How Much Have You Spent On Buying Cars?

I was never a car enthusiast like many of my friends, but I’d be lying if I said that I never cared about what car I drove and that a car is just a tool to get from point A to point B. Back in the Fall of 2000, I was very fortunate that my parents offered to help me purchase my first car when I was in my junior year of college. I checked out a couple of used car lots and set my eye on a burgundy 1997 Acura Integra. It was listed at $8500, which was a little above budget, but I was hoping I could negotiate the price down. When I told my dad about the car, he said that he wasn’t going to help me buy that car. He said that the repairs would be expensive with an Acura and also, he didn’t want me to have the “need for speed” driving a sporty little car.

512px-3rd-Acura-Integra-sedan

So instead of the 1997 Acura Integra, I got a 1997 Nissan Altima. The Altima had about 55,000 miles on it when it was bought used in 2000. I drove the Altima in college and continued driving it after I started working while many of my friends purchased nicer cars. Once when I visited an old college friend who I hadn’t seen awhile, he was shocked to see that I was still driving the same car, 8 years after graduating. I was a little envious of my friends with nicer cars, but I was going to law school part-time in the evenings and working full-time during the days. I was not earning all that much while racking up a lot of student loan debt. Using all my savings to buy a car or racking up more debt to buy a nicer car wasn’t a priority for me. I think I might have kept the car a little bit longer, but repair issues started popping up. It also left me stranded a week before my wedding, so I wasn’t too sure about it’s reliability. When I finally traded it in after driving it for 10 years, it had about 168,000 miles on it.

Not my car but looks just like it.

Not my car but looks just like it.

In 2010, I purchased a used 2009 Hyundai Sonata with 38,000 miles on it for $13,300. I paid cash for this car and the salesman said, “it must be nice to have that much in cash!” I felt a little awkward and told him I took a loan from my 401k even though I didn’t. Then he started lecturing me about how taking a loan from your 401k was a bad financial move!

As part of a promotion at Enterprise Car Sales where I purchased the car, they gave me $500 on top of the KBB value of my trade-in, so I got $1000. I purchased the Sonata because it had the latest safety features which was important because my wife and I were planning on starting a family. Hyundais had also gone a long way in reliability but prices were still pretty affordable because it wasn’t a brand that many car buyers coveted. By this time, I had turned 30 and was a personal finance reading addict. I no longer cared about using my car as a status symbol.

Car

I drove my Sonata for a little over 6 years and replaced it in late 2016. Unfortunately, I have a long commute to work and had about 190,000 miles on it by the time I bought another car. The car was a road warrior and had been good to me. It was reliable and I probably could have kept it for a little while longer, but since I had two kids and often transport another adult or two in addition to my wife, I wanted a bigger vehicle. At this point in my life, I was definitely not defined by the car I was driving. Even with all the ridicule that I heard relating to dads driving minivans, I bought one and am happy with its practicality.

I bought a used 2015 Toyota Sienna in the Fall of 2016 for $18,500 from Hertz Car Sales. They gave me $500 for my Sonata. I plan on driving my Sienna until the wheels fall off, or actually until I feel it is reliable and won’t leave me and my family stranded on the road. I financed this car purchase as the interest rate was relatively low and I’d rather use my cash to invest, however I plan on making extra payments to it and paying it off quickly.

Sienna

So adding all three cars up, including the Altima even though I didn’t pay for it, the total amount spent for the purchase of these vehicles is $39,400. I could also subtract the $1500 that I received on the trade-ins, but that doesn’t really change the number all that much. So it’s just a shade under $40,000 for about 17 years and counting of driving, which I would like to think is a reasonable number since I know many who spend that much on just one vehicle purchase. However, this number might be high for many people who live in NYC since they can cut out cars completely as public transportation is easily accessible for most and there are Zip Cars as well as ride-sharing options available to others.

To see what cars other bloggers drive, check out The Cars of Personal Finance Bloggers at Mustachian Post.

Another interesting one is the Car Timeline on Money Watch 101, which is what inspired me to post my own car timeline.

How much have you spent purchasing your car(s)? Do you buy new or used cars? Do you think of your car as a status symbol?

22 thoughts on “How Much Have You Spent On Buying Cars?

  1. Erik @ The Mastermind Within

    I’ve spent $13k on 1 car. I got a used 2014 VW Jetta through Enterprise (yes the rental company) last year and love it. I only drive about 4k miles a year, so the mileage is still super low (just hit 40k).

    While my car is really nice, I don’t really think it’s a status symbol given I still take the bus every day to work and would prefer to ride my bike if I can.

    Thanks for sharing – have a good one.
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…Blog Traffic and Income Report ā€“ March 2017My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, I’ve used Enterprise before. And my current vehicle was purchased from Hertz. I wish I didn’t have to rack up that many miles because I’d be able to get more on the trade in.

      Reply
  2. Fervent Finance

    I’ve bought two cars in my life. Once when I was 16 and once when I was 21. When I was 16 I bought a used Jetta for about $5 or $6k CASH, of my own money earned working summers at 15 and 16 years old. Then when I turned 21 and had my first “adult job” I went out and bought a used Cadillac CTS. I think I paid $17.5k for it and put $3k down. Even YEARS before discovering FI, I hated debt so I paid that car off in 2.5 years, then sold it when I moved to NYC. Now in the Midwest I just share my fiance’s car since she’s so nice :)
    Fervent Finance recently posted…Slowing Things DownMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Awesome that you don’t need your own car right now. You bike too right?

      Reply
  3. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    In 15 years of driving I have spent $1,000 buying cars. I bought an old used Saturn for $1,000 when I was 17. I drove it for a handful of years and then got into an accident that would have required $2,500-$3,000 in repairs. By that time I was living in a city like you noted in your post and didn’t really need a car. My wife and I now share her paid off car that she bought in high school.

    That said, my triumph will probably not last much longer. We are currently saving up under the assumption that her car won’t make it much longer and we’ll need to throw down some cash for a new ride.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Make a Plan! (Or Don’t)My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Wow, 15 years and just $1000. I think that’ll be hard to beat! Pretty awesome that your wife has been driving the same car since high school.

      Reply
  4. Brian

    I paid $60 for my first car. It was a 1978 gran torino. The guy was asking $150 for it, and my dad helped me negotiation it down to $60. I drove it for close to two years before selling it for $200.

    The first new car we purchased was a 2002 Honda Odyssey. It cost $27K. We shopped around and did our research and found that the Odyssey basically sold themselves and was priced very competitively among dealers. We had it for over 13 years. We buy 2-3 year old used cars today.
    Brian recently posted…Net Worth Update: March 2017My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Wow, $60…even adjusted for inflation I think that is pretty cheap! How did you sell it for more money…did you fix it up or it’s a classic car that people like? I looked into the Odyssey too…it has great reviews. I hope I can keep my minivan for as long as you did.

      Reply
  5. Stockbeard

    I have spent $0 buying cars in 22 years since I got my license.
    My first and only car was inherited from my grandfather when he passed away. The car was older than me, and I owned it for 5 years then passed it on to my brother. It ended up totaled in a traffic accident (nobody was injured, but the car was in bad shape and, as a 25 year old car, not worth repairing).

    After that I always lived in places where owning a car was not necessary.

    In hindsight, I feel lucky as this was never a financial decision to me, it’s just that I didn’t particularly like driving and I avoided owning a car.

    The downside is that we’re now a family of 5 and will most likely need a car: having never purchased one, I have zero negotiation skills, and am still reluctant to actually drive :)
    Stockbeard recently posted…So tired of all this BSMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Great that you have spent any money on cars in over 2 decades! I technically live in a place where owning a car is not necessary (though I do need it for my commute since I actually work in the suburbs where as many work in the city). However, having kids, it still is much easier having car depending on where you’re going. With a family of 5, you might need a minivan depending on the car seat situation. As for negotiation skills, I have none either and went the no haggle route and think I made out fine.

      Reply
  6. EL

    I believe I spent around 60 k total for all my cars. It doesnt seem like much given some of my colleagues at work paid that amount on just 1 car, lexus, bmws and Mercedes in the lot at work. Thanks for the shout out and save more than you drive.

    Reply
  7. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Love that story about the Sonata and the 401k loan – what a hoot!! When we were first married we were SO into having to have new cars. Our current main vehicle is a 12 year old Suburban. It’s in great shape for its age and it runs really well. Ironically, we got it to replace a 2004 model after we totaled it. We had full coverage on the 2004, and got a nice sized check from the insurance company. We were able to pay cash for the 2005 and it was a much nicer vehicle! We often get compliments on it and people think it’s a lot newer than it is. Sometimes it’s tough when I see friends and family members driving newer vehicles, but I sure do love not having a car payment. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…How Debt Destroys Your Chances for Financial FreedomMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Haha, thanks! Yea, it was funny that the salesman went from envying my cash position to lecturing me about personal finances! Wow, great that the Suburban has lasted so long. I definitely like not having a car payment last time with the Sonata.

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Financial Literacy Roundup Week #1 - The Frugal Farmer

    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Looking forward to that post! Hey the Kias look pretty nice and rank high on reliability now. I bought a Hyundai awhile back when it was considered a “cheap” car but it was very reliable.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, that’s really all I need…safe and reliable! Buying used and models which are reliable but affordable is definitely best for our financial situation.

      Reply

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