When it comes to saving money, a big part of that is spending less. One way I do that is to buy older cars; my current ride is a 1998 Jeep Cherokee. A manual-shift with four-wheel drive, this older car navigates Colorado’s wintry mountains with ease, and my choice saved money and continues to save me money each month I go without a car payment.
My Old Car Saves Me Money
When I moved to Denver, I needed to upgrade to a car with four-wheel drive. Instead of financing a new vehicle–to the tune of $30,000–I bought a used Jeep upfront for a fraction of the price. In fact, if I had financed a vehicle, I would have paid the price of my used Jeep in interest in only a few years. I do put money away every month for a maintenance fund, as older cars tend to need more work, but the cost of buying a used car is still much, much less than the $300-600+ of a regular monthly car payment.
My Old Car Helps Me Save On Maintenance
About that maintenance work: older cars are often easier to fix. Modern cars often require sophisticated and expensive diagnostic tools and equipment; older cars have entire web communities discussing maintenance and modifications performed by non-mechanic owners.
My Jeep needed a new exhaust manifold when I bought it, and armed with a few computer printouts and a couple of socket wrenches, I put the part in myself. Not only did I save the money of having a mechanic do the work, I learned a ton about my car’s engine. For safety and peace of mind, I hired a work-along mechanic (check craigslist, yelp, or inquire at an automotive store in your area for someone who’ll act as a paid mentor) for much less than a regular outfit to check my work and talk me through other issues that might arise with an older car.
While I’ll still turn to professionals for major work, I now have a much better understanding of how to diagnose and fix issues on an older car–which also means I am much less likely to be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous mechanic.
My Old Car Has Classic Form, Modern Function
When I started shopping for my Jeep, I looked at the new models out of curiosity. The Cherokee stopped being produced in 2001, and its compact SUV form has given way to the Grand Cherokee–a behemoth that seems more suited to taking over a small village by force than parallel parking in my neighborhood’s tiny streets. What’s worse, the gas mileage in the 2011 Grand Cherokee is the same as my 1998 Cherokee–for about 10 times the purchase price.
Even more important to me was the out-of-the-box mentality that comes with a used car; a brand new car that costs an arm and a leg would make me incredibly anxious about parking lots, bushes, and people breathing heavily near my investment. I take care of my used car, but I’ll also take it on rugged mountain roads and use it to teach a friend to drive a stick.
Certain makes and models of older cars routinely have lifetimes of 250,000+ miles, which means I could easily drive this car for a decade. That’s a lot of car payments I don’t have to make, and in the meantime I tell everyone that for my car, just like with my clothes, I prefer vintage.