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Keep Driving Your Old Car and You’ll Save A Lot of Money

Updated: Jun 11, 2014 15:39
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This post was written by Tyler Thompson

I purchased my first car in 1995. Since then, I’ve put a lot of work into my Saab 9000 CS.

You’re probably asking yourself, “since then?” No, that’s not a misprint. I haven’t updated my vehicle since 1995, and I’m okay with that. In 19 years, my 9000 has served me well. I’ve done my best to keep my Saab in excellent condition, and it’s lived up to its engineering by driving beyond 200,000 miles. So, why do I get funny looks in the drive through and at the gas station?

I get those funny looks because people mistakenly assume I’m poor. It’s strange to see an adult woman (smartly dressed in business casual wear) stepping out of a vehicle that is so outdated it’s almost as comical as a DeLorean. One time, I had a nice man hand me a business card and say, “Ma’am if you’re looking for a job, we’re hiring.” I took this man’s card, but let him know I wasn’t in the market for a new job. In fact, I was on my way to work. I’m a financial advisor.

This man and I had a lengthy discussion about what defines wealth. He was embarrassed to admit that he assumed I didn’t have wealth because I drove such a jalopy – his words, not mine. Sure, my car is old, but it’s not broken and I’ve kept it in nice condition. In fact, I could argue that my old car is the reason I’ve saved enough cash to purchase a brand-new car directly from the car lot, without opening a credit line. Hanging on to my Saab 9000 has saved me a ton of money – money I applied to my student loans and other debts. Now, I’m debt-free, a homeowner, and I have enough savings to purchase a brand new car (but, I won’t because my Saab has yet to fail me).

In her book, “Deal With Your Debt,” author Liz Weston surmises that a person could save more than $250,000 over a lifetime, simply by owning cars for 10 years instead of 5. At this point, you may be asking yourself why exactly our society considers expensive cars to be a symbol of affluence. When I see a young person driving around in a newer model, extravagantly priced vehicle, I am reminded of the debt they must have cultivated to afford such a vehicle. Dependable, moderately-priced, and well-maintained cars are a better sign of wealth because isn’t true wealth the money you’ve saved, and not the possessions you’ve purchased?

Doesn’t it break down,” the man asked me. Of course it breaks down, but not as often as you may think. And, car repairs could never cost as much as a car payment. The trick is seeking out regular maintenance, before something big goes wrong. On average, it costs about $45 a month for me to maintain my Saab. Whenever I need a part replacement, I look for genuine Saab parts – I never settle for anything lower quality because this could end up costing me more in the long run. I get my Saab Parts from a reputable dealer, eEuroParts, because they stock original Saab equipment, not knockoffs. Plus, buying from them ensures that I’m getting the best price (not the equipment price that my repair shop suggests). In order to save big, you’ve got to get the most of your car.

“You’ve still got my card, right?” I nodded, and produced the man’s card from my back pocket. “Great,” he said. “I need a new financial advisor, so use it.”

photo from CurbsideClassic

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Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.