By Darren Johnson
Like most people, I have some money drains. Actually, lots of them.
But I’d say the area where I make up some of the difference is my willingness to drive older vehicles.
Most cars from, say, 1998 on were built reasonably well, and, with basic maintenance, can run a long time.
My current daily driver is a 2000 Chrysler Sebring Convertible with 85,000 miles that I bought from a senior citizen for $1850. Like this:
It’s in great physical shape and a lot of fun, with good 6-cylinder power, great handling and loaded. Yeah, it has a tape deck, but that’s kind of kitschy, no?
I know a car is supposed to be a status symbol in the white collar world, but having an odd car like this conveys that maybe I drive it because I’m quirky. Being a “creative type,” that’s OK.
Recently, we put down the top and were able to toss a big Christmas tree in the back seat to take home. Another day, we put the top down and drove through the city’s Christmas lights display. People in other cars visiting the display were jealous.
This car is paid for. But let’s say it lasts two years. That’s a cost of about $75 a month. A new car like this would easily have a payment of $300 a month (a savings of $225 a month), plus the insurance would be a lot more because the loan company would require me to get collision.
Now, one can argue that the older car may have higher maintenance costs. But, that said, if I were presented with a big bill — say for a new transmission — I’d just sell the car for parts and move on, while, I’ve found, having a five-year car loan is expensive in years four and five, when you still have payments and high insurance and the car starts needing various new parts.
Let’s say the lower insurance cost for the older car cancels out higher maintenance costs. Saving $225 a month over two years is $5400.
My view also is, a car that made it to, say, age 10 is probably going to make it a couple of more years, if the car is in otherwise good shape. It has proven relatively reliable. While some newer cars seem to have mechanical issues often. Darwin hasn’t weeded these lemons out yet.
Buying an older car that isn’t embarrassing and in good mechanical shape with cash can be a solid move financially.
And that’s the last word … for now.
Darren Johnson is owner of Campus News, a newspaper that hits 37 community colleges in the Northeast.