Financial Friday: Driving a Car into the Ground

Many financial gurus tell you that you should get a car that you can afford and drive it into the ground. I can tell you first hand that when your car starts to get up there in years, it can be very difficult to know when it is time to buy a new car. For example, we still have a car that I learned to drive in, as did my sister who is three years older than me. However, that car was not new when we learned to drive (seriously, what parent would teach their child to drive in a new car? That’s just asking for trouble). I learned to drive in a 1999 Corolla.


Photo credit: dave_7 / iW / CC BY

The great thing about these cars is even though they are not glamorous (no power locks, windows, or mirrors) and still have a tape deck, they are extremely reliable. So, at the end of 2014 we were thinking about whether it made more sense to buy a new (ok, certified used) car or get Yoda to limp by for another year. At this point, Yoda has a bad heating blower and a clock that doesn’t work among other non-essential but annoying issues (see LD’s post about his love for Yoda and its quirks here). Of course, we can now add just thinner than desirable brake pads to the list. So, when do you worry about fixes and when do you consider the car run into the ground?

When the necessary fixes cost more than the car itself, consider getting a new car.

Some people go by the 20% more than the car is worth rule, but for me, when you get down to a car that has a lot of other annoying issues, that covers the extra 20%. It isn’t about whether you enjoy driving the car or not. If you can get from point A to point B without the issues causing extra damage or being dangerous to drive, they aren’t necessary fixes. However, when those issues involve a blower that is so loud, you can’t hear yourself think, that counts as 20% extra value to me, but it might be different for other people.

If the car still turns on and drives reliably, consider waiting a bit longer.

The biggest thing you want from a car is for it to turn on and drive reliably. If you are still experiencing this, don’t go for a new car just yet. True it might just die tomorrow, but that is actually true of any car you have no matter how new it is. One of LD’s cousins had a car where the driver’s side door no longer opened and the trunk was kept closed with a bungee cord, but because it still turned on beautifully every morning, she kept driving it. Unless you need a car for certain appearances that impact your job (ie, a traveling sales person), keep the car that you know is reliable.

So, we will be keeping Yoda for awhile longer. It just makes the most economic sense for us at the moment. However, I think we will be replacing the brake pads and investing another $200 into the car. Yes, it is not pretty, but it is reliable and ours.


About Danielle Beranek

Life can get away from you when being young, married, and still fairly fresh out of college. Taking on a pet, student loans, going back to school, and soon a new house is enough to leave ones head spinning. For me, life is crazy, but only on the outside.
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2 Responses to Financial Friday: Driving a Car into the Ground

  1. ricodilello says:

    We are a two car family which is expensive. We used a system where by, we had one new car & one old car. We ran the old car to the ground and the passing of time made the new car into the old car. Then we bought a new car, so we always had one of each.


    • We are actually a two car family as well and do the exact same thing! I wish we could go down to 1 car for a while, but it just isn’t feasible with my current job in outside sales, which means that I have inconsistent appointments and work out of a home office. I would just drop LD off at work, but he works about 40 minutes away from home. I do think if you are going to do two cars, the old and newer is the way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

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