By on October 4, 2016


James writes:

I seem to find myself in an endless car-buying cycle of “I’ll finally be content if I buy X car”; get said car, get a year into ownership and dammit — I want a different car! Buyers remorse at its finest.

I don’t know what it is when it comes to cars, but I seem to have this blind spot for knowing what the heck I really want in the car, unlike everything else in life. Sigh.

I’ll spare you the full automotive history, but I have currently had a 2015 Honda Accord Coupe with the CVT for a little over a year. It’s a great car and overall I’m pretty happy with it, but after years of following various car blogs, I’ve had the itch to learn to drive a manual transmission.

This year, coming up on my 30th birthday, I purchased a $500 Saturn SL to learn the three-pedal dance. Its been a splendid experience — I spent a month or so underneath the car making it roadworthy with my father-in-law, finally understood what all those car articles were talking about with the manuals’ involvement, taught my wife and my brother to drive it and developed a new appreciation for how much car you can get for the money. Now the time has come for me to sell the Saturn and it has got me thinking about trading in the Accord for a car with a manual as my daily driver. My first thought when I had a buyer contact me to inquire about the Saturn was that of sadness. “Oh crap, I’m not going to be able to drive stick any more.”

A bit of research revealed that the amount I’d owe on my loan if I were to sell the Accord now would be a little under $2k. I’d prefer not to take a loss on selling it, so I may need to wait a year or so. If I were to buy something else, I’d prefer not to start over on financing a new car, so I’d be looking at buying something used at or below $20k CAD that I could daily drive but still be fun with a manual. I don’t have any kids and my wife has a Forester, so size isn’t really a concern. I’d like it not to break the bank on ownership and fuel costs either.

What would you do given my situation Bark? Learn to love what I got or buy a manual and hopefully break the cycle of car buying remorse with the manual transmission?

One question remains unanswered for me — why has the time come to sell the Saturn? Is it just not working anymore? Bored with it? Because it seems like you’re enjoying the heck out of it, and I’m not entirely sure why you want to get rid of it.

However, for the purposes of my answer, let’s assume that you have a very good reason for selling. That being said, I would strongly recommend against rolling over negative equity. Normally I’m not the guy who’s super concerned with being fiscally responsible, but it’s hard to justify doing so unless you’re getting crushed on your current loan at 10 percent or something and you can roll over the negative equity into a much better loan.

But here’s my guess. I’m guessing you’re somewhat like me, and that you’ll always have a bit of a wandering eye when it comes to cars. And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that people don’t really change — if you’re waiting for an adult to make a massive behavioral shift, you’ll be waiting a long time. It typically takes me about 18 months to get bored with what I’ve got and to start thinking about what I want next. The answer to this?

Why, it’s the 24-month lease, of course! Is it the financially smartest thing to do? Well, for me it is. I have the opportunity to write off much of my lease against my 1099 income. Not everybody can.

But even if it’s not the smartest thing to do financially, it can give you the opportunity to get a new car nearly every time that you’re tired of your current one. Sure, you’ll always have a car payment, but you’ll also always have a new car. You have to decide how much money that’s worth to you.

What would Bark do? I’d wait until I were even up in my Accord, and go lease hunting for something like a Focus ST to quench my thirst for manual goodness. And that’s what I think you should do, too.

Bark M. thinks that everybody should buy new cars all the time. Unless they shouldn’t. Which one are you? Write to him and find out! Or just follow him on the Social Media. It’s what all the kids are doing. 

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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42 Comments on “Ask Bark: How To Quench My Vehicular Wanderlust?...”

  • avatar

    I’m trying to quench it with a fifth or sixth generation f-series pickup.

  • avatar

    I was like that too when I was younger. I’d had 70 cars by the time I was 40. Maybe the cure is to get older…I’ve had the same two vehicles now since 2010.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not quite up to 70, but I’m doing my best.

      I suffer from the same problem as I presume many of us do. My compounding problem is that I like odd things; had a brown Volvo 960 with the one-off straight six and loved it. Finding parts for it, just a wee bit challenging. Had a S55 AMG (also brown), was fast and inconspicuous, but expensive and hard to find parts for. Now I have a BMW 545i 6mt and like it a lot, but it’s not reliable and very fussy. Again, finding parts for this one is a pain because the n62 engine wasn’t very popular, nor was the sport version with it’s different suspension setup. So it’s going away soon (almost perfectly on the two year mark). You think I’d learn, but what am I looking at after work today? Mazdaspeed3. What could possibly go wrong? I should just get the Accord V6 MT, but I’m too dumb to do something reasonable. Let me instead seek out one of the most riced-out, least popular Mazdas in existence (excepting the MazdaSpeed6 which I did test drive).
      There is no cure, just budget for more car in your life and enjoy your affliction.

  • avatar

    I agree with Bark.

    You are very easily distracted and better LEASE, Son – until you find something that can satisfy you.

    • 0 avatar

      No much better to buy and buy used preferably with at least a significant down payment, if not cash. That way there isn’t a chance that it turns into counting down the days until the lease is up if the heart wanders much sooner than 24 months.

  • avatar

    Poverty is a great remedy for this kind of thing.

    • 0 avatar

      *fast clap*

    • 0 avatar

      Well, in my case getting out of ‘poverty’ hasn’t really changed the frequency of my car purchases much, but getting a decent job has given me a safety net so that I can tolerate selling with a higher loss when I eventually get bored of a car. On the other hand, my cars are a lot more expensive now so I can’t just scrap them when something stops working, and I am more experienced so the cars are better suited to the life I live, so I can stand them longer, or afford modifications to make them more interesting.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I was also this way, perhaps still am a bit. I kind of like having a fleet (3) instead of one or two. I have one core that stays, the Suburban. Great family car, stuff hauler when needed etc. They are stupid expensive and last forever, no reason to upgrade it. Ever.

    As for the remaining two units, oh the wandering eye. It seems as though you have some wrench skills, which is great news. I always look for used cars, preferably from CL as you can avoid paying the full hit on sales tax as well as avoid dealer handling fees that jack up the cost. I try to keep my cost per mile in the 10 cent per mile neighborhood rinse and repeat. Sometimes a car sticks around for awhile, year or two, sometimes a tank of gas as was the case with my last four door 2011 honda Accord base model MT —terrible car. Sometimes I make a little, usually at a reasonable cost per mile. I never make payments, so it is easier to keep the costs down as well. Save up 20k and go play…

  • avatar

    Sounds like a quip, but I’m serious: Getting kids helps. I had been trying different ancient Volvos with great success (bottom of the market vehicles that surprised me every time), then had a Nissan which build quality shocked me senseless. When we got kids, I had to get rid of my ancient rides, and after some trial and error (’93 245, ’02 Citroën Xsara wagon and said Nissan Primera), I ended up in a very rare Honda Stream. That is a seven seater van based on the Civic, but it has a tremendously tight steering, the gear lever is just inches from the steering wheel, and its brakes are designed to stop a car which can load over 700kg. The package isn’t overly exciting, but it is reliable, reasonably fun to drive, and it will get me through a period of time without much time or money on my hands to really enjoy cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Click REPLY to reload page

      “Getting kids” will solve the problem, because you won’t have any disposable income to throw at cars. You’ll have to buy something very practical, which is actually pretty satisfying, but less satisfying in driving dynamics.
      If your wife suddenly decides leaves you and takes the kids, your alimony and child support costs will make you dream of your carefree days of yore, and you’ll just wish your beater will keep running for just another month or two, when hopefully things will be a little better.

  • avatar

    “but after years of following various car blogs”

    See, there’s your problem right there.

    To the new-car addict TTAC is relatively benign, maybe even helpful. But many other car blogs are little more than infomercials in disguise. Try a nice gardening blog instead.

  • avatar

    If Ford doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are some other manual options to consider, especially if you go the 24 month lease route. If you want to bracket your options by size:

    Fiat 500 Abarth (Low sales = heavy incentives. Plus the car is just a riot)
    Dodge Challenger R/T (low mileage lease should be in your price ballpark.)

  • avatar

    You could lease, or you could buy something that’ll be worth about the same after two years as you bought it for.

    It’s fairly likely that in this case, Miata is actually the answer.

  • avatar

    My cure for the wandering eye was to just have an inexpensive project car on the side but have a late model car for the main task of getting me to and from work and all the other real responsibilities. Sounds like that was the Saturn.

    That way you can have your “appliance” car but have fun tearing down the project car and modifying it. I’ve had a lot of fun with car in that under $4,000 range, which is getting close to the sales tax on a lot of new cars. And usually you can sell them pretty close to what you buy them for. Plus it’s always handy to have an extra car.

    Some people want their main car to be the fun car, but that is usually a pretty expensive proposition, at least for me, and having a car that needs to be able to transport young kids comfortably can be limiting.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s my strategy too. Adding to this, with all the time I spend in traffic, I far prefer an automatic for my daily driver. Make it as cush and isolating as possible. Have a second stripped down manual car for that visceral automotive enjoyment.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m on this same wavelength. Old stuff that’s in decent shape is already at the bottom of the depreciation curve. I shoot for things that are well supported in terms of affordable parts and a robust DIY/forum community. I guess mine aren’t modified ‘project’ cars per se, and ‘exciting/fun’ to me is a 20 year old Toyota product LOL

        That all may change in a few years when I’m too busy to fuss around with wrenching on my own stuff, but in the mean time I will enjoy my low cost motoring. It is definitely eye opening when you stop and consider for a moment that the sales tax alone on a decent newer sedan is about what I spent on purchasing my old Lexus in which I’ve been comfortably commuting in for the past month or so.

  • avatar

    Start searching for the best MT Mustang 20K Canadian will buy. True automotive lust has no concern for MPG and the reality is that the newer Mustangs don’t suck fuel like there is no tomorrow unless you keep that throttle mashed to the floor all or at least most of the time.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Not that the st/gti thing isn’t great, but those are cars you pick for pragmatic reasons. I’d go Mustang, MX-5, or anything else you can’t shove a baby into. If you are going to go all wanderlusty then go all the way while you still can. You can always settle down into a nice sensible hot hatch manual when the kids inevitably arrive.

      The major plus side of these choices is that they have sportier transmission setups typically. As a long time manual driver I find there to be huge differences between transmissions set up for commuting vs performance driving (flywheel weight, ecu generated Rev hang, throw length). That’s not just an auto transmission thing.

      Another big question to ask yourself is direct injection or not. Sometimes manufacturers can squeeze a better feel out of manuals tied to di engines as they aren’t waiting for mixed fuel to burn off before they close throttle (emissions), so less Rev hang. This isn’t a rule though, it’s case by case. DI can bring back some of that older car shift goodness that we lost in the 90’s through 2000’s.

  • avatar

    I’m 27 and I’ve had my ’14 Mazda 3 for a little over two years. It’s been fantastic, but it doesn’t fulfill that “enthusiast” itch which I’ve had since my teens but have never satisfied.

    Over the past month or so I’ve been daydreaming about replacing the 3 with a real sports car – this fantasy started with a Miata (I don’t fit), moved on to a 370z (I barely fit), a BRZ (too slow), and a Mustang (I can’t afford the GT I really want) and now I’ve convinced myself that a 2017 WRX is the perfect car for all my “needs”. Surely, my brain tells itself, the WRX will satisfy that itch for at least six or seven years!

    Because I didn’t negotiate much and I got a 72-month loan I still owe a little more on the Mazda than it’s worth. And, even though my brain is currently convinced the WRX is perfect in every way, I suspect that after two years of ownership I’ll probably be in the same spot I’m in right now.

    So for now I sit on it and hope the feeling goes away… or wait as it just grows stronger until it devours my remaining common sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Fight the good fight. My C-Max is almost paid off because I didn’t give in. However, if I didn’t have a wife and kid, I’m sure there would be a Mustang and a truck in front of my, much cheaper than current, house.

    • 0 avatar

      A Mazda3 isn’t a Mustang GT but it’s still a pretty fun car. Since you have four years left on your loan (less if you make extra payments against the principal) and the Mazda3 is worth less than the loan balance, you are stuck with it for a while longer.

      In the meantime, do lots of research. Read paper car mags and look at automotive web sites to narrow your search to half a dozen possibilities that look like they would satisfy you for more than a couple of years. When you get within a few months of being able to afford a Mazda replacement, do a bunch of test drives. Try not to compromise because of price. It’s better to wait longer and save for what you really want.

      Consider relatively new used cars as well as brand new ones. You can fix a lot of stuff with the difference between a $20k used car and a $40k new one.

      There is a lot to recommend in the current models of the Mustang GT and Camaro. Over the long run, either one will be less expensive to maintain than a German car with similar performance.

      Before buying my Infiniti G37S, I spent a year on research and test drove ten different new and used candidates. The first place I went was the Porsche dealer only to learn that a Cayman is too noisy inside and a 911 understeers strongly. I discovered other objections to various Audis, BMWs and older Infinitis. The Lexus SC400 and Jaguar XK8 weren’t candidates because they lacked manual transmissions. The G37, which wasn’t on my original short list, turned out to be the best choice. Since then, I haven’t found anything exciting enough, without busting my budget, to justify replacing it.

    • 0 avatar

      Beware of the WRX. I’m not sure it will satisfy “enthusiast” urges much more than a Mazda 3 does. Different ones, perhaps, but 6-7 years…..

      The FiST will bowl you over, compared to both of the above…. In all ways but the slightly awkward (still less so than the Subie) turbo engine, I can’t imagine a 27 yo “enthusiast” not falling head over heels in one. All the contact points; shifter, pedals, seat, wheel, is on a higher level than on anything else shy of a few pure sports cars.

  • avatar

    find a cheap stick miata and use it as a 2 nd , there are plenty of old ones cheap around, car, keep the accord for now until your at least even up on it, I would say a stick accord coupe but I assume you have grown tire of the honda by now.

  • avatar

    There will always be “better” cars out there, no matter what car you own.

    Some options:
    1. Keep the accord for work commitments (commute, etc) and replace the saturn with another fun project car (i.e. a miata).
    2. Rent some different cars to play with: Does Turo exist in your area?
    3. Sell the accord and spend the proceeds on a fun (used) car that is reliable enough for daily use, that you really want, and will be prepared to love through the years. You have plenty of options here, it’s just a question of whether your heart can settle on something.
    4. Turn the saturn into a Lemons endurance race car.
    5. Find a hobby not related to cars…

  • avatar

    Cheese, get ready to be broke by the age of 60. Throw this stupidity out of your head. Just get a car that is good at everything, or almost everything.

  • avatar

    If he wants to keep indulging himself he should replace the Saturn with another inexpensive hobby car, but make it RWD this time. This way he’ll learn more about the driving dynamics instead of just getting a temporary relief with something new but not substantially different. FWD with a stick shift is not an enthusiast car, it’s just an econobox for the proles.

  • avatar

    In an ideal world, I’d have a decent van (T&C for the stow -n- go) to haul my daughter and all of her dog show stuff (seriously? how much product DOES a dog need??), an old truck (Ranger) parked around back to haul trash and various yard project gear, recent vintage 320i for back and forth to work and something like a nicely restored E30 just for weekend fun (although I am eyeing a certain near-40 year old 5 series right now for sale with wild lust). But my budget condensed that all down to my ’14 Escape!

    As for the writer? Keep the Accord and find an older Miata…or Civic Si.

  • avatar

    Interesting. I find I have the opposite “problem” (if it’s actually a problem): I buy and keep. Because of this, I have a few vehicles that all serve different needs, but don’t let that fool you – aside from the F150, each has over 100K miles and is maintained at home. None of them are particularly high-end, but each serve a purpose, and since I still have those purposes, I still have the vehicles.

    I’d recommend to the OP that they try and look a few years down the road and anticipate needs before jumping into another loan. Considering a home? Kids on the horizon? Moving to where it’s snowy, or not at all? Thinking about changing jobs?

    Few cars can scratch multiple itches like an AWD, turbo/stick sedan. All-season, all-purpose.

  • avatar

    i was so happy to trade a ford focus st for a mazda roadster. both have a stick.

  • avatar

    “I’ll finally be content if…”

    Unfortunately, my ex-wife had the same issue. Unfortunately, there is no cure.

  • avatar

    Step 1: Sell the Accord privately
    Step 2: pay off your debt
    Step 3: enjoy driving the Saturn you like so much
    Step 4: save money
    Step 5: eventually, once you’ve driven the Saturn into the ground, buy a used manual car that is a bit newer. Mazda3, Civic, 86 maybe.

  • avatar

    I too suffer from the wanderlust problem, though instead of getting new cars, I’ve gotten used ones that aren’t likely to depreciate a whole lot. Previously, it was a 2003 C5 Z06, which was replaced by a 2003 Forester XT with a manual transmission (turns out they’re very rare)

    Lately, my sights have been wandering towards the Fiesta ST… hey Bark, when’s your lease up again?

  • avatar

    I swing both ways – I’ve had my Triumph Spitfire for 20 years and there is nothing I really want to replace it with. It’s just so cheap to keep and fun when I drive it. And I have had cars I have barely kept a year for one reason or another. Currently, I expect my ’11 328i wagon will fall into the same category as the Triumph – it’s a car that I wanted for a really long time, I was finally able to order one exactly as I wanted, and now they won’t sell me another one like it (6spd RWD). That car took the place of a long succession of relatively frequently turned over Saabs and Volvos. That leaves 2-3 garage spaces to fill. I need something to tow with (I share a boat), so bought an older ’01 P38 Range Rover a few years back, which has actually been a really good buy – had a cheap WJ Grand Cherokee for a few years before that, but it sucked to drive. Reliable enough, but expensive to register and insure for a “cheap” car. So the Range Rover is going in favor of a really super nice one-owner before me ’95 Land Rover Discovery. Does all the same stuff, but much simpler and much cheaper to keep (1/2 to insure, 1/3 to register). I suspect it will be a long-termer too. Finally, the “just for the fun of it” garage spot. Started with a Porsche 924S which was a mistake, but at least a cheap one. Then a 500 Abarth, now an M235i (wanted to do Euro Delivery again). Probably NOT a super long term keeper, but fun for now.

    Having 4-5 cars prevents boredom with any one of them I find. It’s nice that two of them are pretty new, but not necessary, I’d be happy with older Volvos/Saabs again if necessary. Or VWs.

    • 0 avatar

      I hope the boat is not too heavy as the Disco is not exactly a power monster. I’ve towed a 19′ w/inboard with mine, but I wouldn’t want to go over any hilly areas with it. Too bad about the lack of power as the chassis is very stable while towing and feels like it could handle more with a real engine.

      I passed my ’98 Disco to my buddy, and he’s been driving it for a couple of years now. They are durable vehicles if you don’t count the electrics.

      How do you manage the insurance with so many vehicles? Are they all insured year-round?

  • avatar

    Miata. It’s a daily driver for one to two occupants with an upside down buyout. Older Miata. If the FIL approves and continues to mentor on the repairs/maintenance it could gain value. That way when you wander next you don’t get lost in debt. Might need to accelerate the paydown to get ahead of a 72 month loan for a while.

  • avatar

    Sportbike. My bought-new 2009 Ninja still scratches the itch, is stupid-cheap to operate, is a “stick”, and has no depreciation at this point (37k miles). I would avoid buying a used sportbike, however, due mainly to operating history questions.

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