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.
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.
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.
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.
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?