Ask Bark: Should I Be A Company Man?
Good morning Bark,
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles hired me about a year ago, which coincided with the first anniversary of a five-year loan on my 2009 Mazda5 Sport. However, I’d really like to get into a company car as a show of support, and because I’m tired of paying five-year loans on cheap used cars.
I owe about $7,000 on the Mazda, which costs me $200/month for the loan and another $125/month for full coverage insurance. The car just rolled over 100,000 miles. It’s due for some suspension work up front (bearings, bushings, brakes) and has a nasty crack in the windshield. Other than that, it’s in good shape. I feel like I could sell it for what I owe, and if I’ve learned anything lately, it’s my feelings should dictate everyone else’s reality.
FCA offers a solid company car program. I can lease at 1.5 to 1.9% over two years with unlimited mileage (depending on the model), and maintenance and insurance is covered by the company. That means I can get a base model car of similar size to the Mazda for dang near break-even against my current payment plus insurance, with the added benefit of no maintenance costs.
The problem is … I really like my Mazda.
There’s nothing on the market that balances utility (I have six kids and a dog) and performance (30 mpg highway, fun in the twisties) the same way as my beloved Tinivan. But it’s hard to justify a monthly cost of $325 on a car that will have at least 150,000 miles by the time I pay it off. I could have a brand new car with no hassles and no worries for about the same cost. My friends say pay off what I have and maintain it until it dies. At least I’ll have a few years with no car payment at the end of the financing tunnel if I do that. But considering the mileage I put on the car, I don’t know if that kind of Dave Ramsey wisdom holds true.
Keep the Mazda (which I have to park in the Competitive Parking lot) and enjoy it (and my mile hike to work) until it turns to dust, or wave goodbye and step in line like a good company man? I’ve mentioned my conundrum in comments before, but now it’s time for professional help.
What to do?
First of all, I’m jealous of your corporate lease deal. I have a friend whose husband works for Daimler, and she gets a brand-new Benz every six months on a low, low lease payment. Every time I see her, she’s got some new baller mobile.
I hate to break it to you, but selling that Mazda5 Sport for $7,000 is going to be a bit of a stretch. In its current state of repair, I think you’d be lucky to get $5,000 out of it in a private sale (unless TTAC creates an actual For Sale forum someday that people really use, as some people here have an irrational love for all things Mazda). And since you’re not really able to do a trade-in, you can’t roll over any negative equity that you have. (With that last sentence, all the Ramsey acolytes just had spontaneous heart attacks and died. Good.)
However, let’s say a miracle were to happen and you found somebody who was willing to pay off your note on the fiver. Should you unload this car that you seem to enjoy, just to take on another car payment?
Of course you should. (And with that, any remaining Ramseyites’ heads simultaneously exploded, like the end of Kingsman: The Secret Service).
Hate to break it to you, but the Mazda5 just isn’t all that special. I know you enjoy the way it drives in the twisties, but despite the mythical brand connotation that goes with the zoom-zoom logo, just about any current FCA product will be just as good. Seriously. The steering wheel won’t be positioned similarly to a school bus’ wheel, either. And if the company is willing to pay for your insurance, too — dude. It’s literally a no-brainer.
Plus, there’s something to be said for being a company man in a large company environment. I’m not saying that driving a Mazda to work every day will hurt your chances of advancement, but it probably won’t help them, either. And if you’re trying to be some sort of “Fight the Power” rebel, is the Mazda5 really the right car to be sticking it to the man? I think not.
All that said, which FCA vehicle should you get?
With six kids, I think the obvious answer is Pacifica, but I don’t know what the company program looks like on one of those. They might be a bit out of your $325/month budget.
Do you have to take all six kids around at the same time? You could look at a lower trim Durango. I think you’d find the Pentastar in the big D is more than enough motor to replace the 2.3 in your Mazda. No, your fuel mileage won’t be as good, but life is all about trade-offs and compromises, right? I mean, as a father of six (wow, six), you get that.
But whatever you do, do not, repeat, do not lease a Journey. The resulting driving experience will be so bad that you’ll pine endlessly for another Mazda5 with a cracked windshield and broken suspension.
So here’s what you should do:
- Fix your windshield. Nobody will pay you top dollar for a car with a broken windshield.
- Write the most epic and glorious Craigslist ad ever, with high-quality pics. Mazda buyers are particularly good at using the Internet to find cars, so if your ad is good, they’ll find you.
- The downside of that? Mazda buyers are also epically good at negotiating price. Go ask any Mazda dealer’s Internet Manager. Mazda customers will drive 500 miles to save $200.
- Your car isn’t going to depreciate a lot more in the next six months, so if you can pay it down a bit more, you might have a better chance of getting out even up.
- Finally, work some lease numbers on a Durango and see if your budget works out.
Next thing you know, you’ll be parking in the front row and you’ll be up for a promotion. At least one of those two statements is true.
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