Anyone who knows me knows I love my car. No, it’s not some fancy, sporty European coupe or a rock-climbing, off-roading, adventure-seeking vehicle. It’s not new, it has zero special features, and it doesn’t have leather seats. It’s just a plain ol’ Mazda sedan – a Mazda3 to be exact – that is one grade above the factory base model. In other words, it came with power locks and windows but that’s about it.
So why I do I love this little car so much? It’s obviously not any kind of status symbol, but it gets me where I need to go safely and reliably. It’s not a luxury car, but it’s not cramped and sits up to five people comfortably. More importantly, it will go 400 miles on one tank of gas that costs me about $35. And it was relatively cheap – $14,000 brand new off the lot – and it’s never given me any problems.
Most of all, I love this car because it’s paid off and all mine. I’ll be driving it until the wheels fall off, no matter how beat up it gets or aged it becomes.
You should feel the same way about your vehicle, and plan to keep your older car if you have one. From a financial standpoint, it’s a no brainer to keep your older car. Looks aren’t everything and the longer you hang on to one car, the more your bank account will thank you. Remember, function is far more important than driving your money around or having something flashy waiting for you in the parking lot.
So keep your older car until it just won’t run anymore. After all, the main purpose of our vehicles is to get us from point A to point B when the distance is too far to walk or bike (or if we don’t have to time to utilize these slower means of transportation, or are hauling a lot of stuff – you get the idea). The purpose is not to show off or to prove something about your self-worth to others.
Not totally convinced that your older car is saving you some money? Then consider the costs of buying something newer:
- New car = new car payment. Too bad your new car is taking up a huge chunk of money every month that could be going toward debt repayment, savings, or investments.
- Speaking of investments, cars are one of the worst. The second you drive your new (or even new-to-you) vehicle off the lot, it immediately depreciates by hundreds, even thousands of dollars that you won’t get back when you want to sell or trade up in another two years for something else new.
- Cars are assets that are risky in every sense of the word: not only do they depreciate at an astonishing rate, but thanks to people who don’t pay attention or make poor driving decisions, they are also likely to get dinged, scratched, or ran into every single time they move out of the driveway (and sometimes, even in the driveway).
- Expect your insurance to go up. Car insurance will be more on a newer vehicle than on an older car.
- Your taxes/renewal fees are going up, as well.
All those expenses add up to a huge cost that doesn’t make sense. The newer the cars, and the more frequently you get yourself a newer car, the more money your vehicles are going to eat through. If you’re convinced the smart money move is hanging on to your used vehicle, the next step is making sure you can do that for as long as possible. Implement these tips to keep your car running for years to come:
- Pay attention to the little things and adhere to regular maintenance schedules. Get your oil changes every 3,000 to 6,000 miles (depending on your car – check your owner’s manual) and be sure to check fluids.
- Even if it’s old and already a little beat up, treat your car to a wash on a regular basis. Cars pick up a lot of abrasive crud from the road; keeping things nice and clean will help paint and parts last longer.
- Drive as little as possible. The less driving, the less wear and tear (and the less you’ll spend on gas). You’ll also lessen your chances of getting tangled in an accident.
- In cold weather, allow your car to warm up to operating temperature, ideally before taking off – if that’s not possible, try to take care and drive slowly until the temperature heats up.
- On that note, try avoiding driving like a bat out of hell by smashing the gas and taking off like a rocket every time you accelerate. Jackrabbit accelerations are hard on car engines.
When your old car can get you around in a reliable and safe manner, why trade up for something that will function in the same fundamental way as what you already have? Do your finances a favor and keep your older car for as long as you possibly can – and enjoy all that money you’ll keep in your bank account, too.
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