New or Used: One Car Too Many, One Car Too Few?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used one car too many one car too few

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 Trailer2. Go camping3. Do household/personal projects4. 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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3 of 30 comments
  • Wheeljack Wheeljack on Dec 29, 2012

    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.

    • MrWhopee MrWhopee on Dec 30, 2012

      Worse. He's thinking about one car for the whole household, 2 people.

  • Russycle Russycle on Dec 31, 2012

    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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