QOTD: How Can You Minimize The Cost Of Keeping A Car?

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
qotd how can you minimize the cost of keeping a car

Whether you drive a $30,000 or a $1,500 a car, one variable in life stays constant.

You want to minimize your costs.

The average owner in North America now spends well over $8,000 a year covering all the costs of their car. Gas, insurance, maintenance, repair, depreciation, taxes, financing… and even the occasional upgrade.

When they can afford it.

That’s one issue that I see as the crux of autos ownership for most folks. The means of ownership. Can they afford what they drive.

The struggling family that goes to a dealership and zeros in on the nearest Cadillac or Mercedes these days is just as culpable for their behavior as the fellow who considers cigarettes to be vegetables, and vegetables to be weeds.

They have an unhealthy destructive habit that is a reflection of a marketplace where the bad choices are just as easily available as the good ones.

Forget about big brother. This is overwhelmingly a matter of personal decisions. We can make it out to be as fair or unjust as we like. But in the end, there is a bluntness to all of it that can’t be denied.

On one side of the fence, we realize the Darwinian aspects of it all. People who make bad decisions face consequences. This is an outcome that is healthy for an economy because it extinguishes the unhealthy activities, and encourages the good ones… in due time.

But sometimes you also see the elements of a rigged game. The manipulative capitalize on the weaker elements of human nature. While the ones victimized often don’t know any better and continue to do worse.

After decades of looking at this learned victimization, you can’t help but wonder whether millions of people have been brought up to not live beyond a certain level of struggle and mediocrity. Even if they tried to get ahead, the scourges of debt and dependency would lead them to poverty because they simply don’t know what they need to know.

That’s the issue I have at this point. A lot of folks believe that ignorance and an arrogant attitude go hand in hand. In extreme cases they do. But when it comes to cars, ignorance is born more out of fear and apathy than anything else.

So how do you minimize the cost of owning a car? $8,000+ represents an awful lot of waste and opportunity. A lot of incremental improvements in the ownership experience could yield a better standard of living for an awful lot of folks.

Where should be the focus?

Should education and hands on experience be the primary drivers? Or should engineering and design be the driving forces that minimize cost?

I believe that the common person is simply taught to be ignorant when it comes to automobiles. They have other things to do with their lives. That’s not a big deal when you think about it, because the same level of apathy is true with most other tools and appliances.

A school teacher may get a better financial boost from learning how to repair cars, dishwashers, cell phones, and roofs. But society gets a far greater benefit from letting them teach instead of changing a timing belt.

We need teachers. Not timing belts.

So how can the market forces highlighted in that drawing above better serve the financial needs of an overwhelmingly apathetic public?

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3 of 115 comments
  • R H R H on Aug 29, 2012

    I've only owned one new car/motorcycle and they are each 7 years old. Last used car I bought lasted 6 years 85k miles. I have no intention of letting either one go for the next 7-8 years unless my situation changes dramatically. Paid off = the best type of vehicle. I think at (52 k miles) in 7.5 years My car should last 20 unless rust gets it. My bike in the same period is approaching 26k miles. 250k/100k would be a good lifetime for both.

  • Scott_314 Scott_314 on Aug 29, 2012

    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the most effective way to minimize total cost of ownership, a way that millions of people who know nothing about cars can easily participate: Toyota Corolla.

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.