It's got to go.

I certainly agree that Corollas are great cars, and my wife has gotten many cheap, hassle-free miles out of it. But we do not want to put any money into this vehicle.

Dave144, thanks for the link to the Prius video. I've never done much work on cars except changing the oil, but it could be a fun project and a way to get a decent car on the cheap. From what I'm reading, though, Prius batteries usually last 150-200k miles, so I would be purchasing a really high-mileage vehicle. Definitely something I will look into.

Laura33

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 07:33:03 AM »
Thanks guys. After I submitted my post I had a suspicion that taking the Corolla might become a recommendation. I failed to mention that the Corolla shakes violently once you get up to about 60mph, it's tires are towards the end of their life, and the interior smells bad and has plenty of tears in the seats. Basically, we can't imagine spending days on end in it during our trip. It's got to go.

I certainly agree that Corollas are great cars, and my wife has gotten many cheap, hassle-free miles out of it. But we do not want to put any money into this vehicle.

1.  Get an alignment.
2.  Get new tires.
3.  Shampoo/steam clean the seats and carpets.
4.  Ignore the upholstery tears, because if you're driving the car for 9 mos., you're just going to screw up the inside anyway.

The thing that gets people in trouble isn't spending money -- it's rationalizing spending money as the "better" choice.  E.g., none of the things that you listed appear on their face to be significant issues; they don't suggest that the Corolla is falling apart and can't be trusted to get you safely around the country.  That means there is no actual financial or safety reason to get rid of the car -- you are just tired of it, because it's ugly and smelly and beat up, and so you are using those negatives as an excuse to take "keep the Corolla" off the table, which then frames up the issue as you'd prefer to ("which newer car should I get?"). 

The thing is, I don't actually care if you dump the Corolla or not.  It's reasonable to say, damn, I've had this car for-freaking-ever, and I want something newer.  It's not the most Mustachian choice, but it is nevertheless reasonable.  So if that's where you are, just own it.  Look objectively at the pros and cons of the decision -- without stacking the deck so the decision comes out the way you want it to -- and decide for yourself whether spending the extra money on a newer car is worth the additional time you will need to work before FIRE.

Raenia

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2017, 07:36:43 AM »
Thanks guys. After I submitted my post I had a suspicion that taking the Corolla might become a recommendation. I failed to mention that the Corolla shakes violently once you get up to about 60mph, it's tires are towards the end of their life, and the interior smells bad and has plenty of tears in the seats. Basically, we can't imagine spending days on end in it during our trip. It's got to go.

I certainly agree that Corollas are great cars, and my wife has gotten many cheap, hassle-free miles out of it. But we do not want to put any money into this vehicle.

1.  Get an alignment.
2.  Get new tires.
3.  Shampoo/steam clean the seats and carpets.
4.  Ignore the upholstery tears, because if you're driving the car for 9 mos., you're just going to screw up the inside anyway.

The thing that gets people in trouble isn't spending money -- it's rationalizing spending money as the "better" choice.  E.g., none of the things that you listed appear on their face to be significant issues; they don't suggest that the Corolla is falling apart and can't be trusted to get you safely around the country.  That means there is no actual financial or safety reason to get rid of the car -- you are just tired of it, because it's ugly and smelly and beat up, and so you are using those negatives as an excuse to take "keep the Corolla" off the table, which then frames up the issue as you'd prefer to ("which newer car should I get?"). 

The thing is, I don't actually care if you dump the Corolla or not.  It's reasonable to say, damn, I've had this car for-freaking-ever, and I want something newer.  It's not the most Mustachian choice, but it is nevertheless reasonable.  So if that's where you are, just own it.  Look objectively at the pros and cons of the decision -- without stacking the deck so the decision comes out the way you want it to -- and decide for yourself whether spending the extra money on a newer car is worth the additional time you will need to work before FIRE.

Agreed, with one caveat - get the alignment first, and if that doesn't fix the shaking, have a mechanic check it out.  There may have something more serious wrong with it, in which case the math may change depending on what the repair would cost.

Jack E

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2017, 08:31:39 AM »
I appreciate you guys challenging my assumption that we would just dump the Corolla, and I'm going to at least put that option back on the table.

Part of the calculus in that decision will be selling it to my wife, who has driven the car for the last 14 years. She's kind of attached to it but hates to take it on longer trips, so the idea of driving it around the country for months might not appeal to her. It's only got about 160K miles on it, so it certainly has some life left in it.

But it might be doable if we take your maintenance suggestions and there's no larger mechanical problems with it. Stashing that entire 17k instead of having to buy a replacement car is certainly appealing. Thanks for pushing me to take a more Mustachian approach to the situation.

Lady SA

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2017, 08:34:51 AM »
My DH and I went on a 5 mo roadtrip in a 2001 Chevy Prism hunk of junk a few years back. Tiny, cramped, uncomfortable seats, smelly interior, shakes over 65 mph, funky brakes, burns oil, a squeaky belt, semi-bald tires, etc. Not at all a luxurious vehicle and I was pretty skeptical about roadtripping with it. Despite all that, it got us where we wanted to go with no fuss. We would spend a few hours in the car, arrive at our destination, then camp for a few days as we hiked and availed ourselves of local amenities, then drive to the next spot, so we really didn't feel like we were in the car all the time.

We still have that car, and depend on it as a single-car family. Still reliably runs like a charm with a bit of love -- shampooing, new tires, a brake job, regular oil changes, and careful driving. The seats we solved with those mesh lumbar support things. We even take it on 5+ hour trips to visit family frequently (around 8-9 times per year) with no issues.

I wouldn't write off the old car completely, but I can also understand the urge to get something newer. If you have to put a significant amount of money into the car to get it in good shape, then that may tip the scales a bit.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2017, 08:38:34 AM by Lady SA »

Car Jack

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2017, 09:08:26 AM »
I present door #3: buy a 4 year old Corolla.  It'll be cheaper than a Prius and for highway driving is a more efficient way to go.  Where the prius shines is in stop and go city driving where you can run on electric, basically shut off when stopped and then go those next 10 feet on electric.  Where it doesn't shine is long distances, where you're simply dragging a heavy battery for no reason and running on the gas engine the entire time. 

Another consideration is if you break down in East Nowhere.  A Corolla is familiar and easy to work on.  Some redneck mechanic is going to take one look at the Prius and tell you "I can tow it to the closest Toyota dealer 150 miles away for $200 cash, up front". 

mozar

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2017, 09:17:19 AM »
Although I agree that you should keep the Corolla on the table for now make sure you get a thorough and reputable look over. I took my 92' Corolla from DC to Toronto and on the way back my car would start shaking at high speeds. Unfortunately I decided (I was young) that I had to go over 60 because even the most right lane was going 90+.  My engine gave up and I was stuck by the side of the road in Amish country (not a good place to be stuck, a horse and buggy won't get you anywhere fast). Anyways I signed up for triple A right then and got a tow truck. Fortunately I had just gotten my first cell phone. I was towed to a mechanic and he told me he would give me 25 dollars for it. I took the deal so I could buy a train ticket back home.

Door number #4: rent a car.

chasesfish

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2017, 09:27:31 AM »
I'm going to be the odd man out here and probably get lashed - But where do you plan on sleeping when you're traveling the country?  I'm reminded at the folks over at Freedom with Bruno.

I'd sell the Corolla and go after a 7-10 year old Toyota 4-Runner and do your road trip in that.  Storage space plus you can fold down the back seats and sleep in it for a while.   It'll also be worth plenty of money when you get back to sell it.  I also agree about having a vehicle any mechanic can work on and stick with a car that sells 100+ units a year.


Jack E

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2017, 11:32:07 AM »
All right, now you've really got me thinking out of the box, especially now that I understand a Corolla can outshine a Prius on long distance trips. Your point about having more difficulty with a Prius in the event of a breakdown is also well-taken.

Regarding our sleeping-when-traveling situation, we'll be staying with friends for free, camping, and staying at hostels if we have to pay for lodging. Once we make it to Montana, we have a free place to stay indefinitely and can use it as a base to explore that part of the country. I don't think we will want to sleep in the vehicle itself during this trip.

Step 1: Have the Corolla thoroughly inspected
Step 2: Have a conversation with my wife about whether she would be willing to roadtrip in it.
Step 3: If the Corolla needs significant repairs or wife won't abide, look at used Corollas or other used vehicles suitable for roadtrip and post-roadtrip driving.

If I end up at step 3, any other suggestions besides another used Corolla? Fit, Yaris, Scion, etc? There may be another post on here somewhere about roadtrip cars.

The good news is I have a few months to make this decision since I am borrowing a car from a family member.

lentil

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2017, 12:58:06 PM »
My partner and I spent a year+ traveling around and living out of a Fort Escort. Any car that runs will work! And we did end up spending one or two nights sleeping in it, just due to unexpected events, but certainly wouldn't have found it worth all the extra hassle (not to mention expense) to upgrade to some huge truck just for those rare nights. The US is full of great campsites, especially in the western states.

One small consideration I haven't seen listed: you might prefer a car with a closed trunk versus a hatchback. One reason is that you can hide gear in your trunk if you're parked at a sketchy trailhead, or leaving your car overnight while you frolic in the wilderness. Another is that some parks, like Yosemite, will give you a big ticket if you leave any food/trash in view inside your car (because those crafty Yosemite bears will break right in to get it, which is just bad for everyone involved). Of course, there are usually ways to adapt (like using the bear boxes Yosemite provides), but I do think there are some advantages to a closed trunk for an extended road trip.

Laura33

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2017, 01:00:28 PM »
All right, now you've really got me thinking out of the box, especially now that I understand a Corolla can outshine a Prius on long distance trips. Your point about having more difficulty with a Prius in the event of a breakdown is also well-taken.

Regarding our sleeping-when-traveling situation, we'll be staying with friends for free, camping, and staying at hostels if we have to pay for lodging. Once we make it to Montana, we have a free place to stay indefinitely and can use it as a base to explore that part of the country. I don't think we will want to sleep in the vehicle itself during this trip.

Step 1: Have the Corolla thoroughly inspected
Step 2: Have a conversation with my wife about whether she would be willing to roadtrip in it.
Step 3: If the Corolla needs significant repairs or wife won't abide, look at used Corollas or other used vehicles suitable for roadtrip and post-roadtrip driving.

If I end up at step 3, any other suggestions besides another used Corolla? Fit, Yaris, Scion, etc? There may be another post on here somewhere about roadtrip cars.

The good news is I have a few months to make this decision since I am borrowing a car from a family member.

Think Hyundai and Kia, too.  Hyundai did well by us @10 yrs ago, and they're now the same company.

chasesfish

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2017, 04:45:43 PM »
Okay, so no go with the 4-runner.

I'd just say go with any 7-15 year old, mass produced car with good reliability.   Honda Accord/Civic and Toyota Camry/Corolla just had so many of them made there's parts and mechanics everywhere for them.   I'm not sure the slightly larger car would cost that much more in this situation either if you go Accord/Camry

Jack E

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2017, 09:15:12 AM »
Thanks again, all. The thought about having a trunk to store possessions out of sight is helpful. I guess you could also tint the back windows of a hatchback. Since I recently had a car stolen with lots of gift in it, I know how seeing a vehicle loaded with stuff can tempt thieves.

I went back and looked at the fuel economy of the Prius vs. Corollas and similar vehicles, and I'm now not so sure that a Corolla would be the better choice gas-wise for long distance trips. Even though Prii gets better gas mileage in the city, they still get around 45-48 mpg on the highway, as opposed to the Corolla's 30-35 highway mpg (looking at 2011 models for both vehicles here). The gas savings would not add up to the extra cost of a new vehicle, though.

ketchup

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2017, 09:30:14 AM »
All right, now you've really got me thinking out of the box, especially now that I understand a Corolla can outshine a Prius on long distance trips. Your point about having more difficulty with a Prius in the event of a breakdown is also well-taken.

Regarding our sleeping-when-traveling situation, we'll be staying with friends for free, camping, and staying at hostels if we have to pay for lodging. Once we make it to Montana, we have a free place to stay indefinitely and can use it as a base to explore that part of the country. I don't think we will want to sleep in the vehicle itself during this trip.

Step 1: Have the Corolla thoroughly inspected
Step 2: Have a conversation with my wife about whether she would be willing to roadtrip in it.
Step 3: If the Corolla needs significant repairs or wife won't abide, look at used Corollas or other used vehicles suitable for roadtrip and post-roadtrip driving.

If I end up at step 3, any other suggestions besides another used Corolla? Fit, Yaris, Scion, etc? There may be another post on here somewhere about roadtrip cars.

The good news is I have a few months to make this decision since I am borrowing a car from a family member.

Think Hyundai and Kia, too.  Hyundai did well by us @10 yrs ago, and they're now the same company.
+1 to Hyundai and Kia.  They depreciate like rocks, but they're actually decent reliable cars now (used to be garbage in the 90s from what I hear).  I think about 2007 is the cutoff when they started being significantly better/more reliable.  There's an '09 Hyundai Accent near me for sale with 63,000 miles on the clock and no issues for $2800.  I'd be all over that if I were in the market for a car right now.  (I actually previously owned a 2009 Accent and it died at 261,xxx miles.)

Dave1442397

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2017, 10:58:55 AM »
I knew Hyundai and Kia had improved a lot over the years, but I was still pleasantly surprised by what this guy found when he opened up his wife's Hyundai with 200k miles on it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVyFUbPcPsI

405programmer

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2017, 01:33:02 PM »
What parts of the country will you be traveling to? In my neck of the woods (Oklahoma) Prius is a dirty word. There are 05 Prius cars here with ~100K miles and leather seats selling for under $5000. The cheapest Corollas I see are rust buckets for ~$4000.

So here's an out-there idea. See local prices on your ideal car across the various points of your road trip and buy the car at the cheapest point! Start the trek with the 03 corolla and finish it with the new car! But either way fix the vibration and tires. If you're able to take a trip over 6-9 months then the few hundred that it takes to make your tires safe is an easy decision.

DarkandStormy

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2017, 12:39:26 PM »
Would recommend a Prius.  No timing belt to replace (huge cost down the line, potentially) ever.  Very reliable cars from a very reliable brand.  I have a Prius c (pre-mustachian purchase but still love it).

Just ran a KBB search with your price range...you should be able to find '15 2 and 3's (the models of the Prius go from 1-4, 1 being the low end and 4 having all the bells and whistles) with ~30K miles selling for ~$15K-$16K.  Knock off a couple thousand dollars and add a few more thousand miles for '14 models.  You could go back to the '05-'06 models and only pay ~$4-$5k.  Or you could meet in the middle and get a '10 or '11 model for $8-$9k.

It's not just the gas mileage on this one trip, it's the gas mileage over potentially 5-10 (or more) years.  It's also the (knock on wood) lower maintenance costs and longer reliability.

It seems big enough for you two and there is actually a cover for a good 2/3 of the trunk or so, if you're worried about privacy.  If you use the backseat or top of the trunk (essentially above the cover) you could throw a blanket over your stuff if the tinted windows aren't enough.

ltt

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2017, 05:00:22 AM »
We recently purchased a 2016 Corolla (basic model) for $15,500 with 20 miles on it (that's 20, not 20k).  I'm sure you could find an older one for less with more miles, but still low miles.  I vote for either renting a vehicle for your trip, or there should be some really good deals out there on vehicles now. 

sokoloff

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Re: Car Dilemma
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2017, 08:56:08 AM »
We recently purchased a 2016 Corolla (basic model) for $15,500 with 20 miles on it (that's 20, not 20k).  I'm sure you could find an older one for less with more miles, but still low miles.  I vote for either renting a vehicle for your trip, or there should be some really good deals out there on vehicles now.
Rent a vehicle for a 6-9 month trip?!

That seems unusual to me, and strikes me as unlikely to be the most cost-effective option. Can you say more about that idea?