I purchased a new 2007 Honda Civic on March 15th of the same year. At the time, Betsy (my loyal 1995 Geo Prizm) was too unsafe to drive. The missing dome light and duct taped side view mirror didn’t bother me at all. Nor was I rattled when all the internal door handles crumbled and fell off. The nonworking external key hole on the passenger side was a non-issue. It wasn’t until after the air bag light came on, and the seat belt started to malfunction that I began to take notice: perhaps Betsy was turning into a death trap.
The decision to purchase a new car wasn’t made lightly. I estimated it’d cost at least $1,000 to return Betsy to the condition she was in during her glory days of 2005. Kelly Blue Book suggested Betsy wasn’t even worth $700 back then. It didn’t seem like a wise financial move to pay more on repairs than the car was worth. Reluctantly, I began the long and painful process of letting go.
After I decided to move on from Betsy, I commenced searching for a reliable, fuel efficient, Japanese vehicle.
Go ahead. Call me un-American.
You see, Betsy was practically identical to a Toyota Corolla. Although American made, I attributed the mechanical dependability of Betsy to the engineering prowess of the Japanese. Therefore, the most reliable vehicles were designed by the Japanese. To the best of your ability, please refrain from pointing out the fallacy in my reasoning and the inadequacy of my sample size in reaching the aforementioned conclusion.
I did my research, took the 2007 Honda Civic for a test drive, and, long story short, bought it for $17,572 (including tax, tag, title, and all the other trumped up fees charged by the dealer and local government). I thought I got a pretty good deal.
I would still consider the “out the door” price for the new vehicle to be a good deal IF I drove my car more. After 865 days (2.3 years), I’ve driven the Honda Civic 20,716 miles. You’d think I was leasing it. The bulk of those miles were accumulated in the first year of ownership. Excluding the two block drive to and from the bus stop, I don’t even drive my car most weekdays.
Here’s where I begin tormenting myself. I think about the fact that I retired Betsy when she was approximately 194K miles old. I’m guessing I could’ve bought a decent car with less than 100K miles for around $8K.
Why did I buy a new car? I thought it was a necessity. I thought I needed something reliable to last me for the next 10, 15, 20 years. You’d have to see the state Betsy was in to fully comprehend the use I get out of my vehicles.
By the time I reach the 194K mile mark on the Honda Civic, I suspect the difference in value between it and the mythical used car I could have bought will be insignificant. Even still, can you imagine what the excess cash ($9,572) paid for the Honda Civic could become if invested in the stock market over the next decade?
Faced with a stratospheric repair bill, I certainly wouldn’t tap into my emergency fund to get my car fixed. Why? Because, it isn’t a necessity. Transportation is a necessity. Who says that transportation only exists in the form of a car that you own? Being that I’m too much of a chicken to ride my bike on the open road, I’d either utilize public transit or my feet to get to where I needed to go. Should I need an actual set of wheels, that’s what Zipcar is for.
It wasn’t until after I read Chris Balish’s book, How to Live Well Without Owning a Car (buy it at B&N with Barnes and Noble coupons), that I realized I’d been lied to all these years. Don’t make the same mistake I did.