When you’re young, free and single, buying a new car is easy. You match the maximum amount of available cash/credit to the maximum amount of cool you can afford and sign your life away. When you’re married, buying a new car is a pain in the ass, right from the git-go. Which car do we sell? Who gets the new car? Who gets the old car? How practical should it be? How stylish? Whose style? How much car can WE afford? Post-nuptial new car negotiations can present anything from a small bump in the marital road to a VERY expensive write-off.
Not to stereotype, but many a husband wants more car than the couple can afford (without sacrificing that big screen TV), while plenty of wives wants a cute car with less power than a lawn mower (without sacrificing new carpets and curtains). In other words, men are from Mopar, women are from… some planet where the color of a car is more important than the vehicle underneath the paint job.
Unless you’re a perfectly compatible couple, such deliberations ultimately boil down to a simple power struggle— one of many that all couples face over years/months of marriage.
Usually, couples hammer out some kind of compromise. The guy gets the car he wants, or the woman gets the car she wants, and then one, the other or both live with simmering resentment.
Thankfully, the rise of the two income family has removed a great deal of the animus from the process– which is a bit like saying nuclear weapons have made the world a safer place. But then couples argue over money more than anything else. Cars are a couple’s second largest purchase after their home. Do the math. And then duck.
As the years roll by, a couple’s vehicular needs change: from two-seaters to five-seaters to minivans to college cars back to sedans to two seaters. But the power struggle remains. As a grizzled veteran of two
world wars marriages (let’s just call the exit from the first an “honorable discharge”), I’ve experienced a fair amount of car-centric combat discord. If there’s one piece of advice I can give men facing this strife it’s this: surrender.
Let’s be honest: what guy wouldn’t like to go out and buy a new car paying scant attention to such trivial matters as cash flow? Upside-down on your current car? Heck, just go out and get a “refi” and use the equity in your house to buy that shiny-new object of your innermost automotive desire. I don’t know about you, but my spending habits are based on the simple idea that there’s no tomorrow.
Meanwhile, my [second] wife saves money like a four-handed, amphetamine-crazed squirrel preparing for The Mother of All Winters. With all my nuts safely stashed (so to speak), income stays put, while outgo is as rare as a Tiffany lamp in Wal-Mart.
After many a skirmish, I’ve come to appreciate the resolute focus my “spousal unit” has placed upon saving for the future. It took a long time, but I now understand why she thinks fast cars are a needless extravagance. Or, if you prefer, I look at homeless people of a certain age and wonder which Ferrari they used to own before cocaine turned to whiskey turned to malt liquor.
I repeat: listen to the Mrs. Cars are depreciating assets. There’s absolutely no sense in the act of taking cash out of an appreciating asset (your humble abode) to burn on something that will devalue over time (new kitchen counter tops don’t count, apparently).
It may be a quick burn, say, like the value of a Chrysler Sebring. Or, it may be a slower burn, like a Honda-something. Unless you’re buying stratospherically-priced “investment grade” sheet metal, the value of your whip will prove Newton’s theory of gravity– without the “going up” bit.
That’s not to say there is no joy in Mudville. If you both agree there’s room for a new toy in the budget, providing there actually is, life can be sweet. You can go out and enjoy the fruits of your (joint) labor. OK, you’ll probably be so old by then that you no longer have the eyesight and hand-eye coordination to fully enjoy your fire-breathing SRT-8mobile or MX-5 whippet. But financially speaking, you won’t be the loser you look like.
Of course, all this advice is predicated on the assumption that you’re not amongst those fortunate pistonheads who can afford to indulge their automotive appetites without the slightest regard to the money they’re pissing away on an endless succession of four-wheeled paramours. If that’s the case, go ahead, laugh. But here’s a message from those of us whose financial safety demands we let our better halves curb our enthusiasm: you go boy! You go!