I drive a car that is 19 years old (Toyota Cressida, FTW!) and Garrett drives a car that is 12 years old (a Subaru Legacy that is immaculate because my boyfriend is nothing if not anal about everything in his life up to and including his vehicles). Because of this we have had some serious flexibility with our budget over the past 3 years. Having no car payment has been PHENOMENAL and I highly recommend it to others! Many of you smarties have probably known that for ages, but what can I say? I'm slow on the uptake when it comes to smart financial decisions so it took me a few years to figure that out.
Before this I'd had a car payment since I was 17 and never really thought anything of it. It was a car -- you have to have one right? Why not finance it! Partly reinforcing this ridiculous assumption was the few years I spent living in Los Angeles, which is otherwise known as the capital of Expensive Cars One Can’t Really Afford. Seriously you meet people down there who are renting dumpy studios and driving $80,000 cars – it is unreal! As such I purchased two cars during that period of time, but who's judging! Anyway, all this to say I never really thought too much of it and just kept financing new cars when I got tired of the old ones. The excitement of a new car was addicting – and especially during those LA Years in my 20s, there was just nothing better than cruising down to the beach in my cute little ride, blaring my Blink-182 or whoever, and having no worries!
About 5 years into having my last car (and the towards the end of my 20s, no coincidence I'm sure) I started to think about what life was going to be like when I no longer had the payment. My very reliablie and very cute Honda Civic was still awesome and I started to have visions of C-note covered sugar plums dancing in my head. A cute car AND an extra $300 every month to spend however I pleased was impending AWESOMENESS. A month into summer, however, I was on my way to pick up Garrett so we could head out of town for a family cabin retreat in the woods and some JERK OFF made a turn in front of me when he did not have the right of way and did this to my cute and reliable Civic that was 3 months from being paid off. (Sigh)
He also made the 3 cases of beer that I had just purchased in preparation for that vacation spew out all over the place -- and let me tell you that was a bit awkward when the cops showed up-- but whatever, that wasn’t what I was pissed about at the time. The accident hurt my body, but even more painful was that it hurt my financial plans. I was now in a position to have to buy another new car and take on another loan – and it wasn’t even my fault!
Enter Garrett, my knight in shining armor – and of course his grandma who had just given him her old 1991 Toyota Cressida (that only had 50,000 miles on it at the time – are you serious?) He decided to let me use it until we came up with a plan about buying a new car and 3 years later, I’m still driving it. Mostly because– hello! not paying for a car every month kicks GINORMOUS ASS! It was even better than I had imagined! I have spent the last 3 years paying off debt, throwing money at my student loans hand over fist, traveling and saving more than ever possible with the car payment. Even though the payment was technically only about $300, the bigger payoff came in that fact that it really changed my entire financial mindset about material things. What else was I paying for every month that felt like a “necessity” that I could totally be more responsibly frugal about?
Of course driving an older car isn’t all roses and sunshine -- there has definitely been more things to fix here and there. We have put some large sums of money into that car over the last 3 years, but when you do the math it has been NOTHING compared to what 3 years of a car payment would have been. Last week it was in the shop because we are trying to have the A/C fixed in preparation for another sweltering summer in Sacramento (joy!) and because it is so old and takes R12 Freon, we are going to have to spend even more time and money finding someone who can still fix it in the State of California, so that is lame but I still contend it is worth it. However on Friday when Garrett took me to pick up the Cressida at the shop, as we were caravanning home he called to tell me that his car was showing signs of Radiator problems and we needed to turn around to take his car back to the shop.
And really, my only thought in that moment was, YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
So back we went and there was some talk about it probably being a blown head gasket, and everyone had an uncomfortable chuckle about the timing of it all and now today we are waiting to hear the fate of the Subaru. The head gasket issue would be very pricy to fix and who knows if we will. Even though Garrett’s car is the newer car it has about 70,000 more miles on it than the Cressida so part of me thinks we don't need Garrett's car. But I'm not a total loon, and the thought of having a 20 year old car being our “more reliable car” or our only car puts my little brain into a tizzy.
Neither is really feasible. And so, we wait. Will we buy a new car or won't we? Only time will tell!
The funny thing is I am not even a little bit excited at the prospect of buying a car this time around. Especially now that Garrett is not really working full time, I’m not dying to add any new monthly expenses. New car smell, or even a reasonably priced newer used-car just isn’t getting me as twitterpated as it has in the past. I am perfectly content just getting where I need to go in one of our older, paid for cars and I don’t want to be forced to take on a new loan just for a shiny, new hunk of immediately depriciating metal. UGH. It really bums me out just to type all of that. Ironically, I think Blink-182 may have said it best: I guess this is growing up.