Author Topic: First question! Car buying  (Read 7673 times)

OzzieandHarriet

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First question! Car buying
« on: May 09, 2013, 11:35:04 AM »
This is my first question to the group here: I need to buy a car and an trying to finalize my decision. My current ride is a 1995 Ford Escort hatchback. It's not really worth anything (maybe a few hundred), and I don't want to put any more money into it. It runs okay, but every time I drive it I'm afraid the whole exhaust system is going to fall off. I want to forestall being stuck on the side of the road somewhere.

My lifestyle has been rather Mustachian since probably before MMM was even born -- very frugal, making do fairly well with little income. I drive as little as possible -- currently, about 2 miles a day. But I need a car, for one, because I play the cello, and it's impractical and extremely inconvenient to travel without one when toting a cello. Also, and I haven't seen this addressed here at all, as a woman I do not always feel safe walking or taking public transportation, particularly at night, though I'm okay with it during the day and when there are a lot of other people around.

I have pretty much decided to buy a new car, and here is my reasoning: The cars I am considering are the Honda Fit and the Ford Focus. All the other small cars in this price range are too small for the cello without a lot of hassle getting it in and out. New, they are around $17k; used, they are still going to be over $10k, probably closer to $15k, and I feel once you get up there you might as well spend the extra couple thousand and get a new one, with the warranty and without other people's problems. I am not a car person and I do not have the time, skills, or inclination to repair them myself, and I have not had good experiences buying used cars. Yes, you lose a little money once you drive the new car off the lot, but you do get something for that.

We have the cash to buy new, so no loans will be involved.

In case anyone has skipped all that, I have pretty much decided to get the Fit Sport model with manual transmission. My husband has a 2010 with automatic and he loves it, I've driven it, the cello fits in easily, it's comfortable, it's highly rated as being reliable. However, I did test drive a Ford Focus, and that also seems like a nice car that I might be able to get a little cheaper, but its repair rating by Consumer Reports is rather low. I've owned three Ford Escorts, and they have all been good and basically trouble-free cars. Plus, I like the idea of buying American.

So any opinions on this (either my reasoning for buying a new car or my choices)? Thanks for any thoughts.

daverobev

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2013, 01:53:54 PM »
You *are* throwing money away by buying new - if you view the car purely as functional. "I need a device that will transport me from x to y. How can I do that most inexpensively?" - when you factor a car running to 250 or 300 THOUSAND miles, if you buy one with 75k on the clock for half the price or less.. Well.

All that aside, *everyone* loves the Fit, and as and when my wife needs a new car I feel that is probably what we'll get. She has an '04 Civic with about 220k km on at the moment (so somewhat under 150k miles).

Other thoughts - how many miles do you drive per year? If relatively few (2 miles per day = 700 per year...) then, again, there is no point buying new as even a very old car should last you a LONG time.

Any reason you think your car IS about to die? If a tow costs you $40, and a new car $17k... you might want to keep the old one running until it physically dies. Just think of the interest you're earning on that $17k - at 3%, well, $500 a year!

If you are going to drive it from purchase to destruction then.. there are worse things. But a 2 year or 3 year old model will still work out cheaper in the long run!

Starstuff

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2013, 02:12:14 PM »
A) Do not buy a new Ford Focus. They have transmission problems that Ford is working hard to cover up, hence the low repair rating. No, you won't find that on the internet, and no, the dealership won't admit it. Call it insider knowledge.

B) Do not buy new. Do not buy in the 10K range at all.
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/19/top-10-cars-for-smart-people
http://lenpenzo.com/blog/id19211-how-to-retire-five-years-earlier-than-you-may-think-you-can.html

C) This question screams of "I want" not "I need." You're not evaluating your needs, you're falling back on a script (buy the newest/nicest thing you can afford). I did it with two cars in a row (less with the second, but god I wish I'd found this site first). It sucks, and now I'm wasting money fixing it. I NEVER EVER EVER want to finance a car again.

D) I'm a 5'3" 120 lb reasonably attractive young woman. I volunteer in rape crisis. I know the stats... and I know that your chances of getting assaulted by a stranger are almost nothing. You are exponentially more likely to get assaulted/raped by someone close to you than you are by the proverbial stranger in a dark ally. Yes, it happens. I won't pretend it doesn't. But part of Mustachianism is getting over the idea that ever person out there wants to hurt you. This alone has saved me time and money in surprising ways. If you're afraid of getting robbed, carry very little cash and valuables, and use a Pacsafe purse. But seriously, very few people in this world want to hurt you. I was raised to be scared of the dark because I'm a "little girl." Getting over that has improved my life so much more than I can tell you.
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/11/get-rich-with-trust/
http://pacsafe.com/

Spork

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2013, 02:16:16 PM »
There are Fits out there under 10k (especially if you're interested in a manual).  Manuals of any kind are becoming difficult to find.  They're a disappearing breed.  But, the upside of this is that they're also a little hard to sell.

We found a Fit for under 10k.  (10K was may oh-my-god-max limit for our last car purchase).  We would have bought it but the dealer started giving me the heebie jeebies.  I ended up with a 2005 Matrix for well under $10k (also a stick) off of craigslist.  (This would also carry a cello, if that is the criteria.)

It took us a few months of searching ... and we had 4-5 models we were looking for ... before we found one that matched.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2013, 03:51:40 PM »
Thanks for the responses. I did read MMMs post about cars, and I was really interested in a Matrix/Vibe, but I was reading that the transmissions tend to go around 100,000 miles, a $3,000 repair. Is that not true? Plus, they don't get the best gas mileage. I haven't seen many with mileage much under that, but maybe I'll keep looking for a lower mileage one.

I haven't seen any used Fits under $10k. Newer used ones are the same price as (or more than!) used.

I'm not really into the shiny new -- I mean, it's not THAT important to me -- but I am kind of tired of driving around in my beater with all the trim coming off, the thing that holds the seatbelt broken so I have to fish it out, etc. Plus it sounding like the muffler (which I had replaced last year @ $800 or so) is going to fall off any minute.

I guess I would say that inexpensive transportation from a to b is important, yes, but relative comfort is also important. I've done my time nursing sick cars along (getting stuck on the side of the road, adding oil at every gas change, etc.). I need to arrive at gigs neatly dressed and not sweating from no A/C or wiping grease off of my hands because I had to check the oil again.  So I'm a wimp. ;)

What I want to avoid is laying out up to $10k for a used car and then having to hassle with it (costing me my time, which is in short supply these days), spend a few hundred here, a  few there, and soon having spent almost as much as if I'd gone ahead and bought the new car in the first place. As I said, I am not a car person. I can't look under the hood and know what I'm looking at. I am also am not good at bargaining and don't have a mechanic in my life who would help me out. Plus, I hate shopping! But perhaps I should set aside a day or so to look around at used cars before I commit to a new one just to see what's out there.

Reepekg

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2013, 04:47:32 PM »
You had me at "it runs OK." For $500, I will replace all of your trim, buy you a new seatbelt holder thing, and clean every interior and exterior surface. Heck, I'll even secure your exhaust line with my mad scientist welding skills.

The MMM forum says it sounds like your Escort needs a little TLC so you can love it again. Some maintenance vs. $17,000?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 04:49:56 PM by Reepekg »

Spork

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2013, 05:06:20 PM »
Thanks for the responses. I did read MMMs post about cars, and I was really interested in a Matrix/Vibe, but I was reading that the transmissions tend to go around 100,000 miles, a $3,000 repair. Is that not true? Plus, they don't get the best gas mileage. I haven't seen many with mileage much under that, but maybe I'll keep looking for a lower mileage one.


Interesting.  I hope that isn't the case for me...  Do you know if that was the auto or the manual?  I'd be surprised that a manual tranny costs $3k to rebuild.  I rebuilt a Ford truck automatic tranny for about $2k -- and manuals should be waaay cheaper than autos.  (Yeah, I know, Toyota is proud of their parts... maybe that is the difference.)

mlipps

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2013, 06:01:26 PM »
The Matrix is mechanically identical to a Corolla. If Corollas, one of the best selling cars in America, had major transmission problems, don't you think we'd know? That's just not true.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2013, 06:08:07 PM »
You had me at "it runs OK." For $500, I will replace all of your trim, buy you a new seatbelt holder thing, and clean every interior and exterior surface. Heck, I'll even secure your exhaust line with my mad scientist welding skills.

The MMM forum says it sounds like your Escort needs a little TLC so you can love it again. Some maintenance vs. $17,000?

After I had the exhaust worked on last year (c. $800), it was rattling like crazy, so I took it back in, and they tightened it up so that now when I start the car it kind of bucks. Lately, the muffler has been roaring again, at times. I don't know what would need to happen to get that fixed.

Also will need a new timing chain soon and new tires -- another couple thousand?

If worried about cosmetics, also a paint job to cover the "FVCK" someone scratched in one door a while back.

I'm getting about 20 mpg city, 30 highway these days.

It does have a state-of-the-art c. 1995 tape deck.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2013, 06:09:48 PM »
The Matrix is mechanically identical to a Corolla. If Corollas, one of the best selling cars in America, had major transmission problems, don't you think we'd know? That's just not true.

I found stuff like this:

http://forums.travel.com/toyota-cars-forum/1345697-serious-transmission-problem-toyota-matrix-possibly-corolla-pontiac-vibe.html

mlipps

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2013, 06:30:00 PM »
And I found stuff like it being the #1 car recommended by Consumer Reports for the last 20+ years. I think you're looking at anecdotal evidence there, not a sign of larger problems. I'm skeptical.

the fixer

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2013, 06:42:53 PM »
Where do you live that Honda Fits are $10k+? I see at least 3 or 4 in the DC area on CL for between $7-9k, in good condition. That's about half the cost of a new one. You could use the excess to pay for a new engine AND transmission if you got unlucky and ended up with a super-lemon, and still have some left over.

daverobev

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2013, 07:48:30 PM »
http://www.carcomplaints.com/Pontiac/Vibe/2003/transmission/power_train-manual_transmission.shtml

Now - if you go and look at Pontiac as a whole - the Vibe has "bugger all" problems vs, say, the Grand Am.

It also looks like 2003 was the only year with major problems. NHTSA for the 2003 Matrix are the same.

IOW - skip the 2003, buy an 04 or 05!

mlipps

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2013, 07:56:33 PM »
Here's the spreadsheet I used to decide on a car. I bought a Matrix, in case you can't tell. The Fit has those weird windows by the dash that made me dizzy.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ao1XSBz4nTP3dEVnT3ZTQm5qbnRfbld1NEpqaEdkMnc&usp=sharing

Spork

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2013, 08:21:25 AM »
Here's the spreadsheet I used to decide on a car. I bought a Matrix, in case you can't tell. The Fit has those weird windows by the dash that made me dizzy.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ao1XSBz4nTP3dEVnT3ZTQm5qbnRfbld1NEpqaEdkMnc&usp=sharing

I made almost the exact same spreadsheet.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2013, 10:08:28 AM »
In and of itself, buying a used car can be daunting and that might be detracting you? (you said you hate shopping and that you can't find any Fits under $10k, which makes me think you're looking at used cars at a dealership)

If you're interested in brushing up some negotiation skills, it might give you the confidence boost to go out there and get a good quality used car. I highly recommend the book "Getting to Yes." Also, looking at values on kbb.com, edmunds.com, and nada.com will give you a realistic idea of price range. Then, you can take on the dealership or go for a craigslist-advertised car, which starts off at a lower price. When we bought our used Prius, we were able to use ads for cars on craigslist and the valuations from online resources to get the sticker price down from $1600 to $12500. The dealerships really mark up those sticker prices!

For that matter, if you haven't already looked at a Prius, take a look -- the 4-doors can definitely accommodate a cello with the seats down in the back. ;)

thurston howell iv

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2013, 11:48:13 AM »
You state in your initial post that you have no inclination to learn about your car (or to work on it)- This is the reason you will be continually ripped off by unscrupulous repair places. $800 for a repair!?!?!?  Really?  This didn't sound kind of crazy to you?

Maybe you need to find a different mechanic.
You also mention the following:

Also will need a new timing chain soon and new tires -- another couple thousand?

If worried about cosmetics, also a paint job to cover the "FVCK" someone scratched in one door a while back.

I'm getting about 20 mpg city, 30 highway these days.

It does have a state-of-the-art c. 1995 tape deck.


The escort has a timing belt. It's cost is less than $40 bucks and very easy to install.
The tires for an escort are 14" or 15" - again relatively cheap (heck you can even buy them at walmart.
You can go to maaco if you're worried about the vandalism or find some reasonably close touch up paint and paint it over.
You can buy a nice current state of the art cd player off of ebay for less than $100 (I purchased an Alpine deck for less than $100)!

Sounds like you need a MMM face punch right about now!  You're looking for reasons to buy a newer car. The car you have is doing the trick, a few hundred dollars in maintenance is all you need and that little car will keep on ticking along...

If you want to be Mustachain you have to learn to change. Trust me, I'd love to have a new car or even a newer one but every time I start to make excuses as to why I should get one or why I deserve one or why I NEED one, I have an image of MMM and his legion of MMM minions descending upon me and punching me in the face repeatedly.  This usually gets me back on the right track...

Best of luck to you. If you need help with your car, pm me. I am happy to help if I can.


daverobev

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2013, 12:08:21 PM »
You state in your initial post that you have no inclination to learn about your car (or to work on it)- This is the reason you will be continually ripped off by unscrupulous repair places. $800 for a repair!?!?!?  Really?  This didn't sound kind of crazy to you?

Maybe you need to find a different mechanic.
You also mention the following:

Also will need a new timing chain soon and new tires -- another couple thousand?

If worried about cosmetics, also a paint job to cover the "FVCK" someone scratched in one door a while back.

I'm getting about 20 mpg city, 30 highway these days.

It does have a state-of-the-art c. 1995 tape deck.


The escort has a timing belt. It's cost is less than $40 bucks and very easy to install.
The tires for an escort are 14" or 15" - again relatively cheap (heck you can even buy them at walmart.
You can go to maaco if you're worried about the vandalism or find some reasonably close touch up paint and paint it over.
You can buy a nice current state of the art cd player off of ebay for less than $100 (I purchased an Alpine deck for less than $100)!

Sounds like you need a MMM face punch right about now!  You're looking for reasons to buy a newer car. The car you have is doing the trick, a few hundred dollars in maintenance is all you need and that little car will keep on ticking along...

If you want to be Mustachain you have to learn to change. Trust me, I'd love to have a new car or even a newer one but every time I start to make excuses as to why I should get one or why I deserve one or why I NEED one, I have an image of MMM and his legion of MMM minions descending upon me and punching me in the face repeatedly.  This usually gets me back on the right track...

Best of luck to you. If you need help with your car, pm me. I am happy to help if I can.

Changing the timing belt plus water pump on our Civic was about $800 if I remember correctly. I'm ok with doing little bits on cars, and I know in THEORY a timing belt is easy, but really... if you mess it up, you mess the engine up. I think the Civic is harder to get to than most, though - on the plus side it only needs changing every 170k km I think.

Tyres, yup, $100 each or less.

You don't need a CD player, just a tape-to-3.5mm headphone jack, then you can plug in a phone and play lots of music! $2 on fleabay.

Finding a good, reliable, fair mechanic can be hard...

thurston howell iv

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2013, 12:53:07 PM »
Timing belt is NOT difficult. Especially on a simple, older 4 cylinder engine. TDC (top dead center) is very simple to find. Tons of DIY and youtube videos for guidance... Additionally, this model year Escort has a Non-interference engine. If the belt breaks the car stops. NO damage. Just replace belt and off you go.

I stole this simple description from another online writer: There are two types of engines that use timing belts. They are described as: "Interference Engines" and "Non-interference Engines" The difference lies in the proximity between the valves and the pistons. On an interference engine, if the timing belt slips even one notch, the piston can crash into an open valve causing serious engine damage by bending valves and breaking pistons. Non-interference engines will usually not self destruct, but in either case if the belt fails, the engine will immediately shut down leaving you stranded.

The Civic on the other hand is an interference engine... still very easy to work on (hardest part was breaking the crank bolt loose)
Belts have recommended change intervals of 60-100k miles... I usually go for the 100k miles. They are almost always in near perfect (appearing) condition.

Replacing the water pump can add more to the expense but if it's working fine, it's not 100% necessary. I've done countless timing belts and chains and rarely swapped the water pump. I've never had any issues with this approach.

I agree finding a reliable, good and fair mechanic can be hard... that's why I get my hands dirty and do it all myself... It's really not all that difficult- it's not rocket surgery.

savingtofreedom

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2013, 10:11:50 PM »
A) Do not buy a new Ford Focus. They have transmission problems that Ford is working hard to cover up, hence the low repair rating. No, you won't find that on the internet, and no, the dealership won't admit it. Call it insider knowledge.


Not to totally threadjack but Starstuff - do you know if there are any big issues with the new Ford Fusions? My husband "thinks" he will be getting one in the future - my job is to put off that purchase as long as possible (or never).

OzzieandHarriet - we recently bought a base Fit new.  I really love it.  We plan on keeping it for the long haul.  How will buying new impact your financial future?  I am also not a car person so I feel your pain. Do you have a friend that can help you out if you go the used route?

 We needed one safe vehicle for longer trips and hopefully to hold some future kiddos after I ruined the suspension on my car and our other car keeps on having little issues.  We could have bought used and maybe I will get flamed for it but for our needs I did not think it was worth it.

NealH

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2013, 10:49:58 PM »
Do you even need a second car?  You said your husband had a 2010 Fit already.  How often do you really overlap in your driving that you need two cars, especially since you drive so infrequently?  If you need it some evening or to transport the cello--maybe he can ride his bike or take transit (assuming he is not transporting a tuba to a different gig across town . . . ). 

chucklesmcgee

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2013, 07:13:56 AM »
I agree with all the posters suggesting that it would be cheaper to repair the 1995 Ford Escort. That's IF all we care about is the lowest cost to keep something reliably going from point A to B.

I'd really consider safety too in making the decision. Car safety has made enormous leaps since 1995 with more stringent standards in place. The Ford Escort wasn't really that stellar in 1995 crash testwise but couldn't even be sold today new. With no side airbags you're screwed if you're hit from the side. Obviously the risk isn't that high if you don't drive that much, but there's just been such a leap in auto-safety from 1995 to now that it's something you should value in. I'm not how important some of these newer safety features are (blind spot warning, lane departure alerts) for careful drivers, but the improvements in airbags (front, side, knee, overhead), crumple zone design, vertical stability control, and roof integrity have all drastically improved the chance of survival in serious crashes.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2013, 11:40:46 AM »
Thanks everyone for your opinions (even those who tried to talk me out of this).

I am all for DIY when safety is not an issue, but cars and electrical work I leave to pros, so that was off the table. A new timing belt + new tires + exhaust repair = at least $1200, probably more, on an 18-year-old car with a deteriorating body that is worth about $500-- this does not make sense to me unless you are in really dire straits, which I am not. We spent about $1000 on it last year, and that was it for me.

Buying a new car is something I have been planning for several years. As long as the Ford was running reasonably well and didn't need major repairs, I was fine with it, but this past year it deteriorated a lot. For a car with such low mileage, it looked and sounded like it had been through a war zone (speaks to the quality of the materials in it, I guess). We have had the money in the bank (earning .75% interest). Spending some of it will not affect our financial future in any way.

The way I look at it, buying a new economy car is a compromise. Once you get under $10,000 for a used car, you are buying problems that will need to be dealt with. Once you get over $10,000, you're in the price territory of the new car, plus you get the warranty so any problems in the first few years will be fixed at no cost. Also, the new car has all the latest safety features, as someone mentioned. Yeah, I could have found one a few years old for a few thousand less, but that's not enough of a difference to make it worthwhile in my case. I had friends trying to talk me into spending MORE, but my limit was high teens OTD price.

We do need two cars, absolutely. Plus, I am about to start a teaching job that will have me driving about 50 miles round trip once a week, and I need something safer and more reliable for that.

So that is why I went ahead and bought a new Fit Sport with manual transmission. I went for the Sport because it's going to be nicer to drive in the long run (bigger wheels = better ride), but got the MT because I like driving with it AND it was less expensive. Again, a compromise.

Some big purchases are indeed a waste of money, but sometimes you do need to spend more in the short term to avoid bigger expenses in the long term, and I believe this is one of those cases.

Anyway, thanks again.

MichaelR

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Re: First question! Car buying
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2013, 12:08:47 PM »
Hi OzzieandHarriet

I think for the less mechanically minded of us, and perhaps more nervous about road trouble, what you are saying makes sense. Albeit you can be accused of not complying with MMM philosophy - but so what! Life is about tradeoffs and in this case you are trading off time to financial independence for peace of mind.

I think the key thing here is not to be frugal to the point of making yourself unhappy (which is a different level for everyone) but being conscious that every dollar spent unnecessarily is a dollar further away from financial independence. If you are consciously and rationally making that choice - so be it. But beware the ability of the human mind to rationalise every desire...

While buying a new car is a fundamental contradiction of the MMM way, a far worse one is buying a car (new or used) on finance.

I for one would not drive, or ask my wife to drive, a 1995 car with the exhaust falling off if I had the cash to buy a better one. If I was a car mechanic I might think differently.