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Why I drive an 11-year-old car

For years, I’ve owned my Mazda.   It has no power windows.  It has no power locks.  It has no cruise control or toys like a sunroof.  It has no multi-disc CD player, let alone an MP3 port or iPod docking station.  In fact, I’m probably lucky this thing has a CD player; that works sometimes.  My Mazda has an amazing little heater but no functioning air conditioning system.  I need the fix the latter.  My Mazda runs for over a week on a tank of gas, if not two weeks.  This 4-cylinder standard just hums along and sniffs gas which is fine by me.  My maintenance charges for this car have been for the most part, minimal over its lifespan.  I change the oil every 8,000 kilometers and get the brakes inspected semi-annually.  I need to get new front brakes this fall.

It’s not flashy and it’s definitely not fancy but my Mazda works for me.

Why do I still drive an 11-year-old car?

  • It runs just fine.
  • It gets me from A to B.
  • Maintenance costs are affordable.
  • I have no car payments.  I save hundreds of dollars a month for other things (instead we pay down our mortgage, we are paying off our LOC, we are investing in dividend-paying stocks for some passive retirement income).
  • It’s not worth selling.
  • I’m cheap.
  • My insurance is lower (than a newer car would be).
  • I don’t need a new car (yet).
  • I don’t have the money for a new car with our outstanding LOC.
  • It has great fuel economy.
  • I’m trying to “out-frugal” one of my buddies who owns an even older car in Toronto.
  • We have another, newer car if we want to drive it (that has working air conditioning) :)
  • Few people would ever want to steal it.
  • After so many years I’m kinda attached to it.
  • My wife tells me we don’t need a new one (yet).

All good reasons, some are more important than others, I’ll let you figure out which ones!

Do you drive an older car?

If so, do we share any of the same reasons?

Filed in: Lessons Learned, Saving

54 Responses to "Why I drive an 11-year-old car"

  1. It looks pretty similar to our car Mark. Ours is a 2003, but we face a dilemma. If we want to keep driving it past 2012, we have to give the government $56,000.

    Not everybody likes old cars….least of all, the Singapore government!

    • @Andrew,

      Yes, I saw your post a few weeks or months back and got inspired! $56,000???????????? Whoa, I didn’t recall it was THAT much. What are you going to do?

  2. I think every reason you’ve provided is valid other than “I’m cheap”.

    You’re not cheap, you’re being smart. I can’t recall if the the figure is correct, but I remember reading somewhere that vehicle expenses often average out to account for 35% of a household’s total expenses.

    This is an astronomically high percentage, and by the looks of things, you’re doing a terrific job keeping the numbers low and to your advantage.

    My wife and I own two vehicles.

    One of them is a small Chevy Optra that we bought about 5 years ago at a price tag of about $17k. It has a foreign engine and we only drive it from point A to B. It’s one of those cars we want to keep forever. Like your mazda, it has no bells and whistles, and has accumulated only 14,000 km to date!

    Our other vehicle is a 2010, 4×4 pickup truck, and we did spend a chunk of change on the beast, but I paid it in cash – no borrowing. Given the amount of snow in our region, we really need a truck (for safety reasons alone). And now that we have a newborn, we want a bigger vehicle for longer trips and when we decide to go on vacation.

    I think a poorly planned approach to transportation can end up being a financial nightmare. I have friends that fork out $800 a month on brand new vehicles as if it’s the norm, and have done so by changing in a vehicle they had only bought a few years ago.

    I think many people fall under the illusion that an expensive vehicle is an investment such as buying a house. These assets are ‘bad debts’ and lose considerable value the moment you drive one off the lot. The depreciation that gets applied to these assets is not something that should be ignored!

    Great post. :)

    • @TWC,

      Thanks for the compliments, re: blogpost and trying to be smart. I’m trying…!

      I was wondering how much, or little reaction this post would get!?

      5 year old Optra has only 14,000 km??? Wow that’s low. Awesome. This thing will last you 20 years easy. The body will give before the engine. Kinda like me I guess if I don’t start working out more!

      Where you live, you need a good vehicle; a truck.

      I totally agree with you: “a poorly planned approach to transportation can end up being a financial nightmare.” I’ve never understood why folks want to buy a new car every couple of years. Lease, maybe, OK, but buy??? I don’t get it. Vehicles are the worse assets around. Houses and real estate on the other hand, well, you know that best.

      Thanks for your detailed comment as always!

  3. MOA,

    Glad to see you driving an old car like this. It still looks like it’s in GREAT shape! You probably take good care of it.

    It’s the ownership costs related to vehicles that made me seek out public transportation. I haven’t looked back yet, but if I was to go back to owning and driving a personal vehicle I would do like you: drive something that has already depreciated enough for it to make sense.

    The car looks great man!

    • @Mantra,

      Thanks! Yes, I do try and take care of it. I baby it a bit. The engine is great and the body is holding up too although there are signs of rust along the bottom of some doors.

  4. Mike Holman says:

    Our car is seven years old and I really hope we can keep it going for another five years. Even more if possible.

    Even beaters are expensive, so if your car turns into one – it’s best to try to make it last as long as possible. New or newer cars are crazy expensive.

    • @Mike,

      Sounds like you have a good plan for keeping your older car on the road. I’m not surprised ;) Yeah, I think new cars, right off the lot lose 10% of their value that day. Crazy. If we were to get a new car in a few years, a CRV seems nice. Our friends have one and really like it. Seems very practical.

  5. Elemag says:

    Mark, again your household and our household are in a very similar position. We own a 2003 Toyota Corolla and a 2003 Ford Windstar. The Corolla (my baby) I bought in the USA when I got my permanent resident visa for Canada. It had 12 000 miles on it and I paid $12 800 cash at a dealer’s auction. Needless to say, it still runs like new. I do the oil changes and small maintenance myself and I am more than happy with the fuel mileage and the vehicle’s overall performance.

    Since our family grew by two new members in the last 4 years and my wife went back to work full time, we had to buy a bigger family vehicle. One day my neighbour, whose hobby and part-time job is to buy and fix used cars, showed me a Ford van he had bought from an auction. He paid $250 and was going to take it to the scrub yard after taking out the alloy wheels, draining the gas, and salvaging anything he could later sell. The van was slightly hit in the front, but it was in a mint condition, fully loaded and completely fixable by him. To make a long story short I ended up paying $2500 total for the parts (from the pick and pull yard), repairs, safety inspection and re-certification and AC fill-up. So far, we’ve had no problems. My wife drives the kids to daycare and to the train station and does the shopping on the weekend. We don’t plan replacing any of the two vehicles in the near future. The Toyota I will keep as long as possible. The Ford…well depends on its performance. All the reasons for driving old vehicles you have stated apply to us too. I just want to add that many people buy new cars, big houses, expensive toys not so much because they need them, but because of the perception in the eyes of the people around them. “Vanity is definitely my favourite sin” says Al Pacino in the “Devil’s Advocate”. There always seems to be some kind of competition among men for reasons that often make no sense. And sadly, this competitionoften costs them their financial freedom.

    • @Elemag,

      Are you my double???

      Kidding of course, but it seems we both own older cars. My wife drives a 2003 Pontiac Vibe. We’ve had a few problems with it, but nothing really big. Overall, runs great, a Toyota engine after all.

      Isn’t that the key though eh?…regular oil changes and maintenance and overall you should get good long-term performance.

      $2500 for a vehicle that gives you no problems, is pretty darn good. Frugal, smart, savvy all in one!

      The Toyota you should be able to run for at least another 5 years. The Ford, hard to say, although their quality as a company I’ve heard has gotten better in recent years.

      Your quote from the “Devil’s Advocate” was priceless. I loved that movie. Especially Charlize Theron in it ;)

  6. KaeJS says:

    Although I like my cars up to date and flashy — I can definitely see how an 11 year old car works for you. It is the smart thing to do, and those Protege’s are great cars!

    • @KaeJS,

      Yeah, not flashy but functional :) I’d love to get a nice car someday, but not until some more debts are paid off like our mortgage and LOC for the roof renovation. Really trying to stick to priorities!

  7. Echo says:

    My wife and I had just 1 car for a while, a 1998 Elantra with similar options to your Mazda. One summer (’07) we took a camping trip into BC and for the whole weekend it was about 40 degrees outside. The car had no A/C and the trip home (delayed through construction) was awful. We got a new car later that month, although I’ve still kept the old Elantra as our second car.

    I’d like to hold onto both vehicles as long as we can. We’ll see how long the Elantra can hold up :)

    • @Echo,

      A 1998? Wow, great! 40 Deg. C and no A/C must have been tropical in that car! Good call on keeping the Elantra as long as you can, sounds like it doesn’t own you anything and it still runs ;)

  8. I just took the plunge, I was driving a 10-year old Grand Prix (actually held up really well for a GM vehicle, but I really babied it). I had made up my mind to buy used, but the used car market is so competitive right now, and the subsidized financing so low, I ended up buying a new Hyundai Elantra. I have been incredibly happy with the vehicle and plan on making at least a decade with it, hopefully more. I like to think it is not to “un-frugal” because it is such a fuel efficient car and was relatively cheap to buy new. I figured I paid about a 3-4K more over a used corolla or civic (what I was looking at) once you factor in all the costs of owning a vehicle, I’m fine with that.

    • @Money,

      I’ve seen the new Elantra, looks very nice! Anything fuel efficient is of course, awesome. I think as long as you are happy with your decision, that’s all that matters. A few K over a used corolla or civic is no biggie, unless of course you couldn’t afford the car in the first place. I doubt that’s the case with you ;)

  9. Calgary_Girl says:

    Your car looks like it’s in great shape! My husband drives a 2000 Toyota 4Runner which only has 103,000 km on it. His favourite commercial is the one with the farm veterinarian who has a 20 year old Toyota 4Runner with over 700,000 km on it. His goal in life is to drive the 4Runner until it literally falls apart :-).

    • @Calgary_Girl,

      Yeah, my Mazda is in pretty good shape! I baby it a bit! 2000 4Runner eh? Nice stuff. Is your husband a cheap, err, frugal guy as well? :) Thanks for stopping by, do comment again!

  10. Bill says:

    I look at the capital cost of a car slightly differently. I decide what I am comfortable with as a “capital cost” for the car and then view any purchase (or repair/replace) in that light.

    Best car I ever owned was a 1991 Camry that I kept 13 years. Paid $13K for it slightly used (only 1500 km on it). So it “cost” me about $1000 per year. I round that to $100 per month.

    So if I want to purchase a new car (say, a Civic or Corolla) that costs about $18,000, then I have to keep that car for (18000/100 = 180 months, or 15 years). Now I think these cars are workhorses, but 15 years may be stretching it a wee bit. 12 years is OK, so now my “cost” is $125 per month. Anything beyond that is bonus.

    If my alternative is to buy a used car for say $5000, then I expect that used car to operate for (5000/125 = 40 months), or 3.5 years. Can I buy a used car for that price with that expected reliability? Maybe. But it is a starting point.

    I did exactly this 3 years ago and decided to buy the new car, figuring that a new one is good for 250K (20K/yr, 12 years), with a bit less risk than the time and hassle of finding and inspecting a used vehicle. Time will tell.

    And the only reason I got rid of the Camry is that my folks put a lot of pressure on me to get rid of it… their only grandchild came along and it didn’t have air bags or ABS. It had a bit less than 300K on it. I still see it around town occasionally.

    • @Bill,

      No doubt Toyota makes a good car: $100 per month purchase cost is pretty darn good.

      I recall my Mazda cost me almost $17,000 11 years ago, that would put me about $128 per month for a purchase cost. Not bad :)

      I think our next car might be a CRV, but maybe a used one. I’ve read you lose close to 10% of the car’s value the day you drive it off the lot. That’s crazy isn’t it??? Does anything else depreciate in value THAT much in one day after you buy it?

      Cars are not really an asset, they are a necessity to some, but not an asset.

      Thanks for your detailed comment!

  11. and why not Mark, if the car is in good shape, no need to waste money. I am in the same boat as you, will be driving my Corolla 2005 for 2 more years at least.

  12. @Andrew Hallam

    I’m not sure what we’re going to do Mark. Shelling out $56K to keep the car on the road hurts…the idea of it hurts. And that doesn’t include insurance!

    The process is a bit complicated, but if we sell it, we could buy a car that’s good for 3 or 4 years. I say “good for 3 or 4 years) because if the car is 6 years old, we would only be able to get three years out of it, before having to shell out $56K (which could be higher or lower by that point). The COE is based on supply and demand. If the gov’t wants fewer cars on the road, they reduce the number of COEs, pushing the price for them up! Clever and brilliant, I think!

    • @Andrew,

      Wow, can’t believe it…$56 K?

      I certainly guess the idea would hurt – ouch!

      I like your idea of selling $50 K of bonds for equities instead ;)

      Sounds like selling the Mazda is the best plan; out with the old; in with somewhat newer.

      Think of how many cheap equities shares, VTI units or BRK shares you could buy with $56 K??? Please make a post what you end up doing with the car on your blog.

      The Singapore government is rather clever, or ruthless, I’m not sure which one!

  13. MOA, That is just awesome! I own a 1998 Honda Civic EX with 195K miles on the speedo. I use it to drive 6 miles to work round trip. It works just fine for me and we share the same reasons to own an older car. Besides, no need to buy something with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t even like :-) I posted my car on my pf blog @ angrymillionaire.com check out my “debt beater.” Best wishes!

    Martilyo!

    • @Martilyo,

      Well thanks! :) 1998? Sweet. That’s frugal! My buddy in Toronto owns a 1998 Neon. Barely runs, but it does. I will check out your ride.

      Thanks for your comment and checking in, come back soon!

  14. 101 Centavos says:

    With you on that one – 2011 Corolla and 2001 Ford F150
    No need to switch if they’re both running fine.

  15. Tracey H says:

    Last year we junked our 1993 Nissan Sentra because the body was going. That car cost us $12k and was 17 1/2 year old when we junked it. Great deal (the AC had gone on it years earlier, though). My daughter had been driving that one so now she drives our 2001 Pontiac Aztek, I drive our 1999 Honda Odyssey (both run great, including AC) and my husband bought a 2-yr-old Hyundai Elantra for 2/3 of the price of a new one.

    The Honda was pricy and I think it will end up costing us close to $200/month over its lifetime (though likely less because Hondas last so long), but it’s a workhorse, having moved kids to and from university and college, workterms 6 hours away, etc. And we still love having room to move lumber, appliances, etc. So it’s saved us money that way. I drive very few kms so I’m the one who drives it (it gets worse gas mileage).

    We’ve only ever bought 2 new cars–the Sentra because of a great deal and the Odyssey because 1999 was the redesign year (bigger, fold-in back row seat). I’m not in a rush to buy new again unless I find a great deal. And we generally do run our cars into the ground. The hard part is figuring out when to retire them.

    • @Tracy,

      17.5 years is awesome. Well done! You must have saved a bundle on money (over the life of that car). I think I did the math and less maintenance costs, the purchase price cost of my Mazda is about $128 per month over the last 11-years. Not too shabby :)

      It’s never easy to retire an old car…I think they became part of you after a while. Hopefully I don’t have to worry about it for a few more years.

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. Sharon says:

    I too have an older car ~ a 1992 Mazda MX-6 which is 17 years old and it’s good with gas. The air conditioner has stopped working, mainly because it was rarely used (except on a couple of trips to California back in 1996). I guess the old adage “You don’t use it, you lose it” still applies. It looks good and has very few dents on it from people trying to park their own cars in parking lots. I may have put more maintenance on it than you did but I am still happy with it and my car insurance is super low.

    • @Sharon,

      1992? Wow. That’s blows mind out of the water! Your insurance must be super low. Nice stuff. As long as it works, and fits your needs….right? :) Thanks for the comment!

  17. Stocksicity says:

    My Toyota Corolla is almost 10 years old. I drive it for mostly the same reasons as you as well. Especially the “cheap” part – save on car payments, insurance, and it seems to get better mileage than newer ones. My friend has a 2010 Maxima that seems to always be out of gas.

  18. Barb says:

    Our car is now 13 years old. Bought it exactly ten years ago, as it was coming off a 3 year lease. It had high mileage, but the interior and exterior looked brand new at that time.

    Its a great Subaru Outback wagon, with close to 300,000 km on it. Its been driven back and forth across Canada a few times and the air conditioning still works awesome.

    I make my husband keep it for all the reasons that you list, plus a few more. It is perfect for picking up things that are large and for going skiing. Great traction with the 4WD here in the mountains in BC.

    We did buy a Toyota Yaris a few years back, as a second car, when our teens were learning to drive and we wanted the automatic transmission for them.

    • @Barb,

      13 years is very good, congrats! Friends of our in Barrie, drive an Outback as well. They’ve loved it. I think 4WD is a must in the mountains – I couldn’t see you living without in in B.C.

      Smart move with the Yaris, good dependable little car. Probably awesome on gas too.

      Thanks for checking into my blog, come back again!

  19. Kathy says:

    When we bought our first new car, 1999 Mercury Mystique, the salesman laughed at me when I said I wanted it to last at least 15 to 20 years. It has 65,000km (we stopped doing the Vancouver, BC run to visit the inlaws after the kid was born).

    My hubby works on cars as a hobby. His last 4? cars were bought as “total loss”, and needed to be fixed for the inspection. Current one is a 2000 Volvo station wagon — cost us around $5500 — purchase price, parts & inspection. Sad thing — he can find parts for the Volvo more readily than for the Ford. And we don’t have a Volvo dealership in the city — internet shopping is great!

    BTW — just inherited my father’s 1990 Mazda 3 — 280,000km — after he bought a new one. Going to keep it for 3 years, so when the kid is old enough, he can learn to drive a standard.

    • @Kathy,

      Thanks for the comment! I hope you stop by again!

      Sounds like a handy guy to keep around, for a while! Kidding of course. Great stuff. I think you’re very smart to grab that Mazda 3, it will be a great starter to learn how to drive. Wow, 1990? Wild.

  20. Mark, did you Photoshop this image? ;) Your car is in immaculate condition. Now that is a great investment – no need to buy a new one unless you need to. Buy and hold is also a good strategy with a good car!

    But the best deal, though not always the most wonderful ride is public transit. I lve very close to work, and my employer has a payroll bus pass program. No gas, no parking fees, and best of all no insurance! That means my commute costs me under $70 per month.

  21. DrippyChick says:

    My current (2002) Mazda Protege replaced my 1989 Mazda Protege only because I put a deer through the windshield on a cold November night in 2002 (100 kmph. Caught Bambi Sr. midleap and didn’t even stall the engine or break headlight glass!) and the insurance people wouldn’t entertain the possibility of fixing it. Although it had over 200000 km on the engine, it was still going strong.

    Mazda makes solid little cars… nothing flashy to turn people’s heads (except, maybe, the Miata), but will last for years if you give them some regular maintenance TLC. Even though mine is long off warranty, I still follow the recommended maintenance schedule. It is starting to show some rust around the wheelwell, but otherwise it is a great car that I can rely on to get me where I need to go!

  22. Wendi1 says:

    We have a 98 silver Escort that looks very much like your car (and also has no A/C, because it never did).

    We buy our cars 3-4 years old, coming off other people’s leases. They usually cost half of what they cost new, and have at least another 10 years of solid driving left on them.

    Shh. Don’t tell anyone.

    • @Wendi,

      1998? Nice!

      My wife and I are considering the same thing for our next car, in a couple of years. Don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul this idea came from you! ;) Only a few hundred people read this blog…it’s not yet like Canadian Capitalist, Million Dollar Journey or Squawkfox!

  23. I used to have that same sort of Protege in black, but unfortunately it was already rusting pretty bad after 4 years. My Mazda 3 is in much better shape and I hope to keep that car for another 4 more years or longer. It does depend on when a kid comes and if the gf/future wife needs to drive, because it’s manual and she stubbornly refuses to learn :P

  24. Alana says:

    Like Barb, I also have a 98 Outback. The power locks and windows and the air conditioning still work and I’ve got an adapter to play the iPod through the cassette deck. I bought it because my 2 door Mustang wasn’t compatible with a baby seat, and now there’s a real possibility the baby will end up driving it. It’s no beauty, but the rusting slowed right down when I moved from Ontario to BC, and the AWD and the cargo capacity are so useful that I’m contemplating keeping it when I eventually buy a tiny hatchback for everyday use.

    • @Alana,

      Thanks for your comment. A ’98 car? Nice! Yeah, the 2-door Stang probably doesn’t gel with a baby seat! The AWD would definitely come in handy in this part of the country, Ottawa gets a whack of snow with some big storms every year. I wish we had it for those few nasty days!

      I hope you stop by again!

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