money-management, saving

My Car Is 20 Years Old

Ol’ reliable.  Isn’t she a beaut?  This baby is turning 20.  While most people would rather be seen in the back of a hearse than a car this old, I embrace its charm.  The visor sometimes falls in my lap, the radio volume lowers or becomes sharply louder when I hit a bump, and there’s that strange clicking when I put the fan setting on the front windshield.

She’s been sprayed a few times to cover up the bruises.  The front bumper is secure, but if you look closely, it’s slightly askew.  That’s left over from when an old man T-boned the passenger’s front quarter panel.  She’s been punched in the gut by shopping carts and side-swiped by careless drivers but she rides on like a champion.

You know that soft whistle-y sound when the aura enters the room in the Twilight Zone?  I hear that coming from under the hood.  Those sounds are helping me secure my future as I’m aggressively working towards an early retirement.

Of all the things we buy, our car is the most personal and sensitive.  Next to a house, it’s also the most expensive. And people love to judge, right?  We are all judged on what we drive.  Some will even determine if you are a good match for your car.  Like, “What’s that old geezer doing driving a Corvette? There should be a hot guy in the driver’s seat.”  Gotta love the American way.

If there’s any place to drain your earned income, this is it.  My guess is that 80% of the flashy cars on the road today are leased by people that could be putting that money to better use.  They turn their cars in after the 36-month lease is up, replacing it with a new car, when they should be demanding its useful life to the limit.  My minimum car ownership is 10 years.  Ideally, one should keep their vehicle until the wheels fall off.

When you combine a car payment with the companion expense – insurance – you’re talking about a significant chunk of change for the required monthly outlay.  In addition, the newer the car, the higher the insurance costs.  Constantly driving a new vehicle will guarantee a high insurance bill.

I can’t wrap my mind around some of these real-life examples.  I had a client with $100,000 worth of debt yet she drove a BMW convertible.  That was parked next to the Yukon SUV.  Gas prices are fairly reasonable now, but 10 years ago were astronomical.  She was always broke but when I did her tax return, I tallied $180,000 in W-2s and 1099s.

I watched an episode of The Profit.  That’s where Marcus Lemonis helps troubled small business owners.  The business owner’s mother had re-mortgaged her home and given her daughter $200,000.  The business was failing, and mom’s $200,000 was seriously in jeopardy, however, it didn’t stop the daughter from leasing a Benz.

Isn’t that crazy?  Now, go outside and look at what you’re driving.  Decide how you can make it last as long as possible.  If you’re leasing, buy it at the end of the lease.  If the purchase price is too expensive, give it back at the end of the lease and buy something that you can afford.  Then figure out how you can make it last as long as possible.  Don’t underestimate your machine. It can tolerate more than you think.  Keep it in good condition and deal with the fading new car smell.

I say judge me all you want.  My car is turning 20 and I’m having a birthday party.  All the other cars in the neighborhood are coming.  It made it past my 10-year minimum life span of ownership and how fast the years fly.  They grow up so fast don’t they?  While Sunrise, Sunset plays in the background, I’ve used the monthly savings to become a serial investor.  The money I save from not having a car payment has allowed me to build up my ownership in AT&T, Comcast, Disney, and Exxon.  While I stockpile common stock and other investments, I wonder how many more miles she has in her and plan to squeeze out every single one.

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