Marriage and Cars

Glenn Swanson
by Glenn Swanson

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!

Glenn Swanson
Glenn Swanson

Glenn is a baby-boomer, born in 1954. Along with his wife, he makes his home in Connecticut. Employed in the public sector as an Information Tedchnology Specialist, Glenn has long been a car fan. Past rides have included heavy iron such as a 1967 GTO, to a V8 T-Bird. In between those high-horsepower cars, he's owned a pair of BMW 320i's. Now, with a daily commute of 40 miles, his concession to MPG dictates the ownership of a 2006 Honda Civic coupe which, while fun to drive, is a modest car for a pistonhead. As an avid reader, Glenn enjoys TTAC, along with many other auto-realated sites, and the occasional good book. As an avid electronic junkie, Glenn holds an Advanced Class amateur ("ham") radio license, and is into many things electronic. From a satellite radio and portable GPS unit in the cars, to a modest home theater system and radio-intercom in his home, if it's run by the movement of electrons, he's interested. :-)

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  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jul 26, 2007

    I guess I'm lucky in this respect. My wife and I barely had any disagreements when I decided that I needed a new car. I ended up in a Mazda6s not the RX8 I was originally shooting for or a dream car Corvette, but at least its a sport sedan. Given my salary I probably would have a Corvette right now if I were still single. Of course I woud be living in a house worth about half what our current house is worth with maybe two months pay in the bank. I'm not totally fiscally irresponsible, but I do spend whatever money I earn. My wife on the other hand is a CFO of a medium sized local business (200-300 employees). While she likes cars that go fast, she also appreciates 401Ks and saving for retirement. Thats how I ended up with an end of the model year, last on the lot, Mazda6s. The funny thing is, my wife currently owns a Cobra Mustang, which followed a 69 Porsche 911T, which follwoed an 84 Mustang. She makes fun of my responsible car and talks about the new Mustang she's going to get.:-) This is why I am lucky. My wife loves cars and only mildly rebuffs me when I talk about getting her an RX8 or a Porsche Boxster for her next car. The other reason I am lucky. My wife refuses to buy an auto. She has never owned an auto, and if she has any say in it, never will. While we'll never own anything ridiculously expensive, we both like to dream about it, and at the end of the day both of us come to our senses and get the (mostly) sensible car.

  • Glenn Swanson Glenn Swanson on Jul 26, 2007
    Lumbergh21: My wife refuses to buy an auto. She has never owned an auto, and if she has any say in it, never will. Same here: My wife drives a manual, as do I. :-)
  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.