One of the biggest financial pressures I feel is the “need” to have a shiny, new car. The fact that I spent the last year reviewing car loan contracts for a living didn’t help. The rationalizations kept trying to creep in from all different directions. But every time I started down that rabbit hole, I reminded myself why my 17-year-old Honda Civic is just fine.
1. It’s paid off. This is the most important thing. We bought the car back in 2010 for $4,500, paid it off in five months, and it’s been gravy ever since. With 155,000 miles, I figured I might have to pour a ton of money into it for repairs, but we’ve probably only spent $1,000 over the last five years on repairs.
2. No A/C. Speaking of those repairs, the A/C pump froze up a couple of years ago and at this point, it’s not important enough for me to get it fixed. Why do I love that? Because it adds a little discomfort into my otherwise exceptionally comfortable life. In some ways, it reminds me not to take the conveniences and amenities I enjoy for granted.
3. It has character. The lights in the dashboard don’t work, making it hard to see how fast I’m driving at night. The doors are so rusty it sounds like a Tyrannosaurus Rex when you open them. The front left tire makes a helicopter noise when I drive it. These are the things that I’m going to tell my kids about when they’re older. It’s what makes the car so endearing.
4. It runs like a dream. Aside from the previous two points, the car runs great at 190,000 miles. If it weren’t for the helicopter tire, which I should probably get fixed, I’m confident it could last another 100,000.
5. Ugly = cheap. In the five years we’ve owned the car, it’s probably been washed two or three times. The way I see it, it’s ugly whether it’s clean or dirty, so why spend the money or the time washing it? If I had a new car, I’d feel like I had to keep that bad boy clean all the time, which could get expensive real fast.
6. It can take a beating. You know when you’re stuck in a parking lot after a game or a concert and everyone’s trying to inch ahead of each other to get out first? I rock those situations because no matter how big your truck is, you don’t want green paint on it. As for me, I’ve got nothing to lose.
7. Insurance is dirt cheap. When your car is only worth $1,200, there’s no reason to have collision and comprehensive coverage on it. That means we’re only paying $22.25 a month, which is pretty darn slick.
8. It reminds me of my priorities. A rarely get in that car without asking myself why I’m still driving this old jalopy. It doesn’t take long to remember all the goals we have that are a million times more important than a fancy hunk of metal on wheels.
9. It gets great gas mileage. We’re talking 30-35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. How is it that not many cars can top that almost 20 years later?
10. My self-esteem isn’t tied to a possession. I definitely get looks when the Tyrannosaurus Rex starts roaring, but I think the innocent bystanders usually feel more awkward than I do. I never feel embarrassed or self-conscious because I know what I’m about.
11. Investing heavily in a depreciable asset is dumb. Everyone knows a car is a depreciable asset, yet the vast majority of Americans somehow treat it as an investment. Would you buy Apple stock if it was guaranteed to go down? Heck no like techno. You see, I have no problem with spending a reasonable amount of money on a car, but putting yourself in a position where you’re underwater on your car loan? That’s just all kinds of silly.
12. I have no one to impress. There are many reasons why someone would want a new car and status is one of them. But why should I have to spend hundreds of dollars a month to impress people I don’t even care about?
13. It saves me money. If I were like the average American, my car payment would be between $352-$471 a month. Taking that back the four years since we paid this car off, we’ve saved between $16,896 and $22,608. Anyone that saves me that kind of money is a friend of mine.
14. I don’t drive it much. For the last year, my use for that car has been limited mostly to my 6 mile round-trip commute to work. Now that I’m working from home, it’s going to be a lot less. I can’t imagine paying a few hundred bones a month on a new car and spend almost zero time driving it.
15. It gets me from point A to point B faster than walking. It’s so magical. Sometimes I even listen to music while it’s happening, although most of the time I prefer silence. Seriously though, this is the reason why these things were invented in the first place. When did that stop being the main reason we bought them?
16. It’s much less stressful. A few years ago, someone backed into me. We both got out to check the damage and I honestly couldn’t tell if the scratches on the bumper were new or old. We had a good laugh (his a little more nervous than mine), got back in our cars, and went on our merry ways. I can’t even fathom how stressful (and expensive!) that little bump would have been had I been driving a new car.
17. It keeps me humble. There’s no room to be arrogant when you’re driving a ’98 Honda Civic. I’m sure it wouldn’t let me, even if I tried.
I love my old car. Someday we’ll end up retiring this old friend, but until then I’m grateful to have it as a reminder of what’s most important.