I was driving down the highway the other day (actually every day), and was passed by a brand new SUV. It sure looked nice. My wife wanted it. My kids wanted it. My kids’ friends wanted it. And I wanted it. But my coveting was brief. I remembered my experiment.
My odometer reminds me about it every time. It’s nearing 150,000 miles. I’ve never owned a vehicle that I’ve put that many miles on it. Maybe 80,000 miles TOPS. But never one over six figures. Come to think of it, I’ve never owned a vehicle I’ve actually owned. I’ve always had a car payment.
That changed two years ago, when my experiment began. My SUV’s mortgage statement showed something I’d never seen before. Zero. Paid in full. Time to get another one right? After all, that’s what all those new car television commercials really mean, don’t they? To me those ads were whispering to me,“Your five year old SUV is now going to fall apart. Its going to break down and leave you stranded. Even worse, your family is in danger. Now, you don’t want that, do you?”
But the voice from the other shoulder was telling me this: “You want to save money on your car? Keep it, and drive it till it drops. You’ll save money by not having car payments and your insurance will be cheaper. “
Who’s voice should I listen to? The one that whispers “Go ahead, you deserve it. Buy it.” Or the one that says, “It still looks good and runs good. You can really use the money on something else. Like paying off bills.”
Before making my decision I confided with my shrink service technician. He works at the dealership where I bought the SUV, so I privately wanted him to send me to the new car salesman. Here’s how the session conversation might have gone:
- Me: ”I think it’s time to get a new one.”
- Service tech: ”Why?”
- Me: ”It’s 5 years old. I don’t want it to break down.”
- Service tech: ”It won’t break down. These engines are good to last a long time.”
- Me: ”How long?” (I was hoping he would say something like “5 and a half years”)
- Service tech: ”250,000 miles. Even more.” (Darn. That’s more than 5 and a half years isn’t it?)
By now you know which voice I listened to. I’m treating it as an experiment. Can it be done? In the past two years I’ve had a few maintenance costs, including new brakes and alignment. But I doubt they added up to $2000. Two years worth of payments (at $500/month) would add up to more than $12,000. I’m no math major, but that’s $10,000 I could spend on other things, like college tuition and cars for two of my three teenagers.
I’m two years into the experiment. It’s an experiment that could last a couple more years. Or it could end the next time I’m passed by a new SUV, and I give in to the whisper coming from my other shoulder.
p.s. Click here for 10 tips to make your car last longer.