Finances & Money

How we lost $14,500 by stupid mistakes

I’m going to finally admit to the world how much we screwed up in our past auto purchases, in hopes that you don’t do the same.

In college, I purchased a brand new 2001 Saturn L300 for about $20,000. Actually, I did the GM SmartBuy method, which was partial lease, partial purchase. What made this purchase bad were the following incidentals:

Saturn L200
1. It was my next to last semester and I was barely making more than my car payments each month
2. I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation yet…however, I was awaiting an offer from the LAST company I had interviewed with that semester. I had no idea if I would get the job or not, but I hedged my bets
3. I bought more car than I should have had

Here’s the good news. When I got home from the dealer, a FedEx package was waiting for me in my front door. I took the package upstairs, and with my best friend in the room, opened it slowly. I read the cover page and lo and behold! I had a professional, high-paying job waiting for me in 6 months (after graduation). WHEW!!! That was a relief.

Anyway, I graduated in May, moved to the big city and started my job. Immediately I noticed all the fancy, expensive cars around me and wanted one. In July of that year (8 months after buying my first car), I drove onto an Acura lot, not even knowing what an Acura was, outside of the Integra. I was oddly enough looking for a used Volvo (I liked the new S60).

Acura TL Type S
That was the last time I drove that Saturn.

I had traded in the Saturn for a 2002 Acura TL Type S. Blue. 260 HP. Loaded. Fast.

How much did I lose on the Saturn?


I didn’t even blink an eye. I was proud of my Acura for the next 4 years. Only once did I almost trade it in for another vehicle, but luckily my future wife stopped me.

Next up, a 2004 VW Passat GLX. We weren’t sure our old Grand Am would last since it was having some problems, so my wife and I decided on a new Passat. Fully loaded. Cost about $32,000 or so.
VW Passat GLX
In 6 months, we put it up for sale. Don’t ask us to explain. We tried for 6 months to sell it, then gave up and traded it DOWN for a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu (base sedan).

How much did we lose? Oh goodness, it hurts to say. I made such a stupid mistake.


Stop laughing at me. It’s hard enough to admit it without your ridicule! That was almost 2 years ago now. I’ve learned from my mistakes, almost.

Honda Ridgeline
Last year, I traded in the Acura TL-S with 95,000 miles for KBB private-party value for a 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTS. That was before I understood the value of paying cash for a used car and so forth.

Thank you fellow PF writers for helping me see the light. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to get out of our mistakes outside of paying off our vehicles quickly.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I hate buying cars! They get you where you need to go but they’re money pits. Between the purchase price, repairs, maintenance, insurance, gasoline, and speeding tickets it’s no wonder we don’t have any money left over for saving.

  • Yikes. My idiocy was getting a lease on a new Altima when I didn’t have a real job. I had a contracting gig set up, but was underutilized, i.e. no work. It was really tough, but I bit the bullet and asked my folks to help me buyout the lease. I had too many miles on the car and outright purchasing it was a better deal than ponying up a ton of cash at lease-end. (Spoiled princess, I know.) The good thing is that I learned my automotive lesson and I’m going to keep this thing till the wheels fall off, then get new ones and wait till the axle drops off and the engine dies completely because the oil seals fail. After that, I will drop in a refurbished engine and keep going….

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