Car Debate: Old & Cheap or Newer & Costs a Bit More
We are expecting our another child this winter :king::smile: and we need to acquire a bigger vehicle to transport the kiddos in. My wife is wonderfully supportive, will drive a van, SUV, wagon, she doesn't really care that much as long as it is safe & somewhat reliable.
Money isn't easily had around our house (I am a seminary student who works three jobs to make things happen) but we are by no means in the poor house. We are doing fine and just like to be smart with what we have.
So I got to thinking...
A car is a notoriously depreciating asset. As soon as you drive it off the lot (brand new) you can throw a brick of money out the window. So I was looking at the other end of the equation. How about those dirt cheap (sub $5K) vehicles that are considered "diamonds in the rough" by magazines like Consumer Reports? For example, a 1998 Ford Expedition is considered a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It's only valued at about $6K and could probably be had for $5K or less if you find the right seller.
The problem is that a car like that would have about 125,000 miles on it. I've asked around and some family members have said they think cars turn into pumpkins around 125-150K. I don't know. I kind of feel like I am willing to roll the dice. I'd like to pay cash for this car (if possible) and just be done with it.
I don't need anything fancy. I am a savvy buyer and can spot a problem car but I can't read the future. What do you guys think?
The most important requirement for a car is reliability.
My thoughts about a car choice are pretty much all related to safety:
1) With a wife and child in a car, the most important requirement is reliability. You don't want the car failing to run in the wrong part of town, or leaving them stranded in bad weather.
2) With babies, and young kids the ability to securely install a car seat and have good access to it pretty much requires a 4 door vehicle.
3) Physical protection for the occupants is very important. In that regard I regarded power windows and door locks to be mandatory when we lived in Southern California. I also limited my choices to vehicles with high crash resistance ratings.
4) Depending on where you live, what sort of weather conditions are in the area, especially if you have a lot of snow and/or rain, all-wheel-drive with electronic stability control can be a major safety feature.
5) I regard a cell phone as mandatory safety equipment in any event.
The brands of cars that are reliable enough to warrant buying used ones are well known. It's no secret that buying a 2 year old Toyota, or Honda, is a pretty safe bet. Nissan's, not so much - at least according to my friend who is a service manager at a Nissan dealership.
Lease return Toyota's or Honda's are frequently a very good deal. They tend to be low milage for their age because of lease limitations.
Types of vehicles:
I don't know what category a Toyota Highlander fits in, but it is a very good family vehicle. All wheel drive, electronic stability control, reliable as gravity with the prescribed maintaince, good visibility, doesn't require expensive tires, lots of room, easy access to all the seats for child seating, room to carry all the stuff that comes with kids, etc.
We like our Highlander a lot, but it isn't the only similar vehicle. A vehicle like this, in a make that has a solid reputation for reliability as the vehicle gets older, would make a good choice.
Some people will say they won't buy a Toyota because they want to buy American. Good luck with finding a car that is all made in America. Toyota assembles cars in this country and employs lots of folks. Sad as it is, that is as made in America as it gets these days.