So, what do you drive?



I like cars. But I tend not to like new, shiny cars. I like beat up older cars. More character, less worry. Certainly better stories.

Shamefully, I have never named my cars. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had great affection for some of them, it just never occurred to me. They seemed to be OK just being called whatever their manufacturer called them, just like every other car of their type. Kinda like naming your new baby “baby.” Or your dog, “dog.”

Thinking about it that way explains how we named our last two cats: Paka and Mazor. Both words meaning “cat” in their respective languages. (and bonus points if you can name those languages!)

But our current car, the 2007 Subaru Forester pictured above, does have a name. Steve. Steve the Subaru. Nice ring to it, no?

This was our daughter’s doing.

We bought Steve back in 2007 when we had our house on top of a hill with a very steep driveway leading up to it. Our trusty front-wheel drive 1993 Accord armed with studded snow tires had no chance once the ice and snow began to fly. Going up hill, the weight would shift to the rear, unloading the front tires, and traction would be gone.

As much fun as sliding downhill backwards on a narrow drive with deep ditches on either side is, it is an amusement that loses its charm quickly. No wonder we never got company in the winter.

So we shipped our beloved Accord out to my pal Fritz where it could live out the rest of its days in peace under the New Mexico sun, brought home Steve and never looked back.

Steve has been the best car we’ve ever owned. It is the car in which our daughter learned to drive and it was the car she smashed into a curb, bending the wheel prompting a tearful call home for rescue and a lesson that sometimes dad is right. Like when he says driving is serious business and the problem is once you get the hang of it, it seems so easy but when things go wrong, they go wrong very fast.

That’s a lesson most often learned thru harsh experience and we are grateful she learned it just bending a wheel.

When she graduated from college and went to work for Americorp, we bought a 2014 Mazda 3 and passed the Subaru, to which she had become very attached, on to her. She promptly named it Steve.

The plan was that she’d use it for a year before heading overseas with the Peace Corp and, when it returned to us, we’d sell it on. No longer owning the house, we no longer needed Steve’s awesome all-wheel drive. We’d keep the shiny new more efficient…

mazda3-aMazda 3

Now the Mazda 3 is a wonderful car and we enjoyed the time we spent with it. About our only complaint was that the beautiful, swoopy lines made seeing out the back difficult. Backing up (let alone parallel parking, an unfashionable skill in which I take great pride and people who have cars that can park themselves should be ashamed to use such a feature), became fraught with risk. For the first time ever, I actually bumped into something hard, solid and stationary.


I spent years wondering why Mazda, which had done such an otherwise magnificent job in engineering this car, would make such a rookie mistake

What finally dawned on me is that the fancy versions of the 3 come with backup cameras. Soon this feature will be mandatory and the 3 was designed with that in mind. But meanwhile, presumably to save costs, the less fancy versions lack this feature.

But I like simple and so, of course, I always buy the least fancy version.

When Steve came back into our lives and I began spiffing him up for his Craig’s List debut, we found ourselves, more and more, opting for him when we needed to go somewhere.

In the end, it was Mary the Mazda (yeah, I agree. I suck at naming cars) that went on the block.

True, we don’t need Steve’s 4-wheel drive abilities anymore and he is more likely to need occasional mechanical attention.  He’s a lot more thirsty than Mary, too. But gas is cheap and these days we don’t drive much more than about 5000 miles a year, including our annual trek to Shamba each summer.

Other benefits as we see them:

one of their two Vermont-ready new-to-them cars, the Outback, navigating their 1/4 mile driveway

Not Steve, but a reasonable facsimile

  • Steve has higher ground clearance and, while not absolutely necessary, it is nice when we trek out to the wild places like the Frugalwoods Homestead.
  • Steve is roomier and I am not as, ahem, dainty as I once was.
  • Steve has his battle-scars. A new ding, we hardly notice. But one in Mary’s pristine flanks? Oh my! The horror!
  • Selling Mary put a cool 15 grand in our pocket. Steve would have brought 5 or 6.
  • Owning an older car just feels more comfortable to us.
  • We can afford to fix Steve should the need arise.
  • Closing in on 120,000, there is something oddly satisfying in watching the mileage rack up at this point.
  • Who knows, we might someday visit someone else with a steep driveway in the winter.

I got to thinking about all this because of a couple of posts Mr. MM put up lately and a recent lunch with my doctor. (Yes, I have lunch with the guy who gives me prostate exams. Deal with it. I have to.)


Mr. MM Buys a Leaf

I include the post above because it gives me an excuse to reproduce his cool chart and because the analysis of the cost of acquiring this new Leaf is so impressive.

Mr. MM is a famous proponent of the financial wisdom that is buying used cars, and indeed he started his search with the goal of buying a used Leaf. But rather than getting trapped by the “buy used” goal, he was able to see beyond it to the more important goal of buying in the most cost effective way possible.

Many years ago, when I was fooling around with rental properties, I read a book titled “Nothing Down.” No link, because it’s not something I’d recommend. But at the time the concept intrigued me and I set a goal of buying a property with no money down. Six months later, I had.

But on reflection a few months in, it occurred to me that, for a variety of reasons maybe someday I’ll write about, the purchase would have been much better done with some money (which I had) put down on the deal.

I got so caught up in the “no money down” goal I lost sight of the much bigger and more important goal: To buy in the most advantageous way.

In this post…

Young Man Saved from Jeep Suicide

…I was reminded of how successfully car companies have marketed Jeeps, SUVs and Pick ’em Up trucks. Spend tens of thousands of dollars a nice, new shiny one and you’ll be seen as a rugged, outdoors adventurer. Or so they say.

Of course, because you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, you’re far more likely to spend your time obsessing about dings and your weekends keeping it looking shiny and new for when you sell it on or, more likely, turn it in at the end of the lease hoping not to get hit with damage charges.

I’ve known a fair number of rugged, outdoors adventurers in my time and what they drive are dusty, beat-up old heaps of most any type. If you want to be mistaken for one, log on to Craig’s and start looking at 10+ year old vehicles that “need some cosmetic TLC.”

Which brings me to my doctor.

During our last lunch I got to talking about the silliness of expensive cars. I had no idea what he drove. As we walked out of the restaurant, he said, “Hey, take a walk with me and check out my car.”

Most times when people say that, it is their new, shiny purchase they are showing off.

His was a 140,000 mile 2006 Honda Pilot. Picture this…


…but much more beat up.

Every panel had scrapes and dings and the metal strip above the window was a series of vertical scratches from the loading and unloading of interesting objects on the roof. Such is the toll of kids and dogs and hauled around skis, kayaks and such.

He proudly showed me the newest and biggest wound; a dent just below the taillight and about three inches deep. Seems some guy backed into him. Upset and apologizing, the guy offered his insurance info. Doc took a look at the damage and said, “Nah. Don’t worry about it.”

Made the guy’s day and gave both of them a cool story to tell. You don’t get that with a 50 grand truck.

You want to buy a rugged image? Go find one like Doc’s. But you’ll not pry his away.

So what do you drive, and why? Let me know in the comments and, if you have a cool story, share that as well!

Some great news for this blog: 

Speaking of cool stories, I have some great news.

The banner ad at the top of each page on this site is currently populated with ads from AdSense. While this helps pay the bills, frequently I am dismayed by the sort of companies and products that pop up.

Recently Tuft & Needle announced they were disbanding their affiliate program. While I fully understood their reasons, I was sad to see it go. This is a company I deeply respect and I love, and sleep on, their product. Having them as an affiliate was a great fit for the ethic here and they have my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth 🙂 ) without reservation.

It took me a week or so (I’m slow) before it occurred to me: Wouldn’t it be cool to have them take over that banner spot? Turns out, they thought so too.

Come November 1st, which coincidently is my birthday, Tuft & Needle takes over that spot. I hope you’ll give them a warm welcome and, if you are not already sleeping on a T&N mattress, check ’em out!

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  1. Dividends Down Under says

    Nice story about your cars. My wife and I share a car – I use public transport to get to work each day.

    A few years ago, my wife was a lucky owner of a 1990 Toyota Corolla. It was getting pretty old, the air con didn’t really work (vital to have in the Australian summer!) and it was starting to fall to bits. We decided to upgrade to a, funnily enough, 2007 Mazda 3 (all cash of course). We love it, works great for us. We got it for about $10,500. We were happy to get this car as it will last us a very long time, it’s safe (the corolla’s safety features were terrible!). I don’t imagine we’ll buy another car for another 10+ years, if ever (if auto-car sharing works as well as it might do).


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah, for the most part we’ve done fine with just one car as well. Even once our daughter stared driving.

      It wasn’t always convenient, but is was always cheaper!

  2. Felipe says

    I drive a 2011 Chevy Volt. Most days I spend 0 gallons of gas since I get about 35 miles per charge and regenerative braking. After I get 40mpg. It can seat 4 ppl or 2 + tons of cargo. Great for drive ins, short commutes, long drives. It’s versatile and has a low ongoing expense.

  3. Jillena says

    We have a hand me down white Honda civic. I have zero attachment to this boring beat up car with small tires and uncomfortable seats but how often do you come across a free car that runs fine (except for the air conditioner….)??? That said, every single time I get in it I think how horrible I would feel giving my savings away and realize I feel pretty content.

  4. Tracy says

    I drive a 2002 toyota echo, bought used in ’06. Originally bought it as a graduate school car, but as it still runs great and only just broke 100k miles. It’s decorated with hail pocks and a bumped front from my own stupidity, plus other dings and scratches. I love not having to worry about the collection of ‘cosmetic’ defects! It’s long since paid off, and it’ll do anything I ask it to.

  5. Elena C says

    My husband and I shared a 17 year old hand me down BMW. I took the subway to work so it was no big deal. It has worked great so far (we got it when it was already 14 year old, and haven´t had a problem with it). Then we had one kid… then another one… and then we found out we were having a third, so our trusty BWM had to go. There is no way we can install 3 car seats in it! (our oldest will be 2.5 years old when the third one is born. We spent a couple days in shock when we found out about this last pregnancy). So we bought a second hand VW Touran. I love it! It´s pretty old already, so I don´t care if I get a dent on it. We still keep the BMW as my husband cannot part with it yet, though I hope he changes his mind soon!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I can see why your husband likes the BMW, it is from the time when BMWs were real drivers cars and before they got buried in doo-dads.

      Is it costly to keep maintained?

      • Elena C says

        We pay 450e a year for the insurance and then about 200e a year for general maintenance, so its not too bad!
        I agree, the car works great and, had it not been for the kids, it would have been our main and only car for many more years!

  6. Lance says

    Love the car article today!

    My main car is a 2000 Honda Accord – manual transmission. 255,000 miles. We definitely don’t worry about any small dings/scrapes/etc. And the Wisconsin winters have definitely brought on some rust. Battle scars! It’s also been a great car for our three kids (high school and college now) to learn to drive stick shift. Oh – and we’ve named it Black Rufus (after our cat!).

    And about the Tuft and Needle mattresses – we’ve had one for about a year. They are excellent!!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I once had a 2000 Accord back when we first moved to NH and I had a commute.

      I made the mistake of getting the V6. The extra power was fun once in a while, but the vast majority of the time the 4 would have been just fine.

      Plus the V6 made it tougher to sell. Buyers of used Accords tend to be a thrifty lot. 🙂

  7. The Green Swan says

    Yeah gotta love the deal Mr. MM got on that Leaf…nice to live in Colorado where the state rebates are absolutely amazing. I hope to one day get an all electric, but we won’t need a new car for a while and any state / federal rebates may be gone by then (but hopefully the costs come down as well).

    We recently upsized our car to a ’15 Pathfinder for the sake of our growing family and my wife and I share it. At that time we traded in our 2002 Camry which had been put through the ringer! We’ll hopefully have the Pathy (is that a good name…?) for ever.

  8. David Brodowski says

    Hi Jim,
    The thing about cars is they can not only have names – but they can also bring personality and influence of sort. Over the years I’ve had perhaps twenty cars or more. But two of them stand out as bringing great experiences for entirely opposite reasons. At one point I owned a mid-engine two seater (Toyota MR2). The reason this was a cool car beyond its water-bug quickness was that it cocooned its passengers. Just two people in a pod. Kinda of a ‘just us and only us’ unique atmosphere. Women liked it. This unique atmosphere allowed for intimate conversation and a trust of sorts.
    The opposite was a 1964 Dodge Coronet 442 with a push-button automatic. This car was unique and wonderful for completely different reasons. I’d head out to pick up a friend with destination X in mind. Then we’d pick up another friend and our plans would Change to destination Y. Along the way we would pick up another friend and again our plans would change – and so on. With the capacity to comfortably fit 5 adults (well, near adults) it was an adventure every time the cabin contents changed. Add another person and the atmosphere changed and new ideas were discussed and directions would change. Adventure.
    So, the cost of the vehicle never seem to matter as much – it was more abut what the car could bring in ‘possibility’ and potential. Like you said – personality.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I have a soft spot for two-seat sports cars as well, but I prefer convertibles. So I’ve owned a Triumph Spitfire (linked to my post on it in the post above) and a Fiat Spyder.

      Paid $1000 for the first and $3800 for the second. I like my toys cheap.

      My first car was a hand-me-down from my dad for $100. 1965 Plymouth Belvedere 4-door Slant 6. Similar to your ’64 Dodge.

      My girlfriend at the time named it “Rumbleguts” which might be the all time best car name ever.

      • David B says

        I believe I have you beat on first car price. My 1963 Ford Falcon cost me$35. That’s right, I’m not missing a digit – $35.00
        It was primarily paint over bondo. To prove what a ‘gem’ this car was I once took a palm sized magnet, placed it on the driver side door… The instant I took my hand away the magnet fell, without resistance, to the ground. It did have a great engine though – a 289 small block V8 if I remember correctly.

  9. Matt @ Optimize Your Life says

    Thanks for the interesting story. My wife and I drive the 2004 Jeep Liberty that she bought before we even met. She had left the car behind when she moved into the city until we moved into an apartment with a parking space. Then we decided to bring it in for occasional weekend use. It sucks up some maintenance costs from time to time, but we found a great mechanic that we trust and the cost is still pretty minimal compared to the cost of finding a new car. It has now been on the road for around 13 years and still has under 120,000 miles because we drive so infrequently.

  10. Fervent Finance says

    Currently I do not own a car. My gracious girlfriend lets me split her vehicle with her. I don’t need it often since I work from home and I have a bike I use to go to the gym.

    But when I was 21 and had my first big boy job with a $50k salary, I thought I needed to replace my current paid off, fuel efficient Jetta since it needed a little work. Instead of dropping $1,500 in the Jetta I dropped $17.5k on a used Cadillac CTS and financed most of it of course. Luckily I knew debt was bad at that age and paid it off in 2.5 years. I sold the car when I moved to Manhattan in 2014 and haven’t had a car since.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Technically, I don’t own a car either. The Forester is in my wife’s name and she does most of the driving other than our road trips.

      Periodically, I have been tempted to buy an old luxury car but I’ve always hesitated due to the costly maintenance.

      Was that your experience with the Caddy?

  11. Lisa says

    My husband and I currently have two cars: a 2007 Honda Accord and a 1989 Mercedes E-Class. The Accord was a gift from my parents, and my husband’s Mercedes used to be his grandmother’s “church and groceries” car before she got a Prius ten years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever convince my husband to part with his Mercedes, but we have talked about switching out the Honda for something more fuel efficient in the next year or two. My dad purchased the automatic V6 engine model, and it kills me that my newer car gets the same gas mileage as a car that’s older than my husband is. We mostly drive the Accord at this point, and it would be nice to have a car with better fuel efficiency for our primary vehicle.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      As I mentioned above, I used to have a V6 Accord that mostly I wished was a 4.

      I’ve long had a soft spot for that era of E-class, but fear the cost of Mercedes repair.

  12. Full Time Finance says

    Currently we have 3 cars, I know the shock and the horror. A 2008 Nissan Versa left from my wife’s days in college. Given its more typical I’ll leave that one without comment.

    A 2015 Mazda 3 which we bought new. The 3 was bought as I was forced to get rid of my 16 year old trans am as the kids came along. My family does regular long road trips for enjoyment. Work is only 4 miles away but its not a safe bike route. IE the 2 cars are needed. These two are what drives the family around. I could have bought used, but I chose to sacrifice other things to get something new in line with my personal priorities. I am a car fanatic. Honestly I have no concerns with spending money on a new car at the cheaper end of the scale as long as you understand your sacrifices and you plan on keeping it until the wheels fall off. Luck willing the Mazda will be here when my kids learn to drive in 12 and 15 years.

    Which brings me to the third car. This one I don’t recommend. Back in 2007 I bought a Corvette. This was before I was frugal and I bought it new. Looking back it was a rebellion against my parents and coworkers who all were pushing me towards a house. Ironically thanks to the housing bust that purchase of a car is still better off then had I bought a house when single in 2007. However I would not advise buying a Corvette financially.

    So why do I still have it then? Well remember I’m a car fanatic. This car is fully paid for and costs me around 400 dollars a year to insure, maintain, and drive. Its worth about 20K which means their is some opportunity cost if I’d invest the money in the market, but to be honest given the low cost of maintenance and that it brings me happiness its still here. Everything else in our lives is largely cut to the bone and I wouldn’t but a new Corvette at this point as then it would exceed my happiness value.

    You choose your happiness, thats ultimately the important part. Know the value of that thing to you and remove everything else that does not bring that value. You’d be surprised at how much slack there is.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Years ago when my ex-brother-in-law was living in Chicago, he used to own 4 or 5 beaters.

      Each morning he’d take the keys to them all and, starting with the one parked closest, he’d take the first one that would start.

      Your ’15 Mazda is the same model as our ’14. Do you have the same issues with rearward visibility?

      • Full Time Finance says

        Yes I do but we live in a rural area so I’m not parallel parking except on trips. Also coming from a Trans Am I’m use to a blind spot the size of a semi.

        Your first sentence sums it up. I actually enjoy working on the cars and keeping them running myself.

  13. Tom L says

    After moving back to the SF Bay Area from San Miguel de Allende (most folks walk or take a $2.50 cab while living there), Mexico, due to the nature of our work and differing schedules we bought, used, a 2011 Prius and a 2008 Prius. Our rational was that they will retain their retail value and that the gas and maintenance costs will be better than most cars on the market. We also are hoping that these will be the last vehicles that we buy before selling them to then use driverless electric cars from companies like Lyft or Uber when that service becomes available, far less expensive than owning ones own vehicle and is proven safe.

    Also, two years ago, we took jlcollinsnh’s advice and bought a Tuft & Needle mattress. Both my wife and I feel that it’s the best mattress we’ve ever slept on.

    • ex-Sgt Pepper says

      Funny! We were from Santa Cruz (bay area), living car-less in San Miguel in the spring of 2013, and originally planning on leaving Mexico by airplane after a 13-month adventure. But it was such a stressful trip for our sweet dog to ride in cargo to Puerto Vallarta, that eventually we decided to buy our current car so that (a) we could take the very long way out of Mexico, via Chiapas, and (b) so the dog wouldn’t have to fly. So we flew to San Diego and bought a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder for $5000. Terrible gas mileage at ~18 mpg, but we knew we’d need 4WD and I’d had good Nissan experiences before. We drove back down to SMA, then a month later we left for Valle de Bravo, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Palenque, Villahermosa, Veracruz, and back up the “highway of death” to Matamoros and back into the clean, quiet, organized, well-paved USA ;). We drove out to Cape Canaveral and lived there for a few months, took “Frida” (the Pathfinder, not the dog) up and down the east coast twice, back across country on route 66, and then moved up here to southern Oregon. Just last week she turned over 200k, and I’ve spent some $$ on repairs, and lord knows I’ve WANTED to sell her and buy an electric car, but I can’t. Like Jim says, gas is cheap, and we only drive about 6000k/yr now.

      • jlcollinsnh says

        Great adventure!

        I’d sure keep her after all that.

        You can even rationalize that the environmental impact of mining and assembling all the materials for a new electric car has a worse impact than your Nissan’s crappy gas mileage.

        I think I saw that somewhere on the internet one time so it has to be true, right? 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah, I’m hoping when the time comes that I can no longer can or want to drive, driverless cars will be all the rage. Meanwhile, Uber works great when my wife has the Forester and I need to get somewhere.

      BTW, I was just visiting a friend in Maine and he was showing me the old Prius he just bought with a dead battery.

      He tells me you don’t have to replace the whole battery. Usually it is just a cell or two that have gone bad and they are cheap and an easy swap out.

      I asked about the older cells and he says there is no reason they can’t go another 50k without trouble.

      Thanks for the report on your T&N. Sweet dreams!

  14. Kevin says

    I drive a 2003 Volvo S60 and will continue to do so as long as she lets me. I inherited it from my Dad when he passed away two years ago.
    I had not had a car previously because I was living in a city, but when my Dad became ill my sister and I borrowed it to make the 4 hour drive to the hospital each weekend to see him. Actually the last time I saw him, he was my passenger when I backed into a pole at a gas station, he laughed it off and said “I didn’t think you had enough room, but I was going to let you figure that out on your own.” Last Christmas, I collected another small dent when a boulder snuck up on me outside a cabin our family rented. My 4 yr old said, “uh oh Daddy, I dont think you should have done that. I think you hurt grandpa’s car”.
    I love my car. I love it’s dents. I love that my son still thinks of it as Grandpa’s car.

  15. Angela L says

    I have a 2005 Prius that’s nearing 150,000 miles. I live in Boston so I’ve considered getting rid of it, but I have cousins in NH and it’s nice to have for occasional longer trips. I decided to lower the insurance coverage this year so it costs me very little to maintain it. It’s looking very beat up, especially after the winter of 2015. Having to park on Boston streets in the winter takes a cosmetic toll on any car! But I also don’t worry about additional marks and dings and scratches, which are inevitable when you have to park on the street. I’m planning to keep it until it dies or reaches 200,000 miles, whichever comes first. It suits all my needs and I’m not looking to take on new debt. I am working on a building up a car replacement fund, however, for when that day arrives.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Even if the battery dies, if you know someone handy you can likely cheaply just replace a couple of the cells.

      See my reply to Tom L above.

  16. plam says

    2003 Outback with 300k kms. But it seems to be needing a constant stream of fixes and so we really should be trading it for something newer with fewer kms. Aiming for as small as possible with a hatchback.

    Also building an ebike for my spouse’s commute. Maybe not so good in a Canadian winter, but it’s not always winter here. (The Outback came to us from her mom, who also lives on top of a hill. They’re good for that.)

  17. Alex says

    We’ve got a 2007 Toyota Corolla at 97k miles and a 2004 Volvo XC90 at 115k miles. We bought the corolla used in 2011 with 49k miles for $9k, that is our primary car and have driven 8600 miles in the last year. The XC90 is an emergency car of sorts, for when it is too nasty out for me to bike to work, or for going skiing, on particularly rough road hiking trips, group outings, moving stuff etc. We got it as a sort of hand-me-down in 2014 with only 112k miles or so. We’ve only driven the Volvo 1600 miles in the last year and keep it plugged in to a trickle charger so the battery doesn’t die on us when we don’t drive it for months in the summer.

  18. Jan says

    I gave up (sold) my 2006 4runner to our son. I loved it! But I love my new car even more…a new white mercedes gla-sporty and small and it feel so solid. Being frugal all these years has paid off. I never thought I’d enjoy a car so much! And it didn’t cost any more than a Toyota. We tend to buy new cars and keep them for 10+ years 🙂 when they can be garaged. For the driveway car-we buy used.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I’m sometimes tempted to buy a really nice car and I’m sure it would drive beautifully.

      But I’m also sure I’d obsess over it getting dinged and that misery would out weight any joy.

      This is why I can’t have nice things. 🙂

  19. Darrow Kirkpatrick says

    We drive a 2012 Subaru Forester (purchased used, of course), thanks in part to your suggestion Jim. And we love it. Perhaps our favorite vehicle of all time, and we’ve owned plenty over the years!

    • jlcollinsnh says


      There are two people I know who drive Foresters based on my conversations and you are both in New Mexico. 🙂

  20. luytterlinde says

    May I suggest an addition to the chart analysis? A legitimate option is the occasional use of a car sharing service and/or car rental service. All the perks of a car (and ability to test out multiple models!) when necessary, without the full cost/energy commitment and inevitable usage creep that comes with ownership.

  21. Done by Forty says

    We drive a 2006 Toyota Matrix, but not all that often. We like it because it’s a manual, has a hatchback, and back seats that fold totally flat (handy for driving the dogs around or picking up a piece of furniture). Bought it used for $6,400 about 4 years ago.

    But the vehicles we mostly ‘drive’ are our two 124cc Yamaha Vinos. Phoenix is great for scooters: totally flat, built on a grid so you can get anywhere without highways, and all the major local roads top out at 40-50 mph, right in the scooter’s range.

  22. Adam says

    I’ve got a 12-year-old stickshift Hyundai hatchback with 126k on the ticker and it’s GREAT. Somebody went straight from a turn lane and took out my driver’s side mirror while scraping the $#@&! out of my door. Thirty two bucks on eBay and five minutes with a 10mm socket wrench later, I had a new mirror. The dents will be there forever and that’s fine — they serve as a warning on the freeway when I’m trying to merge left!

  23. Brenda says

    My current ride is a 2000 Saab 9-3 that I bought back in 2009. It’s got 172k miles on it and the sunroof’s taped shut because these things leak when they get to a certain age, but it’s still a lot of fun to drive. It also is great for hauling stuff around.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I used to have a 2000 SAAB 9-3 convertible.

      Bought it in the dead of winter, fixed a few minor things and spruced it up.

      Enjoyed it all spring and summer before selling it on for a slight profit.

      Great fun!

      But the power top is very complex and the word on the SAAB forums that it was wicked expensive to replace and rarely easy to fix.

      But old SAABs are great cars and tend to be very cheap on the used market.

  24. The Russian Guy says

    First of all, thanks for the great post.

    In our family of 4 we have only 1 car, 1 motorcycle and 3 bicycles.
    3 years ago, when I came to the States I was stupid enough and financed a car. It was 2014 Dodge Journey. A year after I was stupid enough and financed a motorcycle – 2015 Honda XR650L. Thanks God we got a wake up call and have changed our life and lifestyle. In 10 months we paid off both loans and we drive one car and I ride the motorcycle.

    The we we do it is kind of weird. Every morning, from Monday to Friday, I drive the kids to the school and the daycare and my wife rides a bicycle to work (about 5 miles). During lunchtime she rides on the bicycle to my work and we change the “vehicles”. And every evening, from Monday to Friday, she pick-ups the kids from the school/daycare and I ride the bicycle back home.

    Can we buy another car? Yes, we have enough money to buy a car. Do we need a car? No. That’s why we drive one car 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      At least it didn’t take you long to get off the borrow to buy a vehicle track. Most people never do.

      And I don’t think your solution to making one car work is weird. I think it is absolutely elegant!

      Well played!

  25. Steve Merkley says

    I’m glad to see you drive a Subaru Forester named Steve, because my name is Steve and my wife and I own and drive a 2005 Subaru Forester named Jonsi (after the musician). It is approaching 175,000 miles and I hope it lasts forever. We recently moved from CA to FL and hauled it on a trailer behind our moving truck so we could keep it alive.

    I ride my bike to work, so my wife uses it most of the time, but it’s a great adventure car.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      They are great, do-it-all vehicles and we hope ours lasts longer than our ability to drive it.

      At the 5000 miles a year rate we’re going, it will take 11 years to match your 175,000.

      2028 here we come! 🙂

  26. Casey says

    We are contrarian to the thread. We almost always buy the vehicle for at least 10 years and normally have a purpose in mind. The Volvo 240 that we bought pre-kids that we put > 200k miles and I was worried it would actually go for 1 million so we got rid of it before the headliner started to fall in (like the car it replaced). The Suburban we got with only 1 new kid (never able to have more) that we kept for 15 years. The Texas cadillac they say. But the current fleet is a GMC Diesel 2500 that we don’t use as a daily driver. Just got back from pulling our Airstream on an awesome little trip. Wouldn’t pull it with anything else. We affectionally call the truck “Big Foot”. We call the trailer the “Horny Toad”. The daily driver is a Jeep Rubicon that we also use in the summers to go 4wd in Colorado. I expect to keep both of these vehicles for the rest of my driving life which I hope is measured in > 25 years. Our favorite car(s) have changed as our life has changed. We justify by keeping them for a long time. But my favorite vehicle for getting around Austin is our Vespa scooter. Nothing like it for putting a huge smile on your face. I expect to keep it forever too. We’ve been lucky, saved a lot since we both got our first jobs, invested in a similar fashion to you and while I’m not sure I would exactly say frugal … but I would definitely say deliberate. Jim, I always look forward to your posts and this one was great.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Being deliberate goes a long way. 🙂

      Those 240s had a great reputation. Do you ever wish you still had it.

      Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I like doing these once in a while, but they are off the investment theme more common around here and they always trigger a flurry of unsubscribes. 🙁

  27. Eric says

    I have a 2001 Outback that just turned 200k this week. Awesome car. I bought it in 2011 (cash) to replace a 1995 VW Passat VR6 (another freaking awesome car) when I moved into a garage apartment on “Heck of a Hill Road” in Jackson Hole, WY. A friend bought the VW and still drives the mountains of WY and cross country every year. My plan is to keep the Subie until the next dreaded head gasket/timing belt/water pump replacement at 275k. We’ll see if the cost is worth it. Since I only live 3 blocks from work and bike or walk everyday, it’ll probably take decades to get there. BTW, loved the book Jim. I’m planning to give a few away as gifts.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah, the head gasket issue is a pain.

      We had to have the left bank done at 94k and are waiting for the shoe to drop on the right.

      Every 90k on the timing belt I can live with. 🙂

  28. Mustard Seed Money says

    I use to drive cars that we exclusively driven in the 1990s or earlier. I never had a new car ever until my brother in law started to work for a car company.

    He then got a friends and family lease for me. It turns out that lease included maintenance, insurance and unlimited miles.

    Once I ran the numbers it was cheaper for me to drive a leased car that I turned in every year than driving a used car.

    So now I drive the cheapest new car that they offer 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Years ago I was talking to a colleague of mine and happened to ask what kind of car he drove.

      “I drive the best car in the world.” he said.

      “Really? What car is that?”

      “A company car.” 🙂

  29. Malibu Rocks! says

    I have all of you all beat. I own the best car made, which is a 2003 Chevy Malibu with a V6. I bought it at 30k miles and am at 396,502 on the original engine and transmission! I can’t wait to get to 400,000! Even better is that my job pays my mileage. I can’t count the number of times that has paid for this car. I have a cash reserve for the next car but I can’t envision finding anything better. Plenty of power, great gas mileage (up to 35 mpg depending on my lead foot), very few repair bills, and it can take a beating (4 times in 11 years).

    Nothing but respect for folks who drive practical vehicles.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      You get the highest mileage award for sure! At least for now. 😉

      Any secret, long-life tips you want to offer the rest of us?

      How far do you think it can go?

      I’ve known a couple of folks who, like you, were getting paid for mileage on their cars. Driving an older, fully deprecated vehicle, makes this a sweet money making proposition.

      • Malibu Rocks! says

        My secret is frequent oil changes. Because I drive so much I get a monthly oil change.

        As far as how far it will go, I used go dream of 300,000 and now and staring at the 400,000 mark. I have a feeling it is living on borrowed time even though I am not having any issues now. I would love to get to 500,000, mostly because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a new car.

  30. Moriss says

    For me car’s was definitely something beyond get from point A to point B.
    In 2003 After 2 years driving my mother 2001 automatic VW golf (very not recommended car) I “jump” to my own first car -1989 lancia Delta 1.6 HF turbo. It was love from the first place.
    After a year I understand that I want the real deal , sold the HF turbo and bought 1988 lancia Delta Integrala.
    4wd and 2.0 turbo engine that produces smile every time you go out .
    I drove the car factory stock for a year or so and then start to tuinn it on a monthly basis.
    After a time I find myself going to work just to hold the car.
    A lot of money to maintain the beast
    After a 500 hp new turbo broke a lot of things on the engine and stronger part cost a lot here.
    After 3 years in this crazy cycle I had involved in accident that force me to sell the car in parts . Fire sale!
    so I lost all of my mony I have. 24 year old men.
    The accident made a transformation in my thinking and even I lost a lot in the process tody I think it worth the lesson.
    After the accident I bought a 500 $ vespa scooter and signed to BA at economics.
    That period change my life forever!
    I start discover the stock market and financial independence more a more and start enjoying the Fack that my vehicle is so efficient comper to the other options I had.
    Today 7 years after the crash I drive 1998 Hyundai accent 1.5 petrol that cost me absolutely nothing!
    The car stand a few year at my father garage I just need to pay for tow years test, oil and filters and 4 tyres.
    Today after 4 years driving it I smile because other reasons.
    My savings in this category take me forward to build my portfolio and some day exist the race .
    Work where I want if I want sounds better then androfhins after a rough Integrala drive.
    After reaching my FI goal’s maybe I could have a Integrala after all :_)

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Great story, Moriss!

      Even if you never have another Integrala, you’ll always have the (expensive) memories. 🙂

  31. Paul says

    I’m aghast. Cars, boats, and motorcycles, if named, should, without exception, have female names.

    “Lucille”, my 2007 Harley Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic would not stand for a masculine name, such as Steve, Brad, Larry, Fred, or the likes.

    With all due respect to your daughter, please, rename that Subaru.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Great name!

      As I recall, “Lucille” was also the name BB King gave his guitar.

      As for Steve, he was named by a woman and she sees things differently. And I am certainly not foolish enough to get in the way of that. 😉

      As is my habit, my Triumph Bonneville Scrambler remains unnamed. Well, occasionally I call it “Bonnie” but that, again, is like naming a dog “dog” 🙂

      • Paul says

        New, vintage? What color? Two-toned? Naming an English motorcycle could be tricky.

        Two-toned white and blue, vintage Bonneville–Maggie or Amelia.

        Two-toned white and red, vintage Bonneville–Diana. Di for short, but that might be too obvious. Raquel would work too.

  32. deb says

    What do we drive? Nothing now, because we live in Cuenca, Ecuador, and either hoof it or take taxis. But my favorite two cars were an old Mazda 626 and my Forrester, which we sold before coming here… Bright sapphire blue – I could find it anywhere in any parking lot!!

  33. Jason says

    I drive a 2009 Nissan Sentra with over $100,000 miles. Hopefully, it will last me another 100,000 to 200,000. I figure right about then it will be another 10 years or so and it will be time for another slightly used car.

  34. Eddie says

    2005 Suzuki Forenza, bought new and now it’s paid for. I use the past payment money to buy Vanguard ETF’s now. It’s abused but I only drive 5,000 miles a year. The paint is awful and it leaks. I don’t care. I’m not out to impress anybody. I’m gonna drive it until it quits. I have money now, just buy another beater.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      That’s a great approach with house/debt/car payments: Once they are paid off just start paying the money into an investment/freedom fund.

      As the intoxication of watching your money grow instead of flee increases, it is a nice motivation to keep the old heap going.

      Well played! 🙂

  35. CF says

    Timely post. Our 2003 Odyssey died a couple months ago (transmission, which is common with those early 2000s models) at 187,000 miles, was really hoping to get 200,000+ but no dice. We also have 2005 Acura TL with 90K (bought used with very low mileage in 2010) and 2011 Mazda 3 sedan with 28K (bought used last year when our daughter started driving). Been dragging our heels on replacing the Odyssey. Family of 5 with lots of activities/driving kids’ friends/road trip vacations, so we’re probably going to buy car with larger capacity, just waiting for the right vehicle. Generally try to find a car that’s 4-5 years old with strong reliability ratings but low mileage for it’s age. Won’t lie, would frankly love a Tahoe or Q7 or something less boring than a minivan, but practicality will win out and we’ll probably end up in a (yawn) 2012 Sienna or something like that.

    I love cars and over the years have had Dodge Stealth (great fun, blown clutch, transmission), Volvo 850R (super fast, head gasket, oil leaks) and Lincoln LS Sport manual (great handling, complete garbage otherwise…). Have since learned my lesson, although would love a Tesla in the future…

    Anyhow, thanks for all the great posts, been an avid follower.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      That’s tough when a car dies and you just need it to hang on for a few more years. 🙁

      I mentioned in the post that we passed our ’93 Accord on to a friend in NM.

      It had a 150k on it at the time and he put on another 50k, but then the engine blew up.

      There are stories of these engines going 300-400,000 miles plus. But, clearly, not always. 🙁

      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

  36. FIRECracker says

    “But I tend not to like new, shiny cars. I like beat up older cars. More character, less worry.”

    Well-said and I completely agree.

    We actually get the best of both worlds…shiny car but no worry. Why? Because of “AutoShare”.

    Since we lived in a city with good public transportation, we only needed to rent a car occasionally for grocery shopping, visiting out of town friends, etc. The cost? Only $200-400/year. And the best part? One time this idiot hit us while trying to pass on the left. Luckily it was minor damage and no one got hurt. But even though all the witnesses said it was clearly his fault, the insurance company still ruled it 50/50. But because it was a rental, we paid nothing. It was all covered by the insurance included in our AutoShare plan. God, I love renting. Renting homes, renting cars, renting bikes. All rent, all the time. Your stress level goes down SO much when you don’t own anything 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep, no car is the best financial choice whenever that can be made to work. Indeed, I see that choice in our future.

      And I, too, love the whole rent-not-own dynamic and the freedom increase and stress decrease it creates.

      Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for owning a car and likely will as long as I can drive. At least if I’m still living in the US.

      But once the dog dies and we go international, all bets are off! 😉

  37. Travis says

    I live in car-centric Los Angeles and yet drive a 2005 Honda Civic LX. Why? The long story is that it was the first and only new car my dad bought. Two years later he, sadly, died of ALS and I promised him I’d take care of his baby as he approached the end.

    Since then, 6 years ago, I’ve been proudly driving that little white refrigerator around town. It’s been a flawless, reliable, cost efficient (and relatively low polluting) car. It’s not glamorous, and at times people in LA turn up their noses at me (particularly the valets who, upon returning it and seeing it only has 60k milage often beg me to sell). Sure, it’d be nice to have bluetooth, but the iPhone plug in works just fine and I’ve saved a TON of money on insurance and (zero) car payments.

    I’ve personally decided to: 1) drive it to 100k, or 2) drive it until I’m officially F.I., at which point I will consider a splurge on another car. Time will tell if I keep either promise.

    P.S. some of you may have an emotional connection to your car, whether for convenience, sexiness, power, comfort or whatever. In my case I get to connect to my father every time I drive that damn no-nonsense car. Not sure I could ever trade that for anything.

  38. JC says

    Parent’s cars in my teens (what I learned to wrench on):
    66 Dodge Monaco – 6.3 V8 (all my siblings – 18yr spread) earned their driver’s license in this car)
    70 MGB – 1.8 I4 (86 y/o Dad still drives daily)
    78 Volvo 244DL – 2.4 I4 (always ran, never right)

    My junk:
    71 Triumph TR6 – 2.5 I6
    78 Datsun 280Z – 2.8 I6
    80 Toyota Celica Supra – 2.6 I6
    78 Honda CB400 – .4 I4
    84 Mitsubishi Starion – 2.6 I4 t
    80 Suzuki GS550E – .55 I4
    89 Ford Probe GT – 2.2 I4 t
    84 Honda VF500 – .5 V4
    92 Dodge Grand Caravan – 3.0 V6 (1st painter’s mule for my biz, bootstrapped out of the Probe’s hatchback)
    95 Acura Integra GSR – 1.8 I4 (3 in a row, first 2 totaled. #1 was the first, and last, new vehicle ever bought.)
    90 Nissan 240SX – 2.4 I4
    02 Dodge Grand Caravan SE – 3.3 V6
    05 Mazda3 – 2.3 I4
    14 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT – 3.6 V6

    So, a relentless parade of japanese hatchbacks (doubling as autocross toys, in a past life), with some medium sized motorcycles sprinkled in (I gave up the 2 wheeled engine game, too). Some of these cars/bikes were just visitors, most stayed around for years. And then 3 painter’s mules/vans. These Chrysler minvans depreciate so fast, and are so plentiful, they are cheep to buy. Only after reaching FI did I splurge for the 14 van. It’s almost too pretty to muck up, but I’ve got much less mucking planned – and more road/camping trips destined for it.

    Incidentally, I compiled all costs for the first 2 vans (buy-sell, fuel, insurance, repairs, upgrades, tolls, everything) ’92 = $.44/mi, ’02 = $.49/mi These would have been much worse without my own skills/repairs, junk yard parts, and crowd-sourced trouble-shooting.

    And now the real junk – tow truck bait I’d bought on a whim, but never actually drove before junking.
    66 Cadillac Hearse – 7.0 V8 (did actually run under it’s own power…)
    80 Fiat Spyder 2000 – 2.0 I4 (18k mi, complete – dragged home from long term abandonment in a humidor – everything that should pivot, slide or rotate, was rusted frozen).

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Quite the eclectic list there, JC…

      Kudos to your dad for being able to keep that MGB and himself running for so long. 🙂

      And anyone who can parallel park a Monaco on their driver’s test, truly has learned how to parallel park! 🙂

  39. Eastcoaster says

    All my cars have been manual transmission, something less common now in the U.S. unless you want a sports car, which I do not. I have owned a diesel VW Rabbit, Nissan Sentra, and last year replaced a 16 year old Mazda Protege with a new Diesel VW Golf (a month before the ‘dieselgate’ story broke). Even though I know I am paying a new car premium, I did it anyways for a few reasons. First, I keep my cars as long as possible, for 10 years at least. Second, with fewer people now driving manual shift cars, I worry about how well the previous owner drove it. (I have heard plenty of stories.) I never had clutch problems on my last car which I bought new and am quite proud of that. Lastly given how long I keep my cars I felt this may the last opportunity to have a good manual shift vehicle that meets my other needs. In 10-20 years from now I can see my next car as a hybrid or fully electric, neither of which would be manual.
    As far as the implications with dieselgate, I have pretty much decided to have them fix the car and keep it with a payment to compensate for the possible reduction in performance. Overall I like the car and thought long and hard about what to buy the first time. Not much has changed in the last 12 months between new cars available since and how the car has performed since I have had it. Right now I average 42+ mpg CITY driving and I have a 6 speed manual in a compact hatch back. Even if they ‘ fix’ the car and say the mpg goes down I will still have a nice practical 6 speed manual that I enjoy driving. (The gas version is a 5 speed and already gets low to mid 30s mpg.) Also the settlement payment helps reduce my overall cost of the car, and I don’t care about future trade in value since I don’t plan that it will be worth that much when I finally do replace it 10-20 years from now.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Sounds like that diesel-gate fiasco worked out rather nicely for you! Hope it gives you decades of faithful service.

      There is something nice about knowing exactly how a car has been treated since day 1. It’s why we bought our Forester new. That and that we could easily afford to pay cash for it.

      I once had a ’95 Protege with a 5-speed. Wonderful little car and the reason we bought the Mazda 3. Shoulda kept it. 😉

  40. Mark A. says

    Hi Jim, I was glad to read your comments on the Mazda 3 visibility, because I’m starting to think about what car is next for us. Those are sharp looking Japanese cars and wagons are handy but we do need visibility, which I’ll keep in mind. We have a 2002 Honda CR-V and a 2006 Saab 9.3, which we like but which are starting to require a lot of repairs. Whatever we get, it will be Japanese, I’m sure.

    • jlcollinsnh says


      that was really the only thing we didn’t like. But it was a pretty big thing.

      Perhaps with a backup camera the issue goes away, but I have no experience with those.

      BTW, since I do have experience selling one, you can pick ’em up cheap used. 🙂

      With gas so cheap, seems little sedans are unwanted orphans these days.

  41. Kristi says

    I live in NYC and don’t need a car, but in the late 90’s I was traveling a lot on the weekends to compete in bike races, so bought a used Nissan with about 100,000 miles on it for $500. Not only was it ancient, but one side was dented in and rusty. I LOVED that car when it came to traffic jams. People with beautiful fancy cars would be trying to block me from merging. We’d get closer and closer and I’d just laugh: “C’mon, look at this thing, you think I care if you hit me?” And I always won.

  42. Jon says

    We used to drive a toyota echo with 3 kids and my wife. We had that little commuter while I was taking a 5 year sabbatical (started using it with one kid and added a couple more during that time). We put a ton of miles on it. I figure we spent a total, minus gas, of $50 per month, including the appreciation. We would go on 2 week trips with it. No outside cargo. Yeah, it was a bit tight, but it worked! I think we had bought it for $4k and sold it for 1.5k. Will child number 4 we now drive a 2005 Honda Pilot. We mainly went with that vehicle because we got a really good deal from some friends.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Tell it, Jon!

      Having a kid, or two, or three doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy a big-ass SUV.

      A little planning will suffice. 😉

  43. Jone says

    I drive a 2010 Honda Insight car and a 2013 Moto Guzzi v7 Stone motorcycle. The ‘Guzzi is a new addition to the garage in the past six weeks. They both get about 45-50 MPG but the motorcycle is vastly more fun to drive. The Insight now has about 40,000 miles on it and the bike about 1,500. Obviously, the jury is still out for the ‘Guzzi concerning reliability but the Honda has been a great car requiring only a regular maintenance.

    The Insight replaces a mid ’90’s Honda Civic that I bought used for about $10k and drove for about 8 years. It still ran fine when I sold it but I was tired of shifting the manual transmission. I sold it to a guy at work for for $7k. He drove it for a couple of years then gave it to his son as a first car.

  44. Pat says

    2014 Toyota Prius Plug in Hybrid. Picked it up pretty cheap on the used market and even managed to get it for less than a standard Prius with higher mileage. The battery doesn’t have a huge capacity, but it will consume the charge that the hybrid battery would slough off if you didn’t have it. This is where living in the mountains of NH helps keep fuel prices down. When coming down from the mountains (which I was doing in my old diesel anyway) I pick up between 4-5 miles of electric range. That 4-5 miles of electric range is enough to get me out and about town to do all the chores I need a car for. It doesn’t sound like a lot and in the short term it isn’t, but it’s all driving I was already doing in a less fuel efficient car. Also, our favorite brewery in town has a free charging station, so there’s that.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Free charging stations seem almost too good to be true.

      Wonder how long they’ll last and if those offering them will install more as electrics become more popular?

  45. Nick S. says

    I currently drive a 2016 Ford F-150 pick up truck.

    Now, I know you’re thinking how can this heathen post this after reading this article and Mr. Money Mustache’s words of wisdom?! It’s a company work truck that display’s three letters on the side that you might be quite familiar with! (DPR ring a bell?) It’s not a fancy pants luxury one, it’s a “work truck” trim level. However, it still has an an amazing amount of options standard, including a back up camera and locking tail gate! I am allowed to use to get back and fourth from the job each day, and the occasional grocery store run. For everything else, my current city of Austin, TX has smart cars, ride share, ect… which gives me more than enough options to get around when I need something for my personal use.

    Before I got the truck, I used to have a pretty much brand new 2015 Jeep Wrangler. I had wanted one my whole life, and I was finally able to get one after finishing paying off my student loans, only to realize it was possibly the worst vehicle I had ever owned. I was so happy to sell it when I got a company vehicle and it was such a relief to be rid of it. Through bizarre economics of Jeep Wrangler values, I was even able to sell it for what I paid for it since I had gotten the “exclusive” Rhino color!

    • jlcollinsnh says


      Nothing wrong with a pick up that actually gets used as a truck. Especially with the company picking up the tab.

      One nice thing about those Jeeps, they do evidently hold great resale value.

      If you had to scratch that itch, it was likely cheaper than most. 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      More than can be counted!

      One entry, and a winner!

      Now did you do this on your own, or did the internet gods tell you? 😉

      • techwiz says

        Yes I admit I had the help of “internet gods”

        Swahili was easy, but Konkani is not supported by online translators and took some extra digging.

        I found someone who posted a picture of a cat with the same name “Mazor” who lives in the state of Goa. That lead me to find the Konkani language which is spoken widely in the Western Coastal region of India known as Konkan.

        The internet is so full interesting of information.

  46. wendy says

    My second car was a silver Subaru Forester and I *loved* it – particularly for the visibility in all directions (some of the narrowest window pillars in the industry); the higher than a car clearance (National Park dirt roads!); and the versatility of the cargo space (no moving vans for a long time, plus I could sleep in the back if the campgrounds were full)…
    I lived in downtown Philly for almost five years and it was a great car for parallel parking in both directions, on all those one-way streets.
    After 10 years, several cross country road trips, and 100,000 miles, I gave it to my brother – when he was short of money and his car suddenly died and wasn’t worth repairing.
    It’s still going strong, with the occasional injection of cash for some replacement items as they come up.

    My replacement car was another silver Forester, 10 years newer, with 0% 5 year financing, as they were getting ready to switch major models about 3 years ago. I’m down to maybe 5000 miles driving a year (I walk, bike, take transit), so I expect this one will last a very long time as well, especially as I’m in CA now, not in snowy East coast.
    I consider selling it and following MMM’s advice to get a less thirsty car, but my insurance is pretty low and I don’t drive much anyway…but when I do, I really appreciate the visibility.
    The biggest drawback I see (besides fuel) is that if you kill a tire when they’re over 50% wear, you are supposed to replace all four tires to keep everything balanced with the AWD.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      We’ve killed two tires.

      The first at 17,000 miles and the tire guys insisted we needed all four.

      The second last year, 22,000 miles into a new set of tires. This time they (different place) never even suggested replacing more than just the one.

      I am skeptical of this replace them all deal. Even at 50% plus wear on the set, I just can’t see the slight difference in the thickness making much difference.

      Any mechanics out there care to weigh in?

      • Charlie Tuna says

        You don’t need to change all four tires – if one fails/blows out, replace that one. Is there evidence that you could possibly, theoretically, alter the life of your 4WD system due to a tire being 1/2″ different diameter? Maybe.
        Is there evidence of failed drivetrains due to a single tire being 10K miles newer than the other 3? Check Google.
        Are we talking about the difference between your 300K mile transmission losing 5K miles of life? Probably, but
        what you really should be worrying about with a Subaru (in New England at leas) is the RUST. I see TONS of subarus in the junkyard with perfect transmissions and engines, but the frames are cheesecloth.
        I’ve personally had several AWD vehicles (which are different from 4WD vehicles, and even within the AWD segment, there are different systems for delivering drive power to the slave axel) with totally mismatched tires (I’m talking SERIOUSLY mismatched, like different aspect ratios, a slick, two regulars and a snow, etc) and the car never cared.

      • jlcollinsnh says

        Thanks Charlie…

        What you say makes a lot more sense to me than the gotta-replace-all-four bit which sounds like ass covering. 😉

        So far my NH ’07 is rust free, but I have heard the same about this issue.

        • Charlie Tuna says

          I think it’s more like salesmanship. They want to sell tires. The manual says nothing about needing four new tires. It’s the same BS with the oil companies making up the “change your oil every 3 months or 3K miles” – made up out of thin air to sell more oil. I’ll bet there isn’t a reader of your blog that has a car with a manual that requires an oil change more than every 5K miles – and some are even 10K.
          Sort of like expiration dates on cans of beer (or child car seats for that matter – totally debunked by the NY Times and others).
          Sell more stuff! Keep those container ships coming!

        • jlcollinsnh says

          great point

          cars with oil sensors that tell you when to change the oil frequently seem to go 10-20k plus before lighting up.

          Subaru says every 7500 for our Forester and they are probably being conservative. Still, I can’t bring myself to go much past 5000.

          My favorite (and famous in marketing circles) example of made-up-just-to-sell-more-shit line is:

          “lather, rinse, repeat”

          Reportedly, adding that last word doubled shampoo sales 🙂

  47. Mark says

    My wife and I have a combined 460,000 miles on our cars, an ’04 Honda and an ’06 Toyota (both purchased new). We could afford new cars but when our two girls ask us why we keep these on the road, we explain that by watching our spending, and being ruthless savers (while my wife anyway :)) we are in a position to be able to be currently building a ski house AND to have enough in their 529 plans to send them to college debt free. I just found someone who’s going to replace the two torn seats in my Toyota for a couple hundred bucks. Apart from that it still looks great and I’ll keep it for at least another year or two.
    When we see expensive cars I point out to the kids that those drivers could be in debt up to their eyeballs but have put outward status above financial security.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Great lesson in mindful spending!

      My reflex response to expensive cars is there goes someone who does’t understand money.

      Could be sometimes I’m wrong and they really are rich. But not likely often.

      Most rich folks I know, drive cheap to average cars.

  48. Daniel says

    I used to bike to work, but my new job requires driving somewhere in the city about every day. I don’t mind the driving because I can listen to audiobooks from the library (latest was the Rob’t Galbraith Detective stories which I highly recommend) and I get $0.54/mile. We own a 2008 Hyundai with 140K miles and a 2009 Kia minivan with 100K miles. As my wife drives the Hyundai and the Kia is our vacation car, I needed something reliable and had good mpg.
    Just as I appreciated the need for a car, one of the nurses at my office asked if I was interested in her 2003 Honda Civic with 102K miles. She had just bought a brand new Honda three letter something and was looking to unload the civic. I snapped it up for $3000. She had already done the belts and water pump and other expensive stuff, so it was an easy choice. I am in countdown mode for retiring in 2018, so I look forward to getting back on my bike eventually, but glad to have the Honda in the interim.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks for the Rob’t Galbraith Detective stories suggestion.

      I’ve been looking for some lite reading and these sound perfect.

      Along those same lines, I just finished the last of John Verdon’s five Dave Gurney novels. Great fun.

      They are best read in order, starting with “Think of a Number”

  49. GU says

    2011 Subaru Forester, shared with my spouse, purchased in cash. I like the idea of owning an older car, but I like the advances in safety technology better than saving a few bucks. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but since car accidents are one of the most common ways to die in the U.S., I feel like safety (which is a combination of vehicle weight, dimensions, and technology, in addition to the driver’s behavior) is a pretty important factor.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Amazing how many folks who’ve commented have Subarus.

      One of the reasons we chose our ’07 at the time was its great safety rating.

      Still, I wonder how much of the newer features are about safety and how much is marketing.

      Of course, I felt safe in the 1960 Ford Falcon I drove as a teenager with its metal dash board and lap belts. Would seem like a death trap to me today.

      And yet…

      Sometimes I still look for one in Craig’s and on ebay. 🙂

  50. EL says

    I have a 2012 Toyota Camry, it doesn’t have a name yet, looking to hire your daughter to name it with those great naming skills. It does the job gets me from point A to point B. I would prefer a Mazda 6 to tell you the truth, but I am waiting till 2019 when the 2014 Mazda 6s will cost less than 10K. I’ll give my daughters the Camry and use the Mazda 6.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I clearly don’t have my daughter’s talents, but I’ll take a shot: Carl

      “Camry. Carl Camry”

      I had a Camry once, an ’06 if I remember correctly. Good, solid reliable car and I hated every minute of driving it. Mostly it was the vague steering.

      One day I was motoring along and it occurred to me, this damn car was going to last forever giving me no practical excuse to move on to something else. Within the week I had sold it.

      Yep, I’d rather have the Mazda 6 too.

      Your poor daughters… 😉

  51. Frau Rosen says

    I drive a 2006 Toyota Prius with only 78,000 miles on it. (I’m kinda like the little old lady from Pasadena—I hate to drive, I’m a homebody and don’t get out much.) It is currently held together with duct tape in the back, because a piece of plastic on the hatch broke almost a year ago and I haven’t wanted to spend the money to repair it. It embarrasses my teenage son occasionally, but I don’t worry about that. It is a bother from the standpoint that I can’t open the hatch, but I just shove the groceries in the back seat and call it good. I’ll probably have it repaired in late winter when my husband gets a bonus. There’s also a dent on the right side but I probably won’t repair that. I get 42 – 45 miles to the gallon, that’s why I love the car—I don’t care how it looks. It doesn’t have a name, by the way. I just never got around to it. But my first car, a 1982 Dodge K-car convertible that my dad let me drive through college, is called “Erwin” because the license plate started with EWN and Erwin is a good German name. (I have a B.A. in German.) It’s still in my dad’s garage, but no one has driven it in years. I wouldn’t drive it now, it’s crazy unsafe and I’m lucky I never rolled it during our 6 years together!

  52. gl says


    Thank you very much for writing this informative blog, especially your series on stocks. I have read all your posts. I am pretty sure I found you from MMM, GoCurryCracker, or RootofGood.

    Anyway, I aspire to own a new top of the line Toyota Avalon or a Lexus ES 350, but I do not drive very much—I walk to work everyday where I get the opportunity to teach young people about business and economics. We own several rental houses and would pay cash for the new car but ~ $40,000 for a car is a LOT of money, I have purchased several rental houses for less than this. We currently own:
    1992 Ford pickup, purchased used from a neighbor for KBB trade in value to haul tree branches, lawn mower, and some building supplies. It is very handy to have when you need to haul something, otherwise it just sits and rots in the driveway.
    1999 Honda Accord LX purchased from my parent’s in 2009, used to be my car but now my high school senior drives it, currently has 190,000 miles.
    2000 Toyota Avalon purchased last year from a family friend, it will be my other daughter’s learn to drive car and should last her through high school, I currently drive it when I need to go somewhere.
    Wife’s car–2009 Toyota Camry SE, 4 cylinder just purchased this past summer to replace our beloved 2003 Honda Odyssey LX with 237,000 miles that we purchased brand new that was experiencing transmission issues. My wife works as well and plans for a new minivan that we hope that to pay cash for next summer. Then I would use this as my daily driver when needed.

    Is it totally crazy to aspire to a semi-luxury new Avalon or Lexus ES that would probably be driven only 8,000-10,000 miles per year but would be kept for a good 10-14 years or more purchased from a stealership? MMM would have me locked me up but I also pay for plumber’s, electrician’s, and carpenter’s. If purchased, it would not be for another 3-4 years before I retire. Please let me know what you all think.

    PS–I did enjoy the reader from above with the Corvette.

    PPS—a possible topic for the future: “How much money is enough?”

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi gl…

      Thanks for your kind words and I’m delighted you’ve enjoyed my posts.

      In my view, an upscale new car is an expensive indulgence and there is nothing wrong with expensive indulgences as long as you are FI and can easily afford them. Even Mr. MM, in his chart I reproduced in this post, suggests a 70K Tesla is acceptable if your net worth is 2M+.

      So if you’re in that position, and it sounds like you are, and you want it, go for it.

      That said, I personally have a pretty serious case of disdain for the Lexus, Acura and Infinity brands. At least bought as new cars.

      I see these as gussied up, over priced Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans sold to suckers whose ego can be manipulated. 😉

      So I’d never buy an ES over an Avalon.

      But then, I see also an Avalon as a gussied up Camry, and now you no longer have your new luxury car. So I’m not the best person to ask. 🙂

      As for how much money is enough, that’s easy:

      When your annual spending = 4% of your portfolio, you have enough. Or, said another way, your annual spending * 25 = how much you need.

      • gl says

        Thanks for the response. It will give me something to think about. I know it is silly to aspire to a new semi-luxury car that will not be driven very much, but I will be FI and a $40,000 semi luxury car is a lot cheaper than a $70,000-90,000 Tesla. I have only owned 7 cars in my 33 years of driving, and the first was the most expensive purchased at age 17 for $5,500–a very practical Honda Civic.

  53. Christy says

    I drive an 07 Subaru Forrester and call her Ruby the Suby. Six months ago I incurred maintance costs to the amount of $1500.00. This included changing the timing belt and the brakes. At this time my car had about 105,000 miles on it.

    Several of my friends and one family member chastized me for spending so much money on an older car. They all encouraged me to go buy a new car as to them, it was a much better use of my money. Sigh…..

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Your friends and that family member need to learn how to do some basic math. 🙂

      So after nine years and 105,000 miles Ruby wants an expensive day at the spa as a reward for all her faithful service? Can we blame her? We should kick her to the curb for this? What kind of monster would that make us?! 🙂

      She’s gonna want the same in another 90,000 miles. She’ll deserve it then, too. 😉

      Monday Steve goes in for his somewhat less expensive 120,000 mile spa day. I’m happy to take him.

  54. Mollie says

    No car currently (and loving it). But when I was in high school in 2002, I occasionally drove my sister’s grey Buick from circa 1990. It was named was the Silver Bullet, and you had to roll down the window on the driver’s side to let yourself out of the car. Now THAT’S character. It was great! =)

    • jlcollinsnh says

      No car is the best if you can swing it.

      But a sister’s car is pretty sweet too. 🙂

      ’90 Buick named the Silver Bullet? That’s irony right there, am I right? 😉

  55. Bryan says

    Well, I can’t brag much on this forum. I drive a pick up truck now and for the past 8 years. Although I did buy my condo across the street from my office years ago and had a nice 7 minute door to door walking commute for 4 sweet years. Decided to take a hiatus from work for a few years and travel. Motor homes at the time got 8 mpg. I bought a new Tundra and travel trailer with avg mpg of 13 mpg. This was in 2008 when gas prices were extreme. I drove off the lot with a brand new 4 door pick up for thousands less than they were selling Prius’s. It was a pretty sweet deal back then. And we travelled all over America for 2 years with it. 8years later now, sold the RV after kids, and considering trading the truck in, but great to load up kayaks, bikes, camping gear, mulch for the yard, etc… and it still runs great. Yes, I only get avg 18 mpg, but it drives great and everything works. Very little depreciation in value. I admit a little Prius envy, but it works fine for my 20 mile commute. 112,000 miles so far and been to the west coast and back twice towing 7,000 lbs.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I remember those dark days when they were practically giving pick up trucks away. I was tempted and had friend who picked up screaming deals like yours.

      There is something to be said for buying when the rest of the world is fleeing. Be it stocks or trucks.

      Right now they can’t give small, fuel efficient sedans away with gas being so cheap and your Tundra would likely be a hot ticket. Just sayin’ ya know? 😉

      Of course, same could be said for our Forester and we’re not about to let it go. 🙂

  56. Cline Hall says

    Great article. I love to ask wealthy people the story of their beater cars. Years ago, When I figured out the great concept of depreciation I bought a Mercedes station wagon and then figured out many rich people spent way less on their “luxury” cars by buying used and keeping forever. I live in a small town and usually drive an older car that falls under what I call the Camry rule. If a car that was formerly a very expensive fun car that I can repair myself is less than the cost of a base Camry then it is then affordable for me. Of course I pay cash.

    No doubt, Mr. MM would consider me a reprobate for driving a used Porsche 911 but I bought it at the bottom (if not so close it doesn’t make much difference) and it gives me a small when I drive it and wigs out folks when I put building supplies in it at Lowes!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Cline..

      I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of older luxury cars as a cheap and interesting solution to the what to drive issue.

      Back in the 1990s, I knew three advertising space salesmen who did exactly that. One drove older Cadillacs and the other two top-of the-line S-class Mercedes sedans. Those Mercs were the ones that intrigued me.

      They’d buy them about ten years old for about $10,000. Usually they’d drop ~$2,000 into fixing them up, mostly cosmetic stuff. Because the styling was timeless, they wound up drive what looked like a 100k car to the masses.

      My concern was always the expense of maintenance and repair. They might only be 10k cars, but they were still a Benz and needed those expensive German parts and service.

      One of these guys told me the solution was putting aside money each month for a repair fund.

      “How much? I said.

      “$400 a month” he said.

      In those days $400 a month leased a very nice brand new upscale car and was far more than keeping my Accord or Protege on the road.

      Long way of asking, how do the numbers look for your 911? And what model/year is it?

      • Cline Hall says

        Now you are asking me to go from rationalization accounting which I think I have a certification in, to real accounting-which sometimes proves the fallacy in rationalization accounting.

        I bought a 2002 996 which is the first generation of the water cooled 911. They came out in 1999 but this year is thought to be more desirable due to a bigger engine and some other tweaks. I Had been looking all over the country for the best example but ended up getting mine from a friend ;who interestingly enough ,had introduced me to Mr. MM which of course lead me to your site.

        These car have an Achilles heel (IMS bearing if you want to google) that can cause a catastrophic engine failure in small percentages so if you read a lot on the forums you become paranoid and only want a car that has had the preventative repair done. This one had that procedure done and had relatively low miles. I might have paid more than I had to at 23.5. There were others out there for mid teens but had higher miles, far away, colors not as desirable, etc. etc.

        Cost of ownership has not been bad considering it is a Porsche, not a Honda. I have put a water pump on, around 230 I think, which I did myself. It needed a clutch which I shamefully paid some one to do that, it’s a 12 hour job so figure 1200. Other than that, I have looked for things to do just because I like working on it. Having grown up wanting to be Steve Mcqueen this is a very cheap way to live my fantasy.

        Is this the car for someone struggling to get to financial independence? Of course not. But for me it has a huge entertainment value and makes life more fun so it is worth way more than driving that Camry. Of course I could have put more in my Vanguard account (thank you) but my over all theory on FU money is that I have enough for anytime I want to disconnect and get rid of this and all my other expensive toys and hobbies.

        Another value for me is that I own an insurance agency and need to draw attention to my brand to increase sales. This does an amazing job in doing so, I live in a rural area which makes people think I’m driving a 100k car and folks want to talk to me all the time about it.

        Finally, I’m pretty sure I could get at least 20k if I wanted to sell and possibly more. So to me, it’s an economy car.

        • jlcollinsnh says

          So it costs more to operate and maintain than the Camry, but in return you get to tinker with it, low depreciation and a rolling business brand builder.

          Plus, of course, the fun of driving a 911.

          As you say, not for someone early on the FI path. But for someone who has arrived, or is even well on their way…

          …Sounds good to me!

  57. Draggon says

    I still drive my 2001 Ford F-150 5.8L Supercrew with 161,000 miles on it. I bought it brand-spanking-new back before I had today’s understanding of FI and how/why to get there. However, I did pay it off in 3 years with .9% financing, so at least I mostly covered one FI sin. I bought it with the intention of buying more stuff to pull behind it like boats, trailers, campers, etc. To this day, it’s never towed anything since my priorities changed pretty quickly after the purchase (not because of the purchase).

    Back in ’01 it was the epitome of the wrong vehicle to buy if you didn’t want to work forever. However, today, with cheap gas, cheap insurance, cheap plates, reasonable annual maintenance, and extreme versatility, I just can’t think of a scenario where getting rid of this old beast for something else makes sense. Besides, I’ve fallen in love with the stupid thing over these past 15 years and have taken pretty good care of it. It still shines and the interior looks nearly brand new.

    • jlcollinsnh says


      We feel the same way about our Forester.

      It’s not the perfect vehicle for our current needs but, as you say, we’ve fallen in love with the stupid thing.

      Driving >5000 miles a year can justify just about anything. 😉

  58. Sara says

    We rock a 2005 Corolla (manual, of course) with 180K plus miles and a 2010 Hyundai Accent (80K). Their names are Misty and Kimchee, respectively. Kimchee is my daughter’s first car and has many a dent, mismatched mirrors and sheep smell to prove it.

    Yes – I said sheep smell. It’s not every day you see a 19 year old driving down the Thruway with a sheep loose in the back of her hatchback, but that’s my kid. Baaab has moved on to a lovely rescue home, in case you were wondering 😉

    I plan on driving my faithful Corolla until she’s held together with duck tape and rubber bands. We live in WNY, where the salt level is brutal in the winter, so there is rust starting to show around the wheel wells. It will be a sad day when she had reached a state so disgraceful that I must move on.

    • jlcollinsnh says


      Not everyone hauls sheep around in their cars? Named “Baaab”?

      Great car (and sheep) names and if I ever own a Kia or Hyundai, I’m definitely stealing Kimchee. 😉

  59. Jenn says

    We drive a 2003 Honda Odyssey, which we purchased just before our surprise twins were born. We bought it new and not with cash, but at least we paid it off quickly. We named her Bertha and she’s recently turned over 200k miles. We tied balloons to the mirrors and photographed her with the kids on the occasion.

    Given that it’s for a family of 7 (which isn’t naturally economical to start with), she’s been a good fit. Now we’ll see how long we can keep her going!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Sounds like you came onto your Odyssey like Draggon above on his truck:

      Might not have been the best FI choice at the time of purchase but keeping it over the years has paid off!

      It is great fun to watch the miles roll up and to see just how long it can be made to last.

      Hope you enjoy it for many more years!

  60. Lump Sum Invest vs Lease says

    I’ll be surprised if people respond to this but I’ll give it a shot. We currently have a 13 year-old SUV that I’m trying to get another 2 years out of. The wife primarily drives it and has a fancy for luxury cars. We know that buying used and holding on to it as long as you can is the best finance wise…but say we had $30k in the bank. Would it make sense to put that in VTSAX and use future paychecks to lease a car for the next 3 years? The thought being that if invested it can compound 30+ years (we are in our 30s) instead of using it as a down payment for a luxury car (say that will be 45k+)? I kind of see the same rent vs own home logic referenced in another post. Thoughts?

    However, if we go the lease route (we currently own our cars) then we may get sucked into the lease cycle since there’s no point where payments are done and can be saved for a down payment for a new car.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Lump Sum…

      I would approach the analysis a bit differently, looking first at the best way to buy a new car.

      With rare exception, leasing is almost always the more expensive choice. Plus there is that cycle you point out that becomes a trap.

      That leaves the simple, basic question: What do you want to spend your 30k on?

      —Your freedom
      —A new car

      It is your money and you can spend it however you chose. But for me…

      With the new car I get a momentary surge of pride and enjoyment at the cost of giving up my 30k, taking on 15k in debt and owning a depreciating asset (and mid level lux cars have some of the worst depreciation rates) that in ten years will be worth 10% of the purchase price if I’m lucky.

      Plus, it will only satisfy that “fancy for luxury cars” for a year or two before it is just another car.

      Or I could buy 30K worth of VTSAX and watch it compound over the years bringing me ever closer to FI and the day when 45k on a new car is an easily written check rather than an ongoing burden.

      But that’s just me. 😉

      • Lump Sum Invest vs Lease says

        Hi JL,
        I appreciate your quick response. For the record, I’m a big fan, have turned my family onto your blog/book, and have a plan for us to retire in our early 50s, the latest.

        I agree that putting that money away in VTSAX would be best choice but let’s assume that it’s not an opportunity cost related question where it’s this or that…let’s say, due to a variety of factors (one being happy wife = happy life), there’s a set amount of money saved for a replacement car . Let’s also ignore the car brand/size/capabilities (to eliminate any potential replies suggesting to go with Y instead of Z and invest the difference), and mention that a car is needed due to limitations of public transport or other car rental options due to location and obligations.

        Referencing my original post, if there’s $30k (or whichever amount) saved and available, would you apply the same rent vs own logic you used for a house to apply to a car as well? If so, wouldn’t that mean that leasing would always be the best bet? I guess the caveat to this is that renting a house precludes you from expending cash for repairs but wouldn’t a lease apply the same logic? (I’ve never leased so I’m assuming that either maintenance costs are free as part of the lease and/or, if the car is new, there isn’t a bunch of maintenance to be had if the car is reliable. I understand there are limits (i.e. mileage caps) that come with lease terms that may actually cost you more money but let’s assume that those aren’t a concern).

        In that event, would it make sense to invest the lump sum in VTSAX and just pay for the lease month to month (where there’s an amount in the budget to do so?) I referenced the cycle of then not being able to save for a down payment to own subsequent car but wouldn’t that same logic apply to individuals who rent a house rather than own as well?

        Perhaps there’s an analysis I’d need to do comparing total cost of car ownership vs. leasing/investing a lump sum and that’s when all the factors I said to ignore would come into play…

      • jlcollinsnh says

        Given that, I am probably the wrong person to ask.

        Unless you are a multi-millionare, or just don’t care about FI, I can’t see my way toward recommending a 45k car regardless of how it is bought.

        Plus, I am no expert in leasing.

        However, every analysis I ever remember seeing suggests that it is the more expensive route.

        Because of the potential in VTSAX, I am tempted to say lease and invest. But then that is much the same as suggesting borrowing money to invest which I would never do.

        Plus, were I weighing those two choices, I would immediately default to keeping the old car running or buying a cheap used car. 🙂

        So, as I say, not the guy to ask. 😉

  61. Shirley says

    We own a 2006 2-door honda civic and 2005 mazda mpv (minivan).

    The civic was purchased by my husband before we were married. Since he grew up in Tokyo and his parents never owned a car (excellent public transportation there), he had no clue what he was getting himself into when he walked into a Honda dealer in the U.S. He signed a lease for the civic. After he met me and later my dad (a car mechanic), he was quickly convinced that it’s best to pay off the car with cash as quickly as possible, and so he did. It has been through many Michigan winters and one major accident took the whole front bumper off. My dad found an after market bumper (slightly different color than the rest of the car) and put it on for us. My dad didn’t charge us an arm and a leg for labor, but we did take him to his favorite buffett. We then moved to San Francisco and now it has a few dents and we’ve had to replace both rear view mirrors. Thanks to my dad’s instructions over the phone and YouTube videos, my husband was able to fix them himself. Maintenance was also taught by my dad so my husband does that mostly by himself.

    The minivan we bought with cash off of a Japanese version of craigslist. Here in the SF bay area, there are Japanese families who are only here for a few years and they go back to Japan (sent by their companies). Most Japanese (not all) will buy new cars here so buying used cars from them is not a bad deal. They are also known to maintain their cars well. With two small children (4 and 1), carseats, strollers, and family members visiting several times a year, we find it useful. Maintenance again, taught by dad. We really should take him out again…but he says he is trying to control his diabetes, so no buffets.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Wow, that little Civic’s had a tough life!

      Good thing it, and the MPV, gets tender care taught by dad. 🙂

  62. Marco says

    I got a 2005 Toyota Corolla for $5,500 dollars with 65k mileage, at the time I was just learning to drive and needed a car to get around. I saw some ads online and went to a used car mechanic, the trick was he took in cars that were considered as “salvage” and fixed them up and resold them for a profit. The car looked spotless, my dad and I took it for a drive and found no issues. The seller said that the car got into an accident and the front bumper area was trashed. Except that the accident didn’t impact the engine or transmission or any other vital parts. We got a mechanic friend to check it out and he said everything was good! Bought it with cash and have been using it since 2010 without any issues.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      If it checked by a mechanic and deemed sound, the only downside I can see would be resale value with the salvage title. And, really, on a ’05 Corolla how big a deal can that be. 🙂

      • Marco says

        Exactly! I am hoping to use this car until it dissolves and the cost to benefit ratio becomes unsustainable, and even if I can make a fraction of the $5,500 back it would have been worth the purchase.

  63. Wairimu says

    Swahili speaker here and when I read paka it didn’t hit me until you asked for the respective languages.

    Which weirdly brought back a song we used to sing when we were kids
    “Paka paka paka, unataka nini?” I digress…

  64. JLed says

    I’m the outlier here….my wife drives a 2015 Kia Sorento and I have a 2013 Silverado crew cab.

    My wife’s car is long story but she was t-boned in her old car by a driver who was high on keyboard cleaner of all things….yes apparently the spray cans can get you high. We settled the property case and the liability case and took the insurance settlement and were able to pay cash for a new car. Since my wife keeps cars forever we splurged for a new model. We did go for a more basic model though ;). Overall we were blessed that she was relatively unhurt and that we actually ended up banking over $10,000 after buying the car and covering all medical costs.

    I bought my truck since it was a killer deal. I was driving a Mustang but after buying a house and thinking of having children, it had to go eventually. I found a beautiful 2013 model red Silverado in late 2014 that was being sold by the family of an old man. The truck was immaculate with only 30,000 miles but had a few aftermarket parts (really nice tint, step-rail, bug deflectors) and the price was below Blue Book. I know that financially it isn’t the greatest decision and I understand that impacts my finances…..but I don’t care. It makes me happy! I drive about 12 miles to work each way so gas doesn’t kill me and we usually take my wife’s Sorento when the family goes somewhere. I financed my truck at 2.9% to leverage my investments but eventually paid it off this summer to be rid of the monthly payment.

    We are still on-track for early retirement by all my measures and I get the satisfaction of enjoying something I own. Sometimes life is too short not to enjoy some pleasure and I decided to make my truck my splurge!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      on the occasions I’ve bought new cars, I too prefer the base models. In fact, that is one reason for buying new, these can be hard to find on the used market. Most folks like the fancy versions. Kept for a long time, this seems to work out fine.

      Glad your wife is OK!

  65. Julie at Nest Egg Chick says

    I totally agree with you about older cars. I’ve got a 2006 Corolla that I mostly like. I love having a slightly older car. The bumpers are totally scratched up, thanks to on-street city parking, where parallel parking is done in tight spots with mere inches to spare. Some are my fault, many aren’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s got a couple small dents, including one where someone rode their bike right into the side panel (*sigh*). I love not caring about any of that.

    My only issue with it is the headrest is incredibly uncomfortable. This car’s seats were clearly designed for someone who’s at least 5’4″. But I’m not about to get rid of an otherwise perfectly good car for that, so I’ve got a rigged DIY setup on the driver’s seat that’s good enough. As long as that car safely gets me from one place to another, I’ll be happy to keep it.

  66. Tom Blum says

    I am a “five year old, under 100,000 mile” guy.This has worked well for me for the last 20 to 30 years. I started out with 5 year old, 50,ooo mile cars. But cars just kept getting better. For years, I had a van and a subcompact. Then I tried a pickup truck, but hated it.( the space was not useable to me). I’m coming out of a series of minivans, which also don’t satisfy. A pontiac minivan was too stationwagoney and my present Scion XB is a bit too small. I believe I’ll go back to a Chevy Astro next.

  67. Craig says

    Fun to read through all these posts! I skimmed through a number of them, but haven’t seen the ole “Buick Park Avenue Ultra” mentioned yet.. What a car! The 5 of us had all kinds of room – loaded with options – great ride. Bought it 2 years old back in 2006 from a GM sale. It was a buyback from California’s Lemon Law? No lemons here. 220,000 miles and going strong! My poor 16 y/o daughter now drives it and you would think that I was loaning her my Mercedes E class! I still love to drive it and will be saddened the day she dies.. Thanks for the opportunity to make some fun conversations!!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Man, those Ultras are HUGE!

      I remember riding in one a colleague owned. Very smooth and about 3 MPG. 🙂

      What year is yours?

      • Craig says

        2004. Quit making in 2005 I believe. My daughter just got home a bit ago and I asked her if “she saw any deer lurking on the edge of the ditches”… I seriously would buy another one when that day comes…

  68. Tim says

    I came over here from MMM after reading your guest post. I’m just getting familiar with your stuff, but we seem to be about the same age, and similar in attitude (and resultant outcomes) about work, F-you money and retirement, so I anticipate becoming a regular reader.

    Regarding cars: I am a ‘victim’ of VW’s dieselgate. Two years ago, when I was still commuting 35 miles one way to work, I bought a new Jetta TDI. It was my first new car in many years, and the only reason I bought it was the dearth of used VW diesels on the market, as well as their high cost. I wanted to try the diesel because I felt they were more optimized for long distance than the hybrids with respect to fuel consumption, their longevity, and other reasons. I was very happy with it as a commuter vehicle, and when we retired, we used it for our now annual lap of the country last winter. It is probably the best car I have ever owned and I planned on keeping it forever. So, two years and 42k miles on, VW informs me that I am a victim, and offer to buy back the car or fix it (I saw the poster above that opted for the fix and restitution money – and I strongly considered that – the car is that good.) I opted for the buy-back because:
    1. They have offered about $1500 more than I paid for the car including everything but insurance and fuel (I am still under the 2 years of free maintenance, and VW already provided $1000 in goodwill money so some of that is covered as well)
    2. They have not detailed the fix yet and so I worry about what the affects on performance, longevity and mileage might be.
    3. My 89 year old dad just bought a Subaru Outback, and I coveted it (more room for our 6 month road trips)
    So, turning the VW into a Subaru it was…until I met Ingrid. She’s a 26 year-old Swedish beauty. We’re going to run away together. My wife is fine with it. She’s coming along too.
    So, the economics look like this: $26k in from VW, $6k for 1990 Volvo 740 Wagon (50k miles), leaves $20k for round the country road trip with 3 weeks in Paris stuck in the middle for good measure.
    Incidentally, our other daily car is a 2001 Jaguar XJ8L. We have had no problems with it. I have always found that good older luxury cars can be great fun to own and drive, as long as someone else has taken the (considerable) depreciation hit – and thank god for whoever these people are. I also have the advantage of a lifetime spent playing with cars as a hobby, and so enjoy working on them myself. For the hard and dangerous work, I have a trusted mechanic. I advised my sons that when they moved away to begin their lives, they needed to establish trusted relationships with three professionals; a doctor, a dentist, and a mechanic.
    Thanks again for a great blog, I never tire of studying FI, always more to learn.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Great stories, Tim!

      Sounds like being a “victim” worked out just fine for you and the 740 is a cooler car anyway. 😉

      I’ve often thought about picking up one of those grand old Jags, but maintenance horror stories have kept me at bay. How long have you had yours?

      • Tim says

        This particular Jag has been with us for about two years. No problems so far, and it is great for both around town and longer road trips, my son even used it in his recent wedding as the getaway car. You can’t beat the older Jags (pre-Ford and more recently Tata Motors) for style and luxury, we get comments frequently from people at gas stations, supermarkets, etc… They do have a reputation for being maintenance and repair nightmares (as do the other luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes, etc.) but if you do your due diligence pre-purchase (as you should with any used car) you can do pretty well. In the case of luxury/collector cars, due diligence includes reading the owner/enthusiast forums on line (a great source of the common problems and pitfalls, specific model years to avoid, likely parts availability, maintenance and repair tips and procedures, and other great information) as well as knowing the history of the car you are interested in. These cars were very expensive when new, and also very expensive to have maintained by the dealers. Some people could afford this, did the maintenance and were proud passionate owners, and some found they could not afford the ongoing expense and so just drove them. Still others are wealthy enough that any car is just a consumable item to them, and so they just drove them until they got tired of them and then bought a new one. The latter two of these types of owners tend to be the source of the cars that the bad reputations are based on, and their former cars are the ones to stay away from. Thus, the history of the car is the most important element of the decision. This particular Jag came to us from a dealer here in Rochester that specializes in used luxury cars. He has a good reputation among his customers, many of whom have bought cars from him for years. We probably paid a slight premium over Craigslist prices, but it came with a clean bill of health from his in-house service department. He also offers a service where he will search for a particular car and advise on purchase. I found him through friends that have bought all of their cars from him for as long as they can remember.

        I believe used luxury cars can be a part of a frugal lifestyle, but then again, I am a car guy. A car is not just a point A to point B method of conveyance to me. I certainly respect those who find car ownership a necessary nuisance, but for me, the trip itself should be as fun and interesting as the destination. That being said, I do have a lot of mostly self taught knowledge about car repair and maintenance and a set of tools to back that up. When I do go to my mechanic for help, I usually know exactly what I need him to do, and so am an informed consumer. I stay away from dealers as most of the people working there are younger than the cars I drive. My current collection includes an MG Midget, a Triumph TR6, a BMW 2002 and most frightening of all, another Jag – a convertible XJS V12. I rotate driving them in the summer months. I have mountains of history on each, and all of these cars taken together have cost me less than a new Chevy or Ford. Additionally, collector car insurance is far cheaper than insuring something new.

        All in all, not for everyone, but an enjoyable part of my FI journey.

        Of course, having written all of this, my Jag is probably on fire down in the parking structure right now…



  69. Chris says

    I drive a car that came to me serendipitously. My husband worked for his father for 20+ years. He finally couldn’t take the drama any longer and we started our own business in that industry. His dad felt badly about how things shook out and gave us a large severance and…A CAR. I found that so bizarre but our minivan was quite the worse for the wear of three little boys and it was starting to fall apart, inside and out. So, I took the car. My husband drives his work truck, which we bought used. 😉 I still go out to that car that seems weirdly shiny and new after over a year and do an internal headshake. I tried to convince my FIL to buy something used because of the depreciation and of the degradation that comes with three older boys in sports. Our cars struggle in life. He insisted on a new vehicle and it offends my frugal sensibilities, even as I delight in the new car smell. LOL Hoisted on my own petard, indeed.

      • Chris says

        I would, were it not for his feelings. He is very, very proud to have given us something so nice. I like nice things but I also know when they are wasted on us! Ha!

        And yes, it is a problem that isn’t exactly a problem. It is awkward, though. Someone else’s financial life sitting in my driveway. Weird.

        We plan on driving it until it falls to pieces, though, just like the old van. By then the boys will be grown and gone and we will get something smaller, though still with the good ground clearance for getting out to my mom’s farm. A Suby is a likely choice. They build them here in Indiana. I hear great things about the environmental sustainability of the plant and the working conditions.

  70. sid says

    Jim, really enjoyed reading yet another post of yours. For some people a car is just an appliance to take them point A to point b reliable and they could care less how it drive and how it looks, but for some that matters, I think I am one of those. On one had I want to be financially responsible (I have learnt a lot in the past 2 years reading your blog). However, I also want something that makes me happy every time I drive it, if splurging a little bit on a luxury car does that than I think one should totally do it if that’s your thing, you only live once (yolo).

    So I am now in a position where my car is paid off and have been payment free for last 2 years, but I have been itching to buy the latest and greatest. I am also dabbling on the idea of leasing vs. buying, trying to get your ideas if the same rent vs. buy approach should be applied in lease vs. buying of car?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      The two are not really the same.

      Car leases tend to be terrible deals and buying new sets you up for a huge depreciation hit. Especially with luxury cars which depreciate faster than ice cream cones on hot summer days.

      If you want to lease, look into assuming an existing lease from someone needing to bail. Great deals can be had there.

      Otherwise, pick up your dream car a few years old at half price.

  71. carolinateach8988 says

    When you need a reliable car, you need a reliable car. I needed a car to get me from Point A to Point B so I bought myself a CAMARO.

    I think it’s totally acceptable to buy yourself a reliable car as long as you drive it till it’s no longer reliable. Depreciation doesn’t matter unless you plan on selling it. This will also allow you to constantly have two cars. One reliable car, and one older car to drive around town.

      • Tim says

        Wait, What? We’re not talking about new cars are we? Please tell me it’s an old Camaro…

        So, my depreciation math says new car A costs $70,000 and new car B costs $25,000. After a few years, both have depreciated down to say, $7,000. This is where I buy car A, by the way. The original owner of car A has absorbed $63,000 of depreciation, while with car B it is $18,000. This is real money spent (lost.) Driving them until they are junked is even worse, while my upper limit is $7,000, and sometimes (not often for me) an old classic will bottom out and then start back up again, or at least plateau. Not to mention the higher cost of insuring a new car. Even if I have to put a completely new engine in my used car, I am still not up to even the depreciation hit of car B in our example.

        So, in my view, depreciation is not only important, it is the most important number there is when it comes to car buying/ownership.

        And, unless you’re a guy like Jay Leno, a car is never an investment.

        • carolinateach8988 says

          It was a 2015 “Pull Me Over Red” CAMARO. My cars have to be at least a v6 or v8 chevrolet. They will last at least 300,000 miles. Go Chevy!

          Even the cheapest person knows people need a reliable car or you are not going to have a job. Most of us do not buy a reliable car until the car we own becomes unreliable.We drove the car and will continue to drive the car until it makes no sense to fix the car. But once the car became unreliable, you must purchase another vehicle.

          I maintain depreciation does not matter with a vehicle as long as you are keeping it and driving it until it becomes unreliable. You are not planning on selling it so the point is mute.

          And the final thing I have wrestled with as I age: What good is all this money if I don’t spend it on me? I don’t want other people spending it.

          • Tim says

            Well, I certainly agree with your last paragraph. A financial advisor once counseled me on leaving money to my kids. I told him that I did not raise my boys to be people who had my death as a part of their financial plan. Winning the game for me would be spending my last dollar as I take my last breath. Besides, if they want to bet on my demise, let them take out a life insurance policy on me. Although, given my penchant for driving around in unreliable, dangerous cars, insurance might be prohibitively expensive.

  72. Mark says

    02 CRV – 145K miles, bought new. Just routine maintenance up till last year. Starting to have a few hiccups, (electrical, CV boot, brake calipers) but still worth fixing and great low mileage weekend Home Depot/errand vehicle.

    06 Accord EX-L 4 Cylinder – 130K miles, bought new. By far, best car I’ve ever owned. Meticulously maintained w routine maintenance. Rock solid. Runs as well as day one.

    04 Corolla – manual transmission. 120K miles. Bought used at 100K for $4K. Put about $2K into it for some neglected maintenance/wheels/tires. Gave to son last year, but would take back in a heartbeat if he ever gets itch for something more exciting. Great commuter.

    Have also had a 72 Volvo 144. Loved driving it when it ran but bought used (and abused). Turned turned into a money pit and couldn’t afford to keep. 84 VW Jetta GLI 5 speed – loved it but unloaded at 120K miles when it didn’t fit the growing family.

    Worst car – a 92 Ford Taurus wagon. Bought new. Meticulously maintained and in the trash heap before 100K. Replaced numerous major components (fortunately under warranty) then tranny started to go at 90K. Ruined me on Fords forever. When I complained to Ford, dealer response was basically, “Ya, those transmissions were a problem but can we interest you in our new and improved models?” No, thanks.

    Starting to get itch for something new, but I don’t think that Accord will ever die. 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I hear you on the Accord.

      We once owned a Camry that I just hated driving. The vague steering aggravated me no end.

      But the build quality was stunningly good.

      One day it occurred to me this car was going to last at least 20 years. 20 years of hating every time I got behind the wheel.

      It was gone within the week. 🙂

      One thing I do when I start getting the itch for something new, even though we love our Subaru, is that I’ll do something to spruce it up. Have some of the dings fixed. Give it a good detailing.

      This is especially effective when I do the work myself. It seems to reconnect me to the car and to reestablish the bond. 🙂

      So keep the Accord. Great cars are hard to find and to be treasured when you do.

      We also once had an ’88 Bonneville. Great driving car and nice looking, too. But, like your Taurus, a never ending parade of issues. Especially the brakes which routinely warped their rotors.

      Our personal joke became we weren’t rich enough to own a five-year-old Pontiac. 😉

      • Mark says

        Yep, the Accord stays in the family unless it meets a tragic unplanned demise. I find the Honda’s are in general much tighter than the Toyotas as far as steering feel is concerned. Never cared for the Camry for the reason you cited.

        Car guru Jay Leno commented on his show (Jay Leno’s Garage)last week about how the two main shortcomings w electric vehicles (battery capacity and recharging stations) will be substantially resolved in the next few years and he was bullish on EVs.

        Also personal finance talk show host Ric Edelman recently reversed his advice against leasing vehicles. He’s now pro leasing due to the rapidly changing technology (especially safety related) and does not want to be saddled w outdated technology going forward.

        Just something to consider for those contemplating acquisitions in the short-term.

  73. wishicouldsurf says

    We are doing a little experiment with our family in October 2015 and bought a 4 year old used Nissan Leaf (original model). Note that we still own one gas vehicle. The previous owner took meticulous care of the vehicle and the battery and when I did the analysis, I figured we would pay for it in 3-4 years with the cost savings on gas. 16 months in, we dig the car, it parks nicely in all these tiny socal parking spots and love that we aren’t polluting the planet with the emissions from the gas. Range anxiety is real but for all intents and purposes, this car more than serves it’s purpose 80-90% of the time. I find that I drive a lot more slowly on the freeway since high freeway speeds burn up the battery which is probably a lot safer and I’ve become a lot more aware of the topography wherever I am because hilly roads also burn up the battery (and there are tons of hills where we are). I guess you could say I drive more mindfully now. The cooler part is the purchase of the vehicle finally put me over the edge to purchase solar panels because the additional energy use to charge the vehicle made the analysis to purchase the panels mostly work, though if you are a true finance purist and not an environmentalist, you might say that it wasn’t totally worth it. Historically I’ve been a buy a new 4 cylinder Honda Accord, maintain it meticulously, and drive it until the wheels fall off type of gal but have been pleased with this used car purchase. We didn’t get any of those amazing Colorado tax incentives (like MMM) and since it’s an older model, the battery range isn’t as exciting (I have Range Envy for all those folks who drive Leafs that get 100 miles/charge), but driving that car makes me feel like I’m being a better steward of the planet.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Sounds like a great second car solution.

      I suspect electric cars are going to be a bigger transportation factor much sooner than most realize.

  74. Cosmo says

    I use 24-7 company’s Clio IV dCi 75… from 0km do around 115 tkm in 5 years or so…

    Great little car… it just became my everyday friend… done a lot of work in it… no fancy driving… and it just keeps going…

  75. Cheyenne says


    Read your book “A simple path to wealth” and it changed my life! So glad to have this info..

    I had a question that I would like for you to weigh in on? I’m wondering (for a single guy, no kids or gf) if selling one of my cars (and putting the 7k I’d get into my VTSAX) would be a good idea? I have a 04 Ford 150 (61k miles) and a 07 Camry (130k miles) and I live in MT- so we get some snow. Anywho, I got to thinking that maybe I should sell the Camry and just drive the pickup.. the Camry is by far more comfortable to drive and gets better mileage, but it’s hard to beat 4×4 in the winter time.
    Or should I just keep both of them so i have something that can go on the road and get good mileage?
    Really curious to know your thoughts?! Thanks! -Cheyenne

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Personally, I’d unload the pick-up and put snow tires on the Camry.

      I have a friend in rural NH who runs snows year round. They wear a bit more quickly but he saves the hassle and expense of swapping them out twice a year. 😉

  76. The Man Who Gets His Cars for Free says

    SELL THE TRUCK. Get snow tires for the Camry. I live in Maine and FWD with snow tires beats 4WD without, every. single. time.
    In Sweden, snow tires are mandatory (and SAABs are all FWD, as are newer Volvos) and they don’t even salt their roads. 4WD is for off road only and I’m also guessing you know someone else with a truck in the few cases when you’ll really need one (or rent one!).
    Good luck. VTSAX for the WIN!

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