Marriage and Cars

Glenn Swanson
by Glenn Swanson
marriage and cars

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 [s]world wars[/s] marriages (let’s just call the exit from the first an “honorable discharge”), I’ve experienced a fair amount of car-centric [s]combat [/s]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!

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  • 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. :-)

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.