Author Topic: Should I replace my car?  (Read 3329 times)

lifeinhd

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Should I replace my car?
« on: September 28, 2014, 10:05:12 PM »
I am a newly minted Mustachian, finishing up my senior year of college. As such I'm still working to shrug off some of the burdens imposed by my previous non-Mustachian lifestyle, the biggest of which is my car. It's a 1999 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, a supercharged V6 6-seater rolling living room longer than a Chevy Tahoe, that drinks premium fuel at a rate of 16 MPG. I know the car must go, but I'm not sure if now is the time. Here's my situation:

-Parents pay for much of my lifestyle, including tuition, rent, groceries, phone bill, and insurance. I pretty much just pay for gas, school supplies, incidentals, utilities, and alcohol.
-Zero debt
-$1800 in the bank
-New job 3 days/week paying ~$1200/month after taxes
-Bought a $350 bike that I take most places. To work 26 miles RT, to school 2 miles RT, the grocery store, my mom's house, and everywhere in between. I use the car about once a week, but I don't want to go car free, because when I do use it, it's so damn useful.

Considering my low car usage, should I bother getting rid of it right now, or is it not a big deal? I paid $1600 for it, and could probably sell it for a couple hundred more than that (it's in excellent condition but with 203k), but a new car (considering an original Honda Insight or Mazda 3 hatch) would set me back $2-5k. Plus with a more efficient car, I think the temptation to use it to get to work would be high enough I'd probably break down a few times a month. (Biking 26 miles is hard.) Either way I will want to use the car to commute once winter gets here. I do not want to be biking below 50.

What do you think? Replace the car ASAP, or keep on keepin' on, focusing more on minimizing car usage?

Nyarlathotep

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2014, 12:02:14 AM »
If I were you I would probably start looking for a new(used) car with no real rush. If you only use it only once in a while I don't see real need to get it off your hands ASAP.

But yeah... I would highly recommend starting a search for a different car it seems like just about any thing could be better. I would wager you would not only save in gas but also save on your insurance as well pending on what you get. I would suggest spending about what you end up selling your car for because looking on Kelly Blue Book you can probably walk away with about $2200.00 if it is in "Good" condition. I am sure you can get a far more economical car on craigslist for at or around $2200. (When my wife and I moved we bought a RAV4 for about $2500).

As far as use goes I feel as if you are doing a stellar job by not using it and doing your 26 mile round trip commute by bicycle and only using it about once a week is not a bad thing at all. I feel as if you are absolutely on the right track.


Bottom line start the search but don't stress about getting rid of it ASAP.

whydavid

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2014, 12:18:44 AM »
I agree that this isn't really an emergency.  Even commuting 26 miles, 3 days a week starting this winter, you will only be burning about 3 gallons of gas more than a replacement at 40 mpg.  Assuming winter (by your definition of < 50 degrees) lasts about 3 months, that would be an annual expense of less than $150 (13 weeks * 3 gallons * $3-4 per gallon = $117-$156). 

The ROI could still be attractive if you can unload yours for something around book value and pick up an older, efficient car on the cheap, as you've mentioned above.  The environmental impacts are also obvious.

Of course, if you cave in and start commuting every day year-round because you give in to the temptation presented by the more practical vehicle, this is all washed away and you are worse off than when you started, so if you think that is a real concern then leave it alone, because you aren't doing poorly to start.

And finally, I should at least throw out the MMM disclaimer: Is there really no work closer to home that you'd enjoy?  Solves your whole dilemma :) 


alsoknownasDean

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Should I replace my car?
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2014, 03:15:37 AM »
How many miles do you do a month? If it's only a few hundred, maybe keep it if you'd need to spend much more on its replacement.

Also, has it been reliable lately? Maybe it's better the devil you know.

lifeinhd

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2014, 06:25:42 AM »
I would suggest spending about what you end up selling your car for because looking on Kelly Blue Book you can probably walk away with about $2200.00 if it is in "Good" condition. I am sure you can get a far more economical car on craigslist for at or around $2200.

Tbh I feel $2200 is pushing it, especially in this market. No one wants an old Buick with 200k+ miles for that price, even though mine is in excellent physical and mechanical condition. Even in Florida, where old people love their Buicks I'd probably have trouble unloading it for that. I feel $1600-1800 is a more reasonable expectation. Which in turn means I expect this next car to cost a bit more.

I agree that this isn't really an emergency.  Even commuting 26 miles, 3 days a week starting this winter, you will only be burning about 3 gallons of gas more than a replacement at 40 mpg.  Assuming winter (by your definition of < 50 degrees) lasts about 3 months, that would be an annual expense of less than $150 (13 weeks * 3 gallons * $3-4 per gallon = $117-$156).

There is also the consideration of premium vs regular fuel. Right now premium is around $4/gal here, and regular is around $3.50. Whatever replacement I get will for sure require only regular. But I'm sure this doesn't change the math much.

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Of course, if you cave in and start commuting every day year-round because you give in to the temptation presented by the more practical vehicle, this is all washed away and you are worse off than when you started, so if you think that is a real concern then leave it alone, because you aren't doing poorly to start.

One nice perk I get for riding my bike (or doing any form of exercise 30 mins/day 3x/week) is my work will reimburse me $60 quarterly. Biking is my main form of exercise so hopefully that's incentive enough for me to not be slipping.

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And finally, I should at least throw out the MMM disclaimer: Is there really no work closer to home that you'd enjoy?  Solves your whole dilemma :)

Yes, I know for fact I could have gotten something closer. I was accepted for a position working as a support assistant at my school a mile from the house. But I declined in favor of this job because a) the pay would be 50-67% of what I make here (and I'm still underpaid for what I do), b) they could only offer me about 2/3 of the hours I work here, and c) I was less comfortable with the skills required. Also it's difficult to find IT jobs that will let me work PT-- most want someone FT, but I needed to work around my class schedule. (I did schedule my classes so I only have them 2 days/week and can work 3 full days.)

lifeinhd

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2014, 06:41:01 AM »
How many miles do you do a month? If it's only a few hundred, maybe keep it if you'd need to spend much more on its replacement.

Also, has it been reliable lately? Maybe it's better the devil you know.

I don't do very many miles each month, at least not anymore. I do expect my usage to increase in the winter, since I expect I won't be biking much besides to school and maybe the closest grocery store. I can't stand the cold.

And yes, it's very reliable. The 3800 series engines are one thing GM got right. I replaced a few suspension parts, engine mounts, and wheel bearings when I first got it, and ofc I did the 200k service, but it's never left me stranded in the 9k I've had it. If I do end up keeping it it will need a battery soon, and at least two tires.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2014, 09:12:46 AM »
Honestly, I don't think keeping it a while longer is all that bad a decision if you're only doing low miles, and you believe it will continue to be reliable.

After all, any other car for similar money is likely to be a bit of a crapshoot. Better the devil you know, I reckon.

whydavid

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2014, 10:23:13 AM »
I would suggest spending about what you end up selling your car for because looking on Kelly Blue Book you can probably walk away with about $2200.00 if it is in "Good" condition. I am sure you can get a far more economical car on craigslist for at or around $2200.

Tbh I feel $2200 is pushing it, especially in this market. No one wants an old Buick with 200k+ miles for that price, even though mine is in excellent physical and mechanical condition. Even in Florida, where old people love their Buicks I'd probably have trouble unloading it for that. I feel $1600-1800 is a more reasonable expectation. Which in turn means I expect this next car to cost a bit more.

I agree that this isn't really an emergency.  Even commuting 26 miles, 3 days a week starting this winter, you will only be burning about 3 gallons of gas more than a replacement at 40 mpg.  Assuming winter (by your definition of < 50 degrees) lasts about 3 months, that would be an annual expense of less than $150 (13 weeks * 3 gallons * $3-4 per gallon = $117-$156).

There is also the consideration of premium vs regular fuel. Right now premium is around $4/gal here, and regular is around $3.50. Whatever replacement I get will for sure require only regular. But I'm sure this doesn't change the math much.

Quote
Of course, if you cave in and start commuting every day year-round because you give in to the temptation presented by the more practical vehicle, this is all washed away and you are worse off than when you started, so if you think that is a real concern then leave it alone, because you aren't doing poorly to start.

One nice perk I get for riding my bike (or doing any form of exercise 30 mins/day 3x/week) is my work will reimburse me $60 quarterly. Biking is my main form of exercise so hopefully that's incentive enough for me to not be slipping.

Quote
And finally, I should at least throw out the MMM disclaimer: Is there really no work closer to home that you'd enjoy?  Solves your whole dilemma :)

Yes, I know for fact I could have gotten something closer. I was accepted for a position working as a support assistant at my school a mile from the house. But I declined in favor of this job because a) the pay would be 50-67% of what I make here (and I'm still underpaid for what I do), b) they could only offer me about 2/3 of the hours I work here, and c) I was less comfortable with the skills required. Also it's difficult to find IT jobs that will let me work PT-- most want someone FT, but I needed to work around my class schedule. (I did schedule my classes so I only have them 2 days/week and can work 3 full days.)

All good answers.  You really do seem like you've got a good grasp on this.  Long-term, it seems obvious to replace, but I think you can get away with taking your time to make sure you get an awesome deal...you aren't really burning cash in the meantime.

ketchup

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2014, 10:36:41 AM »
I'd look into why exactly you're only getting 16MPG in your current car.  My "other" car is a gigantic tank of a 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon (bought at 158k for $700) with a big-ass V8 and when I drive it I get about 18MPG combined city/highway, 20-22MPG pure highway.  Your car is rated slightly higher according to the EPA, supercharger and all, so you should be able to raise that some (unless your main usage is short trips or towing or something equally thirsty).

In your situation with low usage, I'd say ride that one out until either something goes horribly wrong (from what you said it seems like that will be a while, and you're definitely right about the 3800 series being solid), or you suddenly need to do more miles.  You're at the very cheap part of the depreciation curve with a "devil you know," and presumably you like the car. 

I would though keep an eye out for any family members/friends looking to dump a well-cared-for older car that gets better MPG.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2014, 02:15:23 PM »
Echo ketchup.  Pocket the depreciation you are not paying:)

lifeinhd

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Re: Should I replace my car?
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2014, 09:34:16 PM »
I'd look into why exactly you're only getting 16MPG in your current car.  My "other" car is a gigantic tank of a 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon (bought at 158k for $700) with a big-ass V8 and when I drive it I get about 18MPG combined city/highway, 20-22MPG pure highway.  Your car is rated slightly higher according to the EPA, supercharger and all, so you should be able to raise that some (unless your main usage is short trips or towing or something equally thirsty).

Yeah, I've long thought it needed a good tune-up. But the 200k service I performed included new plugs, wires, air filter, and transmission fluid, and the mileage didn't budge. I think the engine is just somewhat worn. Plus most of my driving is city (here in NoVA, even the highways are effectively city driving), and then there's my driving style-- while most of the time I'm very mileage-conscious (I pay more attention to the "instant MPG" readout than the speedometer), I do enjoy driving, and I didn't buy such a powerful car to go slow, so sometimes I'll put the blower to good use. Especially since I use the car so infrequently, I like to make the most of each trip. That said, I swapped cars with my father for a month long road trip, and despite the fact that he should be excellent at careful driving (he has a Prius), his average MPG over that time was 14.4.

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In your situation with low usage, I'd say ride that one out until either something goes horribly wrong (from what you said it seems like that will be a while, and you're definitely right about the 3800 series being solid), or you suddenly need to do more miles.  You're at the very cheap part of the depreciation curve with a "devil you know," and presumably you like the car.

I love this car! Everything except the mileage, that is. And the automatic. I miss my stick.

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I would though keep an eye out for any family members/friends looking to dump a well-cared-for older car that gets better MPG.

I always have my ear to the ground looking for good deals, since I love shopping for cars even if I don't buy them. I figure I'll bite if I come across an excellent deal, but as everyone here has pointed out I have time on my side. No need to rush into something less than perfect.