Why I still drive my 15-year-old car

I bought my 2000 Mazda Protégé days after I moved to Ottawa from Toronto.  My Mazda was brand new and cost about $16,000 right off the lot.  I recall I used my credit card to make a $500 down payment.  My Mazda has been paid for since 2005.  This beauty doesn’t owe me much but it does hurt the pocket book about once per year.

To keep it on the road I recently sunk $1,300 into it, an old car that may be worth only about twice as much.  My wife and I had to roll it out of the garage for CAA to get access to it.  Good times and my neighbour got a good laugh that day.  Then again even with this pocket book hit averaging about $110 per month over the last couple of years for maintenance is still less expensive than a new car payment.  We already have one of those anyhow.

Looking back this #hotrod has served me well and hopefully it can stay on the road until our other car is paid for.  That’s the game plan.

Here are more reasons why I drive my 15-year-old car.

  • It still runs fine. OK, yes, I pumped a bunch of money into it recently to get it running but over the life of the car I haven’t paid too much money in maintenance costs – it has been rather kind to me.
  • I save on insurance. While auto insurance premiums have been on rise in recent years I know for a fact I’m saving money over a newer vehicle.  I pay close to a dollar a day to insure this car.
  • I still get great gas mileage. I like driving standard and this little four cylinder car sips gas.
  • We already have another car payment – one car payment is enough.
  • It’s a vehicle that takes me from A to B.  It’s a secondary car anyhow.
  • At this point in my life I’m more concerned about saving and investing money on appreciating assets than driving a hot ride.
  • I know that borrowed money to buy a depreciating asset (a car) is not really a bright move.  If you’re going to borrow money lots of money for something make sure you use that money to buy appreciating assets.

It’s not sexy to look at with more rust to show every year that passes but keeping this car on the road still makes financial sense.  Other personal finance decisions tend to be that way as well.

What’s your record for keeping your car on the road?  Share your story.

My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

79 Responses to "Why I still drive my 15-year-old car"

  1. I am driving a 2003 Toyota Corolla which I originally leased when brand new and bought out 4 years later. For the first time in 15 years, my car didn’t start 2 days ago. It was the starter that had gone. My husband has been pressuring me to buy a new car for about 5 years now. It is only when my car wouldn’t start the other day, that I thought, “is this the beginning of the end?” I recently came back from a visit to Ohio. My car had never let me down. I too never want to deal with car payments again, and hope that the next Toyota(because that’s what it will be) can be even closely as reliable as the one that I currently have. I am on the second speedometer(for those years Toyota maxed out theirs at 299,999) which Toyota replaced a few years ago. All in all I have over 400,000 kilometers on my car. I’m not cheap, but when your vehicle has been as reliable as mine, for as many years, you just want to keep going with it.

    1. “All in all I have over 400,000 kilometers on my car.”

      Very impressive!

      I don’t think driving an older car makes you cheap. Ultimately, it’s something to get your from A > B. There are lots of ways to do that and a car is just one of them. Thanks for sharing Irene.

  2. I am still very happily driving my 2003 VW Jetta, with 259000 km (160000 miles). Bought it brand new in 2003 with the plan to drive it until it wouldn’t drive any more. Sure it’s 15 years old and has seen better days, but bottom line is that it goes from A to B. But it didn’t pass emissions test this year; it only got a conditional pass, which means that I have to spend at least $1000 for new catalytic converter within next 2 years (or else it’s taken off the road by the feds!). What to do? Spend the $1000 and hope nothing major goes (like engine or transmission)? Or, buy another brand new car and drive for 15+ years? or, buy slightly used car and drive until there’s no drive left? Help! The angst over this is a killer. Any insights are appreciated.

  3. I’m still driving my 1992 Honda Accord that was bought used since 2001. It has almost 300 K on it and still going. There are a few minor issues with the AC and the noisy engine, but can’t complain too much on a car this old. It’s still pretty fuel efficient and I still save on insurance. Will be getting the newer model of the Accord this year though.

  4. My newest car is 15 years old. 2000 Mercedes E320. I’ve owned it 5 years and it’s been wonderful. Bought with 86k and now it has 103k. I don’t drive a lot, my commute to work is 3 miles, and its enabled me to save, buy other classic cars I enjoy and take vacations! I feel pride in driving an older car, I keep them clean, maintain them well, and they take care of me! In retiring on the coast of Maine and not paying car payments or borrowing to pay for things u don’t have money for will get me there someday!

  5. I hear you Mark. One thing for sure trucks such as mine are not that fuel efficient! I am retired and don’t put a lot of km’s on so not as big of a deal to me. I also like the feel of a truck sitting up higher and feeling a little more protected.

    If you are going to be looking for something fuel efficient I would likely go for a Honda or Toyota. We have a Honda CRV as a second vehicle not bad on fuel around 9L/100 km. I know the civics are better but my wife wanted all wheel drive. The one thing I would say about are CRV is it is excellent in snow, we have winter tires also …but a little noisy on the highway inside.

    Buying new might have it’s good points especially at 0% such as warranty, more peace of mind but when I bought my Caravan interest was 8% put a bad taste in my mouth I guess.

  6. I have a 2000 GMC Sierra which I have owned since 2003. There is no rust on the body at all! I have it oil sprayed once a year since buying it by Krown Rustproofing. No I don’t work for them! It costs about a $100.00 a year depending on vehicle.

    I owned a 1991 Dodge Caravan before and when I finally got rid of it due to major mechanical problems same thing no rust. If I was dealing my vehicles every few years I wouldn’t likely bother, but I tend to drive them into the ground.

    Lastly I never buy a new vehicle actually my 1991 Caravan was new never again! Vehicles are a bad investment, all I want now is something dependable and in good shape. I now look for a vehicle around 3 years old that someone else has lost the real depreciation on.

    1. Impressive with a 2000 GMC. Well done.

      I think we’re in the market for a new(er) car next year. I don’t mind buying new as long as there is 0% financing. We intend to keep our cars for at least 12 years so I don’t think a new car purchase is that bad considering. That said, my next car will probably be a 1 to 2-year-old car. Need something fuel efficient as a secondary car just not sure what to get yet.

      Thanks for the comment Dan.

  7. Looking at that quarter panel rust, I would say scrap the car soon. If the outside looks like that, what does your frame and underbody look like? I drove a corolla for a while. It was good until it overheated and the spark plug wires melted into the sockets making it difficult to change spark plugs.

    I routinely drive old cars too. I buy them for $2000 and sell for $500 or scrap for $300. IF you can afford the new car, get the new car and drive for 15 years.

    The safety of my legs is more important than saving a couple of thousand over a 10 or 12 year old car which isn’t as rusty. Rust on the outside means lots more rust where you can’t see and compromises your safety.

    1. Thanks for your comment Nadim. The underbody of the car is inspected every few months when I get the oil changed. There are no safety issues at this time. Our next car might be used, we’re not sure yet. We’ve had good luck buying new with 0% financing and then owning them for 15 years. We’ll see what the future holds.

  8. I own 2001 Honda Accord with 170,000 Kms on it. I bought it in 2008 for 9K when it had 107K on it. I had bought it outright with cash. It runs great. I spend $4200/year (gas $2000, Oil Change $200, Insurance $1100, Maintenance $700, Plate renewal/Smog test $200).

    I would like to buy a nice ride like SUV but I keep pushing it . My top priority is to pay off mortgage and be debt free

    1. You sound like me, re: one of our top priorities is the mortgage. If I can get 0% financing for a new car and I intend to own it for another 15 years, I’m tempted to go that route for a newer car in a few years.

  9. Ha. We did the same thing – one car family, had a 2002 Mazda Protege that just this year we finally sold. I would have liked to have kept it (we’re city people and don’t drive a lot – car was 13 years old and had 150,000 kms on it) but rust.. oh the rust on that car. Not so bad on the body but the undercarriage… I never knew if I was going to look in my rearview mirror and see the car’s guts all over the road behind me. If it was just me I’d have kept it until that day, but with kids I didn’t want to take that risk. So bought a new car – also paid cash, not sure if that was a good move or not but at least it’s one less bill to pay each month – and do love our new golf but still curious to see if we’ll get 13 years out of it.

    1. Mine is rusting pretty good as well Geoff. I suspect I’ll have to give up my baby in another 1-2 years. Paying cash for a new car is good, certainly better than financing something at 2 or 3 or more %. Good luck with the new ride and thanks for the comment.

  10. We have a 1999 Subaru Forester and a 2002 Suzuki Aerio. Both with about 110K km. They’re both in great condition. I don’t see any need to waste money replacing them until they die or become too expensive to maintain.

  11. Hubby is approaching his “mid-life crisis” so he keeps threatening to get a new car but then he takes a look at his 14 year old Toyota 4Runner which only has 130,000 km on it and changes his mind!

    1. I figure I’ll have time to get a nice ride when my wife and I are out of debt. Until then, no point having a fat car payment for a vehicle that sits in the garage 90% of the time. Just seems wasteful on many fronts.

  12. The CAA calculator is pretty close to real numbers. If someone fill every steps properly…

    The issue about maintenance schedual is also something I can avoid since I am almost off the warranty timeframe. In other words, no one decide when I should do maintenance A,B,C or D. These schedual are expensives, especialy if you do not drive much.

    Keep up with the blog!

  13. …or worst case it must be 0% financing…

    NOOOOO!!!! (kidding but not that much)

    If you think you cannot handle a beater, I should had been more accurate for the “sweet spot” definition for people that are not badass enough to ride a crap.

    Sweet spot definition (extended version)

    -buy : 3 years old, +/-50,000km
    -sell : 10 years old, +/- 200,000km

    For an average car (say +/-25k$ tag price), someone who stay in the sweet spot zone save about 2k$/year on average compared to the classic “buy new every 4 years” (cost 8k$/year). It’s even better than the “buy new and keep it for 15 years” (my parents drill btw, costing them 6.5k$/year). I better drive a car from 3-10 years than 0-15 years, especialy if it’s cheaper!

    I took every cost of car owning in the calculation (depreciation, repairs, insurances, maintenance, fuel, opportunity cost).

    I know for sure that the 3 first years are the zone we have to stay away and the worries about troubles and repairs are way overrated. People often mix maintenance and repairs: oil changes, tires, brakes is maintenance and are DIRECTLY related to how many km you drive. Engine, transmission, A/C, steering/suspension or electrical issues can be random, related to the reliability, or driving habits.

    I can send you my “car cost calculator” if you are interested to run some number for you or readers 😉

    1. I was thinking this Le Barbu…potentially buy another 0% financed car for less than $20k and keep it for 15 years. This way, as you put it, there are few worries other than oil changes for the first 2-3 years and within 5 years the car is paid for with minimal maintenance. I would plan to keep that car for another 10 years.

      We certainly don’t buy a new car every 4 years. Maybe every 10 years.

      I don’t equate maintenance to how far I drive. I have to service my car on a time-based schedule regardless.

      Another reader provided the CAA car cost calculator although I find the numbers off.

  14. OK, so I’m not sure my story is the “right” way to do it, but I think it’s been a good compromise for me.

    I have done very well to pay off debt and save/invest a substantial portion of my income, but my one thing is a soft spot for cars. I kept a 1994 Honda Accord for 13 years during lean years before buying a dream car (’04 BMW manual coupe) off lease in 2007 when times got better. Dropped a good amount of $$ on it, but paid it off by 2011 and plan to drive it for years to come. Call it a vice (it corners like a dream!), but getting the car I wanted and driving it for 10+ years is my way of scratching an itch that otherwise doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.

    1. You have to live PJ. There is nothing wrong with making a dream car a reality. I hope to do the same eventually when our mortgage is killed. Maybe then I will treat myself to a decent ride. Until then, frugal on 🙂

  15. I work for 1 beer/hour for friends but I live in Lévis, Québec…I really enjoy mechanic as a hobby.

    I think the “sweet spot” for buying a car is 3-5 years old in the 50-100,000km range. Always buy from an individual, reliable brands, smallest drive you can, stick shift, hatchback etc.

    If I got to buy tomorrow, I can find a perfect ride for 5-8k$ and pay in cash. People often say shit like “I cannot pay in cash for a 8k$ car and financing this crap would be over 5% so…I’ll buy a 28k$ car @ 1.9% over 84 months!” Man, what kind of math is that?

    Security advertizing and salesmans are talking about is just a sale tool. They use fear to make dough. Any car from any size built in the last 20 years with good tires and proper maintenance is safe. Driving less is the best way to reduce the risk!

    1. That’s a great wage. Too bad you don’t live closer 🙂

      I think you’re right about the “sweet spot” – definitely for a secondary car. We’ll be in the market for a new(er) car in another 2-3 years and I hope we can pay cash for ours or worst case it must be 0% financing and we intend to keep the car for at least 10 years. I see no reason why that won’t happen.

      I could see where when we retire we’ll hopefully have two cars…hopefully a good “all season” car and maybe a nice “summer” car 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. My 2006 Civic with 210,000km is just fine. We also got a 2010 Forester at 90,000km that we bought re-built for 40% of the tag price, it was 40,000km then.

    Car maintenance is related to the size/brand, the DIY capacity of the owner and how many km you drive. Over the ownership of my 2 vehicules, the Civic is averaging 0.03$/km and the Forester 0.08$/km.

    I do most of maintenance and repairs myself (your 1,300$ bill would have been 400-500$ to me).

    We also reduced our driving to 8,000km/car/year and the expenses now average 300$ each/year and 1/3 of this is oil changes and rust-proofing.

    I intend to keep those cars for 5-10 more years and never buy a car over 10k$ in the future

    Because of this strategy, our mortgage will be done in about 4 years from now for a total of 12 years!!

    1. Well done Le Barbu.

      Yes, my $1,300 bill would have been $500 to you. Do you live in Ottawa and do you work for free? 🙂

      We intend to keep my Mazda until the other car is paid off and hopefully pay cash for our next car.

      Congrats on becoming mortgage free in the near future.

  17. I love this. I have a 2008 Toyota Corolla and hope to keep it another 7 years. Sometimes the new cars look appealing but the added costs just aren’t worth it. The insurance premiums on my Corolla have dropped every year for the past 5 years, so it’s nice to have something that doesn’t cost so much in insurance each month

  18. My brother-in-law drove his 1992 Honda Civic for sooo long (it was more than 25 years old)! I even remember having a post written on that back a couple years! He used it until it died because he was piling up some money for his house. Many people were laughing but I thought it was a very smart move!

    As for myself, my first car was an old BMW that I cherished until it costs more to repair that the value of the car…We were having our first child too so I thought about buying something more safe. Still, I think it is THE car I enjoyed the most.



  19. Forgot to mention I had a good chuckle over your “hotrod” description.

    Maybe I’ll have a great classic car for you when you’re ready!

  20. We drive a 2008 Honda Fit and love it. It might be starting to age but we love for many of the same reasons you still have your #hotrod: great gas mileage, still runs great, it’s paid off, we save on insurance, it’s gets us where we need to go (when we use it)! I think it’s great not to get a loan out to have a new car. That’s money better invested!

    1. I’ve seen a few Fits on the road, they seem to be good cars. We hope to pay cash for our next car Jess – we’ll see – otherwise it must be 0% financing.

  21. I’m with you on this one Mark! I’m still too young to have a 15 year old car because I had to swap out my Mazda 3 for a bigger family vehicle along with something my wife could drive (it was a stick shift).

    Mazda seem to rust a bit more than other cars, I hope they get a handle on that. Have you considered rust proofing if you are going to keep it that long every time? I rust proof mine every year and its a great help. I wrote a big article on the subject:


    1. *sigh* “too young to have a 15 year old car…”

      Are you saying I’m old? 🙂

      My Mazda is stick and I like it. I did consider rust proofing but I think it’s past the point of no return now! If it falls apart in 2-3 more years the car did it’s job!

  22. I love this post. Growing up my parents had a Toyota Camry which lasted forever. That things was a beast. When I finally became of age to drive my friends called it “sexy car” because it was the least appealing car ever but did it ever last. We still recall found memories of our time in sexy car.

  23. Totally agree with all your points. I’m surprised you have so many agreeing with you here though. I have seen so many arguments about this. Listen to the Greg Carrasco show one Sunday morning you would think a new car every three years is the way to go..(lol) And never pay cash!

    My car : a 470,000 Km 2000 Maxima. Far from perfect but runs great actually looks o.k. still. before that got 488,000 out of a used 1990 Acura. I have a few “toy” cars but my daily drivers are always used former higher end models of their brand. I paid $2000.00 for these cars used when I got them. Most repairs were brakes, and oil. No repair over $400.00 at any one time. (rusted gas tank and a used transmission). I always hear nightmare stories about used cars, but if your good to your car it usually is good to you.

    And to the above poster my car has side impact bags, it’s also a bigger car – newer does not necessarily mean safer. Most is simply weight + size and what you run into being the same size or smaller. Don’t fool yourself that a few air bags will save you alone. If you have that worry buy a truck or big pickup and consider the extra gas cost as life insurance.

    1. My car : a 470,000 Km 2000 Maxima – nice work Paul.

      No repair over $400.00 at any one time? My last repair I needed 4 new brakes, new suspension bar, new wipers (cheap $20), oil change, new alternator and more. I figured $1,300 was actually not bad to pay!

      When it comes to cars bigger isn’t always better. Some of these old cars (Acura, Mazda, Camry, etc.) were built to last.

    1. Yup. When the “newer” car payments are done we’ll consider buying another car but hopefully no car payment. That’s about 2 years away. Thanks for the comment Tawcan.

  24. I wished to pass on my point of view as it relates to an important issue… safety!

    First, I commend you on keeping your vehicle so long. About a year ago I had to give up my 2004 Sentra (unlucky to have blown the head gasket after spending about $1200 near the end of its life). I was financial decision but I did feel some emotion too…strange eh?

    My comment is that you should consider a newer car to take advantage of the increased safety of newer vehicles. My old Sentra had the optional side airbags and at that time I paid dearly for them when I purchased the vehicle in Aug. 2003.

    My current vehicle is a 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan purchased new in December 2013. Why did I buy such a big vehicle as a recently retired Ottawa public servant? Answer: Price and safety. Only $21,400 including HST plus the added comfort and peace of mind of driving a larger safer vehicle. Personally, I don’t mind spending a bit more on gas to ensure I have a better survival rate against all the large SUVs and pick-up trucks out there.

    Happy safe motoring! 🙂 P.S. I do love driving sporty smaller cars but I like to reduce my personal adolescent tendencies to speed when I drive one lol.

    1. Hey Dave – thanks for the comments!

      I feel attached to my car as well. 15 years will do that 🙂

      I don’t drive this car very much but I can appreciate the safety standards have changed since 2000.

      Caravans are hugely popular I think. Price and safety is a very good one-two punch. Thanks for the safe motoring wishes – back at you.

  25. I love an old car, especially when someone hits my fender in the parking lot – “What me worry?!”

    However, not to sound critical but if you have 2 cars and one is only used for a short work commuting, then I think you can “afford” a 15 yr old car, especially if you have a newer one for back-up if anything goes wrong.

    I have one car for everything, so need mine to be less than 8 yrs old for the sake of reliability since I am a klutz when it comes to car repair!

    1. Isn’t that a great feeling in that you don’t care if somebody opens their door in the parking lot? 🙂

      I don’t mind the criticism Peter, re: “afford a new car”. I could but that means I need to make sacrifices in other areas and I’m not willing to do that. I find “afford” is a relative term: the ability or be in a position to do something – it’s not without some compromises.

      We’ll get a newer car when mine is 17 or 18. It will be tough to part with it then.

  26. Good job in keeping the old car running. Sinking money into cars can be a big drag. My wife drives a 15-yr old car as well…she doesnt drive much, just a few grocery runs and some short trips around town. I have a newer car though (3 yrs) – and hope to keep it for a very long time.

    Thanks for sharing

  27. Hi Mark. Still driving my 2001 Miata. I no longer use it every day, but did just take it on a 2100 km journey to Quebec City. Great for zipping around Old Quebec! Hoping to keep it for at least a couple more years. It’s such fun!

    Notice that your insurance costs have dramatically declined from last year’s report. Can you elaborate?

    1. Hey Romana,

      My insurance company looked at our coverage and found ways to reduce it for me given how much I drive, age of the car and other bundling benefits. I’m paying between $1 and $2 per day to insure it – feels great for a secondary car! Enjoy the Miata!

  28. 2003 PT Cruiser bought used in ’04. Main vehicle.
    2003 Chevy Silverado bought used in ’12. Farm vehicle, not used much.
    1997 GMC Jimmy bought used in ’99. Parked since 2012 but ready to pull out if the Cruiser gives up.

    Now that I’m retired, I don’t drive a heck of a lot so these vehicle should last a long time. I’m not a vehicle guy. IMO, they are just a means of transportation or in the case of the farm truck, serve a specific purpose.

  29. The body looks mint compared to some of the cars in Alberta. The amount of rust on some of the vehicles is crazy. I am actually suprised most of them are still allowed on the road.

    I know in Nova Scotia, the majority of rust buckets would NOT be allowed to pass inspection.

  30. Mark, it sounds like keeping your Mazda works well for you. If a newer car isn’t a priority and yours accomplishes your transportation needs for a reasonable upkeep cost that’s great. My wife likes her 2010 Mazda 3, which we’ve had for just over 6 years now.

    Let me know if you have any repair questions that might help in any way.

    1. For 8 years I drove as my primary vehicle, bought used, a 1986 Chevy K20 with manual tranny. The price was good and what it spewed in gas was nothing compared to the payments and not to mention the ease of repair if anything went (rarely it did) amiss. In 2012 I bought a 2003 basic boring beige Honda Civic to be my daily driver while the truck was relegated to the camping and chores duties. Now at 28 the payments left (3 more years) on my house is about what most folks pay on their car. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to get a nice new rig but parting $ 60k for something loaded with features I don’t want and that 10 years later will be maybe worth half if not less seems too much.

      1. Good to hear from you Samantha – yeah, always nice to get a new car or truck but you really have to ask yourself if the big payments are worth it for a quickly depreciating asset. Not for me at this stage in my life 🙂

        1. Also one of the reasons I refrain from buying a new(er) car/truck is the useless gizmos that these rigs have and that I don’t want. (like wet noodle arm window, wimpomatics, navigation, doors that automatically lock or unlock, connectivity and so forth) I am told it is free. No it is not, it is just not itemized in the price.

  31. Ha, that makes 2 of us. I also drive a 15 year old car, a Dodge Stratus however. I think by driving our cars into the ground, we are essentially saving money to invest for the future. I mean, the opportunity cost of putting $20,000 on a new car is high.. Even if you place it in Treasury Bonds.

    either way, I hope your car can go for a few years longer.

    On a side note, do you have reliable public transportation where you live?

    1. Good to hear from you DGI. I agree that by driving our cars into the ground, we are essentially saving money for the future. I know I wouldn’t have been able to save as much with two car payments. For years my wife and I didn’t have a car payment. It was great. Our goal is to never have a car payment again.

      Where we live, not really any good public transportation until we get about 10 km up the road from here. Ottawa overall needs better public transportation and plans are in the works for that.

  32. I had a ’98 Elantra that I kept for 15 years. Granted, the last few years the ol’ rust bucket rarely made it out of the garage. Now we have an ’07 Tucson and a ’13 Sante Fe.

    The Tucson took a significant beating in a hail storm two summers ago, and I took the cash settlement rather than getting the body repaired. I drive it to-and-from work, so it only goes 15km a day, max, and has only been driven a total of 93,000km.

    I’ll keep it going as long as I can – hopefully it has another 7+ years left. Then I can get rid of it, buy a new car, and the Sante Fe will become our old second car.

    1. I remember your post about the hail storm. That was wild and I think it made sense to take the cash settlement.

      Only 93,000 km on a car nowadays is really nothing.

      My parents have a Sante Fe and really like it.


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