Question: I want to buy a new car, but my dad says I should just fix the one I have. Thing is, it has over 100,000 miles on it. Won’t it be cheaper in the long run to just buy a new one? It’s a Honda Civic, and it’s reliable. But it’s also 8 years old. I’m just finishing my first semester in college, and I don’t want the car breaking down in a new city far from home. So I want to buy one of those cute VW Beetles.
— Cindy in Idaho
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
I have a daughter who will go off to college in a few years, and I want her to drive a safe car, too. However, if she had a 8-year-old Honda Civic with 100,000-plus miles and no serious mechanical or electrical issues, I would not buy her a new car.
“The average vehicle cost about $3,900 in the early 1970s, but didn’t last anywhere near as long as cars do now. Today, that cost has jumped to over $33,000, and the average age of passenger vehicles is 11.5 years. With proper routine maintenance, the typical car should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance.”
Those wise words are from Rich White, executive director of the nonprofit Car Care Council.
The VW Beetle you want, Cindy, starts at $18,765 and has an estimated loan payment of $211 a month, according to TrueCar. White has a suggestion I agree with completely: “By simply budgeting the equivalent of just one new car payment, you could cover an entire year’s worth of basic maintenance on your current vehicle and redirect the rest to beef up savings, take a vacation, or pay off credit card debt, college loans and other bills.”
Of course, keeping an older car is much like living in an older body — regular checkups are no longer optional. You can extend the life of your car (and your own life) with scheduled maintenance. Like other auto companies, Honda offers an online tool to personalize your car maintenance and remind you to schedule it. I also suggest you read Debt.com’s report called, How to keep your vehicle running for years — even if you’re an auto idiot.
As a father, I know how this advice sounds to a teenage girl: boring! A new VW Beetle is much sexier than an old Honda Civic. Still, I think you should listen to your Dad. The money you save now might keep your student loan bills from exploding, and when you graduate, you’ll be grateful you followed that boring advice.
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Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.