Tag Archives: car

My Christmas Present

Christmas day is always pretty special. Other than the religious reasons, it’s special because you get to see what gifts you received. It’s extra special when you have kids and see the excitement in their faces when they unwrap their gifts. I think this year was the first year that my four year old truly understood and was excited about the holiday season. He would countdown every time we turned on the Christmas tree lights. He was excited to see the lights and decorations as we drove or walked past other houses. He was waiting in anticipation for Santa to arrive and asked that we give him a key to our apartment as we didn’t have a chimney. However, he had second thoughts about having a stranger in the house and asked if I could leave a note for Santa to leave the presents outside the door instead!

Christmas morning started off wonderfully. My four year old was ecstatic with his gifts. My 17 month old was actually able to tear into the wrapping paper this year. We were having family over for dinner and I had some last minute errands to run. When I went out to my car, which was parked on the street, I see that somebody had slammed into the bumper. I’m assuming they were parking their car when they slammed into it, but I’m still perplexed as to how you back in at that angle and at that speed to cause that damage. Probably someone who was drunk after partying on Christmas Eve since the car was fine when I left it there around midnight.

I was very upset and annoyed that I had to deal with this on Christmas day. Fortunately, the claims process with Geico was pretty quick and painless. The police also came pretty quickly for a non-emergency to complete a police report. Although, I think the police officer probably looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if there were cameras around which might have caught the culprit (the car was parked on a big thoroughfare in a street filled with commercial stores). Obviously I’ve watched too many episodes of CSI. I’m sure no one is reviewing cameras for a hit-and-run of a parked vehicle.

When I returned home, I was telling my wife about the damage and the $500 deductible that we’d have to pay. My four year old overhead and must have been able to tell that I was upset. He said, “don’t worry papa, they can fix it.” Sometimes my four year old is smarter than me. Yea, I’d have to pay the $500 deductible and it is large sum of money, but something that we can afford. It would be much tougher if we were part of the “shocking number” of Americans who couldn’t afford a $400 expense. We were also fortunate that the accident occurred to our parked vehicle and no one was in it and injured. I did also take two days off from work while the car was being repaired since I didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of getting a rental car and installing car seats. I’m also lucky that my employer allowed me to take time off and I have paid annual leave to do so. Luckily, it was a quiet week at work, with most people taking time off anyway. Ultimately, taking two days off was a blessing in disguise as it was frigid those two days and I was able to stay home with the little ones, not having to schlep them off to and from grandma’s while I go to work.

So all in all, it was a mere inconvenience. I should be grateful for the financial position I’m in, the job that I have, and that it wasn’t all that bad. Nothing to get all bent out of shape about. It’s often much better to look at the cup as half full rather than half empty.

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.


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.


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?

Buying a Used Rental Car

Buying a car is a stressful event. Buying a used car is even more stressful. You don’t want to buy a lemon and you don’t want to overpay. I purchased my previous car years ago through Enterprise Car Sales and had a good experience with it. You can read about my experience here. In a prior post, I mentioned that I was looking at purchasing a bigger vehicle and eventually bought a minivan. After doing some research, it seemed like the Honda Odyssey was a good choice. One big reason was the fuel economy for such a big car. Unfortunately, Enterprise Car Sales did not carry that car so I considered going to a regular used car lot.

I did not have a good experience with the used car lot. I found a car with a very good price…maybe too good to be true. I had a mechanic check it out and he basically told me to RUN FAR FAR AWAY. He said that even if the price was dropped $2000, he wouldn’t recommend buying it. I didn’t want to deal with shady used car dealers so I considered other types of minivans and looked back at Enterprise Car Sales, but their prices didn’t seem as good as when I purchased from them years ago. I also looked into Hertz Car Sales, which like Enterprise sells their rental car inventory, CarMax, a no-haggle used car retailer as well as a new tech start-up called Carvana, which sells used cars online (they deliver the car to you).

After looking at those option, I found that Hertz had the best prices for the vehicle I was interested in. Hertz advertises that their prices are $1000 or more below the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value. It is a no haggle price so the price is the price, however, I found the price to be very fair based on my research and over $1500 below KBB value. Also, if you are a Hertz Gold Member, you get an extra $300 off. If you’re not a member, you can just sign up online. They didn’t seem that strict about it. I just showed them my member ID card which I printed from my e-mail.

Hertz offers two options when purchasing their cars. One is Rent2buy and the other is Herz Certified. For the Rent-to-buy program, the cars are still in their rental inventory so you have to reserve the vehicle. You have three days to test drive the car and decide whether to buy it or not. If you end up buying it, you will not be charged for the rental. I went with the Certified program. According to their website, certified cars are “carefully selected from their rental fleet” and then undergo “extensive” inspections because it is put out for sale.

My car buying process went smoothly and without a salesperson trying to pressure me to buy or upsell me. There also wasn’t any hidden fees like “destination fee” or “documentation fee.” The person I worked with showed me the car and took me on a test drive. There was no pressure and the transaction was stress-free. I recommended Hertz Car Sales to a friend of mine and he also bought a car, but he went through the Rent2buy program. The cars in that program might have less mileage as they haven’t been retired from the rental fleet yet. My friend told me that during the three-day test drive, the car ran smoothly and when he took it to his mechanic, he was told the car was “like new.” Hertz also provides a 12,000 mile or 12 month power train warranty. You also get 12-months roadside assistance.

When I’ve mentioned that I purchased my car from Hertz, some have asked me whether I’m worried that it’s was previously a rental car and might have been abused. I guess this is a possibility, but I think the majority of people renting from Hertz are probably people on business. And for others renting the cars for leisure, do you really abuse it or do you just drive like you normally do? Another thing is that I bought a Minivan! Most likely the person renting it is a parent and I doubt they’re flooring it or doing donuts in the parking lot. Also, I think rental car companies have an incentive to keep their cars in good condition so maintenance is not really an issue.

One other criticism was that I didn’t get a good deal because I could not negotiate the price. However, I can’t say that was the case. As I mentioned in my previous experience with Enterprise Car Sales, I did my research and in that instance also went and negotiated at other dealerships. In the end, no-haggle is not a big deal because the price is fair. It’s possible that if you’re an expert negotiator and the dealership you go at a time is desperate to move its inventory you might get a better deal, but I’m happy with my deal. The only downsides for some maybe is that they may not carry the make and model of the vehicle you want, and their cars also probably won’t have higher end features. But I don’t need heated leather seats or an entertainment package so that’s okay.

Would you purchase a vehicle from a rental company or do you prefer to negotiate at the car dealerships?

It’s Okay to Drive a Minivan!

2011 Toyota Sienna XLE -- 05-18-2011

Recently, two of my co-workers were discussing their growing families and the need to buy a bigger vehicle. They discussed various SUVs with third-row seating to accommodate their needs. When the idea of a minivan entered the conversation, both immediately responded unequivocally, “I could NEVER drive a minivan.”

I have a friend who just had his third child and when I joked that it was TIME for a minivan, he said that his wife is completely against it as she does not want to be seen in a “soccer mom car.” But she IS a soccer mom? Another friend who also just had his third child, said that he has “held out” long enough and that he is finally “biting the bullet” and buying a minivan. It’s as if he were trying to avoid the bubonic plague!

All over the internet, in forums and articles about the best vehicles for families, I read the same vitriol towards the minivan. In the comments section of an article about minivans, one person asked, “is there anything sadder than seeing a dad shamefully climbing out of a minivan in front of his friends and colleagues…instantly beleaguered, defeated and utterly emasculated?” Wow! That’s harsh! Another commenter demanded that one’s “man card” be revoked for driving such an uncool vehicle. A mommy blogger compared it to wearing mom jeans and argued that she wanted to retain a semblance of her pre-mom coolness and did not want to be “defined” by her minivan. Some anti-minivaners would rather buy a behemoth like the Chevy Surburban than be relegated to soccer mom/dad status by driving a minivan.

After our recent addition to the family, we decided it was probably time to replace our old car. My wife was a trooper squeezing in-between two car seats in our Hyundai Sonata when there was another adult, but that wasn’t an optimal solution. A big vehicle really isn’t a necessity for a family of four, but my in-laws do not drive and my parents prefer not to have to drive as they are getting older. In any case, it just made sense to buy a vehicle where I could transport more people. So which is better? A large SUV or a minivan? I didn’t put too much stock in people’s opinion of the coolness factor as image is not my priority.

Doing the research on SUVs and minivans on various sites that talk about cars, I found a common theme. The writers would say that the minivan is the best people-mover, that it is the most functional, practical, and utilitarian choice, but lament the fact that it is ugly and uncool. Sure, I can see the possible coolness factor in a sports car or even sedans and cross-over vehicles, but was a huge SUV really sporty or cool compared to a minivan? I don’t know, and I’m probably not the best person to ask since I mainly see a vehicle as a tool to get from one location to another. Sure, I’d like a “sporty” looking car (whatever that means) with some of the newer safety as well as entertainment features, but ultimately I just want something reliable that does its job.

So after doing some research, deciding that the minivan was more practical, I bought a minivan. Here are a few reasons why I think a minivan is better than a large SUV based on what I read and on my experience so far:

Power sliding doors
– I love them. They’re awesome! I can open the door with a push of a button which is very helpful when I’m carrying a car seat or a bunch of bags. Sliding doors are also great because there’s no risk of the door banging into another car’s door in the parking lot.

Versatility – What good is a third-row if you can’t access it? My friends with SUVs that have a third-row tell me that you can’t get to the third-row if they have car seats installed. You’d have to uninstall the car seat, push the seat up, have the person climb into the third-row, then reinstall the car seat. Then you’d have to repeat this when it’s time to get out. That kind of defeats the purpose of having the third-row to begin with. Minivans also have more interior cargo space than large SUVs. Many of the seats in the minivans can be moved, folded down, or even removed to configure the space how you like it. This Motor Trend article is a bit dated but it does a great job comparing minivans with large SUVs.

Costs – If you compare the costs of a large SUV to the costs of a minivan, you’ll notice that minivans are more affordable. A large SUV like the Chevy Suburban can cost over $50,000 and the Ford Expedition starts at $41,700, while the Honda Odyssey starts at around $30,000. Your auto insurance premiums will also be cheaper. You’re a boring soccer mom or dad right? The insurance companies figure you’re probably not weaving in and out of traffic and making risky maneuvers on the road so you get a lower insurance premium! Fuel economy for minivans are generally superior to large SUVs so you’ll save money on gas too. The Chevy Suburban gets 16 city/23 highway while the Honda Odyssey gets 19 city/27 highway.

And finally, “it’s fun!” Well this is what my 3 1/2 year old son told me when he first climbed inside our new to us minivan. He also called it a “city bus.” Yea, it’s pretty big I guess.

Minivans have lost their popularity as most families flock to the big SUVs. Many car companies have tried to rebrand it, with Toyota calling its minivan a “swagger wagon.” Kia doesn’t even want to call its minivan a minivan, they call it an “MPV” (Multipurpose vehicle). It seems that when choosing a vehicle, most will choose style over substance. I don’t want to judge those who choose large SUVs over a minivan. It’s your choice, your money, and you can do whatever you want. But it just seems ridiculous that so many people will overlook a perfectly good vehicle choice because it might cramp their style.

Okay, can I have my man card back now? Oh wait, I never lost it. I’m not defined by what car I drive and I proudly drive a “dad mobile.”

Why do people despise minivans? Are they really that ugly looking?

When is it Time to Replace Your Car?

Just got a car wash not too long ago...looking good!

Just got a car wash not too long ago…looking good!

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?