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The Attack of The Used Car Disease…

by J. Money on Tuesday, March 29, 2011

new cadillac

My poor caddy is a beast. I love her to death, but man she’s getting old. 18 years into her prime and she’s just not as peppy as she once was! *tear*

We went to the doctors the other day (National Tire and Battery), and she’s now a proud owner of a brand new heart (battery). It seemed she was trying to tell me something last week when we got stranded in Applebee’s parking lot and I dismissed it for a cough. I also found out that I am no good at asking strangers to give me a jump! Not only is it embarrassing for some reason, but I also just feel bad imposing on others :( Turns out my wife is pretty good at it, though ;)

So that was $120 out of nowhere. And there’s other signs of deterioration starting to show more too: random lights are popping up here and there now, my radio doesn’t like to turn off anymore, the transmission fluid continues to leak faster and faster, and I’m just wondering how much longer we’ve got here. Oh, and the gas it’s costing me lately? WAWA WOOEY! I literally spent $60 to fill up last week! Sixty! Another con of ridin’ in style, haha… my friends family wife everyone pretty much thinks my whip is ghetto, but I don’t think they know what they’re talking about. You ask any grandpa out there and they’ll tell you how luxurious these Caddys are ;) Just sucks they sip on the champagne of gas – good ol’ Premium. Currently hovering around $4.00 a pop.

As sad as things are though, I just can’t get out there and start looking around yet. The idea of starting over and having car payments again is NOT my idea of fun anymore. And as many of you know, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll say F it and go buy that Benz I’ve always wanted for the last 5 years now ;) Which you can’t let me do!! As you’ve seen from yesterday’s post, I’m not in the most secure spot to be allowing for such luxuries – even though I rode around in one yesterday and was reminded of just how much I LOVE ‘em! One of these days I tell ya, one of these days!

But for now, we keep doing our thang. We drive that puppy right into the ground, and just pray we got a lot more years outta her. It may be annoying at times (and also, perhaps, a bit unsafe depending on your gender) but if you don’t mind the inconveniences, you’ll be rewarded handsomely in savings ;) Know what I’m saying?

Any of y’all currently going through some car buying action? Anyone get stranded and will never ride to the very end again?


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Beagle March 29, 2011 at 7:49 am

I love the Caddy’s and Lincoln’s from that early-90′s era. That alone made the cost of the movie tickets to the Lincoln Lawyer worth it (plus it was a good movie!).

Except for the gas, a good mechanic should be able to help you along with some of your issues, specifically the transmission line, unless you’ve already gotten word that it would need to be rebuilt or something.

Either way, I’ve been there the whole time with you on the cool factor of that car.

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2 Ginger March 29, 2011 at 7:55 am

I just purchased a Mustang with really sweet payments at a really sweet price through USAA. I’ll be working on paying it off asap. Simply because that and my Star Card are my largest bills.

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3 Ginger March 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

And my grandpa had that car, but in a nice navy blue. It was tight!

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4 Mercedes March 29, 2011 at 8:27 am

I’m saving up to either buy myself a car, or put a big dent in the cost of a new car. The time line is (hopefully) at least 2 years from now. My little 2006 cobalt has over 120k miles on it, and I bought her new so I have driven the heck out of her already. I’m gonna try to push it to 200k miles, but a major repair comes up I’m putting her out of her misery and buying a new/new to me vehicle.

Lucky for me she doesn’t take premium like your sweet Caddy does. otherwise she’d be put out of her misery sooner than later!

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5 Steph March 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

I downgraded twice within the past few years and ended up with a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan that I switch between calling “Ol’ Reliable” and “Blue Beast”. I am NOT a minivan kind of girl and I hate driving that thing. I’ve had ants in my pants about getting rid of it since I bought it a year and a half ago, but alas, it was my choice to purchase it and it is paid for. It was a $30k+ vehicle that is completely loaded and I got a heck of a deal. Anyway, now that we are debt free, I’ve started building up my savings account with some money earmarked “New Car Fund”. As that amount grows, I tend to like the way my bank account looks more than how I would look in whatever sweet ride I would trade up to. Think about how many repairs you would have to make to justify the cost of a new car, even if it’s a Kia rather than a Benz. 18 years is a pretty long life for a car, but if YOU like the car, keep it.

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6 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com March 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

Cars have been the bane of my personal finance existence. I’ve had to learn this lesson about 3 times the hard way, but a vehicle is just what gets you from one place to another. Don’t waste your money on an expensive one.

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7 Uncle El March 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

I have a 1999 Camry and its also showing some signs of wear, drivers window wont go down and other random issues, but 130K miles and the engine still feels good so I will wait a good 5 years before i let her go. LEts go To To Toyota! I had a wet dream driving a mini cooper with 37 MPG but then I woke up. Ha!

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8 ken March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

take it a mechanic and have them inspect the car. They will give you an estimate of how much the repairs will cost. Weight the cost of repairs with the cost of a new or used car.

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9 Brent March 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

i agree with everyone else, most of those problems you are having can be fixed. My mechanic will do a whole diagnostic on my car for $72 which, when things are going wrong, can be worth it and you can then pick and choose what you would like to have fixed…mostly the things that dont cost more than the car is worth and will keep it running for years to come.

also, be happy you don’t drive a 94 suburban like i do (but i have 3 kids and the car only cost me $2000)…at 11 miles to the gallon with a 42 gallon gas tank I paid 143 to fill ‘er up on friday…its tough.

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10 Brandi March 29, 2011 at 9:42 am

I could go on for years and years and years (ok slight exaggeration…) about all my car problems. And my friends are always giving me sh^t about not giving in to buying something long term and having car payments.

But I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to NOT own my car right out. I already owe my right arm and first born child to Sallie Mae…

So…I am just going to keep on puttering around in my NOT so luxurious rides…and deal with it :)

You can do it J!

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11 Trinnie March 29, 2011 at 9:46 am

We are currently car shopping for a bigger car…the PT Cruiser has us pretty crammed, just the 3 of us, much less introducing another baby! I’m with you, J…I’ve never had a car payment and I sure as hell don’t want one now, but….as Clyde McPhatter sings “Whatcha Gonna Do!” (Rad 1950′s doo wop song, I highly suggest you download immediately!).

If you really, really, really wanna buy a Mercedes, go through USAA’s Auto Circle. If I’m remembering correctly, members are getting up to $4000 back in incentives strictly for using the service.

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12 ER March 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

Caddys are awesome! I drive a 1998 Deville with 206,000 miles on it and it’s still going strong. My wife thinks it has too many miles on it. So as a precautionary measure I found a 1997 Deville with only 42,000 miles on eBay so I picked it up for just over $5,000. Now it’s going to be my Sunday driver/backup car if/when my 1998 decides to kick the bucket. Definitely find a good trustworthy mechanic! My mechanic is the only person I allow to service my car, period! No dealers, no quick change oil places, no tire stores, etc.

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13 Trinnie March 29, 2011 at 9:59 am

lookie! lookie! what I just found! :) What perfect timing! “USAA debuts ‘Best Value’ vehicles list” https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/car_buying_service_preferred_vehicles?adID=VURL_BestValue

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14 Ruth March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

I used to drive an old K-car that I inherited from my brother when I was in college. My brother bought it second-hand, so it came with a “Jesus Died 4 U” bumper sticker….we called it the ‘Jesus-mobile’. It was the best and the worst car I’ve had…it broke down at least once a week in the summer, but never left me stranded and stuck in snow in the winter. I earned enough money with it for gas…charged a small fee for car-pooling from friends. I finally gave it up the day it refused to start…luckily it was just in my driveway…Jesus needed his wheels back. I miss that car.

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15 Leslie March 29, 2011 at 10:46 am

I’m confused, why would “starting over” require car payments?

From your networth updates you guys clearly have a decent pile of money, go and pay for a car outright! I’d bet you could get a decent deal on a really nice used Mercedes with cash!

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16 Kevin I March 29, 2011 at 10:59 am

Just make sure “into the ground” doesn’t leave you liable for an accident in case of mechanical failure. I ignored a rumble and noise for over a year, it got so bad that when I took a hard right (like a sharp ramp onto the highway) it would start beeping and one night the car just decided that if I make a sharp right, it’ll just TURN THE CAR OFF. Narrowly avoided an accident, restarted the car and headed home.

The next day I decided it was worth trying to drive to work (two mile commute, big shoulders, low speeds), first I heard a clunk, then I noticed a smell and once I pulled into work I saw smoke. The suspension had broke and it had literally started to eat the front right tire.

Thankfully neither issue happened in traffic, otherwise I could have caused an accident I was on the hook for and the insurance hike and guilt that would come with that! If you frame the financial question that way you may find more options on the table.

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17 Meg March 29, 2011 at 11:32 am

J, replacing your battery isn’t replacing her heart, her heart is her engine. ;) And trust me, THAT can be a pain!!

Right now we have payments on a 2003 Legacy GT we picked up. Totally out of the blue because our other three girls (all paid off & moderately to heavily modified) couldn’t handle the snow this whacked out base leaves on the road.

The Legacy is great! But too plain to be our cup of tea. My hubby’s deploying in May and we’ll be paying her off by September. Only to turn around and trade her in on a brand new Subaru WRX STi sedan. :D So excited, haha. Cost might suck a bit, but it’ll be worth it come winter! (Or rally school! ;))

Oh, one last idea to plant in your head J$, hit me up and I can find you a sub/$10k Porsche if you’d like…. ;) Plenty of good 944 examples out there for cheap!

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18 Tabitha March 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

If I may, how many miles does your caddy have? I just paid my car off and what a great feeling not have a car payment. First timer :-)

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19 Sandra March 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm

At 160 K+ miles, my 99 Corolla is still going strong. Although to date nothing major has happened, I’ve decided I need to start putting money aside for a new vehicle in a few years. I’m hoping I can get another 3-5 years out of my little girl! Fortunately DH is good with mechanical things, and is an electrical engineer by training, so lots of little things (and some not so big) he’s been able to handle easily at home. I can’t remember the last time the vehicle needed to go to a garage.

I HATE the thought of a car loan. I took one out for this vehicle, and paid it off in record time (one year), but still resented paying the money each month. Here’s hoping the car lasts long enough that I can save enough to buy it outright in full. I’ve always bought new, but then I keep the cars for well over 10 years, and have been managing to get 200Kmiles out of them. Fiingers crossed that this Toyota will do it too!

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20 suzanne March 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Good to hear the vintage car love!

I’m alternating between driving a ’93 Subaru (LOVE LOVE LOVE! Not great on highway but #1 in urban driving) and a ’99 Accord (good but boring.) My husband has a company car, so we really only need two cars on the weekends or evenings taking the kids to activities.

I was debating the “buy another used car” thing and decided just to save my $$$ until the Subaru dies. I have the money, and the car is running and safe (I so agree with Kevin I on this!) I work at a college, and literally EVERY student has a nicer car than I do. I still love driving it though. I feel so free–and it takes turns FAST.

Plus, maybe I will save enough to buy a car that is only 4-5 years old next time…pretty new in my book! No car payment, of course.

Drive your Caddy with BRAVERY and STYLE! And thanks for sharing. Yours is my fave money blog EVAH!

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21 JennyDee March 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm

*sigh* I think it’s an epidemic. I’ve got two leaky windows, a leaky oil pan and transmission, and the engine has oil and gas mixed which is destroying the fuel injection system. He’s a 2001 Cavalier, and the paint is about gone and the rust is taking over the side rear panel and the driver’s door.

I started looking at used cars, both online and in person. So far, I haven’t been impressed. I have about $5K to put down on a car, but that won’t even put a dent in the ones I like! I’d hate to buy a 5+ year older car, but I might have to in order to avoid payments. I’ve been on edmunds.com, autotrader.com, kbb.com and carsoup.com, not to mention the local dealer’s web pages.

I’m hoping he’ll last through summer. We have a big used car blowout at the local mall where at least ten dealers bring all their used cars to one place. I like those odds. I HATE the feel of new cars; tiny back windows and I feel like I’m peering up to see over the dashboard. Adjusting the seat hasn’t helped in the test drives I’ve done. Alas, I may beg someone for their used 2005 Cavalier, just because I love the style.

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22 Jaime March 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I’ll never buy a used car, most people I’ve known had so many problems with used cars. I’d rather buy an economic car if money is tight than to get a used car. But for my next car I really want to buy a Honda Civic. That’s like my ideal car right now. :)

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23 kh March 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm

My car died 2 Januarys ago (that would be Jan 2010) and I pledged to try to go w/out a car for a year. I made it 15 months and I’m done. Never again (at least not while I live and work in this city). I’m buying a used Acura from someone I know in the next state over – going to pick it up on the 18th. I’m only buying used because this is someone I know who buys and resells cars privately and really takes care of them and makes sure they’re in good condition before they resell them. Except in cases like this, I will never again buy a used car if I can help it. The 2 cars I’ve bought new I have had for 10+ years and run them into the ground (250k miles and more). The used cars I’ve bought have given me nothing but trouble and cost money and lasted a few years at most.

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24 mike crosby March 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm

You definitely walk the walk. I really enjoyed the post. My dad had a friend that would sell him his used caddy every 4 years. The only thing missing was his pimp hat and stogie.

Keep that baby going.

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25 Yana March 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I don’t think I’ll ever buy a new car again. I loved my ’08 Forester (still do, but am disgruntled) until I learned about the tire sensor monitors when I had to have a tire repaired. These sensors became law in either ’07 or ’08, and it costs $58.50 at my dealer to reset them whenever a change causes them to go out of whack, computer-wise. I refuse to pay that, so I have a piece of black tape over the dash light. I wish the bulb would burn out. It makes me feel that my perfectly beautiful vehicle is defective – it’s just wrong. But more wrong is to perpetuate ripping off customers by feeding those who would do so. I went to a tire store also, and was told that when I purchase new tires, they would take the car to the dealer to get the sensors reset because they do not have the equipment to do so. I don’t plan on paying extra for that then, either. I actually don’t know whether the law allows the tire store to just put on the tires and not see that the sensor works. I guess I’ll find out when the time comes.

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26 Jenna March 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I just bought a used Volvo station wagon earlier this year. Which we took to SXSW and ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere in…

My friend’s have bought some pretty nice cars at auctions. Definitely something I would consider doing in the far future. I’m hoping to get another 10 years out of my car before I donate it.

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27 J. Money March 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Yeah, minor piece of info I left out earlier — The last time I asked about the fluid leak, I was told that even if we found it the costs to repair would prob be more than the car’s worth, haha… but I probably should have it actually diagnosed one of these days just to be certain. Would suck if it was something small and it ends up killing the car down the road.

@Money Beagle – Haha.. Lincoln Lawyer? Will have to Google that one ;) Glad you’re a lover of this era too! I really will miss her once she’s gone.
@Ginger – Yeah USAA! And Mustangs! Had one of them too, financed through USAA oddly enough, but eventually I couldn’t deal w/ the payments. Even though they were only $200 (back in the day that was a LOT more to me, haha…) And I LOVE your Grandpa! If he’s still around, give him a fist bump for me ;)
@Mercedes – Ooooh if she can reach 200k that would be dope! I hope she does!
@Steph – Yep! I love her even w/ all my haters out there ;) And I feel ya on the minivan, I hope I don’t have to get one one day, haha…
@Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – True, unless you feel on top of the world when you’re ridin’ from here to there ;) I used to not care back in the day, but now I realize I spend sooooo much time in it that I’d love to feel even more “special” rollin’ in style.
@Uncle El – Haha… Gooooo Toyota!!!! (and wet dreams!)
@ken – For sure, def. smart to do that soon.
@Brent – WOW. $142??? Now that is a record for me. Dang! But those beasts do come in handy I bet :)
@Brandi – Haha, I remember reading lots on your car troubles over the years ;) We are all in this together, baby!
@Trinnie – Clyde McPhatter? haha… yes, going to google that in a few ;) And I do recall seeing something like that at USAA, although I’d totally be getting a used Benz once the time comes, no way I’m buying it off the lot – *shiver*

@ER – Rock on brotha!! I actually bought my Caddy FROM a mechanic so luckily he’s been hookin me up over the years ;) Plus he knows the car well, even though I’m convinced there are a lot of illegal tweaks he’s done to it when he had it, haha…
@Ruth – Haha, good story – I liked that one :)
@Leslie – True, I could if I wanted to dip into the savings, but I probably wouldn’t. I don’t like losing big chunks at a time, even if it’s smarter financially. I’d rather take up a loan and work my tush off in paying it off as fast as possible. Helps with me understanding fully the COST of buying a new car, rather than just unloading some from the stockpile ;) Does that make sense?
@Kevin I – Oh man, that’s crazy. And def. something to consider for sure, thanks bro. You’re always thinking ;)
@Meg – Are you trying to excite me girl!!!! I better not let my wife read this, she knows I’d take you up on that Porsche find one day! :) Glad to hear you’re getting a subaru too – a lot of my racing friends really like ‘em.
@Tabitha – Congrats! Def. feels good :) Mine only has 93,000 miles on it – driven by an old lady first, then a speedy mcgee who supped it all up, haha… so it *seems* like it should last for quite a bit longer, but ya never do know sometimes.
@Sandra – She can do it!!! 200k+ for Toyotas are great – my wife is always talking about how much she misses our Highlander ;) But I like to remind her that we sure don’t miss the $500+ monthly car payments! haha… fingers crossed yours keeps treating you well.
@suzanne – Woo woo!!! Thanks for the love my friend :) I will keep pimpin’ it out until the very last day.
@JennyDee – Yeah! I hate those small crappy back windows too – so hard to see!! And also it seems the front seats are more squishy too. My ‘hawk always gets smushed when I’m test driving new cars, haha… raise the roofs back up,already! ;) (good luck w/ finding a deal at the blow out sales too – that sounds positive!)
@Jaime – Not even a “used” car that’s only like 3-4 months old? You could save a few thousands off a Civic by doing that ;) I used to love those cars too… and actually the sportier ones coming out are even sexier.

@kh – Haha I wouldn’t last w/out a car for a week :) But def. when I was in the city I could have. You wouldn’t by a “used” car that’s only a few months old either? I just can’t justify losing thousands of dollars the second I drive a new one off the lot.
@mike crosby – Haha… Does he still buy them? Cuz if not, *ahem* I know someone who may ;)
@Yana – Ouch, I’m sorry to hear that Yana :( no fun.
@Jenna – Haha, oh you and your adventures ;) Always wanted to check out an auction before too just never have. I dream of finding a pimped out drug dealer’s car that’s selling for like 1/10th of the value ;) haha… although that would be pretty scary if he/she ever saw it on the streets.

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28 Paula @ AffordAnything.org March 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

J Money, I think the bigger question that emerges from you post is … what were you doing at Applebees??

My philosophy: If you’re trying to save money, eat at home. If you’re going to eat out, go swanky. Applebee’s will get you a $12-per-head check and a stalled car in the lot.

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29 J. Money March 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

What! Applebees is dope. 2 entrees and 1 appetizer for $20 bucks! Love that place, I won’t deny it… also used to work there back in the day (not at that specific one, but right after college). Was a dishwasher and made way more than the servers did ;) Plus I got to blare music and get dirty, haha…

Oh, and my wife wants you to know that those mini-desserts they have are crazy good. I’ll have to agree — usually I just want a bite or two instead of an entire plate so it works out nicely for $2 or whatever.

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30 Donna Freedman March 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Drive it ’til the wheels fall off, pal. It won’t owe you a thing and you can put off the big buy that much longer.

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31 Jon | Free Money Wisdom March 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Ignore the masses, it’s a winning strategy! This article was pure inspiration for me. Living in San Diego, I see quite a few nice cars. I drive a nice one myself (2004 TL) but when I see an M5, my mouth starts to water. But then I just go back to that Forbes article that states that 2/3′s of most luxury car drivers either lease their cars or never own them, just make payments the rest of their life. No thanks, I’d rather retire early and get my Ferrari!

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32 LAL March 29, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I dread the day I give up my little corolla. I love my beater. I love zipping around, the oldness makes me not worried about parking it anywhere the size is cute. My next car is going to be a very practical minivan. I die a little inside thinking about it. And my corolla is 12 years but going strong. I will keep it another I’m thinking 4 years and get the minivan when we are going to have kid #3. or maybe sooner, depending on dogs and family.

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33 Paul Walnuts March 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Our particular war canoe was a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne. It had all the options. Man, what a sweet ride! You could fit three babies under the back windshield!

When she started to fall apart, though, the costs accrued quickly. Her 60,000 mile service uncovered the need for some new wiring. At 120,000 she developed a fuel filter issue that never self-corrected. She stayed true to the game until 160,000 miles and 20 years.

The point of diminishing returns for her was when we discovered leaks in her head gaskets that would have required a rebuild. That particular engine has no more new head gaskets available; you can only get them used. That, combined with its starting-to-wear clutch (the clutch was awesome, it never needed any service beyond fluids!) brought the point of diminishing returns on that car.

It’s hard to determine when you’re car has reached that point of diminishing returns.

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34 Carol March 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I have a ’99 Toyota Camry that was not affected by the recalls, and has aged well. Last week, at the 105k mark, some repairs were needed. What I thought was just a muffler turned into a bit more. She now has a fresh new clutch, and catalytic converter. This little adventure was around $1700, but I figure I won’t be buying any of those items again while I still own the car.

Overall it has been pretty good, it’s just reaching that age where those bigger ticket items will kick in every 10-25k miles. Hope I’m good for another 2-3 years before the next vehicle. It’s when every oil change starts to cost $500+ that you have to consider moving on.

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35 Rob March 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I just paid off my car (2005 Ford Focus) this month and immediately turned that money around to pay down my student loan debts.

Now I intend to drive that car until it falls apart around me. I got the car in ’07 with ~15k miles on it and since I have a long commute to work (150 miles per day) I’m at ~150k miles. With regular maintenance, I’m hoping to get at least another 50k out of it, but I’m curious to see if I can get it up to 300k.

Mechanics like to tell you that a repair would cost more than the car is worth, but that’s the wrong yardstick. You should be comparing it to how much it will cost to replace the car. If I had to replace the engine and transmission at the same time, it would still cost significantly less than a car loan. The only thing I can think of that would make it necessary to replace the car entirely is if something happened to the frame. That’s probably the one piece that can’t be serviced, replaced, or safely lived with.

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36 J. Money March 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

@Donna Freedman – That’s the plan, Stan. As long as I don’t step onto any Mercedes lots I’m good ;)
@Jon | Free Money Wisdom – Mmmmmmm… ferrari….. TL not too shabby either!
@LAL – GOOD POINT! When you own a beater you don’t worry about scratches, and dings, and all kinds of nonsense others can inflict on it. I don’t even care about the areas my paint is peeling! haha…
@Paul Walnuts – Oooooh just googled it – that’s HOT!!! never heard of before..
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/1986_Parisienne_Nova_Scotia.JPG
@Carol – haha, that’s the truth. mine’s actually due for another oil change now and I’m kinda scared to take her in ;) sorry to hear about your latest expenses, but I do hope you’ve got many years left w/ it!
@Rob – Yeah, that’s true – good point. I didn’t ask what, exactly, needed to be fixed, or how much, but I’ll have to be better about paying attention to that stuff. Congrats on killing all your payments! That’s awesome. Even more so that you’re now applying it all toward your student loans. You’re a smart one, sir!

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37 Ash March 31, 2011 at 12:54 am

One thought is that you could rent the Benz and take it out for a weekend of joyriding. You might find that’s enough for a bit. :)

As for me, I’m taking my ’99 Honda and driving it until the wheels fall off. I don’t have anyone else to worry about (like kids) if I get stranded, so to me, right now, it’s fine if one day it dies at work (again).

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