Why I Regret Buying My Inexpensive, Fuel-Efficient Car

Let me start by saying that inexpensive is a relative term.  Inexpensive quickly turns into a ridiculous term when it comes to buying something you didn’t need to buy in the first place.  Basically, you’re spending money to save money.  Hmmmm…that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, does it?  You know, it’s kinda like all the Black Friday sales that encourage you to spend money you weren’t otherwise going to spend by creating an imaginary need and telling you how much money you’ll save by buying something.  Hint:  Buying stuff does not equate to saving.  Ever.  If you’re buying something because you can’t bear the thought of not saving money, you have officially failed Frugality 101.

Why I Needed A New Car

When I was first starting out in my post-college life, I landed a decent job, making about $45k/year.  I also bought myself a nice, used Jeep Grand Cherokee for about $20k.  Crazy, I know.  But, that was my pre-frugal self.  Please try to understand 🙂  Roughly 2 1/2 years later, my place of employment closed its doors, forcing me to take a job 1hr 15mins from my home.  Thankfully, I received a nice severance package and was on my way, with only a weekend in between.  After two weeks of commuting back and forth in the titanic, I decided to put my severance pay to good use (this is

malibu.jpg

Identical To My ‘bu

oozing with sarcasm) and purchase a used “commuter” car.  I spent $4k (cash.  cash that could’ve been used for investing, but never mind that) on a 1999 Chevy Malibu.  It wasn’t flashy; but, it was comfortable, safe, and reliable, and only had 60k miles on it.  My friends and I lovingly referred to it as The ‘bu.  It quickly became my main vehicle, but I hung on to the Jeep, too.  Payment and all.  Why?  I have no good answer for this.  Eventually, I paid off the Jeep and had two vehicles that I owned, free and clear.

A couple years ago, I met Mr. MMM.  Unfortunately, there were two long hours between us.  Because this was a new relationship and I didn’t want to be seen driving an old lady car, I started using the gas guzzling, V8 Jeep to travel back and forth.  It was costing me roughly $40 for each trip.  Can you say, RIDICULOUS?  Of course you can.

What I Did

Needed and new are also relative terms.  Because I couldn’t possibly afford to keep using my Jeep to go see my new squeeze, and I wasn’t about to start employing my not-so-sexy, old lady car, I created a need to

woman car shopper buying auto inside shopping cart

purchase a new (used) car to save money on gas.  So, one fateful Saturday in 2014, I woke up, got dressed, and decided I was going to go get myself a new car that day.  I wanted something stylish and sporty, yet safe and affordable.  I landed at the Mazda dealership.  I very quickly calculated that between my gas and maintenance, I would be spending a similar amount each month with the new car payment, given that gas was so expensive for the Jeep.  Within hours I had traded in my Jeep and ‘bu and walked out with a 2012, inexpensive, fuel-efficient, Mazda 3.  Financed for just under $200/mo.

What I Should Have Done

sigh cat (2)There is no question I should have kept rockin’ my ’99 Chevy Malibu.  The ‘bu had a ton of miles on it, but it never let me down.  Sure, there were repairs and upkeep that it required throughout the years, but, it was the most reliable, comfortable car I have ever owned.  I should have told Mr. MMM that I was going to start driving my little old lady car.  And guess what, he would not have cared one little bit.  He often says to me now that he was puzzled when I gave it up for a car with a payment.  *sigh*

Where Are They Now

I realize now that I made that decision from an emotional standpoint.  The long and short of it:  I was embarrassed.  I wanted Mr. MMM to think I had everything under control and that I didn’t need to be driving such an old car (without A/C).  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mr. MMM would’ve loved to have heard I had a frugal mindset.  Ironically, I did, I was just trying to impress him.  I was being run by my emotions, right into a financial ditch.

Even though this didn’t compare to the worst financial decision of my life, it still wasn’t the smartest choice.  The smartest choice would’ve been continuing to drive the car that I already owned and saving to buy my next car until I had enough cash to buy it outright.  I currently owe about $8k on my inexpensive, fuel efficient Mazda.  It should be paid off in 2016.  Thankfully, we have evolved into a married, power couple (in my mind, anyway 🙂 with a frugal plan.  We will never finance another vehicle, as long as we both shall live.  The End.

How do you pay for your cars?  Do you finance, lease, or pay cash?  Have you ever regretting a car purchase?

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Mad Money Cat NOT loving his photo opp

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16 comments… add one
  • Ryan @ Just Another Dollar Mar 19, 2017, 9:05 am

    Both Alyssa and I have decent used cars worth about $10k. I just finished paying mine off and Alyssa will pay hers off over the summer. The trade-off for us is required maintenance, reliability, and lifestyle. I had a 2000 beater with 210k miles before upgrading to my 2012 Malibu; the gas/maintenance on that car was ridiculous and the last straw was when it left me stranded a couple times in the winter.

    Isn’t it crazy the financial blunders we make assuming people around us are judging us, only to find out that’s not the case at all? Great post, thanks for sharing!

  • The Savvy Couple Feb 7, 2017, 9:35 pm

    Never regretted a car purchase. I have always paid cash for our cars. We plan on buying our next car with cash too. We both drive 2005 vehicles and love them. Since Kelan is handy he can do most of the maintance by himself which saves a ton.

    Making the wrong financial decision can be a good thing when your young. Teaches you to grow up quick and learn how to be savvy with your money. Sounds like you have learned and it was not too big of a issue.

    Thanks for the article. Great job!

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 8, 2017, 7:26 am

      Ooh, I haven’t thought of giving mistakes a positive spin! Good one!

      Kudos to you guys for paying cash and driving your cars for a VERY long time!

      I have learned quite a bit by making some big mistakes. Fortunately, I didn’t make mistakes with everything. It was a mix between good and bad, which is why I can be in my current position 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

  • hoosierfi Jan 31, 2017, 7:28 pm

    Bought a usede BMW at 21. $375 a month and $116 for insurance.

    I. Feel. You.

    Bought it because I could. Nevermind the fact I could have been paying off college loans and saving/investing. It still bothers me to this day that I made that stupid purchase.

    You have an ally on the “never financing again” team.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 31, 2017, 7:35 pm

      WooHoo! I love allies! If I could right all the past financial wrongs of mine, I would be sitting on a beach living off interest. Oh well, you start where you start. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who did stupid stuff 🙂

  • Jadie Dec 21, 2015, 11:29 pm

    Hi, new reader here 🙂

    Regretted a car purchase? Absolutely!
    7 years ago, before we had learned anything about handling money properly, we sold our just-paid-off Lancer coupe to buy a Holden Omega as our new family car. We’d just had our first child and were getting tired of reaching into the back seat to get him in and out all the time. We figured the car would last us a decade or two… well, it took about a year until we realised we just couldn’t afford to make the payments (still had other debts and were living at my in-laws to make ends meet). Ended up selling it and still having to pay $4000 to cover what was owing on the loan.

    In some ways I really regret it, because it was so stupid. On the other hand, I’ve learned so much about money because of that situation, which is actually valuable to me.

    I spent a few years with NO CAR because of that stupid mistake (why oh why did we not just keep the coupe?!) but I now have a Mazda 121 which carries my THREE children and does just fine. I paid $900 for it and have spent maybe $1000 on mechanical repairs in the last 3 years (CV joint, brakes, clutch) but is still far better than having a car payment! My plan this time around is to keep driving it until it bites the dust (I just have to keep my ego in check and remind myself that people are not judging me because of my car)

    • Mad Money Monster Dec 23, 2015, 5:46 am

      Welcome! We love new readers 🙂 Ahhh, yes, the ole, let’s buy a new car as soon as we pay off this one trap. Don’t feel bad. We’re taught from the time we’re babies to consume. We have all made poor financial decisions in the past. The best part is that single decision opened your eyes to the world of fiscal responsibility. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing because you are now surfing and engaging in the personal finance community. Go you!

      P.S. People will always judge us (for good or ill) by the car that we drive. The point is to just not care 🙂

  • Ernie Dec 21, 2015, 3:44 pm

    The best luck I’ve ever had with a vehicle was buying a Honda Odyssey with 250k miles from a guy on Craigslist who took meticulous care of it. I think it only cost me about $2100, and I got two great years out of it before moving on to a different Odyssey. You would think I would have learned a valuable lesson from that experience, but instead of going for another high mileage Odyssey I financed a newer one. My goal for 2016 is to pay that sucker off.

    • Mad Money Monster Dec 23, 2015, 5:42 am

      Great goal! I have no doubt, with your determination, you will reach it. I’m so glad for the pf community. It keeps me focused and motivated. I will definitely think twice before making another not-so-smart vehicle purchase. Keep us posted on your progress!

  • alwaysnow Dec 21, 2015, 7:52 am

    I sympathise, cars seem to bring out the irrational in people. I leased a car through my employer this year, then quit 6 months later, it cost me £1,200 (mandatory) to break the lease agreement.

    • Mad Money Monster Dec 23, 2015, 5:40 am

      At least you are able to chalk it up to experience and never make the same mistake again. 🙂

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