By on July 9, 2015

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If so, how much? In February, Baruth asserted, “You Gotta be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” — which is a contradiction of my entire experience as a youthful vehicle owner. But the meat of the article adjusts “rich” to a definition of “privilege.” Furthermore, he breaks the idea into eight talking points. Adding that its not money that directly enables the ownership of a cheap car, a more flexible financial and employment situation combined with some acquired skills and knowledge makes ownership an easier task.

It was a thought-provoking piece and elicited 4 times the comments than the NY to LA Cross Country Record post (but the April 1st post generated almost 10 times the Facebook shares).

Now before you Baruthians get your collective undergarments in a wad, I asked Jack to use this title. He approved it, which may be the first instance of privilege I will speak to. The second is that I may have timed my request during a period I believed him to be well into a bottle of Tito’s. To center this discussion, let’s list the 8 points of privilege as they relate here:

  1. Not having a job where you will be fired for not clocking in on time.
  2. No children or an alternative reliable car to transport them.
  3. Friends or family with free time to aid a stranded motorist.
  4. Living in a decent neighborhood and driving in safe areas.
  5. Financially capable of getting whatever parts the car needs.
  6. Skills as a mechanic and ownership of tools.
  7. Time and the inclination to handle issues as they arise, or barring that;
  8. The ability to just let the car sit.

For the record, I agree with the assessment that it does take privilege to own a cheap car, but I lean more toward the Tavarish side of it in — knowing just a few things and having a little fluid funding laying around can get you a better vehicle than purchasing new. However, if you are employed at a job that maintains a zero tolerance policy of missing work due to automotive issues, do not take this advice.

Four months ago, I acquired a 2002 Mercedes 430 CLK. The same one pictured above. The price for the V-8-powered example of German engineering? $0. How can that be? Well to quote our man Jack; privilege!

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In 2001, my brother purchased this coupe new. It came complete with CD-based navigation, integrated phone and a 275 horsepower, 4.3L V-8. He was in real estate and life was good. The Mercedes was soon cast aside for a pair of Range Rovers, a Ferrari and a Bell Jet Ranger.

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When the market corrected in 2008, his partner was driving it. On the freeway, he encountered a solid object. It ripped the front clip, busted 2 headlights and cracked the rain-sensing windshield. In that economy there was no money to fix it, so the front bumper was duck-taped into place. There it remained while business recovered. The car was never fixed. The last time it was washed was when Michael Jackson was still alive. Now it had racked up 208,000 miles, needed tires, and there was enough pine needles under the hood to cover a flowerbed. The car was worthless. No one would pay for a 13-year-old German car with those miles. It was certain to break and the repairs would be an albatross around the neck of anyone foolish enough to own it.

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Enter…me.

I have a weak spot for old German cars and wondered how bad the car was. A trusted independent shop went through the old girl stem to stern. Seven-hundred and fifty dollars later, I had a new power steering reservoir, trans flush and rear brakes. While the partner had neglected the outside, it did see regular service and oil changes. The compression was good and none of the codes stored in the computer were repetitious or signaled impeding doom.

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It is worth mentioning that this is a violation of the 6th assessment of privilege. I am a competent parts replacer, but I am by no measure a skilled mechanic — so I paid for this work. But it is an affirmation of the 5th assessment. Not only did I have $750 without impact to my budget, I also had the cash needed for the bodywork, paint and tires.

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Which is where the Merc went next. I researched the replacement parts. Knockoffs could be had on EBay for under $500 shipped. Installation would have taken me a day and I could have cleaned the car. The windshield would be beyond most shade tree mechanics. Aside from the equipment required just for installation, the rain-sensing feature put it out of my limited mechanical ability. I have also never had the patience for automotive paint.

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So I had it all done to the tune of $3700. Add a staggered set of closeout Sumitomo tires from TireRack.com, installed for under $500. Now I have this $5000 Mercedes coupe. There is no argument that owning an old luxury car is a luxury in itself. Aside from the lack of mechanical skill display by Tavarish and his friends, I possess all 8 aspects privilege Jack mentioned in his original piece. Even more so, I don’t have to worry about 15 degree temps and I have outstanding roadside assistance through USAA.

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The question I am posing 890 or so words later: Is the privilege required to own a cheap car less expensive than the privilege of a BMW lease?

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Last month, my wife’s BMW X1 was totaled two years into a 36 month lease. The BMW cost me $9,061.08 but the insurance payoff gave us back $2,800. So, our total outlay for that car over 2 years was $6281.08. BMW included all maintenance with the lease, so we haven’t had to buy so much as a windshield wiper. The Mercedes has about $5,700 in it as it sits. Can it make it another 19 months without great expense? Will privilege win out, or should I have just replaced the BMW with another?

Time will tell — and then dear reader, I will tell you.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, retired to Atlanta last year and thinks of Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski as a career goal. He is an idiot for driving a high-milage Mercedes when he also has a crappy, high-milage El Camino. Follow that and all his other shenaningans on InstagramTwitter and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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240 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Does It Really Take Privilege to Own a Cheap Car?...”


  • avatar
    skor

    A cheap car is not cheap if you have to pay someone to repair it. If you have: Space. Time. Talent. Tools. By all means, buy a cheap car. Otherwise Google ‘Thousand Dollar Car Bottle Rockets’ and play the video.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Jack is right (unfortunately), in most instances.
    If you live in an area where rust is not a problem and you drive relatively few miles then you might argue the reverse.

    Of course if you have children and they are driving long distances or at night, that adds another level of concern regarding older, higher mileage or cheap vehicles.

    After decades of costing, I have come to realize that the cost per mile if you drive the average of 20,000kms to 25,000kms per year or live in a northern climate and are not a competent ‘do it yourself’ mechanic with access to your own garage and tools is much less on a new, leased vehicle than on pretty much anything else.

    Get a lease on something like an Elantra, Corolla, Jetta, etc. Drive it for 3 or 4 years and 80,000 to 100,000 kms. Change the oil, filters and wipers. And that is it. Turn it in at the end of the lease and get another one. No replacement tires, no fluid flush/refills, no brake jobs or any worries about out of warranty repairs. Let the dealer worry about that.

    Your total cost of running a new to nearly new car would be less than $300 per month or less than 20 cents per kilometre + fuel and insurance.

    Much less than the costs allowed/estimated by businesses and the government for allowable business related expenses.

    And less than buying and owning longterm or buying used and having to replace and repair parts (tires at $500+, brakes at $600+, fluid flushes/changes at $100+, timing belts at $500+, Krowning each year at $125+, etc).

    Plus your own piece of mind.

    And if you want to work on a car yourself, then get a classic that is much easier and more enjoyable to work on and which you do not need to use or have to depend on.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Get a lease on something like an Elantra, Corolla, Jetta, etc”

      Getting a lease or loan if you make $1000 or less a month is nearly impossible.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        True but in that instance how much car can you afford and what happens if it needs repairs? Do you take a pay day or high interest loan to fix it up hoping to get another few months before the next repair.

        And in Ontario with mandatory insurance requirements and very high insurance premium rates, it would probably take a minimum of over 10% of your annual gross income just to insure a vehicle.

        Another reason why good, reliable, efficient mass public transit actually subsidizes employers. It allows them to pay workers lower wages because they do not need to have an auto, and also allows them to recruit from a wider geographic area.

        So good public transit is very much a societal benefit and worth the investment.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      Let’s see how that works. I will compare two cars: a brand new 2015 Honda Odyssey LX vs a used 2006 Honda Odyssey LX. This is a scenario I actually worked out before, as I bought a 2006 Odyssey LX last year.

      2015 Odyssey LX
      37,017 (Canadian dollars) MSRP including taxes and delivery
      36 months lease at 507$/month

      2006 Odyssey LX
      Price paid in 2014 was 10,000$ including taxes
      The car required a new set of winter tires at 850$ for good Michelins
      The car also required about 1000$ in AC repairs and misc stuff
      These purchases/repairs were done fairly close to the purchase date, so let’s lump everything in a single payment: 11,850$ (paid cash, of course)

      Because the 2006 Odyssey is quite old now, it is safe to assume that it will require, let’s say, 1500$ in repairs each year for the next 3 years.

      These are the numbers for a 3 year period:
      2015 Odyssey LX: 18,252$
      2006 Odyssey LX: 16,350$

      At this point the lease would be over and the cycle would start over if another lease is signed. For the used car it would continue to require 1500$ (maybe 2000$ eventually) in maintenance and repairs.

      All things considered I personally see more positive arguments for used vehicles than perpetual leasing:
      The used car is cheaper in the long run
      The used car costs less to insure
      The used car has no risk associated with it (no bank involved, paid cash)

      Edit: For fun let’s do this for 3 more years:
      Money spent on leases over 6 years: 36,504$
      Money spent on a used POS van over 6 years (assuming 2000$/year on repairs and maintenance for the last 3 years): 22,350$

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        How much is it worth to you:

        1) to be driving a nice new van rather than a worn-out POS, and
        2) to never have a mechanical failure, which is always going to happen at precisely the wrong time?

        This is the sort of thing a lot of TTAC Cheapskate Financial Advice ™ ignores.

        In commenter world, it doesn’t matter if things are old and crappy. Everyone has a perfect mechanic, the car teleports to the shop when it breaks, and the driver magically teleports to his or her destinations when the car is in the shop. Parts are always cheap, available, and of good quality.

        In the real world, showing up in a beat-up, worn 10-year-old van may cost you business, and you will be taking the bus in the snow while your shady mechanic overcharges you to install a crappy reman part which is the only one available and will break again, along with a couple of other things, on the night when you have to take your daughter to the ER.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “to never have a mechanical failure, which is always going to happen at precisely the wrong time?”

          This is wishful thinking even with brand new cars. They will break down less often, but the real benefit is not having the uncertainty of having to pay for the repair.

          A far more affordable 5-10 year old car is a perfectly reasonable solution for most people. They typically do not break down so often as to cause people to lose their jobs, and the procedure for getting them fixed is no different from a new car aside from actually paying the bill. Finding a decent mechanic really isn’t that hard. Dealers will try and rip a customer off just as hard or harder even when it goes in for warranty work.

          There are taxis, loaners, rental cars, AAA and ambulances to deal with the uncertainties of car break downs.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Maybe I’ve just chosen my cars well and/or gotten lucky, but I’ve never had any breakdown in any of the new cars I’ve bought. Ever. Only minor issues that can be fixed at my convenience.

            On the other hand, my POS used cars (admittedly, older than 10 years) left me fooling around underhood in parking lots, and figuring out the logistics of emergency shop visits, on a regular basis.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            I think 5-10 years is right on target. Even at age 10-12 you can still sell it to someone else for a beater if you’ve taken care of it. A few minutes on Craigslist shows there is a HUGE market for reliable cheap cars. Problem is, most sellers try to screw the buyer at this level.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            True.

            (Though a “really cheap” van, an actual POS in a way a nine year old Odyssey usually won’t be, is much more failure prone.

            But it’s not what you’re suggesting, of course.

            There’s a reason I no longer drive an almost 40 year old Mercedes.

            Well, lots of them.)

        • 0 avatar
          Cactuar

          Let’s put it another way. Here is a list of positive things for which I am willing to sacrifice driving a nice new van for (btw it doesn’t stay new for long):

          Our children’s education
          Our retirement
          Our financial security
          Our ability to give generously
          Our ability to invest

          For all these things I will gladly drive a worn-out POS van, even if our perceived social status is affected (irrelevent to us).

          And it’s still a very nice vehicle that meets all of our needs.

          • 0 avatar
            ah choo

            Don’t try and pretend that you don’t care about social status. You care just as much as the next guy – you’re simply expressing it in different ways. For you, social status is displayed by smugly revealing how fiscally prudent you feel that you are with your money while gallantly eschewing the meaningless trappings of a consumer driven society. You’re the like the people who don’t own a television – how do you know they are better than you? Don’t worry, they will tell you. Repeatedly.

        • 0 avatar
          omer333

          This is precisely something i am dealing with right now.

          When I was in my twenties I could only afford very cheap cars that often left me stranded by the side of the road, and I almost lost my job a few times because of that.

          As I got older, I decided that if I had the means I would buy new or CPO, mainly for the warranty protection.

          Since relocating for a new job in Utah, I had to leave my Dart with my wife, while I took her CR-V. She contacted me the other day to tell me the car had to be towed to the dealership due to engine failure. Repairs will be covered by the warranty.

          Now, if this had happened to me when I was 27, instead of 39, I’d be freaking out, trying to figure out how to get the money together to either fix the car or get a new one.

          Let’s be realistic here, usually when people buy cheap used cars, those car tend to be close to their very last legs of usability. And the idea of it being “cheap” or “paid for” fools you into thinking that the money spent every other month to fix the next problem is worth it to not have a car payment, even if you’re sometimes spending more than the average car payment for the repair.

          • 0 avatar
            ah choo

            Yeah but now your kids will never be able to attend college and you won’t be able to retire. :(

          • 0 avatar

            In ’85 I bought a ’77 toyota Corolla with 90k on the clock for around $950 inflation adjusted dollars. I had checked the oldest issue of Consumer Reports that had data on used Corollas, and they deemed it a good used car. I drove it for 8 years and 70,000 miles. Just once it let me down on the road.

            But our friend Mental Ward’s post is the exception that proves Baruth’s rule. And in my case, I was privileged with knowledge (for example to get advice from CR), education, work that did not require specific hours, and money in the bank due to frugal habits and the ability to do my own tuneups. My cost for the $70,000, including absolutely everything, was about 20 inflation-adjusted cents per mile.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good lord, engine failure on a Dart already? What the heck happened to it? It’s almost like these Fiats aren’t reliable or something.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “She contacted me the other day to tell me the car had to be towed to the dealership due to engine failure. Repairs will be covered by the warranty.”

            Oof, guess Edmunds’ long term test Dart really WAS fairly representative of the quality of these new FCA products, much to the chagrin of the “Mopar uber alles” crowd.

          • 0 avatar
            omer333

            Well, considering my car has the same Tigershark 2.4 that’s used in the Fiat 500x/Jeep Renegade, Jeep Cherokee, and Chrysler 200, as far as I know, mine’s the first one to die.

            In that case, it’s a pretty good engine.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        I think $1,500 a year in repairs, even on an ’06, is high. Even in my “unreliable” 11-yr-old VW, it doesn’t run nearly that high. Even if I paid somebody to do the work.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          Same here. My 2001 Ody with almost 200K miles on it hasn’t had any maintenance (besides oil changes) since a set of front brake pads a couple of years ago. Oh yeah, and one of the ignition coils went out, so that was another $50.

          No way it’s $1500/yr (now if my tranny pukes, all bets are off).

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Depends. One year it may be far less with only wear items and maintenance, and another it might be a big ticket item like a transmission. A $1500/yr average for a 10 year old car is fair I think.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          As they get older your annual service visits will get up there pretty easily. Stuff wears out, and there is a lot of stuff on a vehicle.

          That $1500 a year is mostly replacing all the little stuff that wears out. You don’t have to fix it all, but then you have a much crappier car.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        I am actually living your scenario right now and 5.5 years in.

        I bought 2004 Sienna with around 59,000 on it in 2009. My current monthly average for TCO on the Sienna is $285 for 5 and a half years.

        Now given that the van is the family truck, and has hauled everything from 12ft live edge planks for store fixtures I was building to literal piles of garbage, I was never going to destroy a new one that way.

        It worked fine for us, I wouldn’t try it with a Mercedes, but with a Toyota you are pretty safe. But we always had the cash to fix it and the $1000 yearly preventative stuff we could also afford easily.

        But now that its replacement is coming due, I am seriously looking at what I can lease or maybe buy for that price point. At the end of the day, to drive something nice is going to cost between $300 to $400 a month, unless you have the time and the tools to do the big stuff yourself.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The Sienna ranks at or near the top of most reliability lists. And it is good at retaining value.

          So your $285 per month cost of ownership is pretty good.

          For the same $285 you could be driving a fairly nice, nearly new vehicle and changing it every 3 years.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The Sienna carries a two-tone very well, so I hope you got one of those. Black over pewter is nice.

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            Weird Blue over grey cloth (with sport stripe on the side!), she was pretty when she was younger.

            Sadly, being pretty was never in her job description. She still cleans up fairly well on the inside though.

            I’ve always liked the look of her, I may just get another one yet.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh I know that blue. Sort of an Olds Ciera blue.

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            She was truly something in her younger years, it’s like a dark blue that manages to be bright somehow. Gorgeous

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @cactuar: Good try but what if your tranny craps out.
        There goes your $1,500 per year. The cost of a replacement alone more than offsets the difference in your calculations.

        And at the end of the 4 years, you are driving a 14 or 15 year old Odyssey, with negligible value, and have to start the cycle of trying to find a ‘good’ used vehicle again.

        And meanwhile your 10 to15 year old Honda is fighting off rust from the road salt, you need to replace the brakes (again) and the tires (again).

        Having been through this cycle for 40 years, it is the unexpected costs associated with older/used cars that cripple budgets.

        Finally you paid $12,000 in cash for the vehicle. What percentage of cars are paid for in cash? Ask Steve Lang, not that many.

        So the person financing a used car purchase is paying a very large amount of interest on it. and may be paying after the car is no longer working.

        Personally based on 40 years of auto ownership, I have tried leasing, new purchases and used purchases and calculated the cost per mile on each. Not including the worries involved , for average to above average mileage drivers who do not perform all the work themselves, you can’;t win. So when the cost is relatively equal, new wins.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          “@cactuar: Good try but what if your tranny craps out.
          There goes your $1,500 per year. The cost of a replacement alone more than offsets the difference in your calculations.”

          What do you think? Then you replace it. A $5,000 transmission hurts but it’s peanuts against $37,000 in lease payments. He budgeted $10,500 in service money for a reason. That isn’t fluid and tires money. It’s real repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @dan: his numbers were:

            These are the numbers for a 3 year period:
            2015 Odyssey LX: 18,252$
            2006 Odyssey LX: 16,350$

            So add in $5k for a tranny and the ’06 cost $3k more than the lease.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            His repair cost figures represent an average. One year the number might be much less than $1500, other years, more. 5k for a trans job on one of those is on the high end as well for a repair that it’s not even likely to need. Though even if it does need it, he’ll still be far ahead financially with the used van.

            Where the difference is most apparent is past the 3 year period with the used van which is still worth $8-9000, and the lease leaves him with nothing. So if he were to cash out, the true cost difference would actually be about 10k, a not inconsequential sum.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Arthur Dailey

            You are missing the fact that at the end of 3 years, you walk away from the leased car with nothing. Even if you spend 5K on a new transmission for the used van, you still have a van that is worth $5K. And has a new transmission. Ready for another big bunch of miles.

            Older cars do not have to be hoopties. I have had 180K mile cars that looked like new inside and out, because I take very good care of my cars and don’t buy junk to start with.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Leases are almost always the most expensive way, wand by far to use any vehicle, and by a wide margin, for anyone who knows BASIC maintenance (how to perform it, its importance, etc.) – basic maintenance includes such things as checking oil, coolant, brake fluid levels, and knowing when to change these or add to them.

      Let’s do basic math.

      Assume a $275 per month lease price, for 3 years, and NOTHING DOWN nor any “disposition fee” (to keep things simple.

      $275 x 36 months = $9,900 (let’s round it up by $100 to $10,000 for simplicity’s sake).

      $10,000.

      I would rather own the Mercedes pictured above, as restored by Mental, than the Cadillac CTS my incl wishes he’d not have purchased, which, unlike the Mercedes, has cheap and hollow plastic door pulls, faux carbon fiber (i.e. plastic) interior/dash trim, fake leather dash covering and door coverings, weak motor, cheap gauges, etc.

      But more importantly, instead of a $5,000 13 year old MB that needed a lot of work, I can find many $10,000 cars with many years of life left, needing no or barely no work, of much higher quality than my Uncle’s CTS (MSRP 52k, purchased for around 43k), and a literal treasure trove at the $14,000 mark, many less than 5 years old and with less than 60,000 miles on them (no accidents, one owner, well maintained).

      Let’s extrapolate that lease “hamster wheel cycle” math (the perpetual lease).

      Leasing a vehicle for two consecutive 3 year terms at 275/month = $20,000 (rounding up by $200), and at the end of those 6 years, one has NO vehicle.

      I will/can find a much better vehicle, of much higher comfort, quality, build quality, durability and everything else, for that 20k, that will last much longer than 6 years and that has at least 125,000 to 200,000 miles of life left, for that 20k (and probably less than 16k).

      Importantly, as the next business/consumer cycle enters turn down phase, there will be even better and more plentiful options available in the used market, especially among premium vehicles with their steep depreciation curves.

      (p.s. Do the lease math at a $375 per month payment vs the $275 one I used, and now my argument becomes even more compelling).

      Leases are almost always awful decisions, even in the awful (relatively speaking) expense framework that is vehicle use, whether by leasing or purchasing).

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        One more thing: your leased car still needs winter tires if you live in a cold climate. So add at least 500$ to the lease numbers above.

      • 0 avatar

        I bought my current vehicle, an ’08 civic 5MT, for 11.6k, end of January ’12, at 35k. I now have 82k, and have had only one 150$ (I think) repair, a t’stat.

        I don’t know what a lease would have cost me, but I expect to be able to keep this thing for at least another 100k without having much in the way of repairs. If I’d leased, it would have been over at the beginning of the year.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Mental, I don’t remember saying you could use the title.

    But I think I remember the beginning of the night in question.

    So it’s possible.

    Carry on.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    See you had $5,000 sitting around to sink into the MB to make her road worthy again…

    I own a 48 year old car. It has belonged to family members its entire life and I am (roughly) the 4th or 5th owner of the car. It needs work to be truly long distance trip worthy (rusted rear floorboards, non functional power convertible top, etc…)

    It took me until the age of 36 to have acquired enough privilege to own it. The title was transferred from dear old Dad for the princely sum of $0. Dad had done nothing to it since 1978 that wasn’t directly related to oil changes or no-start conditions. I promptly sunk $3000 into the car in parts and labor in my first months of ownership with tuneup, exhaust replacement, changing it from points to electronic ignition, and fixing many minor oil leaks from gaskets.

    Last October it developed a “no start” from what was traced down to a bad cable from the solenoid to the starter (fixed that one myself) but I had the LUXURY of allowing the car to sit until March when I free time to fix it.

    The car then promptly shredded one of the ancient tires. I had the financial ability to sink roughly $800 into 4 properly sized (special order) BF Goodrich TA tires.

    All of these are things that would have been beyond my means for the first 10 years of my career.

    Oh and it helps to have an understanding wife…

    • 0 avatar

      We’re dying to know what this car is (I think you’ve mentioned a car that old before, but I can’t remember what it is)

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Holzman, Mentioned many times, 1967 Mustang Convertible – it still has 14 in rims which is why I had to order my tires. I didn’t want some cheapo no name black-wall tires and the locally owned place I went with actually volunteered to do the research to find a correct size. Turns out the tires that were on it were a little shorter than original.

        @CoreyDL, you know – dear old Dad might have put $1 on the form but no money exchanged hands. I told him flatly when we discussed the car several months prior that: “If I have to pay for it I can’t afford to fix it up. If you give it to me I’ll immediately sink money into it.” I think his conscience made him give it up, he figured I was more likely to do all the things to the car he talked about doing than he was.

        My mother always treated that car like it was his mistress and her claws came out whenever it was mentioned. I found that odd because the prior owner was her own father.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Ahh. I said that because it seems like I’ve read they’re required to make you fill out a gift tax form if you write GIFT or $0 on there.

          When my dad transferred my car into my name previously (was on his insurance for a while, til I got a house), we always wrote $1, and just paid the .07 sales tax.

        • 0 avatar

          A 67 Mustang convertible goes a long way with the understanding wife. I hope when you get the chance, you take missus to an old fashioned drive-in movie in that car. Even more awesome is it has a story and heritage.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Isn’t it a better idea to transfer the title for $1, to avoid filling out a gift tax form?

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I resemble your situation. I commute for work in a relatively new car, but y S2000, while not 40+ years old, just clocked over 100k and is 11 at this point. Since I track it, that extra wear&tear is showing in large amounts.

      I’m currently in the process of a full suspension rehab – shocks, New control arms (it’s cheaper than getting the bushings done), the works. I go through a set of tires once a year and brake rotors once a year, front pads 3-4 times, and rears twice.

      I have the disposable income to make all of that happen though, and a reliable vehicle that gets me to work when the S2k is up on jack stands for a week at a time. And a moderately understanding wife. Without those things, I’d be up shit creek without a paddle, as would most people who are hand to mouth and driving a beater with ~200k on it as their primary mode of transportation.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    There is a cost of ownership curve for every vehicle where the lowest point is usually never at either end. Poor people drive cheap cars because that’s what they can afford. Once the repairs become too much of a burden, they need to get into a less cheap car that sits in a more comfortable spot on that cost of ownership curve.

    To directly address this post, you pretty much always need to be wealthy or have the time and ability to own an old German luxury car, however.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      That’s my experience (though with a far older one).

      I drove my ’76 300D for 13 years or so, before I grew to hate* it for being a loud, unreliable POS.

      It was always fun to drive, when it was running, but I was glad I had another vehicle or could work from home, and had AAA.

      It did serve the secondary motive of “learning how to work on a car”, but I’m equally glad I may never have to scrub jet-black diesel-soot oil out from my cuticles ever again.

      (*It was the quart-a-week oil leak it developed around the vacuum pump at the end that finally did it for me, I think.

      Not that it was unrepairable, but … it was still going to be loud, slow, and get bad mileage.

      I sold it to a car-less friend for $200, with full disclosure of all its problems, on the grounds that he could get his money back by selling it to the shredder when it finally died.)

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    You do need to be privileged to own a cheap car. It is best treated as an expensive and time consuming hobby for someone who doesn’t need a car or has another car.

    By the way, I find that era CLK to be the last great looking Mercedes, although I personally prefer the appearance of the six cylinder version.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    My father in law has a 86 Camry. We just replaced the alternator at 190K. It’s the most reliable car on the planet. It gets borrowed by family members when their new cars go into the shop.

    I also owned a 3000gt VR4. It was parked more than I drove it and I ended up riding my bike to work more often than not. I did not trust that car and I sold it. It pretty much violated all rules of privilege. It remains one of my favorite cars.

    I sold my problematic 05 Subaru outback XT and now drive a lame 98 Rav4. I bought the Subaru used and it was the most maintenance prone car I have ever owned.

    If you buy a used car your best bet is an older Toyota or Honda. I would not buy a German car (BMW 2002 don’t count), Sports car, or Subaru for reliable transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “If you buy a used car your best bet is an older Toyota or Honda.”

      Which is reflected in the price.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        And also in the cost of repairs and maintinence. I had an 86 Camry, it had a lot less than 190k and it was NOT reliable. It left me walking several times, and the parts to repair it were MANY times more than for an equivilent American car.

        I traded it in on a 1990 Festiva and it was a fantastic decision. I realize the Festiva isnt really American, but it was reliable and after a year or so of beating the snot out of it, I sold it for what I paid for it.

        Ive owned other Toyotas, along with several Hondas, Nissan, etc and they all had issues at some point and were very expensive to repair (not labor, parts).

        There is a reason I chose a 20 year old Taurus when I needed something I could pay cash for. A year and a half into it, Ive put roughly 15k on the car and have had very little trouble. The biggest issue was a PCM that was causing issues (but did not ever leave the car stranded/undrivable). Cost? $95 + tax (remanufactured w/warranty), so just over $100 all said and done. I shutter to think what a PCM would cost for a 95 Camry.

        Compared to my 95 Accord, the Taurus uses almost no oil and doesnt need CV axles every time I turn around. Ill never have to worry about a timing belt, and average repair items (starter, alternator, fuel pump, etc) are significantly cheaper.

        The Taurus now has more mileage than the Accord did when I sold it, and many, many more miles than that POS Camry I had. Its not perfect, but it is reliable and very cheap to fix.

        Ive owned over 120 cars, most of them cheap older models. Ive come to learn that if youre always broke, a Japanese car isnt always the best solution. Better than a German car, no doubt, but they are expensive to repair and maintain, and theyre just as likely to need it as anything else. Of course it helps to avoid trouble-prone models, like Ford 3.8L V-6 engines, most and Chrysler product outside of a 4.0L Jeep or certain K car derivitives (the Acclaim/Spirit werent bad), as well as Dexcool GM products.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          95% of any model of Hondas or Toyotas having even their oil checked semi-annually will be 95% more reliable than 95% of any model of a Ford (or GM).

          There are many Ford fanboys
          Some are more FOS than others
          You are the most FOS of them all

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            When you used what was actually a pretty good argument against leasing as yet another opportunity to rant against Cadillac, I figured, “it’s DW, that what he does”. But you really do have it wrong about certain things and Taurus ownership is one of them, I had three used Tauri wagons and they were, of all the cars I’ve owned (new or old), the least expensive vehicles I’ve ever had. The first one was bought at auction for $1200 with 124K. It had an AC leak which cost me $450 to fix, my only (non-wear item) repair cost over the three cars I owned. I got 24K trouble-free miles out of Taurus One. I ended up giving it away because we had crested a hill and run over a recently-hit deer and the smell was too much to take. It was followed by another ($2000) that gave us 20K of no-trouble driving aside from some DIY rotor replacements ($29 each). We traded it in on Taurus Three which was a 2000, getting $800 in trade. The last one was a bit more expensive being much newer than the ’90 and ’92 which preceeded it. We traded it because we wanted something nicer a (you guessed it!) 2003 CTS.

            The Ford transmissions got a bit soft-shifting, but the Vulcan 3.0 in all three cars always started after one second and burned almost no oil. I have no doubt that they were true 250K mile engines.

            Again, I have to say that your tendency to mix rational argument and insane ranting is truly impresive.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Unfortunately 89% of used Toyondas are owned by people who don’t even know what oil changes are.

            A good Toyonda will work out as long as you stay on top of rust and maintenance.

            Should you live in a humid area get a Volvo 940.

          • 0 avatar
            Gadsden

            Like.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          And, you can find Taurus parts all day long at the local pick-n-pull.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I know someone who owns a wholesale used vehicle buying service, usually purchased sight unseen from insurance subcontractors sight unseen – these are the unmentionables of the auto world, or those that insurers won’t/can’t be bothered with for any reason, big or small.

            He told me that the toxic algae bloom of the automotive world is the 2000 to 2006 Ford Taurus, which often sells near scrap metal (particularly MYs 2002-2005) pricing even with relatively minor damage and low miles.

          • 0 avatar
            70Cougar

            What jmo and DeadWeight said. And I’m a (Honda owning) Ford guy.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “He told me that the toxic algae bloom of the automotive world is the 2000 to 2006 Ford Taurus, which often sells near scrap metal (particularly MYs 2002-2005) pricing even with relatively minor damage and low miles.”

            A function of heavy fleet action on an outdated car. They represent excellent value in the used car market though. Guaranteed it’ll need struts, but they’re super cheap and available. Other than that, solid rides.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You know, having driven both the Taurus and the thing I’ve been thinking about and will recommend as an equal or better option:

            A similar vintage Century or Regal. It won’t have been fleeted, it’s not popular or in demand, it’s anvil-reliable, has a better interior, rides better, and you can have a 3.1 or a 3.8. It’s also better built than the Taurus, and most of them are better-equipped (especially Regal). They had older buyers from new, and you don’t look so poor and trashy in it as you do with the Taurus, IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “They had older buyers from new, and you don’t look so poor and trashy in it as you do with the Taurus, IMO.”

            I realize that is of primary concern to you when choosing a car, but a Century is a worse car than a Taurus of that vintage from a reliability standpoint hands down. LIM gasket failures, sh1tty Gm fuel pumps and wheel bearings all day long. I don’t blame you for not knowing any of this since you’ve never done this for a living. Regals have similar issues, no better. Vulcan Taurus FTW.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Not that those W bodies are bad cars, I’ve just had better luck putting indifferent customers in vulcan Taurii.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        Yeah, but you are going to pay it anyway. There is no unicorn that you can buy cheap and never fix.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You can get close with an LS of any variety.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Corey, I like the way you think. :)

            They’re not “cheap” at all, but they’re a truly excellent value.

            The most reliable car in existence in pretty much every survey is the LX/Land Cruiser, but those are as ridiculously expensive used as they are new, and they’re also giant thirsty trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I admire the Land Cruiser as well! And if the LS were available with AWD at an earlier point in time, I’d have one already. They’re a bit rich for my blood yet.

            But I’m still thirsty for a larger car. This one isn’t large enough.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Funny… I’m looking for an LS right now.

            The problem I’m having is a lack of cars that *aren’t* AWD and/or L. I want a SWB, RWD car, ideally with the grey or ivory interior. (Both the black/walnut and beige/walnut looks are so overdone on Lexi.) They’re around, but most of them are missing some of the good options, and few of them are in my neck of the woods.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Time for you to take a trip to a warm climate place like Orlando, where there will be some owned by old people which are SWB and RWD!

            I kind of want the L just because, but I’d have to measure, it might not fit in my garage with the extra length. Did they offer the Platinum Package at the rear in SWB format? I can’t recall how long that one was around for. I kinda want that too, I think it came with the rear sun shades.

            But the AWD is mandatory with my driveway here in Ohio.

            Edit: I’m with you on the black and walnut. Also, black leather never ages as well as other colors. I mean really I’d prefer a navy interior or something, but that’s not gonna happen.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Not sure about “Platinum,” but there is a Comfort Plus Rear Seat Upgrade package that was available on the SWB cars. It doesn’t have all the Executive Package goodies, but it does have cooled and reclining rear seats, and the rear sunshade. It’s also very rare. Oddly, I’ve found two cars with it in the Northwest, but both of them have issues. The gray ’08 just got backed into a pole, necessitating replacement of the rear fascia, by a sales guy at the dealer selling it. The white ’07 has higher miles than I’d like and… is white.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ugh, I have the wrong name I think. Around the 03-06 time, there was a package that altered the suspension and added rear independent HVAC and ventilated seats, it was $11,000 per cars.com, but they don’t have the name of the package on there!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            You could very well be right for the ’03-’06 period — that’s LS430 era, and I’m not looking at those. I’m only looking at LS460s from ’07 to about ’11 depending on price/mileage/etc.

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Yep. Old Toyotas. The most I spent for repair on my 82 Corolla (which I owned for 20 years) was $150 for a new muffler.

      • 0 avatar
        MR2turbo4evr

        Buying old Toyotas works for me too. I’ve had 9 of them so far (including the Lexus LS400 I still own). I buy them at the end of their depreciation curve and usually keep them 2-4 years, depending on how fast I get bored with them. I keep the cars in good condition and usually sell them for close to purchase price. The depreciation on a new car after the first year would be more than I’ve spent on maintenance/repairs on my cars in the past 5 years. I’ve been left stranded once when the water pump on my 25+ year old Cressida blew on my way to work. I still managed to finish my drive to work and got it towed home with the help of my dad. I replaced it myself for about $50.

        Edit: I bought my ’00 LS400 for $6,850 two years ago (I’m from Canada, cars cost more here). It drives better and will last longer than any new car I could’ve bought for $20,000. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

        • 0 avatar
          rustyra24

          I would really like a mid 90’s Land Cruiser or 1st Gen Toyota Tundra crew cab. Both are outrageously expensive and usually have 200k on them. They still cost 10 grand.

          I guess the equivalent LX450 or LX470 is usually cheaper than buying the Toyota Land Cruiser model.

          LS400 are on the down curve and are bullet proof. I see them with 150K miles for about 3 or 4 grand.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The LX being cheaper than the LC is sort of a myth. Yes you “see them,” but they’ve got a sordid history or something wrong with them, or they’re missing all the head rests. Or some other BS.

            The market is fully aware of both models, and I think people shopping any modern ones look for both. You can’t save by getting the luxe option.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Hence why my (recently promoted) 1LT Air Force pilot son simply refuses to give up his 1997 Toyota Tercel that I bought him when he was in high school. It has close to 220k on it now and it just. will. not. die. Original clutch, no leaks. We’ve done the regular/routine stuff and that’s it. While others at his airbase show up in newly (leased) Camaros and Mustangs, he proudly shows up each and every day with a car he knows is: A) Reliable and B) Paid for. Plus, if he gets caught in a hail storm, he really doesn’t care. There is a certain freedom to be had in that and he’s in no rush to replace the old girl. *Maybe* when he makes Captain…

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          I’m just wondering. How do you know they’re leased?

          And congrats to your son from a former Naval Aviator who went to flight school twenty years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        And most older Corollas follow that sort of maintenance program, and drive like it as well.

        I was never so happy, in the transportation realm at least, as the week someone sideswiped my older Corolla, at the same time I got a sweetheart deal on a mint condition Panther.

        My wife still loves her zero maintenance cost (except for three coilpacks) Corolla, but I feel like I have died and gone to heaven (except when at the gas pump, of course) when I am in my Grand Marquis.

        It has been an inexpensive to acquire and inexpensive to operate older car. Had it for six months, slowly getting around to each of the longer cycle maintenance items, and it has never failed except for the two times my wife left something on and drained the battery.

        Even then, it sprang to life with a quickstart jump, and recharged itself easily.

        Oh, I did forget, one OEM steelie was too rusted to hold a bead…bought two for a buck fifty, so I could have a full size spare, because to me a donut tire is just the illusion of having a spare. But not really a mechanical fault as usually defined.

        Total cost to acquire and own: $1500 acquisition cost; about $60 at the DMV; $150 for the rims; about $200 for two new tires to replace the worn out pair (the other two are fine); and one $25 oil change. Total cost, not counting fuel, under $2000.

        Number of times it was out of commision: once because a tread was thrown, down about a half day; twice battery run down by accessories not turned off, up in fifteen minutes each time.

        If I were still working a steady job instead of helping start up a new business, I would have missed part of one day in six months.

        And I don’t ache every time I sit in its seat for more than fifteen minutes, either.

        Yes I will do some of the maintenance, but even if I farm out some of the maintenance and repairs, I still have a long way to go before I am in the price range of an ancient MB or Beemer.

        Panther love…it IS real.

  • avatar
    David Walton

    Why would the lessee be the beneficiary in a total loss scenario?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      When I was doing claims, the lessee would sometimes benefit from a total loss payoff if there was a subsidized lease of a car with a high residual (or if the lessee put a significant amount of cash down). GLIs and GTIs were good examples of this. We would just cut a check for the value of the vehicle based on what has sold from dealerships in the area. If it was over what the lessee owed, they’d get the difference.

    • 0 avatar

      what bball40dtw said. It was projected as a high residual. But had themeless run it’s course, I would have dropped another $6K in lease payments and walked away with nothing.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Privilege!

  • avatar
    Petra

    According to Edmunds, the market value of this car if bought through a private party would be $1,500 – $2,000 (I can’t generate a totally accurate appraisal because I don’t know the exact location and features).

    If Mental’s brother had asked for even $1,000 for the car, the equation changes dramatically: the investment in the Merc is now $6,700, which is in excess of the $6,300 invested in the X1.

    I think this is still an interesting experiment, because lots of us have been in the position of getting/inheriting a cheap or free vehicle from a family member. But the author is quite right to call this a privilege. Not every family is so fortunate.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “private party would be $1,500 – $2,000”

      Still too much with 200K+ and being an MY02.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez_Returns

        Agreed. I wouldn’t pay $1,500-$2,000 (let alone $5,700) for that Merc with 200K+. Regardless of condition. Ticking time bomb.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I might pay zero, but even then it might be worth more dead than alive.

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            I bet he could have gotten $1500 on Craigslist from someone out there. It’s a Mercedes and people can be funny.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            People on CL will go to lengths they shouldn’t to acquire two doors and a tri-star. I would have just sold it. I can already tell you what the buyer would look like as well. He’ll hold up an empty pack of Newports, and ask if I “have a garbage.”

            Agree it’s a time bomb too. M-Bs don’t like to sit so long unattended.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            I agree it’s not worth that, but I also agree with Mr. Ward that that era of CLK might be the most handsome Mercedes since 2000.

            (I mean, I really like the W211/212 E-class, but not as *much*.)

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Looking on CL in my area, I see an ’02 CLK 430 with 211,000 miles, cracked windshield and only “a little curb rash”… $4000.

        http://baltimore.craigslist.org/cto/5047144953.html

        A couple similar cars in the 160K mile range, asking prices are over $6,000.

        Don’t underestimate how desperate people are to show off a new (to them) Benz. A couple chrome stick-on portholes or vents, and you’re ready to hit the club.

        Maybe it’s a DC thing, but people around here will gladly live in the poorhouse if it means affording the lease on a stripped out 320i.

    • 0 avatar

      All excellent points. If I had paid $1K for it, it would alter the scenario. To be honest, I wouldn’t have. I knew the history of the car, and while I love my brother, he is mean to his cars.

      However, bear in mind I could have had it on the road looking better (not as nice, but better) for $1500.

      So assuming a $1k purchase, and $1500 plus the $750 mechanical once over and $500 for the tires, its still as it sits for under $4k. A rare deal, but an example of what could be done as a point.

      I just wrote it the way it happened for me, I could have theorized all of this, but the article was pushing a 1,000 words already and while the readers of this site are infinity above the typical attention spans of most web pages, even your patience has limits

  • avatar

    you’re either going to pay a car note or a mechanic .

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Or you could check out some books on basic auto maintenance from the library, buy a basic set of tools, and pay a mechanic much less frequently. There is also this publication called “Consumer Reports”, available at your public library, which provides good reviews of the reported reliability of used cars.

      • 0 avatar

        http://www.truedelta.com/ is far better.

      • 0 avatar

        You think Women and most buyers are gonna do it?

        I can’t even get my elders to understand WiFi passwords.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          I don’t understand printers.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Trying to teach your elders to understand WiFi passwords is a fool’s errand.

          (And I say this as a person who is old enough to be an elder to the majority of people alive today, but one who does understand WiFi passwords.)

          Even if you think you have taught them to understand, all you have really done is implement their WiFi password, while spending a lot of diversionary time trying to get them to nod their head that they understand what you are doing, while you are trying to do it.

          If you think they have understood your instruction, odds are you think you are a super teacher. But put yourself to the test — ask them to change their WiFi password, now that you have *supposedly* taught them to understand how they work.

          Take it from one who has learned about teaching technology vs. fixing technology for people who don’t understand, just fixing it for them is the far simpler task, and one that won’t end up with a panicked call that they tried to “fix” their WiFi by changing their password, as instructed by some tech support guy, and now they can’t connect to anything.

          But then, it sounds like you have finally seen the light, and realize that they will never understand.

          Just do it for them, and hope that they remember to thank you, and not just by asking you to fix all their other computer problems, both real and imagined.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        So you either pay or have lots of free time, a place to store tools, a place to work on it, and mechanical aptitude, yeah.

    • 0 avatar
      pbr

      >> you’re either going to pay a car note or a mechanic

      That’s what people with cash flow do. Those with none bounce through a line of cheapest-thing-I-can-find end-of-lifers as need and opportunity arise.

      Related …
      Q: how long will this old POS run?
      A: a lot longer than you want it to, usually.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I paid cash ($5500) for my ’01 Range Rover almost two years ago. I have spent exactly $0 for labor for it, other than the $50 to get the snow tires mounted and balanced. I’ve put ~15K on it (145K now), no major issues, a few minor ones, worst being a $300 fuse panel. Maybe $1000 in parts to get it up to snuff and keep it that way.

      But of course, I am very privileged indeed, as when I was younger and much, much poorer I made the decision that I would rather spend money on tools than labor, and I have multiple cars. The Rover has broken down once, failed radiator hose that I knew was on its last legs and procrastinated too long. No big thing, AAA to the rescue, and I walked home. It does have plenty of British character, but nothing that keeps me from getting where I need to go.

      For almost two decades I drove well-used cheap European cars, maintained them properly myself, and was rewarded with nearly bulletproof reliability from the overwhelming majority. The couple that were not reliable were cars I never should have bought in the first place. Live and learn. I’ve had to be towed maybe five times in 20 years, and I did replace the waterpump on my ’91 318is on the showfield at Carlisle one year.

      All that said, now that I can afford easily new cars, I mostly buy new cars (I’m just too cheap to buy a new $100K Range Rover). The intangibles are WELL worth it to me, and I can’t take it with me. I don’t like my brother enough to leave him any cash, but he might inherit some mighty nice cars someday.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Nice summary of Jack’s piece, which was bang-on, entertaining, and about the best thing I’ve ever read by him.

    The most important part of it is your points 5-6, concerning the skill, tools, and location to do minor repairs, and the knowledge to prevent getting fleeced on major repairs.

    Poor people end up with cheap cars because their access to enough capital to shell out for a new car is so limited. But unless they have the above, they enter a whole new world of financial torture when the cheap cars break. For someone without mechanical inclination it is *hard* to figure out which mechanics are trustworthy and which repairs are really necessary. It’s very easy for someone, through no fault of his or her own, to be suckered into wasting $1000 or more — a decent chunk of the down payment fund — on repairs that are either unnecessary, incorrectly executed, or both.

    I’ve bought nothing but new cars since I’ve had the financial wherewithal to do so, which is a bit over a decade now. I hated my experience of owning two 15-year-old, ’80s-built beaters with 160,000 and 120,000 miles, between the constant rearranging of my life for shadetree repairs and mechanic visits and the embarrassment in certain settings.

    I’m about to break my streak of new cars, although for a much less beater-y car. We’ll see if I end up regretting it.

    Incidentally, I can’t quite believe putting $5000 into a Benz with 200,000+. If it had had 60,000, or even maybe 100,000, I would have been right with you.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @dal20402

      Mileage is largely meaningless in my experience. I have had absolute anvil reliability from cars with 200K+ on them, and I have seen people pull their hair out with cars with 50K on them. All that matters is the condition of the car. This car was worth spending $5K on, especially given the $0 price of entry.

      Your mistake was buying the WRONG beater cars with 120K and 160K.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I agree with you up to a point. But 200,000 is beyond that point. Many engines and transmissions fail catastrophically in the 2s, even if they are perfectly good examples of durable types and have been maintained.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        +1 , value is purely subjective. My personal recipe is as follows
        -Off lease Germans with less than , approximately 3 yrs old with less than 70k miles
        -followed by old school maintenance (bimmer owners know what i’m talking about) schedule
        -a trusted independent service shop, when time permits I’ll start working on my own cars again.

        I have only been stranded once , in a target parking lot less than 5 miles from my home, after an 800 mile road trip – i’m a lucky duck. The fuel pump on 155k mile v6 audi 90q 5mt failed. It was sold in perfect running cond w/ 168k miles.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t earn the callsign “Mental” by making logical choices.

      Truth be told, I did it because it does spectacular burnouts. Seriously, it goes from euro touring sedan to 74 Camaro at the press of the traction control switch. Makes all kinds of fun V-8 noises while it does it.

  • avatar
    turf3

    The thing I don’t understand is, when people like me and my parents were young and broke, how did we all manage to make it to our time-clock jobs, drive our children where they needed to go, live in sketchy neighborhoods, etc., and still drive crappy cars like 1975 Vegas and 1980 Ford Fairmonts? Whereas now, if you don’t have a lot of money, the authors imply that what you need to do is hurry up and get under a never-ending car loan or lease.

    I blame some of this on the never-ending chorus that implies you have to have some kind of superhuman abilities (described above as “talent”) to work on a car. It doesn’t.

    I actually managed to impress a middle aged man at the bike shop the other day by replacing my own bicycle tire! Come on! You shouldn’t even be riding a bike if you can’t replace a bike tire!

    How did basic things like operating a standard transmission (see discussion of last week), or doing basic maintenance and repair on a car, or ***saving up some money for emergencies***, or sharpening your own kitchen knives, etc., etc., somehow become incredibly difficult activities that everyone except those with superhuman abilities should just pay the professionals to do?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I saw a survey this morning that indicates that the average American is working almost 15 hours a week more than he/she was in the ’80s. That’s a big part of it. No time to do anything other than work and raising your kids.

      • 0 avatar
        robc123

        AND parents now spend way more time with their kids. Like 10x more since the 80’s.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/7560004/Parents-spend-more-time-with-children-than-generation-ago.html

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      In a world where cars always break down being late because you car broke down was accepted. In a world where cars routinely go +150k miles without ever leaving their owners stranded it’s far less acceptable.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Good points. I credit my parents a ton for helping me get where I am today by being so self-sufficient in the lean years. The hours my dad and I spent keeping their cars on the road were essential to their livelihood. Some things stay with you forever, like laying under his ’78 Chevy Van in single-digit temps at 11PM on a Sunday, trying not to think about the cold while jacking a rebuilt transmission into place while he aligned it. Every penny not spent on a shop, or worse, without transportation while it sat in that shop was critical. But keeping that van and our other cars on the road for more than decade meant years with cheap, reasonably reliable vehicles and no car payments.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @turf, because cars were mechanical not electronic then. Much easier to work on. And they weren’t expected to last as long.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @ Arthur Dailry

        BS. Cars are easier to work on NOW. They tell you what ails them, you don’t have to read the tea leaves anymore. The tools can be slightly different, but I would rather use a laptop on my car than a wrench any day.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @krhodes. Your comment demonstrates exactly what people mean when they complain about those like yourself who don’t understand the concept of privilege.

          So you know how to work on modern cars. Over 95% of people don’t. Don’t assume that they should or are capable of putting in the time to learn. 40+ years ago, it was a lot easier to open the hood of 225 slant six Dart and make minor mechanical repairs or perform regular maintenance.

          How many gas stations still offer mechanical services? It is becoming a highly specialized and technical industry.

          Sure you can use your laptop to read the code (if it is not proprietory) but then how do you make the correction/repair?

          How many people can even remove the plastic cover over their engine now?

          How many secondary schools still even offer auto shop classes?

          Times have changed and cars are far more complicated than they were.

          Please wipe what you stepped in off your shoes. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            turf3

            Yes, KRhodes was obviously born knowing how to work on modern cars, or he (she?) has nearly-superhuman capabilities to learn how, that are not vouchsafed to any but a tine fraction of the species? BS. He (she?) learned how to work on modern cars, the same way people learn how to do all kinds of things.

            Over 95% of people (worldwide) do not know how to speak Dutch, either, does that mean that no one can learn it?

            I am sorry, but I do not believe that having the gumption to take an unknown problem, learn all one can about it, and figure out how to solve it, is evidence of “privilege”. It is evidence of character. There’s plenty of character out there among people in the lower socioeconomic strata. See my comment lower down.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            So he can repair a CVT in his driveway?
            Or how about a direct injection engine?

            Yes those must be simple tasks for his superhuman abilities.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Did anyone ever rebuild a turbo hydramatic in their driveway?? Pretty much the same answer as CVT so nothing has changed.

            20 years ago my sunbird started running rough. I took a paperclip and jumped terminals on the old ALDL connector. The check engine light blinked out a code for “coolant temp sensor out of range”. 20 min later i was screwing the new temp sensor from autozone. The ease of diagnosis has only gotten better since.

            Since when has working on your own car been an activity of privilege??

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “Did anyone ever rebuild a turbo hydramatic in their driveway??”

            Yes they did and some still do.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “Don’t assume that they should or are capable of putting in the time to learn.”

            I know some pretty dumb guys who manage to make a living working on cars. The average person is capable. Most people just don’t want to bother trying.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            If you have half a brain you can fix a car. Have you MET the average mechanic? Not a bunch of rocket scientists as a general rule. Cars are MUCH more reliable than they used to be as well.

            Today it is one heck of a lot easier to learn to fix something- instead of the crappy Haynes and Chilton manuals of 25 years ago, you have YouTube and forum DIY articles. All the information is right there at your fingertips if you put in an ounce of effort.

            If you want to be lazy, enjoy your leased Camry. And/or spend lots and lots of money.

  • avatar
    Drew8MR

    Used Mercedes or equivalent cars maybe. Late 90’s/early 00’s Honda/Toyota/Nissan or equivalent? My dd is currently a 99 Altima with 140k that also cost me $0 (well, some labor on my part). We’ve had it for 50k and it’s needed a radiator($200ish),alternator,($75ish)and tires ($300ish). Now, I fully expect that after another 30k or so the repair costs will increase to the point that it’s worth replacing but I fully expect to be able to grab another at least a generation newer for a pittance. Now, granted, I grew up driving 50s/60s/70s cars, so I don’t give a shit about stuff like interior appointments and creature comforts (I count a working defroster as a near luxury and hvac as a near miracle).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The Mercedes has about $5,700 in it as it sits. Can it make it another 19 months without great expense? ”

    No. Heck all of the fluids needs to be changed alone.

    A friend is trying to get five more years out of a well used MY98 Park Avenue with a repair budget of near zero. I told her it might be possible but it would be wise to prepare for the eventuality of a cheap lease due to deferred maintenance on the Buick. She also didn’t care for the reality her un-inspected MY96 Camaro V6 (which needs body and interior work) is near worthless.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Came here to say this. You’ll have some $1,500+ cost failure, likely within a year. It’s a tired old girl who’s been slapped around and left out in the back yard.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @CoreyDL

        So what? That’s two lease payments on a new one. Or less than my M235i is going to cost to just register this year.

        It’s paid for, it looks nice, it’s a nice car to drive. Spend the money if it breaks.

        As I like to say when the idiots bring up the “you can’t afford a BMW without a warranty” argument – my relatively poverty spec 328! wagon was $650/mo for 60 months with a sizable downpayment. That is $7800/year. Do you REALLY think it is EVER going to cost $7800/yr in repairs year after year? No, it won’t, no matter how much of a midlife crisis it goes through 10+ years from now. I fully plan to be that old guy with wagon he bought new 30+ years ago who is still driving it to the BMW shows.

        What you can’t afford is to fix a car that you are spending 100% of your available car funds on just to *buy*.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You’ve missed the point of what I was saying. He asked in the article if he could drive it a year with no great expense. $1500 is a TON of money to someone on a shoestring budget, which was the initial idea of “privilege” or not, in buying this particular used up car. He’s at over $6k (eg. all of the cheap buyers available money) in year one, month two.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’ve spent maybe $200 on my Range Rover in the past year and 8-9K miles. A vehicle that makes that Mercedes seem like a Camry. My bet is it will be just fine, he had it professionally gone through, and it sounds like the car was reasonably well maintained prior to being set aside. Most of the expense has been making it pretty again.

            Someone on an actual shoestring budget has no business buying a Mercedes in the first place. There is a BIG difference between someone flipping burgers for a living and someone making $50K who wants to drive something nicer than a base Camry.

  • avatar
    Undefinition

    So… it takes basically the same amount of “privilege” to own a cheap/old luxury car as it does to own a new luxury car?

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      The Firesign Theatre asked a particularly relevent question:

      “Are you too poor to afford a job?”

      Car ownership is one of the largest factors affecting the answer.

      • 0 avatar
        sco

        I’d love to find a link to this. In the Bay Area, bridge tolls, parking and gas alone cost me $27 a day – maybe I should retire.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          I live in the East Bay, and it would totally cost me more than it is worth to work in most parts of SF.

          It is not cheap to get into and out of that town during commute hours.

          • 0 avatar

            It would be interesting to see how much the increased cost of living in or commuting into and out of Manhattan and San Francisco results in a talent drain.

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            Ronnie,

            What it results in is a service drain. The folks that keep the infrastructure operating can’t afford to live where they work.

            The people working in the knowledge economy (sorry couldn’t think of a better word) have no problem living here. Plus, there is a value to being in your twenties and living in New York or San Francisco or the like that makes up for the hassle and expense.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    For most people (especially the non-privileged referred to in the article), the threshold of “cheap” is WAAAAYYYY lower than a BMW lease, so you aren’t even talking about the same thing as the earlier article.

    I’m pretty sure that the topic of Jack’s piece was not referring to a $5k car (after you fixed it up). It specifically concerned a ancient high-mile Lexus worth little more than scrap value.

    • 0 avatar
      honda_lawn_art

      Yes that’s correct. For most of us, cheap is really cheap, like either side of $1,000 ’91 Civic cheap. If people spent half as much time on researching a car purchase as they do playing Bubble Witch over a month, they’d have something cheaper and more reliable than the bus. Talk about privilege.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I feel like there should be some differentiation between a person that buys an old XJ8 because they think a 2015 Corolla is boring and a person that drives a Mazda 323 becuase they only get 28 hours per week at Arby’s.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    That pampered-pansy boat Merc has precious little to do with the feasibility of people in dire straits keeping an old car safe & serviceable.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Let’s face it. No one works on their car to save money. The do it because they like working on their car. No to mention the cost difference between a DIY oil change and a pro job is fairly minimal.

    Not to mention time. Time is money too. For some people, working on their car is their hobby, it’s how they spend their time. Other people ski or surf or watch reality TV.

    • 0 avatar
      tubacity

      More likely, for 100 different people who work on their own cars, there are 50 reasons why they do so. Save money is one. An oil change at a shop is not that much more costly than DIY if done properly. However sometimes jobs are not done right.
      A co worker recently paid a few hundred to replace their aluminum oil pan due to a leak at the drain plug. Seems it got over torqued. This co worker never does their own car maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I disagree. I work on my car partly because it saves me money, although I do happen to enjoy it as well. Be that as it may, changing my suspension myself saved me at least $400 in labour, which to plebs like me is not a bad financial return for the half-day I spent doing it. Changing my soft top was an arduous task that I didn’t look forward to, but doing it myself saved me a similar amount of money. Brake jobs are a huge cash cow for shops, and doing a basic one on most cars isn’t a big deal, and shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, if taking your time.

      None of those tasks required a huge outlay in tools (maybe $500 over 10 years), although I admit I mooched my parents’ garage to do the work, as I really don’t think my apartment building would tolerate me doing it in my rented garage spot.

      When you’re at the poverty end of the spectrum, affording anything is difficult. If you’re middle-class, making average money, the biggest reason for not being able to “afford” an older car is lack of planning and unwillingness to do some work and make some small sacrifices.

      I agree that it’s bad to be at either end of the ownership curve. When a car is brand new, it loses lots of money due to depreciation. At the end of its life, you’ll be spending a lot of time and/or money keeping a corpse on life support. It’s the years in between where life is good. Buying new and keeping it until just before it reaches zombie status seems to be a viable option, too, especially if you can pay off the loan quickly and continue to put payments aside for repairs and the car’s eventual replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      I tell you someting: for 16 years my wife and I drove the same two cars. Once paid off, no payments for 13 years; I did all the repair and maintenance except alignments myself. By the time it was done, doing that bought us a house.

      Yes, some people do work on their own equipment to save money.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      I do not particularly like working on cars, but I like to have nice cars and keep them a long time.

      I work on my own cars because I want the job done correctly and I have the experience and ability to do most jobs correctly. I also want to save money. I recently had to replace a subframe bushing that was a major PITA job and would have cost over $1K just in labor. Dealer wanted over 2K for the job. I would rather have a vehicle out of service for a week while I find time to do it than spend the money. I look at it as a 55″ 4K TV saved in labor alone.

      I have a great independant guy who I let do the work I don’t want to do, but I do most of it for the above reasons. Part of the reason I can do this is that I have four vehicles that are less than 10 years old, and my job does not require strict hours.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My car will never see a shop for an oil change once I have to pay for it. The difference in price on better cars is NOT minimal. $100min at the dealer vs. $35 to DIY. And MORE time to make an appointment, take the car in, hang around or get the shuttle back and forth, vs. just walking out to my garage and doing it. I don’t even have to go anywhere to buy oil and filters anymore, Amazon Prime right to my privileged back door.

      And I KNOW the job was done correctly, with the oil actually changed, the parts put back on correctly, etc.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    In my experience, the best bang for the buck in the automotive universe is as follows:

    – Well documented, very low mileage, REBUILT titled cars

    You cannot beat these vehicles for cost-per-mile operation. You get the best of both worlds:
    A. New car (under 5 years old)
    B. Low cost of purchase and ownership

    Yes, I know, you have impaired resale value. But you also pay way less up front.

    Just dont be stupid. Make sure you know what was hit, how it was damaged, and let a good shop or two look it over.

    I’ve seen Camry’s with 2,000 miles on the ODO go for $13,000CDN. Minimal rear end damage but the insurance clause dictated car-replacement if the damage exceeded a certain threshold.

    So what will this Camry sell for with 75,000 miles on the clock. There is a floor regardless of title. You will lose very little on this type of deal. Just do your homework.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Before you go this route, make sure that your insurer will insure branded title cars. Many won’t, or will jack up premiums.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      @suspekt

      Agree fully. I did this. My insurance company (Allstate) cares not that it’s rebuilt. My premiums are within a few dollars of my previous GS, and I have an 8 year newer car.

      And I spent about 65% of the book value.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Agree for a car you want to drive into the ground. For resale, they suck. Not necessarily because of the lower value (because you paid less for it to begin with), but because they’re hard to find buyers for at any reasonable price.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Don’t you think that effect is lessened though, the “rebuilt terror” after the car has been owned a while?

        I was the first buyer after the rebuild. If I keep it for a few years, it’s obviously not a ticking time bomb for a buyer when I go and try to sell it. I feel like it’s a shock lapse situation, as an actuary would say.

        Initial shock fall of value after the rebuild, then it levels out.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          I think it greatly cuts down on your pool of potential buyers, depending on the model of course.

          If you have fairly common ride with a title issue, there are dozens of that model in the same condition without that question mark.

          Many folks are not going to bother with a chance that something bad might happen, they’ll filter that car out of the search results before they even see it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Well I won’t have that issue, it’s an exc. condition M35x in a relatively uncommon color. Low miles as well, I’m just now approaching 60k on a 2009.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @clivesl

            I think it is more of an issue for common cars. There are a zillion non-salvage title Camrys out there, why take a risk? But for my Saab wagon and rare BMW, I had absolutely NO issue selling them on a few years later. I actually should have asked way more for the BMW, I had more calls than I could deal with!

            Ultimately, the longer you have it after the event, the less it matters.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I’ve bought and sold a few rebuilts, including ones I’ve repaired. Many people just aren’t rational about them, look at them like they have leprosy and won’t touch them at any price. Some people reacted like I was a criminal for trying to sell them something that had been in an accident.

          The ones I had the most success with were the ones where I fully documented the repair and tried my best to take the question marks out of buying a rebuilt.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            My dad bought a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that had a branded/rebuilt title (car eventually became mine). But I always felt he did so because he knew the shop owner as a loyal customer of the John Deere dealership he worked for.

            He later bought an Olds (under)-Achieva that was in the same situation but he did so because the body shop in that case was owned by his cousin.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I’m definitely one of those people that will walk away from a car that I learn has been in ANY sort of accident. In a northern climate, the risk of even slightly sub-par body work blossoming into rust is just too great. No matter how good the deal or how rare/desirable the car, I walk. Any sort of suspicions panel alignment or paint mismatch, I walk. I’d rather risk passing up a good deal every now and then than getting burned even once.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha, that’s another consideration, area it’s from. My car came from SC, where there be no winter.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I agree 100%. The two salvage title cars I have owned were about the best buys on any cars I have ever had. With the big thing being that while a salvage title is a BIG hit on value when the car is relatively new, as time goes on the hit is less and less and less. I bought my ’00 Saab 9-5 Wagon in ’04 just after it was rebuilt as a time filler project for a shop in Oklahoma City. Paid $8500 for it with 40K on it. My local Saab dealer was asking $18K+ for a similar car. Four years on, I sold it for $7500 with 80K on it when similar cars were going for $9K or so. Spent maybe $1000 in repairs and maintenance including a set of tires. And it was utterly bulletproof.

      The other one was a ’91 BMW 318is that was a theft recovery. Stolen, all the is bits taken off, the car dumped. Of course, replacing seats and wheels and spoilers at retail prices totaled the 10yo car. Owner bought it for the salvage, pocketed the big check, and replaced all the bits with used on the cheap. Sold it a few years later for 1/2 the going rate to me. Fantastic car.

      All a salvage title means is you need to look at the car more carefully before buying. It’s still just a used car.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Nice car, hope it treats you well. We had one of these in the family a while back. Enjoy the multicontour seat option, it’s the best part of the car.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Hey, let’s run your numbers in 6 months, Okay? This article is full of privilege, starting from your bro giving you his car.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    The last thing this discussion needs is another “bootstraps” speech, so I’ll spare you that. What I won’t spare you from is the importance of self-accountability and a dose of Caveate Emptor.

    When I was in college, I knew nothing about cars. And although I considered myself pretty smart, I wasn’t very knowledgeable on how the world worked, either. Previously, my only car was a 1987 Buick LeSabre I bought when I was 17. I owned it for a few years, opting to let Jiffy Lube do the oil and the most I’d ever done was replaced the tired out battery. It did a great job helping me move to school when I was a freshman, but parking costs were so prohibitively high, I opted to sell it halfway through the year. After that point, I was sans car.

    About a year later I took another stab at car ownership, buying a friends badly worn ’88 Integra. Sporting some nice racing slicks (bald tires), it was a real shit show in Wisconsin weather. The years of cumulative neglect it had been exposed to, along with a badly done previous engine swap, shattered all the reliability Acura had baked in. Eventually, it had to get towed for some emergency surgery. Growing increasingly distrustful of the red sled, I started visiting dealerships for something more reliable.

    That was my first mistake.

    There’s several reasons for chalking that up as an error, above and beyond considering a dealer as my first shopping choice. But at that point, I had had my fill of used beaters. However, if I were smart, I would’ve realized I didn’t really need a car at that time when public transportation or hoofing it was sufficient. Second, although I was working part time and had a workstudy grant, as well as other scholarships (I was paying my own way), I shouldn’t have considered spending that, or any of my savings, for a vehicle I didn’t need. We all make mistakes, right?

    Anyway, I eventually found myself at the dealer. I’m sure I did just about everything wrong that screamed “I’m a mark!” but that’s how inexperience is. Long story short, I didn’t test drive a lot of vehicles, another mistake. I passed on a ’96 Maxima that needed additional work and was overpriced to start with. Instead, I went with a blue 2000 Toyota Corolla with the antiquated 3 speed and lackluster 1.8 VVT-i. I was so excited because this car drove infinitely better than anything I had ever owned, was in decent shape and had fairly new tires. At that point, I was ready to believe anything they said and sign papers with only a limited understanding of what they meant.

    After that and F&I (the only smart thing I did was deny purchasing additional warranties), I was on the road, proud of my new-to-me purchase. I showed it off to my family members and even my girlfriend. Finally, I had made it somewhere in the world. One of my character flaws, though, is to analyze the hell out of something before I make a leap and analyze it even harder after I’m flying down the face of the cliff. So, after I looked into the specifics of my purchase, I realize I had been taken for a ride on the purchase price. Negotiation was something I had never heard of and no one had ever taught me how to buy a car from a dealership. Suffice it to say, I was pretty upset.

    My brother in law tried to arbitrate on my behalf with the dealer but, to no great surprise, they said too bad, the ink’s dried and enjoy your new car. At that point, I had to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation and swallow my embarrassment and anger at the same time. But something good came out of that. I had decided at that point going forward, I would take it upon myself to learn everything I could about cars and the buying process to prevent this from ever happening to me again.

    What started as a resolution made in rage slowly transformed into a passion. I began to routinely visit car sites like Edmunds and Autoextremist (eventually graduating to TTAC and Jalopnik) and other forums. Eventually, I had built a foundation of understanding of the car industry and could recognize cars in the parking lot on my way to class and recite their strengths and weaknesses. The passion grew greater and I continued to leverage my knowledge into being able to inspect cars I was considering purchasing, getting better deals on used and new vehicles and so on. I had also developed a habit for the DIY aspect of cars and had gotten to the point of rebuilding axles on an FJ80, replacing head gaskets, doing transmission work and even resuscitating old SAABs.

    Here’s my point, though. Nobody has to go as deep down the rabbit hole as I chose to. But, even as a starving college student, taking 18 credits an working part time, I made the time to prioritize something that was important to my pride. I would not be duped again. Everyone is responsible, at least to an extent, for how they choose to use their time and how educated on any topic they want to be. No one has to be taken advantage of (all the time) and you are solely responsible for educating yourself. When articles like this one, and Jack’s, talk about privilege, I have to disagree. You are ultimately responsible for how you use your time and how much effort you put into anything. In my case, I decided to take initiative and learn more about something I was ignorant about to avoid being a “perpetual victim.”

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Right on. The best lessons usually cost a lot. I know that’s true in my life.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      +1 , you have to force yourself out of complacency to achieve your goals. I could spend 2 hrs a day on autotrader, B.A.T. etc, but I have to schedule an appt w/ myself to check in on investments, dare I make some of the same mistakes my late father made, I couldn’t live with myself.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Leasing something new and buying something truly old and high mileage (and missing modern conveniences like Bluetooth integration) are the extremes in my view. I bought a 2007 CPO 3 series with 40k miles five years ago. It has required oil changes (which I can and have done), a set of brakes $1000, and one set of tires, which still have a fair amount of life. One faulty gasket was fixed under warranty. Current trade in value is $10k. $14,000 over 5 years for a pretty nice car that was never “old” or outdated.

    I continue to believe that the sweet spot is three year old cars. However, CUVs and SUVs in that range currently seem to be overpriced. Sedans are a bargain.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The ride from 3 to 5 is the sweet spot for most cars. The depreciation curve is pretty flat by then and you can get out before the big maintenance items come due. The only potential things to watch out for are the tires and battery. Toyota and Honda put batteries that last 2 to 3 years in their cars so you want to get one of those that has a new quality battery in it and the factory one on its last legs or a cheapo bargain basement one. Many modern cars also come with tires that will only last 30K or so so again you want one that has already had them replaced with quality ones that will last your time of ownership. Get one like that and you can drive for 2 years with only oil changes and wiper blades. At the end you still have a car that you can trade in for good money at a new car dealership for another 3 year old with about as low of a depreciation hit as it comes w/o driving a total beater.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Many modern cars also come with tires that will only last 30K or so so again you want one that has already had them replaced with quality ones that will last your time of ownership. ”

        This is something you rarely hear talked about, spec tires. The tires your car comes with from the factory are different than the ones by the same name that you get off the shelf at a tire store. There are notable differences in quality for sure. Not uncommon to see brand new OEM installed spec tires with excessive runout, wearing quickly or just plain starting out with less tread.

  • avatar
    clivesl

    Sorry if this has been mentioned already, but the problem with comparing total costs is that most people in this country couldn’t come up with $2000 in cash in 30 days, let alone $5700.

    What would it have cost you to just make it driveable? Without the cosmetic stuff?

    Honestly I think there is a business model here.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Sometimes when people buy used cars, they don’t ask themselves “Can I afford to pay for the repairs for this car?”

    That kept me from buy a used 3-series BMW that was the same price as my Dart, I didn’t think I could afford the maintenance, because groceries and daycare were higher on my priorities.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    Thought I’d weigh in as I have first-hand experience…

    I ended up purchasing a 2005 Pontiac off Craigslist a few years ago, and I’m still driving it daily today. The price was $4300 cash. My wife and I have a comfortable income and could have bought or leased a car, but we chose to pay cash for a used “beater” instead.

    Obviously I’ve put some maintenance dollars into it, and that was planned for. Nobody buys a cheap used car like this without planning to fix some things – air conditioning, muffler and windshield have needed trips to the independent mechanic. I don’t do any maintenance myself – no space, no skills and no time with little kids.

    Here’s how the math works out (roughly).

    Purchase price: $4300
    Current value based off age and comparable craigslist ads: $3000
    Net cost (purchase price – depreciation): $1300
    Interest cost: $0 (cash)
    Repairs: $2000
    Routine maintenance (oil change, new wiper blades, car washes etc) $300
    Total $3600
    Months: 36 (bought July 2012)
    Net monthly cost: ~$100?

    Some quick browsing tells me that the absolute cheapest leases – Kia Rio/Nissan Versa Note/Ford Fiesta base models – are running about $250 all-in. Remember this is Canada where prices are higher. These cars would all be too small for me anyway, and I’d need at least one size up. And at the end of three years, I wouldn’t have a car – I’d need another lease.

    As Cactuar mentioned, the “benefits” are in the other areas of life – saving for your children’s education, retiring early (if desired), budget flexibility.

    And as deadweight so succinctly put it, “Leases are almost always awful decisions, even in the awful (relatively speaking) expense framework that is vehicle use, whether by leasing or purchasing).” It’s not even close. Minimizing the “awful expense framework of vehicle use” is what it’s all about, at least at certain stages of life.

    I’m sure my next car will cost more than $4300, but it certainly won’t be a lease. Unless there is some favorable tax situation (and I think there is for many self-employed types) I don’t see how it’s a good deal at all.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is what I’m talking about when I mentioned the sweet spot in a car’s life with regards to cost of ownership. A 6 year old vehicle these days typically still has a lot of low hassle life left in it, but has undergone most of it’s depreciation.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      Well said, but unfortunately we live in a society that actively promotes the victim mentality. You are never at fault for your decisions, it is always someone else fault for the situation you now find yourself in.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @toronto Nicely done, but in Toronto you can lease a new Jetta for the equivalent of $215 per month.

      So about double your monthly cost, but the cost of maintaining your Pontiac will keep escalating, while its worth will keep decreasing.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        The cheapest, bare-bones Jetta would cost $255/month to lease, out the door on a 3 year lease in Ontario. I’ve left this in CAD, as I assume that TorontoSkeptic also quoted his prices in his native currencty.

        At that price, you get a bare-bones car without A/C, a 115hp engine, and hubcaps with steelies. My bet is that his Pontiac has A/C, more power, and depending on what model, maybe also other features that are worth something to him. So far he’s in for less than half the ownership cost of the stripper Jetta, and while the value of his car will decline, he’ll still have more equity in it after 3 years than that Jetta lease. He can also insure it for less money, and, much more importantly, has more freedom with it. Getting out of a lease is very tricky. Getting out of a used, paid-for car is quite simple, had his situation or desires changed in those three years.

        My car is a ’99 model, and for my individual situation, I prefer it over any number of brand new cars, even if you ignore the money. Factor in the money, and it’s no contest for my current situation. Your mileage may very well vary.

        And for what it’s worth, in the four years I’ve owned this car (from 12-16 years-old), the closest I got to being stranded was when I got in to go somewhere, and the charging light was on. I had enough charge to park it somewhere safe, and then used a $40 ratchet set to remove the alternator, brought it to a rebuild shop, and then reinstalled it. 3 weeks ago I took it on a 600 mile round-trip to go on a camping weekend, and other than checking the fluids, had no reason to believe it wouldn’t be perfectly reliable, which it was.

        My previous car, owned from 110k-160k miles, stranded me only once, also due to an alternator issue, and necessitated a tow back to the suburbs (free via auto club), where an unsoldered wire was found and repaired. So in 75k miles driven in those two >10 year-old cars, I’ve lost the equivalent of about 2 half days to unexpected repairs. The money saved over leasing new probably numbers in the tens of thousands.

        • 0 avatar
          TorontoSkeptic

          Yeah I meant to mention the insurance issue, it’s sooooo expensive to insure cars in Ontario but an old GM car isn’t very likely to be stolen.

          Yes my beater has A/C, more than 115 hp, it even has a tilt/slide moonroof, a rook rack and came with a trailer hitch already installed. Obviously it has cost me in repairs… but it hasn’t really cost me in any other meaningful way (depreciation, fuel economy, insurance).

          The liquidity of a used car is a secondary factor but it’s something I think about. When the asking price is $2-3k you can get rid of it pretty quickly if you need/want to. The other issue is that I work on contract so I try to avoid 3+ year commitments to any kind of payment plan.

          Oh and I’m looking at a lease deals site right now, cheapest I see for a base Jetta is $290/month.

          Currently has 175,000 km (~110k miles) on it and just got back from a road trip.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Currently enjoying the privileged life with a 2012 Civic commuter and a pampered 20 year old 4Runner that lives in a garage and has every imaginable maintenance item lavished upon it.

    Even with the combination of all 8 factors above present, driving what is probably one of the most statistically reliable vehicles made in the 1990s, I’m looking towards consolidating to a brand new 4Runner. 2 weekends ago I spent a good 4 hours sweating in my garage installing a transmission cooler, not a necessary repair per say but it was to prevent a potential scenario known among Toyota truck guys as “pink milkshake.” Fast forward to last weekend, and the truck started to exhibit symptoms of worn starter contacts. Still starts just fine, it just needs the key cycled twice sometimes. So a $20 set of contacts later, I’m staring at another weekend wrenching session some time soon. Seems trivial but the first time I turned the key last weekend when I was a 2 hour drive away from home and it just went ‘click’ I was smacked in the face with reality: it’s a 20 year old truck, it needs fiddling with now and then.

    My outlay since buying it has gone something like this:
    initial purchase, immediately put about $1500 into it to catch it up on neglected maintenance and new wear parts (suspension, brakes all around)
    that winter I had a fuel injector quit on a drive for the holidays, my brother came to the rescue after I correctly inferred the diagnosis. $50 for a new injector, but my brother literally drove out from Ohio to Indiana to fix it with me overnight.
    This past december I brought it by his place for a bit more suspension work, tracking down a vibration, $750, very labor intensive (pressing out ancient control arm bushings).

    And now the present day, 20k miles and 2 years later with a $60 transmission cooler and now a $20 set of starter contacts.

    It’s my go-to road trip vehicle since I can tow trailers with it and haul dogs and camping stuff, not to mention do some off-roading at my destination. Albeit the fuel injector and starter contact stuff never stranded me, it gave me serious pause. What if I was on a trip out of state, with my gf and dogs in the car and it did crap out? Ugh, stressful just thinking about it. So I’ll be plunking down some serious cash in the near future, and I decided to go ‘full bore’ to match the features of my ’96 Limited: the full tilt Trail “Premium” trim. Peace of mind is worth quite a bit to me! Part of me will miss wrenching, but I believe I’ll get over myself :)

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I’ve had my 2007 Altima just over a year now (time flies!). I’ve put 14,000 miles on it, and haven’t been left stranded

    I researched the car and its most common issues. I do have all the common annoyances for that model year. Driver’s seat moves ever so slightly by itself? check. Driver’s seat chirps and creaks? Check. (which is why I fondly named my car Cricket). Left latch of the glove box irretrievably stuck? Check. Panic alarm going off and trunk opening due to the contour of the key fob? Check! (I popped the buttons off! Problem solved!) But none of those things will leave me stranded, and they hardly bother me at all. Now if I had paid $27k for this car brand new, I would have blown my stack! But it had already depreciated $20000 when I bought it, so hey it’s all good.

    Wear and tear items I’ve had replaced- two tires, right CV axle, rotors and pads all around, one headlight assembly (it had faded, so I could have restored it if I had tried).

    So far it hasn’t left me stranded at all, and I hope it runs good for more years to come after I pass it along to my stepdaughter. I would love for her to still be driving it when she finishes college someday.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      That’s well over $1,500 in work if done at a shop.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        All told it cost me about half that. I bought all the parts myself, I did the headlamp myself, and the mechanics we use don’t charge your firstborn per hour.

        I went in knowing I would have to put some money into it, not expecting to get a sub-$7000 car with no strings attached. :)

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Rotors, pads and adjusting the calipers, around here a good price is about $800.

          Tires, including mounting and balancing, figure about $250.

          Plus 13% tax on both of the above.

          Plus the CV replacement. Puts it to over $1,500.
          Someone I work with was just quoted $1,100 this week for a brake job on a Dodge Journey.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Hold on a second. Are you actually claiming to better know the cost of a car’s repair than the guy who actually paid for it?

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Also: $1,100 for a brake job on a domestic generic-mobile?! Granted, my Mazda is a smaller vehicle, but I had light-track-grade pads and discs at my door for $300, shipped. Anyone with at least 2 jackstands, a jack, a couple of hours, a couple of ratchets, sockets, and a semi-dry workspace can learn to swap out pads and discs if they’re so inclined. Those items aren’t “privilege,” they’re <$300, will last nearly a lifetime, will pay for themselves during their first use, and can be stored in a closet.

          They do, however, require that you get off your ass and maybe get your fingernails dirty.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @juniper, That post exemplifies the problem.
            Too many posters here actually believe that everyone can and/or wants to crawl around on the ground, in the middle of the winter to replace car parts.

            In North America in 2015 that is totally unrealistic.

            Not that they don’t get of their butts or that they don’t get their fingers dirty, doing other things that matter more to them or that they are more adept at.

            Or maybe they don’t have a driveway where they can legally perform work on their car or a safe space to store 50lbs worth of tools and equipment.

            For the average North American asking them to do their own brake job is about the same as asking them to perform surgery.

            Once we accept that fact, then we can look at the cost of car ownership objectively.

          • 0 avatar
            turf3

            Reply is actually for “Arthur Dailey” below, but no “reply” button was present.

            “Too many posters here actually believe that everyone can and/or wants to crawl around on the ground, in the middle of the winter to replace car parts.

            In North America in 2015 that is totally unrealistic.”

            News flash: if you are broke, and yet you are determined to live by your own devices and better your living situation, you crawl under the SOB despite the fact that you would rather be doing almost anything else.

            If you live in an apartment building you go out to the lot and do the work in the evening, and clean everything up when done (obviously you can’t do everything this way, but things like battery changes, sensor replacement, you absolutely can.)

            Your 50 lbs of tools fit in a tool box about 18″ x 12″ x 12″. You put it in the bottom of the closet, or you carry it in the trunk of your car.

            “For the average North American asking them to do their own brake job is about the same as asking them to perform surgery.” Just because people don’t want to do this, doesn’t mean that they can’t, that it can’t be done, or that doing so is not a reasonable choice among many that people make.

            If you are broke and you want momentary short term gratification more than long term improvement, then you go ahead and pay to have all repairs to everything done by “professionals”; you get under a neverending car loan or lease; you sign up for all kinds of cable TV and high speed internet, and you stay broke forever.

            None of this has anything to do with “privilege”; it has to do with a person’s character and worldview. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are “underprivileged” by any measure, who are getting ahead in life by consistently making good life choices and doing a whole bunch of stuff they really really don’t want to; and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are “privileged” by any measure, who are rapidly working their way into poverty and dependence by consistently making bad life choices.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Turf3

            Brilliantly said. You can dig in and do, or you can whine. Arthur Dailey sure likes to whine.

            The day I spend $1000 to have someone else change a set of rotors and pads is the day they can shove my cold corpse into the grave. A big part of the reason I can afford to have a garage full of interesting vehicles is that I don’t waste money paying to have things done I can do myself with some effort.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @turf: Many apartments have rules against working on cars in the parking lot. Others don’t even have parking lots or garages. Where should they perform this work?

            And to KRhodes, do you have a family or household obligations? You know time spent driving kids around, visiting cutting lawns, trimming trees, painting, etc. If so, then how do you find the time to work on your garage full of European vehicles?

            To have the time available to work on cars is a privilege. Something those with a young family or those working multiple part-time jobs probably don’t have. Or those studying at night to improve their qualifications.

            It’s truly amazing how many people take their own life experience or expectations and transpose those onto society as a whole.

            As for do it yourself and driveway mechanics, isn’t there a reason why the Province of Ontario licenses brake technicians and mechanics?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Arthur Daily

            No kids, but I have a job that takes me away from home over 100 nights a year. I guarantee that is more time than you spend dealing with your children. I also have a house and garage to maintain, and I do the overwhelming majority of work on those myself too. I do hire the lawn cut, but that is more because of an abject hatred of yard work than anything else. I could certainly find the time to do yard work. And I have a couple other hobbies too – I fly R/C sailplanes, and model railroading – which I spend FAR more time on than I do the cars these days.

            The reality is that maintaining cars takes relatively little time. I freely admit I don’t really have time to take on “project cars” anymore, but that is a very different thing from maintaining a car and fixing the occasional issue. This year I have spent probably 16 hours working on my Spitfire – that is unusual, for many years I would say 3-4 hours a year would be the norm, had a couple things to sort out this year which required removing the engine (clutch release arm pin fell out, and a coolant leak from a freeze plug on the back of the head) in addition to the normal annual maintenance. When I first bought the Rover, I probably spent 24hrs total dealing with the issues it had when I bought it. In the almost two years since, maybe 6hrs on various things, most recently an hour replacing the SRS clockspring. It will need an afternoon of fluid changes at some point before winter. I need to replace the tailgate opener too, that is probably an hour project too. Having more than one car means something can sit for a while if time is tight.

            In terms of what I consider a “project car” – my ’86 Alfa Spider was a very original car in decent condition. But it was in too original condition – it needed all the maintenance stuff done – hoses, motor mounts, suspension bushings, shocks, exhaust etc. I bought it in January, between purchase and the Carlisle Import show in May I went through the car from front to back doing all of those things. Probably a good solid week of labor spread over evenings and weekends in that four month period, and $2000 in parts. I then drove it 1300 miles from Maine to Washington DC and then to PA for that show, then enjoyed the car with 100% bulletproof reliability for four more years, 3-4K a summer. Then sold it to a friend who continues to enjoy bulletproof reliability from the car. This is a car most on here would think would have you walking on a daily basis. There is absolutely zero reason for any car to be unreliable or a time sink if it is maintained correctly.

            In contrast, four years ago I needed something to get me the six months between selling my Saab and taking delivery of my ordered BMW. I picked up a $1200 ’95 Volvo 945 on eBay. Spent a Saturday and maybe $300 on things it needed to pass inspection (tie rod end and exhaust), then just drove the thing for a year with minimal extra time or money spent, just routine maintenance. Then sold it for what I paid for it.

            Really, it’s not hard. If you live in an apartment, make friends with someone who has a garage. I have a circle of wrenching buddies who use my place to work on their cars. We all help each other out when needed.

            Or don’t. Spend more money and/or drive boring appliances. That is a perfectly valid choice too.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @krhodes1 Overall, I agree with the majority of your observations.

            However, I too once had a job that put me on the road, some years more like 200+ nights away from home. And currently, I have a wife of many years, and a son who lives with us, is 21, and is starting his own business (which I help him with).

            But you cannot really make a blanket statement that those nights away from home take more of your time than I, or any other family man, spends with our family, ON family things. And furthermore, especially in the earlier years of my marriage, and the earlier years of our sons childhood, those interruptions and time-consuming events tended to not only happen a lot, they occurred asynchronously and at random intervals.

            It is much harder to accomplish any sort of project work when interruptions come at random times, and last for random amounts of time. Much overhead is incurred in shifting away from maintenance tasks, to family tasks, and then re-orienting to where you were on said maintenance tasks.

            Our son is bright, with lots of mechanical aptitude, but like his dad, doesn’t like to study unless there is a foreseeable payoff for him. That, plus ADD, meant lots of time spent helping with homework, and enforcing homework.

            I married my wife in part because she is one of the most intelligent women I have ever met, and one of the time costs of maintaining that relationship is the necessity of spending a lot of time in meaningful discussions and interactions. Some studies show that the average married couple exchange at most a couple of hundred words a day on topics that are not directly related to daily tasks…my wife and I can have a thousand plus word discussion on various meaningful topics several times a day. Part of this occurs during the two or three twenty minute or so walks we go on just to enjoy each other’s company, and to discuss whatever is on our mindns, whatever we might have read or seen that is interesting, etc. High maintenance relationship, but high output performance.Sort of like owning a Ferrari, for example. It is not for everyone, but if it is what you really want, nothing else will do.

            On the other hand, when on the road, you can spend evenings googling parts sourcing, repair techniques, etc., without fear of interruption, and that information and those parts can be ready to go when you touch down at home again.

            So while I have a healthy respect for how difficult it can be to get things done quickly on projects at home, when you are on the road a lot, I still think that in many marriages and families, the time consumption factor is much more than you realize, and tends to impose a large overhead for having to drop tasks, and then reacquaint yourself with where you were, when you can finally get back to them.

            And although I am not one of them, there are also people who dislike wrenching the same way you dislike yardwork.

            And BTW, my son is making a good living for a young man because of people like you who dislike yardwork, and he also finds it more fun to be outdoors, with no one and nothing telling him what to do, other than his conscience and his drive to excel.

            And just as you are not alone in disliking yardwork, there is also a large cohort of people who do not like the knuckle busting, the getting dirty, the uncertainty of whether or not they are doing the right thing, the second guessing and “I told you so” comments of others, etc., when they are wrenching.

            I admire men such as yourself who appear to be single, and busy with a career, and who also take care of some nice machinery.

            But I don’t find it a sign of laziness or incompetence that many busy married individuals just don’t seem to want to be bothered, and would rather pay a dealer, or search for an honest mechanic (not a needle in a haystack task, but not a snap either), rather than taking on the work of fixing a car themselves, EVEN IF they happen to have the space, the time, the freedom, etc.

            I live in a basically middle class demographic small suburban township in NJ, just outside of Philly. And when I put my Cherokee Sport up on jackstands to do the brakes, I found I needed to wait a day or two for a part to arrive. And during those couple of days, I had a visit from the local men in blue, telling me that leaving my Jeep on jackstands represented a safety hazard to children, and that I couldn’t do that without getting ticketed. Had to wait for the parts, because I didn’t feel like unpacking my garage, which was being used as storage…got out of court with costs. But before it was over, a cop who was leaving to go to a presumably less Mickey Mouse (r) department, whispered in my ear that a local real estate agent, whose father had been active in the community, drove by our corner house every morning, and she thought it looked trashy to have a car on jackstands, even for 48 hours, in our ostensibly clean community.

            Sort of put me off of opening up projects I couldn’t be certain of finishing the same day.

            So bottom line, not every one who doesn’t maintain their own vehicle is just lazy or incompetent. There are many good and not so good reasons to want to avoid wrenching, just as much as there are good reasons for wanting to do so.

            In your world, your way works perfectly. But you live in a world that is insular enough that you are failing to take into account that the time and money dynamic that is in effect for you, and your lifestyle, does not hold true for many others, who nevertheless are neither lazy or incompetent.

            I have told you some of the reasons I only do limited maintenance now…my age and the condition of my back is another. And this is true in spite of the fact that I worked as a flat rate line mechanic for about three years, between my college party years and my college study years.

            For me, doing some projects just doesn’t seem like it is worth the effort, especially if I can pay for the work by spending an equivalent amount of time knocking out yards with my son. And that way, I get to spend time with him, instead of spending time looking at the undercarriage of a Panther. As much as I like my cherry condition Panther, I still would rather have the facetime with my son.

            So try to look more carefully at a world that has sets of dynamics and cost-benefit tradeoffs that are different from your own, and just enjoy what you are doing, but try to refrain from projecting an air of moral superiority for doing so. What you do is a good thing, but it doesn’t make you a better person in any way, other than mechanicing itself, than someone who does not do what you do.

            I rest my case…

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            When I am away, I am working…

            But in any event, paying to have cars worked on is a perfectly valid choice – heck for the past several years 1/2 of my little fleet has been under warranty, and thus I have barely had to lift a finger on those cars. Nothing for the BMW but one break-in fluid change, and an oil change on the Abarth. And I installed some upgrade bits on the BMW when I bought it four years ago.

            My issue is with the “I can’t do it, and thus 95% of the North American populace can’t do it either” attitude of people like Arthur Dailey. Yes, you can, if you tried and made some effort. You can choose not to, and that is OK too. But that is a CHOICE. Most of my wrenching buddies are married with little children and houses, and they still manage to do most of the work on their own cars. If you don’t like it, fine. But I have saved many, many thousands of dollars doing my own repairs and maintenance, but it only costs me $50/mo to have the lawn mowed.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            It basically comes down to, “Can I afford to pay $50-100/hr to have someone else do what I could do myself?” If you can, make the decision that works for you.

            If you can’t, you can either whine or you better your situation. Finding a few square feet where you can work for a few hours isn’t the same as financing your own garage, so let’s not pretend that it is.

            Doing physical work and getting dirty is possible for nearly anyone. Tools are cheap, information is free. The problem is that people think they’re too good for it. Problem is, when you’re financially destitute, your choices are between being too good for manual work or being too good for living on the street. That’s how it is.

            Getting ahead takes work. Always has, always will, and letting other people do what needs to be done isn’t always an option.

          • 0 avatar
            fendertweed

            @VolandoBajo,

            Very well said.

            @krhodes1,

            I admire that you have the time, skill and tools to do what you do, but as VolandoBajo notes, you present your perspective with a judgmental air that is offputting. You add now and then that other perspectives are fine, too, but it sounds like lip service compared to the attitude one discerns in the majority of your discourse.

            Your reply to VolandoBajo made me wonder whether you even read his post or understood it — choices can be made for many reasons, a good number of which don’t merit your disdain.

            Just a thought to consider. Like you I can buy what I want, new or used and am too cheap to buy $100k cars. And I don’t suffer whiners. But I don’t think we need to be so dismissive of those who may fall in-between or so quick to judge …

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    If the maintenance was kept up during it’s previous life, I’d say this car should last you another 100K – easy. As long as you follow that trend. The M-113 engine family is very robust.

    The ’04 E500 Wagon I purchased with just over 120 K on the odo had lived a priviledged life with an affluent mid-coast California family. All maintenance had been done *by the book* including a complete AirMatic refurbishment. I got another 100K out of it with just DIY oil changes and a serpentine belt replacement. To my knowledge it is still on the road (last sighting was in April) and must have at least 300K on it by now (new owners had the same commute).

  • avatar
    George B

    Mental, it’s possible to get reliable transportation cheaply with 2 or more old cars and some wrenches. It helps if the cars were high-volume moderate price reasonably reliable models when new. It also helps to specialize in a particular brand so knowledge learned the hard way on one car is easier to apply to another. My Dad was a Chevrolet specialist who knew his way around the local salvage yard and auto parts stores.

    • 0 avatar
      dude709

      being possibly one of the very few college students on this site i decided to get two beaters so one would always be running and made freinds with a retired mechanic with a gearhead son. that led to me currently owning an 87 mazda b2000 and an 86 dodge diplomat 9with a lean-burn that needs to die!).

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I did this, with an ’88 Accord that had seen some abuse/neglect and an ’89 Taurus SHO, both 15 years old and with well over 100,000 miles. It did provide me with reliable transportation; I got to work on time every day during the two-plus years I ran both cars. It also sucked. Having one better car is just a better way to live if you can afford it.

  • avatar

    I’d like to know what happened to that JetRanger. One more bill for hot zone inspection was too much it was parted out? Or sold to an unscurpulous dealer in Nigeria?

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    It ain’t such a bad time to be working poor, a 2000 Camry is about $2,000 bucks. Do a little homework shopping for it and it’ll be more reliable than the bus. You can spend any amount of money and get a worse car. Even a brand new Versa’s gonna need tags and tires plus the privilege of full coverage insurance.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    As a poor grad student I’ve managed to keep my 96 Bronco functioning as a daily driver for minimal cost. This year it’s needed a water pump, timing cover, heater core, hoses, and front brakes. Sure, sacrificing a few weekends a year to do maintenance isn’t fun but the parts are dirt cheap and instructions are readily available online. If you pay attention to warning signs (like leaking coolant) and fix problems proactively the likelihod of being stranded is extremely low. Relying on an old/cheap car might not be for everyone but it isn’t that difficult either.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Mental misses the point. It is one thing to purchase a 15 year old Corolla and call it “cheap”. It is delusional to buy a Mercedes (or be given one) and call it the same thing.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Two last points:

    1) Neither of the articles is actually talking about ownership of a cheap car. They are both talking about ownership of clapped-out abused luxury cars bought for short money. Yes, if you want to own a clapped-out abused Mercedes you need to have some significant resources. I do not believe owning a 10 year old Corolla has quite the same costs of ownership.

    2) I object to the implication some have made that the following items are “signs of privilege”:
    – Work ethic
    – Trying to live below your means
    – Putting some money away for emergencies, even when it means denying yourself other things you want or need
    – When faced with a problem you don’t know how to solve, you ask questions, read manuals, try stuff, etc., rather than just giving up and walking away or paying a “professional” to do it.
    – Feeling that you are responsible for your own business (for example, if your car might be unreliable, do you have a network of friends and family that could help you out, or have you driven all of them away by being obnoxious? Have you done things generously for other people so they will do things generously for you?)
    – Willingness to learn something new, even if it doesn’t fit your self-image (no reason why a woman can’t learn basic auto maintenance, thus saving a ton of money)
    – Being prepared to do dirty, unpleasant work if it’s what you need to do to keep the wheel turning (changing a starter motor at 3:00 am in midwinter, anyone? I’ve been there.)

    These are not “signs of privilege” to me; to me they are signs of character.

  • avatar
    sprkplg

    Frankly, I don’t get it. In 15 years of car ownership I’ve never paid more than $2500 for a vehicle. Granted, this includes my current Toyota Sienna that was worth about $4000 when I got it from a relative who was kind enough to give me an excellent deal, but still. (Yeah, privilege. And yeah, I know I’m extreme.)

    I don’t feel like I’ve had significantly more reliability issues than people who buy new or nearly-new. I can think of only one time that car trouble made me late to work, and that was a flat tire. Oh, and once the clutch on my old Datsun gave out toward the end of my 65-mile commute, but I managed to limp the rest of the way there. I’m just barely competent enough to change my oil, and I’m not a maintenance freak. I guess the one thing I have going for me is that I know a little about cars, and have been able to avoid buying garbage (with two exceptions, neither of which was a daily driver). Most of my cars have been boring and/or ugly, but they’ve all gotten me from point A to point B just fine.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    $6281 for a new car vs $5700 for a 210k piece that you put in effort to keep on the road. I’m not sure, but you got to believe statistics is on the X1 side.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The difference is that the money for the leased BMW was essentially flushed down the toilet (other than the use gotten out of the vehicle). The Mercedes is paid for, and represents an asset that could be sold if necessary. Even at a fire sale price of $5K, that means he has an actual cost of $700. Will the Mercedes go two years costing nothing like the BMW did? Probably not, but it probably won’t cost another $5K either, and in two years it will still be worth $5K minimum. It is at the bottom of the depreciation curve, assuming it is well-maintained and still looks nice.

  • avatar
    robc123

    What this whole article and discussion misses is the questions:

    “how much is your time worth?”

    and second

    “IF the time per hour is less than what you are paid at your regular job why are you doing (fixing)this car?”

    and third

    “what premium would you be willing to pay to not do this?”

    I am all about question 3 plus if you have a business you can write it off.
    The amount that you could save is pennies- I know as had a Asian beater for a second car for a decade- and it would have been as expensive to just lease a something sub $26-30k.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My time is worth quite a bit – but not $200-300/hr. That is what a dealership will effectively charge you on a flatrate job like brakes vs. buying the parts and doing it yourself on a German car. Nor the $125/hr + fees and diagnostic charges for normal stuff.

      Plus people seem to have this notion that you will be under the car all the time. In my experience over a couple decades and a couple dozen cars well-used European cars, you spend a fair bit of time upon acquisition to get the car up to snuff, then you just drive the thing. A few hours a year for maintenance and the occasional issue from that point on.

      MAYBE I could have saved money (probably not) and time (certainly) by buying 3yo used Corollas. But then I would have to drive a Corolla. I’d much rather drive a VW/Volvo/Saab/BMW/MB/Peugeot/Alfa/Triumph/Land Rover. Life is too short to drive boring cars.

      Ultimately, part of the equation is are you just looking for transportation, or are you actually interested in cars?

      • 0 avatar
        fendertweed

        … and do you have the time, tools, skill and facility (site) to be able to work on them … some of us love cars & working on them but don’t have one or more of those essential things.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      the monetary value of time is fallacy, most of us are salaried and when we are not at our job, we are not drawing income. However, time not spent with family is why I stopped doing my own maintenance.
      However, there will come a day when I will enjoy working on cars as a hobby when the kids aren’t enjoying my company anymore…

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I’m running a similar experience to this. A few years ago I bought a C240 as a winter beater – basically a four-door version of this car with the V6 version of the same engine and fewer options.

    As others have said, the drivetrains on these and the basic mechanicals are very robust and should be good for another 100K or more. The RWD layout makes most maintenance reasonably easy for a competent parts replacer like myself, and the typical wear parts it will need are not very expensive. And in my province at least insurance for older cars like this is very cheap.

    There are two main cost concerns – this car will be fairly thirsty, it needs premium fuel and every oil change means 8.5 quarts of expensive synthetic oil.

    And then there is the risk of slightly rarer but very expensive dealer-only parts failing. Things like the Electronic Ignition System can ONLY be replaced at the dealer with new parts and will cost a small fortune if they fail. There are other – mostly electronic – parts that are similar.

    Driving this car won’t be cheap and there is certainly a risk of some expensive repairs, but I think the risk is reasonable. Enjoy the stylish coupe. I now wish I had a coupe rather than my sedan.

  • avatar
    JNPeila

    Used cars… higher risk for breakdown? Probably. Breakdown imminent with careful shopping and attention to maintenance? No.

    The word “privilege” makes it sound like people who have invested their time (mostly) and money to learn to fix what they own have somehow popped out of the womb with a set of wrenches and a lift to put the Benz up on.

    Perhaps instead of kids with paid college (beer and partying DO get expensive at pricey universities), a decent space and some quality tools could be made available for repairing their used cars. New skills learned, money saved for college if need be…

    This all sounds like the justifications I used to get a new car. Nice not to work on stuff? Oh yes. Financial win? Most likely not.

  • avatar
    geigs

    By chance, I’ve kept cars longer than I ever thought I would. My last new car purchase was in 2005 and that is my newest car. The stable includes a 2005 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Mercury Mountaineer, 1994 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and a 1956 Studebaker President Classic. The Caddy is my daily driver; the Honda is back-up, and the Merc is my wife’s daily driver. I had planned to sell the Caddy way back in 2005 when we bought the Honda, but I hesitated and now I’m just not motivated to deal with selling it. Someone mentioned character in the post and I agree. Anyone can maintain a new car, but it takes a special person to keep something on the road way past its expiration date. My philosophy is that if you treat people, places, and things with a little TLC, they’ll return the favor.

  • avatar
    baconator

    I’m performing the same experiment. Just turned back a leased new “appliance” car and bought a high-mileage ’02 Mercedes. It is a privilege – I don’t know what malfunctions await, but I have tools and disposable income. The initial purchase was cheap enough that If I get a year without a “left stranded” failure I’ll feel like I’m money ahead.

    In return for the risk, I get to drive a more interesting and more capable car. We’ll see how it goes!

  • avatar
    matador

    I own a 2001 Audi A6 with about 165k miles, and a 1995 LeSabre with about 225k miles. Both would probably count now, though I don’t look at either as a beater.

    I was stranded once in the Buick, and had to tow the car home. That was a broken serpentine belt tensioner. Twenty minutes, and I was done. The breakdown did happen at 9:00 PM, though. The Audi only left me stranded when the tire went flat, and the jack dropped the car on the spare, blowing it. This could happen to any car. Note: The Audi OEM jack is half of a scissor jack, basically. It’s a stupid widowmaker.

    I’ve done minor repairs along the way, but nothing major. I did a radiator on the Buick, and front brakes, and a coolant overflow tank on the Audi. I put about 35,000 miles per year on cars. I drive over 80 miles to work every day, and I almost always take one of those cars. When I don’t, it’s an even older pickup truck. I am self-employed, though.

    There is a simple reason that this works- both of my vehicles are reliable. The 3800 is one of the best V6s of all time, and the 2.8 is one of the most reliable (and “pedestrian”) Audi engine. There is a reason that I went for the 2.8 instead of the 2.7 BiTurbo.

    Personally, I doubt I’ll ever lease a car. If Dodge’s get any cheaper, you never know, though. I don’t want to rent a car. We live offroad- if I get a scratch on a lease vehicle, that’s bad. If it happens to the LeSabre, who cares? I own the car, and I can do what I want with it.

    Plus, none of the new cars really interest me. They don’t build them like they used to. I’d rather spend money to keep the Buick, a car that I love, running, than I would spend it on an appliance car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Agreed on the plain-jane Audi 2.8L being a rock solid motor. Plenty of power too in a B5 A4 when mated to a 5spd, and it even makes some interesting sounds. I’d take it any day over the 1.8T or 2.7TT.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I’d love to drive a 2.7L BiTurbo, but I wouldn’t want to run the risks of owning one. The 2.8 is slow, but it is a great engine. When my 2001 A6 Avant is used up, I’ll be looking for another Audi wagon. They’re really a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        fendertweed

        be damn sure you change the timing belt pulley bolt when you do your timing belt &c. … I had one fail and back out and it cost me an engine in my ’01 A6 2.8 at about 90k miles.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Right now our newest car is a 2006 Acura TSX purchased new and well maintained since. But, we also have two Volvo 960s in the family which were purchased very used and very cheap ($2,200 and $3,000). This only works out because I have mechanical skills, we have more cars than drivers, and unexpected cash outlays are easily handled.

    What we don’t have is any car loan or lease payments and our auto insurance rates are relatively low as are the annual vehicle registration fees. Here in CA the annual registration fee is a function of the present cash value of the vehicle, and that can be big bucks on a modern luxury car.

    If I didn’t have the ability to do most of our mechanical work while also enjoying it, things would be different. Brake pads and rotors all around rarely cost me more than $200 thanks to careful parts shopping. The same job at a shop is over $1000. A DIY transmission flush only runs me the cost of the correct ATF. With shop rates around $120 per flat rate hour, any trip to the professionals gets very expensive, very fast.

    Finally, we have more vehicles than drivers, so one of them being out in sick bay isn’t a big deal. If all else fails, I can drive my ’89 F150 which is mostly a work truck. Having a long bed pickup truck at my beck and call is a real privileged, even if it often sits idle for weeks at a time. It looks horrible, but works fine. I never worry about what might happen on a dump run. If I had a shiny new $40,000 F150 like so many people do …. I wouldn’t be able to use it as a truck :).

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    That model was a beautiful car inside and out. Classic Benz lines and interior design. Perhaps one of the last Benzes that didn’t look like a Hyundai!!

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    I wish I could lease but I just drive too many miles a year.

    My parents are the perfect candidates, but from an old-school era and will not consider a lease (they see it as essentially trashy). They buy new, put on less than 15 k a year, and immediately buy a new car when their old car is paid off. Moronic.

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