Piston Slap: Feelin' Blue, FR-S?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Brandon writes:


I wrote to you a few years ago about my dilemma with a boring Cobalt. Now I’m writing because I have the opposite problem. I held onto the Cobalt for a wonderful year with no car payment before trading it in on a 2013 FR-S in April 2013. At the time, no one could talk sense into me. I wanted THAT car. While I still love it and by no means want to let it go, there are some issues with the practicality of sports car ownership. Those issues as follows:

  • The future Mrs. isn’t comfortable driving stick so we usually take her ’07 Camry with 210k on the clock wherever we go out in case she needs to drive.
  • Since buying the car we’ve added a 100 pound fur baby to the mix and he can’t get in my car.
  • Future Mrs. ships off to Northwestern in 9 month for prosthetic school and can’t take the dog with her.
  • Student debt is going to be a big issue for us upon her graduation in 2017. I’d like to have a reliable 4 door paid off before we think about having kids.
  • If I move away from the city center, I’m going to need a way to transport my bikes, which with the FR-S the answer seems to be to install a hitch. To that I say no.

The way I see it my two options are:

  1. Keep the FR-S and pray I never need to take the dog to the vet while she’s away at school or hope I can bum a ride from a relative close-by. Also, since I owe around $10k still, I won’t be dumping it just to bring on more debt. It will be paid off in 3 years if I only make minimum payments. Also, I’ll continue to live in the middle of downtown and pay through the nose for rent since cycling is my big hobby.
  2. Trade in the FR-S on a used near-luxury sedan, such as a Buick Regal Turbo or a Acura TSX that has already taken the depreciation hit and can be had in the $18k range. If I can get at least $14-15k on trade in, at most we’re talking financing $12k over 4 years but paying off sooner if able. I’m thinking those are worst case numbers based off my cruising TruCar and the like. My credit is great and interest rates seem low. I’m really just concerned about the beating at trade-in even though the car is in great shape.
  3. **Bonus Option** My dad says he’ll sell me his ’00 Silverado for $5000 and I can just leave it parked on the street downtown somewhere for emergencies unless I move back home.

I know this is a long post with lots of variables, but I think I can boil my question down to this: If the compromises I made for the FR-S are getting harder to continue to justify, what’s the best car option long term? Do I suck it up and hope for the best? Or do I hope there’s enough equity in the car to justify purchasing a Regal or TSX? A decision has to be made before she ships off to Chicago and I’m stuck without her lovely Camry to save the day.

Sajeev answers:

You are almost there! You got the “Bonus Option” all wrong. To recap:

  • Your life needs something cheap-ish; a used practical vehicle with someone else’s problems, to compensate for a certain future of financial debt!
  • You live “in the middle of downtown”, so I assume – unless you work in outside sales, real estate, etc – that public transit, bike parking, occasional use of taxis and/or a not impressive looking daily driver is totally acceptable.
  • You likely owe less on the FR-S than a sale at private party value, assuming mileage isn’t far beyond the norm.
    • And assuming you didn’t beat the shit out of it, or smoke like a chimney in it.
  • You owned a Cobalt at our last Piston Slap, so you aren’t an uppity elitist that can’t live without something luxurious and/or sporty.

Oh wait, it was a Cobalt SS. Perhaps you are a performance junky. I am, too, yet content with regular cab pickup ownership (after Bilsteins, short shifter and an ECU re-flash) to zip around town, doing the rear-wheel-steer thang while saving big money for hobbies. I care not about preconceived notions of what defines a performance-minded street vehicle. Or how that definition appeases the sensibilities of others.

So here’s the deal:

  • Buy Dad’s (presumably trusty) truck and recon whatever is needed for downtown commuter status.
  • Install Bilstein shocks for a modicum of RWD fun. I reckon it’s still on the original dampers which are hella toast.
    • Don’t make it pretty, don’t put an exciting stereo (install new speakers if needed) just leave it as a Q-ship.
  • Save even more money by parking on the street, no more renting spots!
  • Sell the FR-S for private party value, pay off the loan, make a few bucks.
  • Happily drive the truck and pocket the cash (and future savings) for your upcoming (?) wedding, a car to replace the Camry, expenses that come with fatherhood and/or down payment on a house.

Go ahead, Best and Brightest. You know I got this one all wrong, so give it to me!

[Image: Scion/Toyota]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Baconator Baconator on Jun 08, 2015

    I share a Passat with the owner of a 75-lb Great Dane, and as much as we think of the back seat as being for the dog, the dog really wants to climb up into the front seat every damn time. And if that Great Dane can be happy on my lap in the passenger seat, your 100-lb fur baby should be happy as the sole passenger of the front seat of the Subie. If your missus is going many miles away, then it does not matter if she can drive your car. That's 2017's problem, and by then you'll have a lot more equity in the FR-S.

  • Leonard Ostrander Leonard Ostrander on May 26, 2023

    Oh, the 100 pound fur baby is a dog! I assumed it was Brandon Junior. Keeping the FR-S is the clear and only priority for a happy life.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.