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New Car vs. New(er) car: The Battle Rages On

Posted by on June 5, 2008

sunfire1.JPGWe all called her White Lightning. My beautiful 1998 Pontiac Sunfire. I bought White Lightning from a small Korean girl who, for one reason or another, was leaving the country in a hurry. The rear seat was covered in a huge sheet of Mashimaro, and the car smelt of a lifetime of failed attempts to quit smoking, but I loved it just the same. I remember the owner asked $6500, so I gave her a nearly insulting low-ball offer and she caved, it was meant to be.

White Lightning lasted me a good 5 years, but with a fair bit of rust and no AC as the summer approaches, I decided it was time to buy something new(er).

Over the years, no matter what I’ve read on buying a car, the consensus seems to be the same, DON’T BUY NEW.

Here’s an excerpt from the article “10 Things To Never Buy New” from MSN Finance:

  • Cars. The average new car loses 12.2% of its value in the first year, according to Edmunds.com; on a $20,000 car, that’s $2,440, or more than $200 a month. Some cars depreciate even faster, depending on demand, incentives offered and other factors.

Why not let someone else take that hit? Not only will you be able to save money (or buy more car), but you’ll pay less for insurance. Cars are better-built and last longer than ever before, which means you’re less likely to get a lemon. Companies like CarFax allow you to trace a car’s history. Many late-model used cars are still under warranty, and a trusted mechanic can give your potential purchase the once-over to spot any problems. Take a look at the Used Car Research section of MSN Autos for a lot of great information.

Exception: You can pay cash and you really, really want that new-car smell.

So “new” was out of the question, but I had to decide exactly how much I wanted to spend. I started out logically taking all factors into consideration: how long I planned to drive this car, current expenses, cash flow, and what I would be spending on White Lightning in the next few months anyways. With these figures in mind I decided I would go no higher than $15,000 after tax and I would be looking for something in a 2-door from 2002-2005 depending on the model and kilometers driven. This should be easy

After scouring through the Auto Trader Guide, dealerships, and more used car websites than I care to admit, a funny thing started to happen. The magic of marketing took over and the ghosts of unnecessary purchases and faulty logic began haunting my days and nights. Everywhere I went all I would notice were cars, cars, cars. What year is that? How many KMs on that bad boy? Sweet rims! Is that an ’08? I like the spoiler? Heated seats?….beautiful. And somewhere along the way I entered myself in the “How can I rationalize this purchase? contest”

By my second week of research I had somehow circumvented my own level thinking and decided $20,000 was my new golden number. So off I went looking for and test driving all of these fancy smancy used cars. I went through an ’06 Volkswagen Passat, an ’05 Jetta TDIs, an Eclipse Spider convertible and each time I got into the drivers seat there was something that wasn’t right. I thought it was seats for a while and usually blamed German Engineering, but essentially, my super-ego was in the midst of an all out, bare knuckles brawl with my id. (note: thank you wikipedia). The epic battle came to a close as I stood staring at a nice 2004 Audi A4 listed for $18,000. It was then that I realized how the rational mind can quickly become prey to selfish desires.

I look around and I see a mass of people living well outside of their means on borrowed time and borrowed dollars. Everyone wants so badly to have the luxuries that they likely can’t afford that they’ve become a slave to their toys and their heaping mounds of debt. That’s not the lifestyle I had in mind.

So with my id lying bloody and beaten on the ground, my good friends, reality and common sense, were free to return to the ring. I realized all of these cars were merely objects that I WANTED, a luxury that I thought would be cool to play with; but they weren’t anything I actually needed. What I needed was a car. After the “cool factor” dissipated I started to remember what a huge waste of money cars are in the first place. Between depreciation, insurance, maintenance and GAS, GAS, GAS and GAS, automobiles are nothing but a shiny ditch for which to shovel your money into. So I stepped away from the Audi and last Saturday I picked up my new Black 2004 Honda Civic.

In the end, I stayed well below my initial figure and though the engine is as gutless as a nun in a street fight, I couldn’t be happier with my selection. I’m also not ashamed to admit that this last week I’ve been driving around for no other reason than to enjoy having a car that doesn’t accept Cassettes and has Air Conditioning. Keepin’ cool while listening to N’sync. Look out beachstrip. 😉

Now that I’ve fought the demons of marketing and won, its easy to see when other people are slipping into its grasp. The other day I mentioned what I had paid, what I decided to finance, and what my rate of interest was in a discussion with a friend of mine and he said the following, “Well that’s a pretty high rate, I think I’m going to buy a brand new car, their rates are as low as 0.9%.” I’m not sure if he was joking, or if it didn’t cross his mind at the time, but while .9% is a great rate of interest, a new car would also be $10-15,000 dollars more from his pocket when all is said and done. To each their own I suppose.

As for me, my biggest concern now is what I should name my car. I’m leaning towards Black Stallion, Black Beauty, or maybe Black Magic… your suggestions are encouraged.

Happy Motoring.

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