Ok, I’m a car freak. I have to announce that at the beginning of every article on here in case you’re a first-time reader. Otherwise, you know I have a problem with cars. Luckily, I’ve been good the last few years, but let’s go through a history of cars:
Mine: (these are cars I primarily drive):
- 2001 Saturn L300 (brand new, owned for 9 months, traded in on a brand new…)
- 2002 Acura TL-S (owned for almost 4 years and 95000 miles, then traded in on a brand new…)
- 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTS (still own. Have about 83000 miles on it and still love it)
Wife’s: (these are cars that the wife primarily drives, even if I owned or half-owned all but one):
- 1997 Pontiac Grand Am (she bought it around 2000 with about 75k miles and we sold it around 2008 with 130k). We loved that little car, even if it was a bit dinged up. It was hard to part with it, but we had to in order to save a ton of money on our car insurance.
- 2004 VW Passat GLX (brand new, we owned it for 12 months and about 12k miles then traded it in, stupidly, on a brand new…)
- 2005 Chevy Malibu Base (great gas mileage, but it had more plastic than brick of Legos and felt like it too. Therefore, we sold it about 12 months later, with, again, about 12k miles and just kept the Grand Am for a month until I bought the wife a…)
- 2005 MINI Cooper. (used, bought in 2007, with about 30k miles. This got her addicted to MINIs, even if their reliability is crap and they cost twice to maintain than a domestic vehicle. We held onto this car for 3 years until I surprised her with a…)
- 2007 MINI Cooper S! (used, bought in 2010 for her birthday. Fully loaded and originally almost $40k out the door, but we paid half that).
So now we’re down to a 2006 truck and a 2007 MINI, and both match our personalities and driving habits perfectly…for the most part. But since I love cars, I’m never fully satisfied.
While I just wrote about why I don’t think you really need a new car, I still can’t help myself from researching them, test driving them and trying to justify getting one. It definitely extends into USED cars as well. Here’s my two issues:
1. Finding a suitable replacement for my aging Ridgeline. I love the truck. There’s no mechanical problems, except the gas mileage for this size truck is the same as a full-size truck, and it’s smaller with only a V-6. Also, it doesn’t have any of the new “infotainment” luxuries like iPod integration or even an aux jack.
2. Finding a “supplemental vehicle” (aka third car). It has to be something that the truck isn’t. This has caused me the most angst because I want something affordable, reliable, unique, or maybe none of the above. I’ve thought about $25k Mercedes S-classes, $35k Mercedes SL-classes, $2000 Pontiacs, and a recent car which prompted me to write this article…
My “Almost Third Car”
I’ll admit this was a stretch because I was eyeing up a 2005 Mercedes SL500R, which the wife wouldn’t approve of due to the cost (but we both loved the car even if we never drove it), but sitting next to it was a 1985 Nissan 300ZX with only 30k miles or so for under $10k.
The wife approved of this car because it “fell into my price range” ($10k is about my limit), was unique, sporty, low mileage, well kept and even has removable T-Tops! I took it for a test drive and the only problems were: mushy brakes (need work of some kind), 1985 interior (needs updated), no airbags and no ABS. They would take care of bleeding the brake lines, etc., and it’s my choice to update the interior, but it ran great. I had to make a decision.
Why I passed on the car
There were a number of reasons I just couldn’t pull the trigger on this car:
- It felt like a runner-up. I wanted the car next to it, but this is what fell into my price range. I never felt an overwhelming urge to own a Nissan 300ZX, so why buy one now?
- The concern about safety of the older cars. Yes, I survived back in 1985 with no airbags and never wearing a seatbelt, but that doesn’t mean I want to put my life at risk today, especially around DC traffic
- The cost. While it was just shy of $10,000, and competitive when I did a nationwide search, I found some forums noting that it has tripled in value over the last few years. I didn’t want to be buying a collector car…I wanted a driver’s car. Granted, it could be a good investment, but…
- I don’t have a garage to keep it safe from the elements (criminal and natural)
But one of the bigger reasons is that a good friend of mine just lost his job. It hit home that the money that I think I have budgeted for my “fun car” could easily be part of our emergency fund if something happened to our jobs. I’m doing well in my new job (been here over 9 months) and the wife is well-enough (except no option for vertical or lateral movement, pay increases, etc.), but we have jobs and that’s what matters.
The good thing is we have only our one mortgage and no consumer debt. We pay off our credit cards every month, have excellent credit histories and scores, and have a very healthy savings. Plus, with no dependents and two incomes, we can get by quite easily even if I lost my job (I’m the main breadwinner).
So I’m not out of the car market yet, but I do have to keep reminding myself that our cushy life could change at any moment. Staying liquid with our finances is important, so having a chunk of money locked up in a depreciating asset is not the right course unless I’m really getting enjoyment out of it. So the search continues…