The previous weekend was a sad moment in the Money Buffalo as we said farewell to a figurative member of the family for the past 4 years and 10 months. My dream car. A 6-speed 2012 Mustang GT. We didn't need the money and the last loan payment was made 3.5 years ago. It only cost us the monthly insurance payment of $55 and the annual license plate renewal of $70 each year. So why did I (my wife removed herself from this decision) decide to sell my dream car?
For several reasons, that I will lay out below. But first, let me tell you why this was my dream car. As Ford had reintroduced the 5.0 engine the year before, let's just say I had been watching the various dealer inventories and Craigslist postings consistenly for two years to find an offer I couldn't refuse. A local dealer finally served one up with a unique exterior color (Lava Red Metallic) with black leather interior.
The sticker price on this beauty was $35,000 new. I didn't buy one new, my price limit was $30,000 so that meant I needed to buy used. So, after several hours of negotiation and a test drive, I found myself with a car loan for $27,500. My dream car was owned by the first owner for maybe 5 months and he put about 12,000 miles on during that time, but it still had the new car smell. It was so new, the dealership told me it was the first preowned car they had sold of the most current model year (the 2013 models were not released yet).
When I purchased this sweet ride, I was 25 years old and didn't even know my future wife even existed. I was married to my former job and had the golden ball and chain to prove it. I had just paid off my student loans a few months before and I finally found a car I fell in love with for a price I could afford. As I purchased it on December 21st, I called it a Christmas present/student loan free celebration to myself.
When I first purchased this car, I was 25 years old and wanted a fun ride. I previously had a 1998 Mustang V6 and was ready to upgrade to a faster & bigger engine. As soon as I shifted the gears and stepped down on the gas pedal during the test drive, I knew I needed the car. At the right price. During my free time, I liked going on country drives exploring the back roads and finding my own hidden restaurant gems, giving Guy Fieri on the Food Channel a run for his money.
Fast forward five years and I am married, have a 16-month old, another arriving in April, and I spend my free time building a raised garden bed and planting grass seed before winter arrives. I also only drive 40 miles a week and do not need a fancy ride to get from home to work. As rear-facing car seats are highly impractical in sports cars, our most expensive material possession (besides our house) was only practical for one person, me. Owning a $20,000 machine was no longer as important to only drive 2 days per week than it used to be and we can used the money more productively like paying down our house loan & increasing our net worth through saving and investing.
As I only drove the car on vacation & the weekends before I became a dad, as I had a company car with my former employer, I sold the car with 36,100 miles on it. Over five years of ownership, I averaged 4,800 miles a year. And most of those miles came from the annual 2,000-mile cross-country trek I did to visit extended family in the midwest.
If I needed a car to commute to work each day, I would have kept the Mustang. It was paid for and had low miles. Plus it was fun to drive. I could have sold it and bought a Honda Accord or Ford Fusion that got better gas mileage & cheaper, but after paying sales tax, we would have only had a few thousand dollars left to spend on something other than a car.
As I sold the car to a 22-year old boy, I realized I was finally “old.” Some of you will say that being 30 is still relatively young, but, I have realized I don't have quite the same energy/zeal I did 8 years ago. My final words to him was to enjoy it while he still could. 😉
After our monthly house payment, insurance is our largest monthly household budget expense. It's a first world problem, but most families spend a small fortune in health insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, and car insurance. We insure just about anything that sleeps or is housed under our roofs each night.
I can't remember where I read this (bloggers can feel free to refresh my memory), but, I once read this smart observation on how insurance affects the family budget. Poor people do not have insurance because they cannot afford to buy anything this requires insurance, middle class families can afford to buy things and spend the rest of their money on insurance protecting their possessions, while rich people can buy & pay insurance and still afford to buy more.
The monthly insurance premium for my Mustang was $55 per month. We own two other vehicles, a 1998 Ford Expedition & a 2009 Ford Flex. The insurance for both of these cars combined is $68 monthly.
We own all of these cars and do not have a car payment and we can afford a $68 monthly for owning our two older vehicles that can carry the entire family just as easily as we could afford the $123 monthly car insurance payment with the Mustang.
But, I decided $55 can be spent more effectively on just about anything else. Whether it's buying a dozen donuts each week (instant gratification) or putting the money in the bank for retirement or vacation. I get a better return on investment than continuing to give it to the insurance company.
The buy new vs. used car argument is about as old as buying vs. renting a house. The main argument to buy a used car is because somebody else paid full price for the car and sold it for thousands of dollars less.
I like to think I got the best of both worlds with this car. The original sticker price was $35,000 and I sold it for just under $20,000 as it needed new tires ($20,000 was the Blue Book Value). As most cars depreciate the most during their first five years of ownership, this is why people who get a new car every few years do not realize (or might not care) they lose so much money.
The first owner took the initial depreciation penalty, which allowed me to save $7,000 from the original sticker price. When I sold it, the Mustang depreciated 30% during the 5 years I owned it, but, it would have depreciated approximately 43% had I purchased it brand-new from the assembly line.
For me, depreciation is the largest sting for selling it and the “buyer's remorse” set in 5 years later. Had I sold it a year ago, I could have easily gotten an extra $1,000 out of the deal. But, it's okay. I originally planned to keep the car until the wheels fell off. I didn't expect to change careers, have a family (silly me), or own a house.
For the forseeable future, my wife & I plan to buy used the rest of our cars. Mostly because of depreciation & the only way we can currently afford to buy a new family car is with a car payment. Until we pay off our house, we do not want another loan. Even after we pay off our house, we do not want another loan again.
I'm not against buying new or next-to-new, if you buy a new vehicle and keep it for a long time, it can be very beneficial. You know the maintenance history and you avoid the hassle & stress of having to go on test drives and talk to the dealers or Craigslist sellers.
Less Stress & Maintenance
Other than the annual oil change, the Mustang didn't require any maintenance. But, it needed new tires at $150 each, plus there are small things that start to pop-up at the 5-year mark like replacing the battery and other small “nickel & dime” repairs that start to add up. Plus, with two other cars to maintain, I didn't want to pay these additional costs for a third vehicle that isn't a daily driver, especially when we need to get a new transmission soon for the Expedition and new tires for the Flex.
Another benefit (for me) of owning cheaper cars is I don't cringe over every scratch in the paint. I looked over the Mustang with a microscope and could tell you every where a bird sat on the car or where a pebble scratched the paint. On a dark-colored car, they all show up like pink highlighter on a piece of white paper. I no longer have to worry about getting an aneurysm each time a new scratch appears.
I still don't want our other vehicles to get dinged up, but, a scratch on a $2,000 or $8,000 vehicle is less painful than a scratch on a $20,000 or $35,000 vehicle.
Cars are the modern equivalent of horses. Most people need them to get to work, go grocery shopping, visit family, etc. As a car is a depreciating asset, they lose value each day until they ultimately get scrapped.
A car can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. There is typically less maintenance with a new car, but is the opportunity worth the monthly loan payment and depreciation? Only you can decide.
I don't have regrets for buying my dream car. I was single and all my older co-workers told me to buy it while I still could. If I saw them today, they would say, “I told you so.”
My Mustang was fun to drive & it's one reason my wife married me. If I still had my old Mustang with 200,000+ miles, cloudy paint, and a smelly exhaust, I think my “stinginess” would have trumped the sentimentality of keeping that car when I could have afforded a nicer vehicle.
Now that I'm married, we want vehicles that are safe yet cheap. Now that “Cash for Clunkers” is ancient history, the used car market is more affordable again. There are some lemons out there, but, there are some new lemons as well.
For all the single people, if you can afford it, buy your dream car and don't look back. If the time comes to sell it, just remember, cars can be replaced and people cannot. Enjoy it while you have it and cherish the memories.
Now we are using some of that money to pay down our house & save for the future.
Did you have a dream car? Did you buy it? Do you still have it?
Thanks for reading,
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.