Cars: Do You Really Need an Upgrade?

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Do you really need to upgrade your car?

Cars can be a status symbol. They can also be a HUGE money drainer.

To me a car is a practical item that makes life easier and it doesn’t matter to me how nice a car is as long as it meets my needs.

The first car that I ever owned was a 1989 Plymouth Acclaim that I affectionately called “lil blue.”  I bought her for $500 from a car auction the summer before my junior year of college. She was already 12 years old at that point. She had paint chipping all over and manual windows (yes, I had to actually roll down the window—which I did often because her air conditioning was broke), but she ran and she was affordable.

I loved that car.

Not my actual car. I can find no pictures of her. Lil Blue had a whole lot of paint missing.

A couple of months before our wedding, she finally died.

She served me well for 4 years and I can say I ran ‘lil blue into the ground. I knew she was on her last leg, but wasn’t really prepared to buy a new car.

We were saving to pay for our wedding, I was living at my parent’s house and working at a day care center as I tried to find permanent employment.

Eventually we did buy a “new to us” car with payments (because that is what everyone does –right?)

We got married and were a two-car family for about a year and a half.  In that year and a half our “new to us” car turned out to be a lemon. We replaced it with a 2005 Toyota Corolla and then Brian’s old car from high school, 1990 Buick Century, which he had been driving all along, finally died as well.

Not his actual car, because apparently I didn’t take pictures of cars back then.

One Car Family

With Brian in law school we realized we couldn’t afford buying a new car to replace his old car. Instead we decided to save money and make it work with one car, which also saved us money on car insurance.

At that time we lived in a small town about six miles from Brian’s school and my work. It took a lot of coordinating schedules to be a one car family in a town that didn’t even have a grocery store. We did find that we did a lot less impulse shopping when one of us was stuck at home without a car.

We went on as a one car family until we physically could not do it anymore. Six months after Brian graduated from law school he got a new job that would require him to commute an hour to work. We still lived in that little town and it was going to become impossible to make our schedules work with one car. Unless I wanted to get to work an hour before I needed to and stay an hour late waiting for him. Our dog at the time definitely did not approve of that plan.

Plus, we had just found out we were pregnant, which meant there was no way one car would work with day care drop offs and pick-ups and commuting.

In 2008 we bought our first ever brand new car, a 2009 Toyota Matrix.

Will we ever buy a brand new car again?

Probably not, they really do lose value the minute you drive them off the lot.

This new car joined our 2005 Toyota Corolla that was serving us quite well.

Seven years later we are still driving that 2009 Matrix and the 2005 Corolla and we don’t have plans to replace them anytime soon.

Our current cars

I will admit it gets frustrating that we don’t have a third row seat if Cassidy wants to take a friend somewhere with us or when we are traveling there isn’t much room for our luggage. The hatchback of a Matrix is nice, but very small when you try to put a Pack ‘n Play, two suitcases, diapers, dog kennel, etc. for a weekend away with family.

After one particularly difficult packing adventure we decided to invest in a car top bag. It prevents us from getting the great gas mileage we are used to, but it is considerably cheaper than our other options – buying a new, bigger car or renting one for our trips.
Thule car top carrier
From the time we got pregnant with Amelia we were asked about our plans to upgrade cars.

It’s funny to me that people assume with every new addition you must get a bigger car. There are four of us and 5 seats in the car so it still meets our needs. Granted, no one extra can sit in between the two car seats in the back, but we have managed.

Until you physically can’t fit all of the kids in your car you don’t HAVE to get a new car. You may want to get a new car, but you don’t need to.

Society tries to convince us we need a bigger, better car, but most of the time you don’t.

If you are looking for ways to save, you might want to consider if you can be a one-car family.

The benefits:

  1. You’ll get money for the sale of one car
  2. Save money on gas
  3. You will spend less money shopping- you’ll definitely make less impromptu stops at the store.
  4. Save money on insurance
  5. If you live in a town with stores within walking distance, you can ride a bike or walk to run errands. You’ll save money and get healthier.

If you cannot be a one-car family, there are other ways to save.

Seriously, debate your next car purchase and whether it should be new or used.

Can you save the money for the newer car in advance and pay cash for it, eliminating a car payment?

Do you already have a car payment, but you could possibly sell that car and get something a little cheaper while you try to save money and/or pay off debt?

Don’t let society or the Joneses convince you that you need a car that you don’t.


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1 thought on “Cars: Do You Really Need an Upgrade?”

  1. Nicely done! We’re so very close to car payment free and currently not anywhere close to looking for a purchase. Can’t quite be 1 vehicle family.

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