I’ve been scouting the web sites of used-car dealers, with an eye to buying a newer version of our 2007 Toyota Prius, which has 146,000 miles on it.
Our car runs well, gets 45 miles a gallon (52 on the highway), and we’ve spent only $345 on repairs and maintenance in the past year. But it’s survived two crunches (while unoccupied) and one part was stitched together to pass inspection. It’s got lots of other dings, and the warranty on the power-train battery is about to expire. I believed it is uneconomical to be either a car’s first owner or its last, and worried about the hassle and expense of future repairs.
And then there’s the exclamation point that’s lit up on our car’s dashboard. Mechanics assure us that it’s a tire-pressure sensor problem that does not indicate a problem with the car’s operation, but it’s still mildly worrisome.
Betsy wanted to keep the car a little longer. After doing some research on automotive economics – and wondering who would buy a car with an exclamation point on its dashboard – I decided that she was right. Here are seven reasons why it makes sense for us to keep the car until the cost of a repair exceeds its value:
- Miles to go. I’ve heard that with Priuses, “200,000 miles is the new 100,000.” And I read about a guy in Maine who put 1 million miles on a 1990 Honda Accord.
- Carbon footprint. We care about the energy cost of building a new car and disposing of an old one, including hazardous chemicals.
- Free theft insurance. Who would steal a car with so many flaws? Keeping the car, we don’t have to worry about future dings, or all the carpet stains.
- Frugality. We will pay less for insurance and excise tax than with a new car. I read that insurance costs $300 a year more on a 2010 Corolla than an ’05.
- Above average. The average car owner keeps it for six years before trading it in. We bought our car in mid-2013, so we have at least a few years to go.
- Depreciation. The amount a car declines in value in a year is the true cost of owning one. The longer you own a car, the less it depreciates every year.
- Self-image. We’re just not spiffy types. Our car looks as, uh, lived in as our house and our clothes do. Keeping a old car keeps us humble. (Or prideful in our shabbiness?)
This decision is made easier by the fact that I can get most places I want to go on my bicycle, allowing us to share our one car, and we drive it only 8,000 miles a year. Neither of us has a long commute that requires a newer car.
There will come a time when we’ll face a big repair bill, face each other and say, “It’s time.” But the longer we can delay that day, the better off we’ll be.
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