Friday, November 7, 2014

Comfortable Drivers

This spring I received a recall notice on one of our vehicles stating that there was a recall on a particular part but they didn't have a fix yet. They would send me another notice when they had a fix to bring my vehicle in and get it repaired. Later this summer, I received a second recall about some programming bug in the Vehicle Stability Assist module which could cause inadvertent braking in certain situations. Because I knew there was another recall in the works, I opted to wait until I could get both done at the same time since the nearest dealer is about 90 miles away. That day came up a couple weeks ago and I made the trip to get the recalls fixed.

While I was waiting, I decided that I would slowly mosey through the acres of new cars checking them out. I was doing just that when ten minutes later on the far side of the lot, a sales person finally cornered me and asked if he could address any questions I might have. I told him that I was just killing time while my vehicle was getting recall work done on it. He proceeded to ask about my vehicles that I owned and their ages. I have an 07 minivan, an 01 vehicle that is my wife's daily driver and my 98 which was my daily driver and is what I drive when I'm by myself. The man seemed to think that it was time to upgrade a few of them because they were getting old. I told him I really wasn't interested just yet.

He finally left me alone but it got me to thinking. I'm pretty sure he though they needed traded in because they are 8, 14 and 17 years old respectively. Many people I know don't drive vehicles 8 years old much less 17 years old. Sure there are a lot of nice features on newer cars but when I or my wife are in our cars for less than five minutes at a time most days, that doesn't leave a lot of time to use them. The minivan is our trip car and gets a lot longer time driving road miles but with two kids and a mother-in-law, there really isn't a need for other distractions.

So the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I am with keeping our currently lineup of vehicles and resisting the 'Keeping Up With the Joneses' mentality. Here are a few reasons why:

1. They are all paid for in full. I don't owe a dime on them. In fact, I paid cash for all of them so I never paid anyone else interest for the privilege of owning them. Because I'm not making payments, I have saved up a sum of money in our rainy day emergency fund that will more than cover the cost of two or three brand new cars if for some reason they were all destroyed at one go.

2. Because they are old, I only carry liability insurance on the 14 and 17 year old vehicles because it they are totaled, it really won't be a financial burden. It will be inconvenient but with only two drivers and three vehicles, minus the one that hypothetically just got totaled, we should still survive. By law it is mandatory to carry liability insurance but it is dirt cheap compared to comprehensive collision insurance. I do have comprehensive insurance on the newest vehicle although it is quickly getting to the point where I'm debating the merits of that. Because it gets a lot of road miles, the odds of it getting into an accident are much greater and it is worth more money should it get into an accident. But because it is older than most, the comprehensive insurance for it is pretty cheap because it if is totaled, it isn't worth a whole lot of money.

3. I hate to give up any of our cars to make room and I would feel really guilty owning four vehicles for only two drivers. My oldest car is 17 years old but only has 130,000 miles on it and it is known for reliability with many drivers getting well over 250,000 miles on them. I've never lived far from work and once married with kids, it being a two door coupe just doesn't get used as much. If I were to sell it though, it is probably only worth a $1000 which wouldn't get me much of anything for a replacement. In fact, I could sell both the two oldest cars and probably be lucky to pocket a few thousand dollars. So to me, they are worth more to just own as backup vehicles should I need them. The oldest car is also the first car I bought on my own and not from my parents so it also has a sentimental value to it. I still love to drive it.

4. I am comfortable in them. For me, it is like putting on a favorite pair of jeans when hopping into them. I know where all the buttons are (and they don't have many compared to modern vehicles) and how to work them. Not only that, but I am comfortable where ever I park them. The are dented, scratched and chipped and though from a distance still look nice when washed, up close they look well used. If you have ever bought a new vehicle, the first scratch hurts the worst and even the next few are tough. Once you get by those, new scratches barely even cause me to blink. I don't worry about door dings, stray shopping carts or even minor bumps into immovable objects. I've got an old car with lots of character, what's a little more.

5. I really don't like many of the new cars I have seen these days. I like the electronics and new features but the styling sucks. It seems like the cars keep shrinking, gaining more plastic and all for more money. Generally when you use less and cheaper materials things get less expensive. Nobody makes a small truck these days except Toyota and they are the same price as full size trucks. Small SUV's not look like station wagons and sedans look like you should save the box they came in just in case you need to return it for a refund. I guess I just don't get new vehicle designs unless you get to the really expensive ones which appear to have though put into aesthetics. I just can't justify the price when I am in it for less than fifteen minutes a week.

So I made my rounds through the show lot of the dealership untempted to trade in any of my well used comfortable vehicles. I picked up my 'still new to me' eight year old mini-van with new parts and drove home. It only has 90,000 miles after eight years of use so I'm still hoping it will see us through one kid moving out and possibly both. Perhaps if I hold out long enough, car designers will realize that their market could be a whole lot bigger if they put some style back into their cars.


sage said...

There is nothing that I dread more than buying cars... As long as they run, keep them!

edifice rex said...

That's what I say too! I see so many folks that just stay in debt due to always wanting a new car (amongst other things). As long as it runs reliably I could not care less about how old it is.

warren said...

We drive cars longer than average also and I am not really much for gadgets either...the only benefit I see in upgrading cars now and then is in advancements in safety stuff. There is a video (probably many) where they showed a heavy car from the 1960s (?) crashing into a "modern" car. Of course, most people think the older heavier car would fare better but it was a death trap. The safety stuff was remarkable and advances quickly. It's not worth upgrading every year, but it's just something to consider

Anonymous said...

GM is rolling out their new smaller pickups. They look decent but you are spot on with the price breakdown. There isn't one.

Anonymous said...

Here the metrics are a bit different from yours. Fuel efficiency drops dramatically after about 80k miles so if we are driving lots it can make a difference. Plus we have a MOT exam every two years. It can run up.
With you of course it's different, you aren't paying an arm and a leg for petrol.

Ed said...

Sage - Although I have bought few cars in my lifetime, I guess I don't mind the experience. My best experience though is buying them on ebay where I don't have to deal with pressure salespeople.

Edifice Rex - I have never understood why people want debt and then on top of that to pay others more money than something is worth in the form of interest payments. Cash also gives you more room to barter for a better price too.

Warren - That is definitely a good point and one that I think about. It is also why we mostly use our newest vehicle on family trips since it has better safety features.

Woody - I just don't understand why there isn't a market for small pickups with less frills.

Vince - I'm sure fuel efficiency drops for us too but because of the cheap gas, it is not very noticeable to the pocket book. Having been to Europe, I can only imagine the chaos that would happen here is someday we charged the same price for the equivalent volume of gas.