I had a moment of sheer bliss today. Something happened that made me so indescribably joyful that I had to stop and take pictures to document the monumental occasion. This probably makes me abnormal and could be used as evidence against me to prove that I’m not quite all there upstairs, but I’ll tell you anyway.
My car hit the 200,000 mile mark! Yep. That is what caused me to almost run off the road in merriment.
I’ll tell you why I think this is so fantastic. Driving old cars saves you big money. I paid $3,200 in cash for this car 5 years ago – and this is by far the most expensive car I’ve ever purchased. There is a myth that has brainwashed the mind of many a consumer that I just can’t abide any longer. That fable is that good cars just can’t be had for under $10,000. What a bunch of hooey!
Edmunds.com has a great writeup on finding a cheap and reliable vehicle. Check that out here. They have a lot of great pointers on finding the right car and on how to take care of your vintage ride. I will admit to you that going this route won’t always be easy. There will certainly be times you’ll have to beg for a ride to work from a friend or your significant other. You’ll find yourself scouring message boards for tips on how to solve a problem that has arisen and you will definitely need to find a good mechanic nearby (check out yelp.com and kudzu.com).
I am also here to tell you though that it is all worth it. Not having a car payment gives you so much peace of mind and having to change an O2 sensor or learning how to change your own brakes (which by the way will save you tons) really isn’t that big of a deal, even for the non mechanically inclined.
How can you protect yourself though? How can you make sure that you don’t throw away a few thousand on a lemon?
First, make sure you research the breed. Certain brands are just way more reliable than others. For instance, I wouldn’t buy a Daewoo because of reliability concerns, along with the fact that the company closed their doors in 2004, making parts more difficult to come by. Stick to a brand with a good track record and a plethora of available parts.
Second, vehicles with more features and more complex mechanical systems can make even simple repairs much more costly. The spark plugs in my car can be changed in about two minutes but you almost need a doctorate in machinery to replace them in my wife’s car. While a built in navigation system might look really neat right now, it will be out of date in no time and cost some serious money to repair when it breaks down. Take a look at Consumer Reports reliability ratings to find out which cars will cost you the least in repairs over time. Some of the most expensive vehicles to repair are luxury vehicles, and since they cost you more initially anyway, they should probably be out of the running.
Thirdly, don’t buy without getting your car checked out by a mechanic that you trust. Most mechanics will charge you an hourly rate to give that ride a thorough inspection. Since I have given my mechanic a fair amount of business through the years he gives me a 10-15 minute lookover for free. His inspection has already saved me from purchasing a possible flood car.
You should take ALL costs into consideration when buying a car. With my old school Altima I saved at my initial purchase and I continue to save every month on insurance and every year on my tax bill. Sure my repair bills are higher than the dude with a flashy new ride, but hundreds of dollars stay in MY pocket every month!