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How I Squash the New Car Bug

By JLP | April 24, 2008

Our Buick Rendezvous will be 6 years old on June 1.

The idiot side of me wants a new car.

I really like those new Buick Enclaves. They are a little bigger than our Rendezvous but not as big as a Suburban so the gas mileage wouldn’t be too bad. The Enclave comes with a 60/40 split rear seat as well as about one more foot of space behind the third row. Our Rendezvous’ third row either folds all the way up or all the way down. When all five of us are going somewhere, we have to have the third row seat all the way up, which really limits the amount of space for hauling stuff.

The practical side of me (and my wife) believes that NONE of those are good enough reasons to get rid of our Rendezous! Fortunately for me, the practical side of me is growing and replacing more and more of the idiot side. The older I get, the more practical I have become. That’s a good thing for both me and our finances.

So, how do I fight the new car bug? I have been thinking a lot about it lately. Here’s what has allowed me to squash the new car bug:

1. We have taken very good care of the Rendezvous over the years. It is the first car we have owned that has been garage-kept the entire time we have owned it. It has made a huge difference! That’s why I can’t understand people who have really nice cars but keep them outside because their garages are full of crap!

2. I have maintained the Rendezvous over the years. It is also the first car that we have actually had the money to maintain. It’s amazing what a difference proper maintenance will make over the life of a car. It’s also amazing how quickly things can multiply if you don’t maintain your car.

3. Not everyone can do this, but we have managed to only put an average of 9,700 miles per year on the Rendezvous. As of right now, our car is nearly six years old and only has 57,000 miles on the odometer. By mileage standards, it’s still practically a new car.

4. I look at the numbers involved with buying a new car. Do I really need to spend $500 – $700 per month on a new car? Not only that, I think about the depreciation involved in buying new cars. It’s ridiculous how much value a car loses in the first few years of ownership. I would take it on the nose if I tried to trade in the Rendezvous. Dealerships don’t respect and don’t want to pay for a well-maintained car. The Rendezvous is paid off and as long as I keep it properly maintained, the cost of ownership will stay fairly low.

5. Last but not least, when the new car bug is really after me, I do a very simple thing. I wash the Rendezvous! I spend a good two or three hours completely cleaning and washing the entire car. Once that’s done, it looks and feels like a brand new car. I bet most people wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s a six-year old car.

My plan is to drive the Rendezvous another four years. I figure if I can drive it ten years that I will have gotten my money out of it and I can justify getting something different. Who knows, maybe it will still be in great shape and I’ll be thinking about keeping it another 4 years!

Topics: Budgeting, Cars | 28 Comments »


28 Responses to “How I Squash the New Car Bug”

  1. Jeremy Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for supporting Buick. My parents both build the Enclave (although they are on strike at the moment), so if you do end up springing for one, you’ll indirectly help them pull off their retirement next year :D

  2. Chief Family Officer Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I love the washing the car trick. Although, I don’t know how much it will help me since the new car bug bites me hardest when something happens that makes me worry about the car’s reliability. I have a major fear of car breakdowns, especially since I live in LA and I’m nowhere near home a lot of the time.

    But my husband and I have been doing pretty well – we just bought a new car, and the one we traded in was 11 years old. The car we traded in five years ago was 12 years old. And we plan on keeping the car we bought five years ago for at least five more years.

  3. JLP Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Jeremy,

    I have ALWAYS been a Buick fan! I just wish they would bring back the Grand National and the GNX!

  4. Esmond Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Drive the car until the cost to fix it > selling cost.

    I drive a car because it gets me from point A to point B, not because it’s shiny or goes fast (something you won’t be able to do very often due to traffic and cops). There’s really no need for a new car because your car will last a good while longer. An added benefit is that there’s less room for stuff you don’t need!

  5. Miguel Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    In the big city, car ownership is really not necessary, as I have an abundance of public transportation options. Also, there are a couple of car rental companies within a few blocks of my home. So, car ownership is truly a luxury for us. That said, it seems like a lot of my neighbors own cars (I’ve finally stopped trying to figure out how so many people afford things I don’t think I can afford).

    In NYC, if you own a car, you either buy a crappy second hand car to part on the street (not feasible for us cause you have to move it frequently & we don’t want the maintenance headaches), or if you buy a nice new car, you’d better put it in a garage (which greatly ups the cost). New car parked on the street is just asking for trouble. Which is also why insurance is crazy expensive.

    My taste runs along the lines of foreign luxury brands (I know, I know…). The monthly costs would (optimisticly) break down as follows:

    Car/Lease Pmt: $600 – $1000 (assuming no down pmt)
    Garage: $400
    Insurance: $300

    That’s over $1300/mo, or at least $16,000 per year. Right now I spend several thousand a year on car rentals, substantially less than the cost of owning. Also, I like the fact that I can easily cut back on my rental expenditures if I need to. Wife and I totally HATE ongoing fixed expenses.

    When I get the car bug, I run the math, think about that big ongoing expense, and that cures me for another few months until I see somebody drive by in a nice shiny new something that I would want. Then the exercise starts all over again.

  6. KC Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    You would be crazy to get rid of that car. It has low miles and its a Buick. Now I’ve never been a fan of American cars, but my mother has driven Buicks all of my life until 2 years ago when she boguht an Avalon (but that is another story). She has always put 100k+ miles on her Buicks and she drives like a bat out of Hell. She’s hard on a car, but those things last and with minimal care.

    The other reason you’d be foolish to sell is that Buicks take a big hit in devaluation as the car ages. Unless you are going to buy another used Buick it is nowhere near worth trading in this 6 yr old car.

    I understand getting the bug – I have a 7 yr old Acura with 80k miles – but you have to say to yourself “I bought a good car for a reason and I plan on driving it longer.” I usually give myself a time period that I won’t consider thinking seriously about a car. Right now, for me, that is when my Acura turns 9. And I have a feeling when it turns 9, I’ll tack on another year or two.

    Oh and another way to squash the new car bug is to refuse to take out a loan. I insist I buy cash. Therefore I don’t buy more car then I need and I don’t buy a car too soon because it hurts to write that check.

  7. JLP Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for all the responses and support.

    Just in case you guys misunderstood me, I’m not getting a new car.

  8. do_it_movin Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    i like the “wash your car” comment

    it’s so true.. don’t you feel like your car is running a lot smoother when your car is clean? lol it’s funny

  9. stngy1 Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Really advocate the idea of renting a car as needed if you live in a big city. Used to be a common thing to do.
    As for lusting after a new car, totally get it. The look, the smell, the latest gadgets …. washing the car seems like the perfect cure! Maybe get it [her] some little dodad? New set of Dominos for the mirror… ;-)

  10. jack Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 6:37 am

    My car is going on 5 years and just hit 50,000 miles. Whenever I feel like getting a new car I think of the payments and then go rent a car for a weekend trip. That usually does it for me.

  11. Frankie Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I bought my car in late 2002 brand new. As of the current, it has 149,635 miles on it! :-(

    It is quite often that I get bit by the new car bug. When the bug bites I mediate myself by running through the numbers and the idea of a $500+ monthly payment just turns me off since I have been payment free for almost 2yrs now.

    Keep your car well maintained and FIGHT THE URGE!

    -Frankie

  12. Shane Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 11:09 am

    JLP – the car also runs a lot better when you own it free and clear! Don’t give in to the temptation to letting someone else own your next new car. The new car excitement will wear off in about 4-6 months and then the glass will be half empty again. Sock the money away and clean your car more often….you will be thankful about age 55.

  13. John Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    for your next trick, save on that timeline and pay cash.

  14. indio Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Whenever I think of buying a new car, I lean toward the hybrids, I remind myself of the old maxim. Just add a “0″ to the purchase price to get an idea of the opportunity cost lost with that new purchase. So a car that costs $30k would actually end up costing $300k because that is theoretically what the money would have grown to with compounding and investment.

  15. Justin P Says:
    April 28th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    JLP- I love the site and sage advice. I take pride in refusing to give in and buy a new car. I bought myself a year old Malibu after I got my first job out of college and have never looked back. 7 years later I am still driving the same car and socking away the $225/mo I was paying on the loan. Everytime I get the bug I pull out the savings account statement and that sobers me up quick. I may just drive this baby till the wheels fall off and pay cash for another.

  16. saxquiz Says:
    April 28th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I consider myself lucky that I am not the kind of person who cares about cars. The joy that I would get from having a new car would be nothing compared to the annoyance of having a car payment. To me a car is just a means to get from point A to point B. I don’t care what the car looks like in the least. If the car gets good gas mileage I’m happy. I’m also the kind of guy who considers washing a car a supreme waste of time.

  17. Alan M Says:
    April 29th, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I’m the exact opposite of #16. I LOVE cars, so it takes a lot of discipline to avoid the temptation to buy a new car.

    The difficulty for me recently was finding out that our reliable 2002 Pontiac Aztek was rated as one of the most unreliable used cars. Thinking that we were lucky to have had it during its good years, we sold it at 67K miles for $7,900 and bought a new Honda Accord.

    I wonder if we’ve done a dumb thing….opinions?

  18. HC Says:
    May 2nd, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Guys…sorry, but a Rendezvous? That has to be one of the absolutely ugliest vehicles on the road. Yes, I’ll advocate driving a used car (I drive a 1999 BMW 540i with 120,000 miles on it), but at some limits. We recently bought a GMC Acadia (the comparable model to the Enclave) to replace the 5 year old minivan. Anyway, just had to add a bit of light heartedness to this overly serious discussion.

  19. JLP Says:
    May 2nd, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    HC,

    I’ll admit that it’s not the prettiest vehicle on the road but it does ride nice and is well-appointed. I don’t think it’s “one of the absolutely ugliest vehicles on the road.”

  20. BobDole Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I have been bitten by the car bug lately too. I have a 2002 BMW 330i with 100K miles on it. I bought it used in 2004 and it’s completely paid off. I absolutely love how the BMW’s ride. I’ve been looking at a 2-seater lately, the Z4. I have the cash to buy one out right, but I can’t seem to get myself to write the check for it since the 330i still runs fine. It’s a struggle for me everyday and certainly looking at the car listings on the internet don’t help either.

    But for me, I just think about that huge check I’ll have to write (~40K) and possibly higher insurance and gas cost makes me close the browser window when I’m looking.

  21. amb Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Good points…
    What about the case where an older car no longer fits your needs? I used to have a big dog and a short commute. Now I have neither.
    My truck’s MPG is bad and it doesn’t work well in the city. On the plus side, it has relatively low miles (115k at 10 years old), no major problems, and good bad weather/hauling performance when these things come up.
    I figure I could easily get 10-12 more MPG with a smaller/newer vehicle. Given how far I drive, this translates into ~18 gallons/month or $72 @ $4 a gallon.

    any suggestions?

  22. Rzrshrp Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Wow, maybe it’s because I’m at a less financially evolved place in life. I’m only a year or so in my first decently paying job and I’m about to have my first home and mortgage payments but I’ve never had any intention of getting rid of my car until the maintenance costs push me to do so and I don’t think that will change with more money. My car is an almost 10 year old Cavalier that I bought used. I don’t particularly care for it. It doesn’t even have power windows but I know that the longer that I can hold on to each car I buy, the better it will be for me financially. I’d keep it for 10 more years if it would hold up (tough chance).

  23. Joel Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 11:24 am

    #21 amb – I think you have a great option in front of you: sell the truck (I assume it’s paid for) and buy the newest used car you can with the money. There are lots of Hondas, Subarus, and similar vehicles out there for less than $5,000. Just take your time, be patient and look around a little and you should be able to find something that runs well, looks good, and won’t break the bank.

    Better MPG can certainly be beneficial, but alone it is not enough of a justification to pay a crazy amount of depreciation on a new car. Instead, find an older one that fits your current needs. If you have a $400 per month payment, thats $4,800 per year just in payments. You could replace your $5,000 car every two years and still come out way ahead, and the longer you drive it the better your return.

    Upon hearing this, most people will focus on the “unreliability” of used cars, but not all older cars are unreliable. You may pay more for maintenance, but I think that usually that can be offset by decreased insurance. And repairing an older vehicle is usually a lot less expensive than purchasing a new one. And finally, because you OWN your car, you can sell it an trade out at will without worrying about loan values, payoffs, trade ins, etc.

  24. Chicago Gal Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I think you have the right car to last 10 years. Buicks are great for reliability long term. I have had several and am very happy with their quality, comfort and reliability.

    I too see people around me buying new cars every 2 or 3 years and I do feel a bit left behind sometimes. Luckilly I enjoy not having car payments and having lower car insurance payments more.

    In theory, if you can stretch out each car you own by a few extra years, you will save yourself the price of 1 or 2 cars over the course of your lifetime and that could be 20-40K saved.

    I am currently on year 7 with my car and the goal is to get it through 3 more years to the 10 year point too.

  25. amb Says:
    May 9th, 2008 at 6:49 am

    thanks joel
    amb

  26. Alan M Says:
    May 29th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Are we still discussing this topic. I’m all over it if we are.

  27. Ron Says:
    November 11th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I have two cars, a 1972 Mercedes sedan and a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville. The total mileage on both cars is around 100K. Right now I’m not working as I’m bound up taking care of an elderly mother. Nonetheless, my old jobs were 2-3 miles away and I did have an 1980 Saab that I put 50K miles over 15 years. The Pontiac has had very little done to it besides 2 master cylinders and a water pump. I don’t intend on getting another car until one of these dies. By then there should be plenty of good choices of more fuel efficient cars.

  28. Paula Says:
    November 15th, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I have never owned a new vehicle. My husband and I are both currently driving fuel efficient vehicles that are over ten years old. Not only do we not want to make car payments, but we can’t afford to. I know eventually, and probably relatively soon, we will need to replace these cars with newer ones and that is something that I dread doing.

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