In which we do not have to buy a new car (yet)

So I don’t know if you remember, but when we got back from Paradise this summer we had some cash moneys left that we hadn’t spent.  I’d been worried that I was going to need to spend it on a new car in case my 2005 Hyundai Accent hadn’t taken well to storage.   My sweet little Accent was doing well enough that instead I paid $1K+ to fix the cosmetic problems that I caused when trying to park the car on 2 hours of sleep right before leaving for paradise.  It’s currently having some problems starting right off, but I assume that we just need to replace the spark plugs or some kind of cable and it will be fine.

Because we didn’t think we’d need to replace my car any time soon, we put the $30K we’d been saving into the stock market.  It is now worth less than 30K as of this writing.  (Oops!  Probably should have waited until October, oh well.)

A couple weeks after doing that and well before I got my first paycheck for the school year, DH got rear-ended at a stop sign.  In his lovely 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.  He and the kids are fine, but the car could no longer close the trunk.

The other driver was at fault but apparently that doesn’t really matter, at least not in the short term.  (Liberty Mutual says they will seek compensation from the other company, but they have to pay out first, so it may happen.)  So we owe a $1K deductible.  The repairs were initially set at ~$2500, but after the take-down of the car (which took a week and a half) they found another $850 or so in additional needed repairs for the frame, which put the total cost of body shop repairs at just under what the insurance company would declare the car totaled at.  I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.  Then another week and a half to do the repairs.

So… we’re not going to buy a new car.  DH decided he wanted a Prius (~25K walk-away price).  I figured if we put off the actual Prius buying until October we could pay cash by using my entire October paycheck plus most of our emergency fund.  Or maybe we could float it on credit cards earlier since the next payment wouldn’t actually be due until after I got paid.  But now we don’t have to do that.  Whew.

That’s our story.  I kind of like driving our 10/11 year old cars.  I’m not really big on change.  I mean, some of it is the expense, but a lot of it is me being kind of attached to our current cars so long as they’re not giving us too much trouble.  But we will probably have to replace one or the other of these cars at some point in the not too distant future.  I just always thought it would be my Accent first.  I mean, it has a tape deck in it(!)  (The Honda at least has a cd player…)

How did you decide it was time to get a new car?


38 Responses to “In which we do not have to buy a new car (yet)”

  1. Leah Says:

    We just got a new car this summer. We’d been a one-car family for three years. That actually worked really well for us about 95% of the time. But there were two times with family emergencies in my husband’s family, and he took the car and left me with a toddler. Thankfully, we were able to borrow a car from a friend, but I hate having to depend on the goodwill of our friends. There were also the occasional days where we both needed to go separate places and had to work something out (or one of us had to skip what we wanted to do).

    The other thing is that my husband always feels crowded when traveling in my Corolla just with three of us, and we are planning on having another kid. We want to do more camping and road trips with the kid(s). So, we bought a Kia sorento after much deliberation. We have been supremely happy with it and all the amazing features, like being able to play music off of a USB stick (!), tracking its own gas mileage, and being very easy to handle. It will fit 7 if we don’t need any trunk space and 5 with a really spacious trunk, yet it still feels fairly small and not like the giant boat most of the test drives felt like.

    This was totally a luxury purchase. At least we had saved up for it, so we have a minuscule loan of $5k (likely less now — my husband is taking care of the last bit). Most of the time, we have to make an effort to use both cars; we mostly use the Corolla for day to day stuff and the Kia for longer trips. But it’s a purchase that has made my husband happy to have his own car, so it’s worth it there too.

    • Leah Says:

      PS nothing wrong with a tapedeck. My Corolla still has one too :-)

      When to get a new car: when you can afford it and feel like it’s the best decision for your family. I forgot to add above that the secondary motivator for getting a new car was to have an option if my aging car needed to be in the shop or kicked the bucket.

    • monsterzero Says:

      “…being able to play music off of a USB stick…”

      I want that feature so bad.

      • Linda Says:

        It’s definitely cheaper to replace the radio with an after market deck than buy a new car. ;-) I did that with my last vehicle so I could play music from an iPod and happily drove it for several more years.

      • Leah Says:

        It is an awesome feature. I didn’t even know about it when we bought the car. But, the first time I plugged in my phone to charge, I could play music off my phone through the speakers and control that with the stereo. Then, my dad came to visit and brought some USB sticks full of music for me, but my computer is almost full of space. He suggested I just try plugging them in. And, woah, they worked.

        Total game changed. Need to remember to take them inside to finish loading them all the way up. One has kid music for my toddler (so much Raffi!), and one has lots of stuff I love.

  2. jjiraffe Says:

    We buy our cars used and keep them for a long time. Our station wagon has been having problems that keep adding up at the mechanic (it’s 10 years old). The last bill was $3k and we had a new problem that was going to be super expensive – beyond the value of the car. So we cashed in our car savings account and bought a new car – the first time I’ve ever bought a new car – with a warranty. And I’ve been feeling like a sucker ever since. The urge to buy used runs deep.

    • Contingent Cassandra Says:

      I think it depends on the used-car market. In theory, I’m a proponent of buying used cars, but when I went to buy my present car (a Honda Fit — a car which, at least in the base model, tends to be bought in the first place by practical, frugal people who keep their cars for a long time), I realized that I had to go quite old/high mileage before there was any significant discount in the price, and of course at that point I’d be facing potentially higher repair bills. So I bought a new one. I don’t know whether that was the cheapest choice, but figuring out the exact cheapest approach would have required taking into account a number of variables, not all of them entirely knowable/predictable. As it is, I’m happy.

      I suspect the math may well be different for more expensive cars; the Fit is one of the cheapest options in the American market (though it seems like a very nice car to me).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I think given that a lot of luxury car owners are interested in status means that people who like luxury cars but don’t need the newest model get a relative deal. I can’t imagine there are that many people in that category.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        We had the same problem when we were looking for low to mid-range cars. We actually did better upgrading to higher “luxury” types because the people in the Bay Area will upgrade for increasingly more luxury sorts of cars. Family friendly versions, however, are harder to find. Not quite sure if that’s because this market doesn’t particularly like the obviously family friendly cars but I suspect that if our family grows any more, whether by human or canine additions, it’ll be yet another uphill battle to find a good quality used deal.

  3. Dana Says:

    I thought it was going to be hard to decide and a death by 1000 paper cuts thing, but it wasn’t. I hit a deer in my 15 year old Chevy Prizm and the passenger side door no longer opened, in addition to various dents and scrapes on the body. The car was only worth $1000 and not being able to use a door didn’t seem sustainable, so within a couple weeks I got a new car. Splurged a little on a Subaru Legacy, but we had the money for it and have been very happy with it!

    • Becca Says:

      I loved my Chevy Prizm!
      Had it for around 9 years when it started to get needier repair wise and I inherited a Mazda3. I like the Mazda too, but my partner got a manual ford focus and it keeps needing more work, so we kind of wish we had kept the Prizm (which needed lots of cheap stuff, and burned oil like crazy).

      We will likely buy a new (used) car when the Focus dies, unless we are working in the same location (which is the current plan for this spring). If partner gets a more stable job I may give him the old Mazda and get a newish prius. I’m also keeping an eye on the new adaptive cruise control models, which is the only feature in new cars I see as having a substantial quality of life boost, at least until self parking cars hit my price range (I hate parking). A lightly used Mazda 3 in 3 years might be ideal.

  4. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    For me, the time came when the repair shop couldn’t find the needed part (of the underframe) anymore (parts were no longer manufactured for that car, which was over 20 years old, so they had to be available from a junkyard; all the available underframes were also rusted out). Given that I learned just how bad shape the frame was in when it fell down in front of the wheels and interfered with steering (fortunately during a very low-speed turn with a handy shoulder to drift onto), I waited too long. So I’d say that it’s time when there’s any serious question of reduced safety involved.

    Financially, I just happened to get a substantial raise the day after I learned the car was unrepairable. I would still have managed if that hadn’t been the case, but it would have been very, very tight, and I would have been taking on additional work specifically to pay for a replacement car (which really is a necessity given where I live and work).

  5. gwinne Says:

    I decided to get a new car when the value of my old car was less than the amount of money it would require to repair it to get it through the winter. That was roughly 150,000 miles and 13 years…

  6. monsterzero Says:

    My old car (’90 VW Jetta) was costing me more and more each month; first the oil pump went out, then someone tore out my ignition; then I had to replace the radiator; and finally it wouldn’t pass smog without repairs that would have cost me as much as I paid for the car originally. I got a letter from the state offering $1000 to junk my car and I took it.

    Got a Prius and have been super happy with it for nine years now.

  7. chacha1 Says:

    Like gwinne, I decided to replace my 20 yr old Accord when the repairs needed to keep it driving safely exceeded the value by an uncomfortable multiple, and the non-safety annoyances had peaked. I only paid $6000 for it (cash) when I got it at 13 years old. The trade-in value was basically $250. :-)

    Ironically I will be ditching the Accord’s replacement (Insight hybrid) much earlier than intended because it’s not performing up to my expectations on fuel economy, and has a fatal flaw: when the gas engine cuts off, so does the air-conditioning. I’m 50, y’all.

    • Linda Says:

      Whoa! That sounds like a fatal flaw in the design! The air-conditioning in my 2009 Prius still works just fine when the gas engine is off (like at stoplights or in heavy traffic), but the hybrid battery drains down really fast in those situations so the fuel economy plummets. :( Honestly, I don’t see fantastic fuel economy, either, but I’m still sticking with my Prius for several more years (hopefully!).

      • chacha1 Says:

        The AC thing is apparently built-in to the model year, so it’s not something we can just fix, which means yeah, it’s fatal. And apparently this is NOT a thing in the Prius. What amazes me is that when I was researching the Insight, nowhere did I find a warning that “oh hey the AC cuts off when the gas engine is off” – which in my case, in L.A., is several times per block. Having the fan keep going is better than nothing, but not by much when the outside temp is 90 degrees.

        The fuel economy in the city is averaging 28 mpg, which is just nowhere near as good as it should be. It’s because of the inescapable stop/start driving. On the highway, I get about 44 mpg … but I’m only on a highway once every six weeks or so. Oh well, it was worth a try. :-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It doesn’t in our hybrid civic either.

  8. bogart Says:

    I am hoping our current vehicles will persist (with us) until self-driving cars are a (-n ordinary, affordable) thing, though that may not be realistic.

    Sorry to hear about the accident, glad all are OK!

  9. Linda Says:

    I replaced my last car when it started having maintenance issues at 10 years old. None of the repairs were extremely costly, but I could see that I was going to have to spend more every year on keeping the car running and I was wanting to get a hybrid anyway. I had saved a bunch of money and had no pressing needs on which to use it, so I decided to look for a used Prius. Once I found one I liked, I bought it with cash and am happy with my decision. I’m planning to keep this car for at least a few more years. Hopefully by the time it starts to cost me lots to keep it I’ll be able to buy another used car with cash or have a hefty down payment on a new car.

  10. accm Says:

    I got a new car a few years ago when I was pregnant with twins and realized there was no way an infant car seat was going to fit behind my seat in my 13-year-old Corolla (which also had a tape deck!).

  11. Susan Says:

    Last one: when orthopedic injuries forced it.
    This one: when VW admitted to the EPA that the engine is … not what was advertised.

  12. Jenny F Scientist Says:

    Car #1 is a 16 year old Honda Civic with 190,000 miles on it. I have grand hopes that Child #1 will be able to drive it when he turns 16- in 8.5 more years

    It would not have fit 3 carseats without misery on the two hour trip to my parents, so we decided to get a minivan when Surprise Baby came along. We wanted capacity for us +2, and a decent cargo space. The spouse’s father negotiated an excellent price for us.

    • Sapience Says:

      I have a sixteen year old Honda Civic, too, though mine only has 130,000 on it. I don’t know if mine will last another 9 years, though–10 years in New England means that there are some rust problems developing…

  13. eemusings Says:

    In every case, because we are a 1 car house and the car’s reliability / safety hit alarming levels. Last time it was brakes, on the motorway no less, which is just NOT KOSHER by me.

    • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

      Our brakes went out recently – but fortunately in town, and the spouse drove it over to the shop VERY SLOWLY. Only cost $100! Pleasant surprise! (I assume your brakes were a great deal more than $100 of broken, of course.)

      • eemusings Says:

        awesome! I don’t think we’ve ever had any repair on any car that only cost $100. >_< And we had many other issues with that falling-apart car aside from the brakes – the brakes were just the last straw.

  14. First Gen American Says:

    Most of our car decisions were driven by life changes, not by necessity. I sold my 10 year old Corolla because my father in law passed away and had a brand new accord. I didn’t end up liking the accord as it was a 2 door coupe and not practical but it was the right thing to do buy it for family reasons. My Corolla, which I was very attached to got totaled 3 months later. It was so sad as it still ran great. Got rid of the Honda early because I got a company car, etc.

    I can totally understand wanting to keep the car. I would suggest an auto detailing though. When it’s that old, the interior also usually needs some TLC too.

    Our only family vehicle is 8 years old plus I have the company car. Was thinking that we will get a new car when our son starts driving and he can have the old one. (That’s 5 years away, so the car will be 13 by then.)

    I can lose the company car at any time due to job loss or job change so I have $10k earmarked for a used one if I got in a jam.

  15. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    “How did you decide it was time to get a new car?” Because I have never owned a car, I’m re-interpreting the question as “How did you decide it was time to replace your main means of transportation?” For me, that’s my recumbent bicycle, which I last replaced in 1999, when my previous recumbent bicycle was stolen. I’m looking at a major repair right now (probably $500–600), because the seat on the bike failed due to metal fatigue ( Replacing the whole bike with an equivalent one would cost about $4,400, about twice what I paid 17 years ago, which is substantially more than inflation.

  16. J Liedl Says:

    Our Jetta is going to be nine years old this year and as we don’t have a diesel VW, I don’t feel like we got suckered. We’re planning to keep it going until it’s no longer worthwhile or until Eldest needs a car which may never happen given the prospect of grad school. Hopefully that replacement is a long way off!

    Our RAV4 is a year and a half old and doing really well. We decided to get it when juggling our lives in one car wore us down. It’s not easy working often conflicting shifts at opposite ends of a city with no good public transit. The money spent on taxis or time wasted having one of us drive the other back and forth sometimes in the teeth of nighttime blizzards or ice storms? I think this was a good trade.

    Having two cars for the first time in twenty years has really simplified our lives and made long-distance drives fun again (we could all four fit into the sedan but there wasn’t much headroom or legroom for our Valkyrie of an elder child). We probably will drop back down to one car at some point but probably not before we replace the Jetta in the next half dozen years or so.

  17. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    This year sucked for unexpected expenses. We bid a sad farewell to our car earlier this year after deciding that the risk of damage to the frame was high, and that if we were on the wrong side of that bet, we’d be paying the value of the car all over again to fix it. That’d be one large cost now, and then later we wouldn’t be able to sell it later on so easily if we needed to. The car we ended up with works for us as a family but kind of sucks for me as a driver. That aside, we’ll likely hold onto it as long as we can keep it well-maintained, running, and serves our family size.

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