saving on vehicle expenses (part one)

I’d love to say that our primary vehicle is a shiny new Toyota Prius that gets 46 miles to the gallon. It is in pristine condition and completely paid for. Ah… doesn’t that sound nice? But the reality is that our primary vehicle is a ’97 purplish Toyota Camry with more than 191,000 miles on it. And while it’s not exactly in the pristine condition of my dream car, it’s true that we make no car payments (and never have, actually, as it was a gift from Keith’s parents).

Every now and then I have found myself coveting a newer car. Besides the basic greed issue involved in that, here are things of which I remind myself over and over. First, we make no car payments. Second, we have a much nicer vehicle than most of the people in the world. Third, it’s reliable.

On the reliability factor, let me note this. It is always, always, always worth buying a vehicle that rates highly according to Consumer Reports. (If you don’t have a subscription to CR, you should get one. It is an incredible valuable asset in all kinds of purchasing situations.) The Camry is one such vehicle which has for years stood out as one of the most reliable vehicles on the road, and it has been completely true for us. We have put about 100,000 miles on our Camry in the last six years, and we have invested little into it besides gas and oil and the occasional minor maintenance work.

I know people who in the same time period have put tens of thousands of dollars into less reliable cars and with not much to show for it.

I once had a co-worker who drove a Volkswagen Jetta, a vehicle known for being unreliable. He drove his Jetta to work, I drove my Camry to work. His Jetta looked cooler than my Camry. But my Camry always made it to work, while his Jetta broke down on the way to work more times than I can remember. Consequently, I was seen as a more reliable employee, and I received the promotion for which really only the two of us were eligible. I’m not positive if being 2-3 hours late to work once or twice a week was a part of him not being considered for the job, but I kind of think it was.

Reliability counts.

I know of many other friends who have bought not-especially-reliable cars which ran great for a while, but after a year or two began to need so much additional work that they have paid far more than the cost of the cars in repair work… just to keep it going!

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Given the rapid depreciation of new vehicles, it is more than likely that we will consistently buy vehicles that are five years old and drive them for another five years or so. Given the age of our Camry, that would mean we are due for a vehicle upgrade in the next few years. For the present time, though, our Camry is still running great, and so we expect to drive it until an increase in household members requires a vehicle with more room for carseats.

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 11:33 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. yep!

  2. ok, I’m commenting again to tell you that this keeps showing up as a new post on my window, so I keep checking it. So it hasn’t actually been viewed as much as it’s saying 🙂

  3. I *totally* agree about reliability! It bothers me when people just buy a cheap car because it’s cheap, without considering the costs they will incur through repeated breakdowns. It pays (literally) to balance the original purchasing cost with the projected cost of upkeep.

  4. I wonder how long it will be before you need to upsize for carseat allowance. Could you fit two carseats in there along with two adults?

  5. Josie: That’s odd. It’s probably because I kept editing it.

    Morgan: I think we could fit two carseats, but I’m not positive.

    • I think you could, too, but it will probably depend on the brand of carseat. Some are just more compact than others, and since you’d probably have to put one on each side, not side by side, well, Keith’s legs are awefully long, but I think it could be done, especially if Rilla was old enough to be forward facing.

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