By on December 28, 2012

Jeffrey writes:

We are seriously considering selling a vehicle. This would have been an easier decision had we just not purchased a new car. Plus we may now become a one car family thanks to my bike friendly commute.

The vehicles we have are a 2012 Accord sedan EX-L I4 5AT and a 2007 Outback wagon 2.5i H4 5MT. Both vehicles are great in their own ways. I’m torn on which to sell for both financial reasons and “enthusiast” reasons. The Accord is loaded out and I love it.  Comfortable, very fuel efficient (avg was 35mpg doing 65-85mph depending on the state), and every Honda I’ve owned has been stellar.

The 2 car seats still leaves room for an adult and there is plenty of room with the rear-facing seat. Also, the gray interior is easier to maintain and clean. Yes we’re paying a car note and I’m not really in a hurry to pay it off at 0.9% financing. The payment is in the budget and not an issue.

The Outback is a mid-level model with cloth, winter package, mediocre stereo but it excels at what it was designed for: camping, winter, dirt/mud, and hauling. Basically, the Idaho lifestyle we live. It does have 67k miles, headgaskets were replaced under warranty at 32k, and I’ve shelled out money for wheel bearings, tie rods, brakes, axles, etc…maybe it’s common. T-belt will need to be done soon. There are squeaks and rattles in cold temps. My 98 Acura with 160k miles (which the Accord replaced) was still very tight. Also, the rear seat doesn’t offer room for anyone other than a meth addict or under 12 years with the 2 car seats and the tan cloth is tough to keep clean. I have car seat mats, Weathertech mats, and a Canvasback cargo liner but I’m still cleaning!

So, that is the bad. The good is it’s very enjoyable to drive, I would miss having a manual and the balanced ride. It grips nicely on loose surfaces with Geolander AT-S tires. We also use it to tow a small trailer sometimes.I could even install a hitch and use our little utility trailer on the Accord for picking up something bulky but not too heavy.

I know my wife would prefer the Honda because it’s fancy and new, but then she starts mentioning a Pilot or Explorer, or the like. And then she wants to buy a camper. That’s called moving on up in the PacNW I guess. I’m from the south.  We had sedans and wagons.

So, I laid it out for you guys to help me. And as I type this out it seems the Subaru will probably go. I think I’d miss it more than the Honda leaving. But the Honda is a smarter choice. It’s 5 years newer, will cost less overall, and will serve us fine in 95% of our travels.

Steve Says:

If it had been me, I would have opted for one of the last stickshift Hondas during the recent model changeover. Then you could have always added leather seats at your friendly local auto recycling center while saving about $8000 in principal and interest.

My brother-in-law taught me that neat trick on a 2001 Escape XLS 5-speed that I bought for him way back in late 2005.  He still drives it  and I still enjoy seeing it on the road with over 240,000 miles.

So now you have the new car, and a near-new car. Two cars. One job. So obviously you think you should sell the older one. I wouldn’t go there quite yet… and here’s why.

You haven’t actually chosen to live with one car and realized that experience. If you are serious about slimming down and your wife becoming a stay-at-home (good move!), then take a couple of months and live out that one car lifestyle.

Once you have done it, you will know if it’s worth it.

I admire your desire to put the family first and build some equity for the long-term. Your Accord will likely last another 15 years so if you do this, it should work out in the long run. Just make sure you both are married to a one car lifestyle before finally cutting the cord. I would hate to see you buy new again and assume another stiff monthly payment.

Sajeev Says:

You say you two are ready to take the plunge into single car ownership, but I ain’t buyin’ it. Idaho isn’t exactly New York City, and Murphy’s Law will hit hard: when one of you is putting the miles on the Accord, the other will want a car to get out of the house.

This is America, dammit: one car per person, not per household!  Don’t let the (insert fictional enemy of your choice) win!

Your Subie sounds too needy for its age, especially if you aren’t a DIY type of repairman. You are considering toys like a camper, so by all means dump it on craigslist and get a 5-10 year old full size truck or body-on-frame SUV. Sure they are no fun to drive, but an honest machine like that is what you need as a second vehicle.  Even when it does nothing, it serves a purpose waiting in the wings to:

1. Tow your Trailer
2. Go camping
3. Do household/personal projects
4. Not be a pig to work on like your troublesome Subie.

You need a second vehicle, but it needs to be an honest friend that takes very little of your money and is always ready to help.

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30 Comments on “New or Used: One Car Too Many, One Car Too Few?...”

  • avatar

    “Jeffrey” also does not mention why they (he and the wife) wants to be a single car family. I’m not sure what’s the question here. If you really want to sell one vehicle, obviously the Subaru is the one to sell, it’s just common sense and obvious, no need to think twice.

    But buying car in the US is easy enough to do, it’s not like in Beijing where you have to win a lottery to buy a car, so just sell the Subie before it develops even more problem which needs more money to fix before it can be sold. Then try to live with just the Honda for a while. If it turns out to be unbearable, then go out and get a second vehicle!

  • avatar

    The author makes it sound like neither he (nor his wife) are exactly sure of what their needs/wants are. Sell a car because you don’t need it, but then buy an Explorer/Pilot/Camper? Whatever the motivation, it must not be economic.

    Unless the wife (with her two children) is prepared to go without transportation when the Honda inevitably needs to be serviced, why sell a car with no payments, and replace it with someone else’s troubles (or a payment)?

    Until the cost of maintenance and insurance on the Subaru get out of hand, I see no reason to sell, unless the reason is boredom.

    If selling is the only option, the Subaru probably retains a greater % of its value (for its age), and I’d imagine there might be more demand for used AWD vehicles in the PacNW.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, I probably wasn’t more clear.

      We don’t really want an SUV or camper…sometime way down the road. It was tongue in cheek about my wife, she has been taking the kids to school and sees other women with big vehicles.

      The motivation is not necessarily cash flow but I can stick more money in the savings, I can better utilize half of my garage.

      • 0 avatar

        For all, you do have a point about the car needing unnplanned service. Since the car is still new and under warranty, the Honda dealer will bring a loaner and take our car back. Otherwise, planned service can be scheduled on the weekends. I used to be a DIY person, but I found the kids and the house take more time and I enjoy house work more than cars.

  • avatar

    Get rid of that Subaru as fast as possible; it’s not going to suddenly become more reliable. You’ve described about $2-3k worth of work it has needed over its first 5 years of life (assuming someone else’s labor), which is pretty terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Wheel bearings, tie rods, brakes, axles, and the timing belt noose looming, all before 67k. Horror. “Etc?” No mention on how big a cost was that. How does this brand keep its misleading-reputation so high, I wonder? I ditched my last Subaru money pit for a GM full size pickup, and life’s never been better.

  • avatar

    Steve’s suggestion to try living as a one car family is a good one. That will tell you whether you will really be comfortable being stranded anytime your spouse is out running an errand. Even if you keep two cars, maybe you can sell the Subie, which does sound like a less than stellar example of the brand, and pick up something that you will drive sparingly for less money. Maybe an old Tacoma. If you won’t be commuting, you can either get a hobby car (a pit into which you pour money) or you can get something that does what the Accord cannot (drive off road, pick up large items, haul away yard debris to the dump).

  • avatar

    I’m gonna use the opposite argument. Keep the Outback as it better suits your lifestyle. The stuff that I’ve heard people say breaks on those vehicles has already broken for you so it’s likely more reliable now than it ever was.

    Why keep the Acura when there isn’t sufficient room inside and it is impossible to keep clean? I don’t believe you can go to a one car family either, with kids it will be nice to have the spare vehicle around, and a spare vehicle that they actually fit into and don’t dirty just by looking cross-eyed at it.

    • 0 avatar

      He has an Accord, not an Acura. And if an Accord isn’t sufficiently roomy (which is hard to believe since it’s HUGE!) the only thing that’s bigger won’t be a sedan unless it’s a stretch limo.

    • 0 avatar

      We sold the Acura this past summer and replaced it with the new Accord. The Subaru is a bit tighter and really hard to keep clean on the inside. I mentioned the Acura because it was still tight as a drum at such high mileage, but was replaced due to age and my wife not trusting it as much anymore.

      We did get a stellar deal on the Accord, $8k off sticker on an EXL and it really is an enjoyable car with tons of room and exterior dimensions that aren’t much bigger than the Acura it replaced. I did get a hitch for it, off Craigslist for $50 and I’m certain the car would pull our little utility trailer if ever needed. My in-laws, whom live 6 miles away, have an extra truck (90 F250 4-door duallie 460 5-speed) that I could use anytime.

      • 0 avatar

        I must disagree on Accord being enjoyable. My uncle loves Accords. He has two 2005s over last few years and recently bought a 2010. He is a strictly A-to-B-with-least-trouble kind of guy which means anything he buys must reliable and extremely boring. Therefore I stay away from Accords. They’re just yawn-inspiring.

        I owned a ’93 and test-drove an ’07 with 6MT not long ago. All boring reliable appliances but fun is not something they’re built for.

      • 0 avatar

        Enjoyable has many different definitions. I found the car to be an enjoyable cruiser covering 1900 miles in 2 days and hauling my kiddos around with plenty of room. I added a RSX rear sway bar and that has helped in curves. But it’s mission is for my wife, mainly, to get from A to B.

        The outback is enjoyable in many ways but comfort is definitely not one of them.

  • avatar

    Here is a financial neutral idea that would allow you to enjoy your lifestyle.

    Sell the Subie and put the cash in the bank.

    Trade in the Honda on a new 2013 AWD Chevrolet Equinox. Really! It tows 3500 pounds, looks great, reasonably priced, and it gets good mileage. My neighbor has one that he drives back and forth from Michigan to Arizona. He loves it and it has been totally reliable. The Pilot or Explorer is too expensive to come out close to the Honda trade in value.

    Get another set of wheels and buy winter snow tires. This makes a huge difference in the winter.

    See if you can live with one vehicle. If not, you have the Subie cash in the bank to buy a used low mileage Panther or Buick from Florida!

  • avatar

    If I’m not wrong, 4wd on the Subie will require all new tires if one fails. A larger single new tire will mess up the differentials. Also, in the PNW it’s not going to be to tough to sell the Subie, so you have the cash and the single insurance payment helping you out. This stuff adds up, so you can correct your mistake later.

    • 0 avatar

      This is true to an extent, but before a certain level of wear, you can replace one tire (I had one replaced when my car had about 3000 miles on it due to a road hazard) and keep going.

      I haven’t had nearly that many problems with my Subaru, at least not at that mileage (my front wheel bearings needed replacing at around 90K). Head gaskets are still fine at 127K, but then I have the H6.

      My thinking has always been, have at least one paid-for car, so my inclination would be to keep both (ditching a brand-new Accord is probably not wise). You can always park it, see how abstaining from a second car goes, and then decide. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it? But of course, having it and not needing it still means insuring it and keeping it registered.

    • 0 avatar

      Or you measure the tread depth on the other 3 tires and head to the used tire stores or get on E-bay and find a suitable match.

      If that doesn’t turn up a matching tire with an acceptable tread depth then call up tire rack and have a new one shaved to match. Now of course you’d want to balance the cost of that shaved tire vs the percentage of life still left on your other tires and how long you plan to keep the car.

  • avatar

    I think I am sticking to my car until it dies. In the meantime, I’ll buy used Ford engine when it is time at my nearest LKQ salvage yard.

  • avatar

    If money isn’t an issue keep them both. It sounds like they each serve seperate purposes and one isn’t a full replacement for the other.

  • avatar

    We could be a one-car family, since I commute by bicycle and have a friend a few blocks away who has a beater truck we can borrow for rough work. We are a four car family, though. Why? Well, it’s not that expensive to keep an older car car around here in Oregon, and it’s handy to have an extra car around if the wife’s car is in the shop or if I need to be on the other side of town when she has driven out of town.

    Unless you want one car for ideological reasons (I have friends like that), I’d suggest you either keep the Subaru, or sell it and get something older that would have the fun to drive qualities that you like and will not cost much to run and insure. That’s a Miata for me (plus a Triumph Spitfire and a Rover P5) – I’m sure there is something out there you’d like.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Do nothing. The transaction costs of buying and selling a car are killer. That’s when the depreciation chickens come home to roost. The cheapest car to own is almost always the car you already have.

    I’m pretty skeptical of one who is willing to bicycle commute in winter in Idaho, but maybe that’s just me. Steve’s idea about trying the bicycle thing is a good one. Start now. If you are OK with bicycle commuting in Idaho in January, then you are OK with it. Also, it will at least extend the life of the Subaru a little which is worthwhile. If the Subaru dies or if you decide to sell the Subaru and then change your mind because you get tired of the bicycle commute after a few months, no harm done. Use the money saved on car payments to help with the down payment.

    Its just amazing how much we spend on cars. When my kid started driving, I considered buying a third car. Then I realized that I could let my kid drive my car while I do a combination of bicycle commuting and drop offs and get by. Kid went away to college and doesn’t need a car, and I saved a pile of money.

  • avatar

    Buy a truck in the south and drive it up north (if you let go of the subie).

  • avatar

    Sajeev said Idaho and you said Pacific NW.

    Not really the same, IMHO winters in Idaho are way different than Western Washington or Oregon. A lot colder and the snow is dryer.

    I would keep the Subie for Idaho and sell it if you are in WA or OR. Lots of buyers here in WA, you could sell it very quickly.

    The FWD accord is fine for PAC-NW.

  • avatar

    sell the subie for more than you think you can. u won’t believe
    how many calls you will get for that weak POS.

  • avatar

    ‘bike-friendly commute’…in IDAHO.

    What?! Are you going to be pedaling along to work in January with 30 mph wind and snow blowing in your face?

    Let’s get real here. You need two cars, bro. Mom gets the sedan to cart the kids around, but dad needs SOMETHING. Get rid of that Outback and get an early model Tacoma 4×4 with an extended cab for the camping trips.

    • 0 avatar

      An extended cab Tacoma is way too small. But, a pickup has been considered.

      I live in the heart of Boise, downton (work) is no more than 5 miles away. That is either by greenbelt or by street. Temps and weather can suck, but there is also a bus for $1/trip.

      Part of the equation I didn’t previously mention, is that I don’t drive to work because it also cost money to park.

  • avatar

    One car per person? Sheesh, I have 4. Having 2 cars around doesn’t seem like too big of a deal if one I’d parked most of the time. You can always move it outside when you need to do something in the garage, or just leave it outside all the time with a decent cover on it.

  • avatar

    We’ve been a one-car family for a year, until last week when I inherited my mom’s Grand Am (with Ram Air induction!) I have to say, it’s nice having an extra set of wheels again.

    That said, your Subie scares me. I have an Element built the same year with the same miles. Aside from fluids and a set of tires, I haven’t put a dime into it. Still, you probably won’t put a lot of miles on it if you’re biking a lot, I’d keep it for a while and see how it goes.

    I have a brother-in-law who bicycles about 20 miles one way to work in eastern Washington, so should be do-able in Idaho. He is kind of crazy though…

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