Being that I often read blogs about living a frugal life and encouraging the same on my blog, I often read that you should “drive your car into the ground.” I’m picturing driving a car until the paint has almost entirely chipped off, signs of rust, scratches and dents everywhere, and you still only have a tape deck as the entertainment system. On the other hand, some of my friends are more like the average American consumer and start itching to buy a new car every three to five years. One friend is very honest and admits that he just likes driving a new car every three years. Other friends I know try to convince themselves that they NEED one. They want one that is more reliable, has the latest safety features, and has better gas mileage. They say that they need a bigger vehicle as their family grows. And one person said that she wanted to trade-in her current car before it went over 100,000 miles and dropped in value even though replacing it would result in car payments when she had already paid off her old car. Some reasons have validity, while other ones…not so much.
I drove my last car, a Nissan Altima which was bought used, for about 10 years and yes it only had a tape deck but no worries, I had a cassette tape to CD/MP3 converter. My friends would tease me about still driving the same car that I had in college, even though I had already been working for a couple of years. Heck, some friends still ask me if I’m driving that car! A year after I started a new job that required a long commute, there came more repairs, and the car once left me stranded on the highway when it broke down. This happened about a week before my wedding and I think that was when I seriously considered buying a new car, although I didn’t buy one for another two years. I wasn’t great at keeping up with maintenance of car so that was probably a bigger reason why it broke down. I really need to learn more about cars and make sure that I maintain them better.
In any case, fast-forward to present day. I’ve only been driving my current car (a Hyundai Sonata I bought used) for six years, however, because of that long commute, I already have 183,000 miles on it. Last year, I had a few non-routine maintenance issues that I had to deal with. I had to replace a cam shaft and crank shaft as well as some minor repairs. When I went to get the oil change a few months ago, the mechanic spotted a leak. Apparently there is an issue with the heater core which will cost about $800 to fix. He did replaced some hoses (which cost about $250) as a temporary fix and said that I need to fix the heater core issue before the summer. He also said to me, “why don’t you just buy a new car instead getting it fixed?”
That was all it took and I started researching different cars and reading car reviews. The mechanic didn’t exactly say he thought there were any other underlying issues with the car when I asked if he thought there would be a lot of other upcoming repairs needed. It doesn’t really make much sense to replace my car just to avoid the $800 repair and while it felt like there were a lot repairs, a quick scan of my receipts shows that I spent less than $800 on non-routine maintenance costs.
Normally, my frugal self wouldn’t be swayed much by someone telling me to buy a new car, but there are some other reasons. Our family is growing and we’ll need to have two car seats in the near future. I’ve been asking a few other people with families and most say that you’ll have a hard time fitting a third person in the backseat with two car seats back there. Although they do say that you might be able to fit a small adult there for short trips. Generally, it would be my wife and kids, but I’d like to fit another passenger in my car once in a while. Unless I bought a car with a third-row, any car I buy probably won’t help me with adding space. And most cars that size aren’t the best on fuel economy and with a long commute, I’d like to have a car which is as fuel efficient as possible. So I’ve been trying to balance the pros and cons of getting a new to me car.
Should I replace my car? If you have a family, do you know of any decently fuel efficient vehicles that can fit two car seats and an adult in the backseat? How do you determine when it’s time to replace your car?