Author Topic: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?  (Read 1797 times)

FeelingRosie

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Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« on: February 08, 2017, 01:24:51 PM »
My goal is early retirement and I've been living without a car for the past couple of months, ever since my last car died and I decided to scrap it rather than pay thousands of dollars to only fix one of the problems with it. After living without a car, I've decided I really want a car. I could live without one as I walk to work everyday and can walk to the grocery store. However I would like to have a car to bulk shop at CostCo and drive to great hiking places.

My question is: Would it be better to get a "cheap" car (maybe around $1,000) just to get me where I need to go and possibly also die soon or get a "good" car (maybe around $5,000-$10,000) that would last many years. I have around $4,000 that I could put towards a car right now, so I could save for towards buying a car or just invest that money.

I've only owned 2 cars. The first I bought for $900 when I was 16 and the second was a wedding gift from my in-laws, so I'm not used to paying a lot for a car and I'm hesitant to spend that much on depreciating asset considering both those cars have ended up in the scrap heap. However, it would be nice to own a car that doesn't suck.

ketchup

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2017, 01:56:05 PM »
Our last three cars were $1000, $700, and $1000.  Current one ($1000) is about 7,000 miles into its life with me and hasn't had any problems.  Previous two cars gave us 42,000 ($700) and 36,000 ($1000) each, with no major issues until the engines gave out.  None of them "sucked" (my girlfriend might disagree).

A vehicle not being "business-critical" in your life would definitely make a cheap car a good option.  It also sounds like you wouldn't be doing a ton of miles anyway.

otter

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2017, 02:05:47 PM »
It is possible to find a good, reliable (or reliable enough) car for $1000, but it really, really helps to either know enough about cars to be able to distinguish a good cheap beater from a crappy cheap beater, and to have some DIY maintenance ability. OTOH, i don't think it's particularly hard to get a good car for $4000 no matter who you are.

WildJager

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2017, 02:24:52 PM »
My strategy is having a car that's easy to work on.  I have a little Ford ranger when we need to travel far, or haul things in the bed.  It's been a lot of fun for me to repair it when things break, because of its spacious engine compartment you don't need many special tools.  A cheap car that is hard to repair yourself could produce deficient returns in the long run if you have to rely on a shop. 

I'm assuming you're not terribly car literate (like me), so in your case I'd recommend getting a nicer car for $4-$5k.  Starting with a car that runs well will make deducing the problem when issues arise easier compared to trying to learn while everything in the engine is going to shit.

With that said, we just sold our old car when we reduced down to one vehicle for $1k.  The engine was in great condition, and it had been in my family for its whole life.  Apparently we undersold because within a few hours we had nearly 100 offers on it.  We were in a hurry to sell due to an upcoming deployment.  Point being, there may be great deals out there, but you have to know what to look for.  If you don't (like me) paying more may be worthwhile to set an educational baseline.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2017, 02:56:50 PM »
It doesn't sound like you need a car:

I would like to have a car to bulk shop at CostCo and drive to great hiking places.

1.  Assuming you live alone, how much do you save bulk shopping at CostCo versus shopping somewhere walking distance or using a cab/Uber/transit?

2.  How often do you go hiking?  Can you rent a car for that?  You might wanna do the math on this...

Cranky

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2017, 03:30:12 PM »
Cars are a bit like kids or pets - it's not the initial cost, it's the upkeep.

Do some math. Do you have zipcar available? How often do you go hiking? Do you hike with other people? Can you just give them gas money? What about Uber or Lyft?

FeelingRosie

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2017, 03:37:10 PM »
It doesn't sound like you need a car:

I would like to have a car to bulk shop at CostCo and drive to great hiking places.

1.  Assuming you live alone, how much do you save bulk shopping at CostCo versus shopping somewhere walking distance or using a cab/Uber/transit?

2.  How often do you go hiking?  Can you rent a car for that?  You might wanna do the math on this...

It's definitely not a need. It's a want. I will admit that.
1. I don't live alone. I have a husband who has a bottomless stomach, so we tend to save quite a bit at CostCo. However, CostCo is in the next town over so this trip really does require a car. I can't haul that much food on public transit and the town I live in doesn't have Uber and only very expensive taxis.
2. I love hiking. We try to go at least once a weekend. But it's not worth the cost to rent a car every weekend. Instead we've just been walking around the parks that we can bike to, which just isn't the same as hiking up a mountain.

FeelingRosie

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2017, 03:41:24 PM »
Cars are a bit like kids or pets - it's not the initial cost, it's the upkeep.

Do some math. Do you have zipcar available? How often do you go hiking? Do you hike with other people? Can you just give them gas money? What about Uber or Lyft?

The town I live in doesn't have Uber or Lyft. We don't have Zipcar, but we do have Enterprise Car Share, but it's $8 per hour and I like to go on day-long hikes. So that gets really expensive really fast. I like to hike at least one day every weekend, but usually only with my husband.

brian313313

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Re: Should I get a cheap car or a good car?
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2017, 06:09:26 AM »
I'm generally in the "buy a good car" camp, but if you really don't need it why bother. In your situation, I'd go for the cheaper car since you can wait on repairs if needed. The general formula is buy a car for "X" and get rid of it when there is a repair more than "X".

I'm also in a similar situation on my desire to own a car for weekend hikes & just getting out. I need one now for work since my job is off the public transportation line. My wife says we can go without a car when I FIRE, but while we can, I don't intend to. I feel it offers me freedom to go places without needing to plan. I still want to minimize the expense though and will not need a fancy car then.

A lot of people will recommend Honda, Toyota, etc. They are great cars, but sometimes the less desirable cars can be better deals. The reviews can over-inflate prices. My personal story, I was once looking for a mini-van. I wanted a pickup but they were too expensive so I decided a mini-van would work to haul my kayak if I took the seats out. The Odyssey & Sienna were running around 8k at the time for the age vehicle I was looking for. The Mazda MPV while not as highly reviewed was running $3500 kbb. That's what I bought. I figured I could get two if the first one didn't work out. The first one did, however...I put $350 total into it in 3 years for repairs. Most of that was right after I bought it.