Author Topic: Time to upgrade the car?  (Read 4272 times)

Fuzzy Buttons

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Time to upgrade the car?
« on: March 24, 2015, 12:23:42 PM »
I'm thinking about buying a new car this summer.  My current one had quite a bit in repairs last year, and at 19 years old I figure it's just going to get worse.  At the same time, my gf is going to be selling hers.  She takes very good care of it, and the temptation to get a 10 year old vehicle that I like and that is in excellent shape is very strong. 

So I'm looking for opinions.  Purely from a financial perspective, which vehicle do you think will cost less to operate over the next ten years?  I'm going to pay her around $4000 for hers, so I'm looking for savings in that ballpark.  I think it makes sense, but I'm not a car guy and I'm interested in people's opinions.

Basic info - I drive about 10,000 miles per year.  I do not do any of my own mechanical work.

Current Car - 1996 VW Jetta GLS
215,000 miles
sedan, manual transmission, 4 cyl engine
currently gets 20-25 mpg
Replaced last year: entire exhaust system, alternator, starter, one wheel bearing, both front brushing arms, battery, new tires, engine mount, one power window
Currently not working: AC, cruise control, rear speakers, the other three power windows - also, ugly as sin

Possible New Car - 2005 Mazda 3
140,000 miles
hatchback, manual transmission, 4 cyl engine
currently gets 25-30 mpg?  not sure
Replaced struts a couple of years ago, but no other major repairs recently.  She keeps a log but I don't have the details in my head.
Everything currently works.

Bob W

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2015, 12:38:54 PM »
Ditto.   You could probably negotiate the GF down a bit I would assume?    Let's say you get 100K out of the Mazda without significant issues.   Your cost per mile will be around 4 cents for the hardware, excluding taxes,  insurance, gas etc...   

Fuzzy Buttons

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2015, 12:45:29 PM »
Ditto.   You could probably negotiate the GF down a bit I would assume?    Let's say you get 100K out of the Mazda without significant issues.   Your cost per mile will be around 4 cents for the hardware, excluding taxes,  insurance, gas etc...

lol - I appreciate the thought, but I will not be negotiating with the gf.  :D That fits my definition of "penny wise and pound foolish".  We decided months ago that, if I choose to purchase it, we'll go with the edmunds.com private party sale value on that day.  Neither one of us wants it to turn into a source of stress.  Plus, it's a pretty serious relationship by now - I kindof think of it as our money.  A few hundred here or there won't bother me. 

Retired To Win

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2015, 02:24:22 PM »
On the other hand, all the stuff you've recently replaced in your 19-year-old car is now... new!  Keeping that $4000 as a repair reserve might be a reasonable alternative to spending it to buy another vehicle.  "Might."  But it's worth crunching it a little.

And... if your gf sells you her present car, what are her plans for personal transportation going forward?  What effect might those plans have on your joint financial picture?

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2015, 03:16:22 PM »
Older Mazdas are well known to rust easily.  That doesn't matter for people in southern latitudes but I see your location listed as the midwest.  If you're seriously considering the Mazda I would make sure to have a prepurchase inspection done at a trusted mechanic shop with a lift.  That way they can get a good look at the underside and make sure there's no major rust issues.  While they're under there, they can let you know what else they find.  Actually a lot of mechanics specifically offer vehicle PPI for a flat fee like $80-120.  As long as you can get the seller to agree to meet you at the shop for the inspection, that goes a long way towards determining if the used car in question is in good shape or not.

chops

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2015, 03:44:28 PM »
Having been a dedicated reader of Consumer Reports for a few decades now, a '05 Mazda 3 is far more reliable than a '96 VW Jetta.  I love me some VWs, but I wouldn't buy one simply because of poor reliability compared to sticker price.

Most frugal guy I know donated his mid 90s VW Jetta w/ 240k for a '04 Pontiac Vibe (partly for superior reliability - as the Vibe is the Toyota Matrix rebadged with a Pontiac symbol - but mostly so he could stretch out and sleep in the back with the seats folded down for stealth sleeping :)

 - Chops

cjottawa

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2015, 06:12:25 PM »
I'd add: don't get hung up on a specific car.

Look at anything on the "Lemon-Aid Guide to Used Cars" recommended or above-average lists, such as:
Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra & Accent, Suzuki SX4, Toyota Echo & Matrix (oddly not the Yaris or Corolla) & Pontiac Vibe, Nissan Sentra, Suzuki Aerio & Swift.

I've driven most of those and went with a 2006 Elantra recently. They tend to be a few thousand less than Honda and Toyotas - more bang for the buck.

Fuzzy Buttons

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2015, 06:19:53 AM »
And... if your gf sells you her present car, what are her plans for personal transportation going forward?  What effect might those plans have on your joint financial picture?

She'll be buying a brand new car, most likely another Mazda 3.  She's had a plan for the past ten years to do this.  I've suggested she keep the current one, but it is after all her money, and I'm going to respect her decision and not bring it up again.  She'll also be paying cash that she's saved up just for this purpose, so that's good.  Part of the appeal to buying it from her is to keep the thing "in the family", so to speak.  :)

Having been a dedicated reader of Consumer Reports for a few decades now, a '05 Mazda 3 is far more reliable than a '96 VW Jetta.  I love me some VWs, but I wouldn't buy one simply because of poor reliability compared to sticker price.

You are correct.  I've had constant problems with the car's electrical and exhaust systems over the years.  I would not buy another VW at this time.

I'd add: don't get hung up on a specific car.

Excellent advice, and I've been working on that.  I have sentimental attachment to the Jetta.  I bought it brand new myself, and I've put every one of those 215,000 miles on it.  I can remember 19 years of my life in the car - the people I've traveled with, and the places I've been.  So much of my life has changed since then.  Not the least, the fact that I would never spend that much on a car - on credit, no less! 

I need to make sure my attachment to buying her specific car is not an attempt to keep that same sense of nostalgia going in a small way.  I should look at it like a neutral purchase and evaluate it on those terms.  As others have suggested, I think I'll have my mechanic do an inspection. 

Thanks for all the advice!

aneel

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2015, 08:20:45 AM »
If you aren't having any (and I mean ANY) issues/noises from the transmission / engine and you just repaired all that stuff (including engine mount) it would seem like a waste to dump on the car now.  Any idea of what you'd get for the Jetta?

rmendpara

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2015, 08:44:16 AM »
I value peace of mind a lot when it comes to my vehicle, mostly because I have a hectic work schedule and a minor repair may only cost a few hundred $, but my time is much more valuable to me.

I don't know your budget or lifestyle values, so can't say how much your time is worth when it comes to unexpected repairs.

The upgrade to the Mazda seems like an easy and very frugal decision. Considering how long you keep cars, you could also spring for a much newer used car and still come out far ahead. I think the sweet spot for used cars is ~2 years (miss the early depreciation) on the newer end and ~6 years (by then most cars are close to half off purchase price)... again varying highly with the repair history and mileage.

Great set of choices, either way!

Fuzzy Buttons

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2015, 09:03:03 AM »
If you aren't having any (and I mean ANY) issues/noises from the transmission / engine and you just repaired all that stuff (including engine mount) it would seem like a waste to dump on the car now.  Any idea of what you'd get for the Jetta?

I ran an estimate of the Jetta's value on Edmunds a few years ago, and it came out to $75.  I thought that was so hilarious I've been telling people since then that I'd put 25 bucks worth of gas in it and ask for a hundred.  But my mechanic thinks it could get $1500 or so, especially given the records of all the work recently done on it.  Personally, I think he just wants me to feel better about having spent the cash. lol

I'm sure the real amount is somewhere in the middle there, but I've chosen to ignore it for purposes of deciding what to do.  If it's a good deal to upgrade, it will be an even better deal if I can sell it for some cash; as opposed to simply tossing the keys to a homeless person, Roadhouse style.  :)
« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 09:04:37 AM by Fuzzy Buttons »

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Time to upgrade the car?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2015, 09:12:12 AM »
I think the sweet spot for used cars is ~2 years (miss the early depreciation) on the newer end and ~6 years (by then most cars are close to half off purchase price)... again varying highly with the repair history and mileage.

I generally say the same thing, although I usually define it as 3-5 years since there's a lot of leased cars that are turned in at the 3-year mark and plenty of people who trade in their cars at the end of a 5-year loan.  In most cases, you can easily get another 10 years out of such a vehicle and still have it worth at least 10-20% of the original new car price even when it's 12-15 years old, so long as you've taken good care of it.  That could bring your total cost down to the $100/month range or so over the 10 years you own it.

Example fuzzy math:
$24,000 family sedan new
$16,000 at 4 years old
$4000 after 10 years (now 14 years old)
Total cost: $12,000 over 10 years, $100/month