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Auto Expenses: Trying to Keep It Slim May 21, 2007

Posted by pf in Expenses and Savings.

Currently, I own an SUV and a sedan to ferry the family around.  They are both paid for.  We are soon going to be having our 4th child and it has dawned upon me that the 6 of us will NOT fit into a little 4 door sedan.  Heck, even with the 5 of us, we look like one of those clown cars when we get in and out of the sedan. 

So, for the last couple of months I have been starting to look at larger vehicles in anticipation of purchasing a new car so all of us can fit.  However, I have dreaded this as I really enjoy the freedom of not having a car payment.  Also, the sedan gets considerably better gas mileage which is no small thing with today’s gas prices.  Nonetheless, I had been resigned to a new $300+ car payment…until now.

As I continued to think about this item, I kept being frustrated by the fact it is only in rare instances that we actually have to use the sedan for any kind of family driving.  Those instances being only when our larger vehicle is in the shop for an extended period time for repairs, etc. So, I’m thinking, how often does that happen?  The last year was a fair amount I must say as our SUV grappled with some unique issues. However, prior to that it was very infrequent and with any luck, I am expecting similar performance in the future.

So, I have hatched the following plan:

  • Do not purchase a new car, but maintain the existing ones
  • Each month we essentially “save” $300 by not having to purchase a new car
  • If the larger car is unexpectedly put out of commission, rent an equivalent car until it is available again (a couple of weeks max?)

My rationale is that if I can go 6 months without encountering a problem, I will have “saved” $1800 by not making those payments which should readily cover any rental expenses.  The way I see it, the upside is huge (it could be years without any major problems) and the downside minimal (if it gets too onerous, I’ll cave and by the new car).  This decision pairs nicely with the savings I recently couped from changing my homeowner’s and auto insurance (post here)

I’m sufficiently convinced this is the right approach for us in that it will ensure our needs are met while also being easy on the pocketbook (assuming I experience more of the upside versus the alternative).  I don’t know if anyone else has faced this, but I strongly encourage you to think creatively about the various alternatives when considering a large purchase such as a car.

By the way, in case anyone was wondering, when I say “new” car, I’m talking about a used one (I never buy brand new and have never spent any more than $16K – but that’s a different topic) that is “new” to me.



1. Moneymonk - May 21, 2007

The SUV should be considered the family car. No need to have 2 family cars.

You are doing just fine.

2. Wil - May 22, 2007

If it were me, I’d keep the SUV for the fam car, and IF (really big if) I was dead-set on getting a new(ish) car, I’d look at a small commuter vehicle with better gas mileage and (usually) lower price tag. I know Hyundai still gets a bad rap, but everyone I know that owns one says they are the best car they’ve ever driven, and they are way cheaper than their counterparts, either domestic, european, or asian. Of course, if it were me, I’d probably keep what I have already paid for until the last possible minute, then 20 minutes more ;-}

3. pf - May 22, 2007

I agree with both Wil and Monk – I’m staying with what I’ve got for as long as I can. Cars don’t really have a big allure for me, so not a big sacrifice as far as feeling a “need” for a new one. I’ve also heard the same about Hyundai and they seem to be getting more favorable ratings in Consumer Reports as well. Thanks fellas.

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