Hammer Time: Killing The Impulse

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time killing the impulse

Most folks buy cars on impulse. Sure, they’ll read a bit in Consumer Reports or maybe even take a gander through online resources, but most consumers really do buy with their eyes when it comes to cars. Unfortunately they will also find themselves in debt up to their ears if they choose to finance it. So what should non-cash buyers do? To quote Lao Tzu, “When in doubt, do nothing.” Or, to put it in the words of this commuter, “We don’t need another fucking car on the road.”

Your footwear is going to have a bigger impact on your life than the car you drive. Really. So will your vacations. Your investments. Your consumption of coffee, chocolate, cheese . . . heck reading up on the oldest sport in the world would literally give you far greater bang for the buck than a car. I’ll be blunt: When it comes to all the things you can spend hundreds of hours a year working for, a new car is simply not worth it. Even a car nut like me would rather go on fifteen or twenty sojourns with the family (or spouse) this year versus spending it on a new car. To me that’s worth far more than the glorified transportation modules of the modern day.

For starters, most cars these days are about 25 to 40 percent cheaper after their first year. Even more if it’s a Chrysler, Suzuki, or a soon-to-be-defunct model. Those who want to invest in a quality product can still get 80 to 90 percent of a car’s life for anywhere between 40 to 65 percent of the new car price at the two-year level. Want a warranty? Buy a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. The warranties are usually longer than their new car twins. They’re designed to rip you off, too, but at least you’ll make less of a mistake. For those who really want to do it right, I have a short series on TTAC dedicated to making the used car purchase work.

Also consider the fact that most cars for non-enthusiasts are expensive as hell and death defyingly boring to drive in the real world. Very few of us commute along winding one lane roads that have hairpin turns and 55+ mile per hour speed limits. Car commercials and ’net ads will try to suspend our reality. But in the real world of commuting, we will never wring out even half of the level of horsepower and performance that a new $20,000+ vehicle will give us on a daily basis.

As for advertising and the other elixirs of modern day commerce, let’s face it. They’re never going to change. Why should they? Fear, greed, anger, smugness, and any other lower order emotion du jour is routinely given in exchange for rational thinking. Most of the time it works. Would any automaker ever show you the math? Hell no! In fact these days they’re exclusively dependent on those who can’t add. Most consumers simply fail to do the “new car” numbers or they would never buy new in the first place.

Some say that’s capitalism in the US of A. We need those who make stupid decisions so that life’s easier for all of us “holier than thous” who know better. I don’t believe that. At least for me, I’ve always seen capitalism as little guys outsmarting the subsidized big guys. Only the politicians, the involuntarily poor, the inbred elite, and those who are struggling with simple mathematics should ever find their way spending their way into “new car” servitude. The rest of us literally have millions of used cars to choose from that can take their place in a minute’s notice at a fraction of the price.

What says you?

[Send your car buying/selling questions to Steve Lang at carselect@gmail.com]

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2 of 104 comments
  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Apr 13, 2009

    leasing a new car and writing off the lease payment (+ the sales tax which you roll into the lease payment - yes, you write off sales tax from your income tax. Fuck you government!) is the only reason to purchase a new car.

  • on Apr 15, 2009

    [...] Read more here: Hammer Time: Killing The Impulse | The Truth About Cars [...]

  • ToolGuy The dealer knows best. 🙂
  • ToolGuy Cool.
  • ToolGuy This truck is the perfect size, and the fuel economy is very impressive.-This post sponsored by ExxonMobil
  • ToolGuy If I were Jeep, I would offer a version with better NVH and charge more for it.And then I would offer a version with worse NVH, and charge more for it. (There is an audience for both.)
  • Szi65724742 Not saying dude's not a douche, but Google Maps doesn't show a stop sign at any of the three Walmarts dumping onto 60 - there's a stop-line at best. And while you nerd-rage at a random dude in a truck, a similar thing happens ALL. THE. TIME here - get Prius'd and Tesla'd every single day. I got hit while stopped at a stoplight. 7:30am, sunny morning, clear, straight sightlines for a couple miles. Was a loaded down work van. I don't rage and yell to get those off the streets. Blame the drivers, not the vehicles.