Myth: Old cars costs more than new ones

acura-drivewayeditors-blog-entry3I’ve never really bought the claim that you need a new car every five, seven, even 10 years because you’ll end up spending more on maintaining your clunker than on a new car.

And no wonder – it’s just not true.

At least not in our case. And, believe me, have we got some genuine clunkers in our garage right now.

Meet our clunkers
Meet clunker No. 1: My beloved blue 1992 Acura Integra. I bought it new back in April 1992 and since then have driven it 156,000 miles.

Clunker No. 2 is a 1994 Toyota Camry with 286,000 miles on it, a car we basically inherited from my brother a bit over three years ago.

Yes, we’ve spent a fair amount of money to maintain our clunkers. But those costs still don’t approach those of the typical minimum new car payment/lease payment of at least $180 per month and, more realistically – at least if a mid-sized car of at least moderate reliability is what you need — $300 to $500 per month, or more.

$7,200 in maintenance costs
Let’s take our Acura Integra – which, of the two has surprisingly cost us more lately – and take a look at approximate maintenance costs over a bit less than the past five years. During that time, my records indicate we’ve shelled out about $7,200 in maintenance costs, or about $126 per month.

acura-toyota-drivewayThat’s a good chunk of change.

Again, though, it’s still considerably less than any monthly payment for a comparable new car, say a 2011 Honda Accord, which goes for well over $20,000. Put down, say $5,000 on that, and you’re looking at at least $250 monthly payments over five years (assuming you get a 0% interest loan – which you most likely won’t). Plus, you’ll have to cover some of the same maintenance costs we’re covering on our 1992 Acura Integra – oil changes, brake pads, brake rotor turnings, new tires, alignments, various filters, spark plugs, etc. and, if you’re dedicated to good upkeep, several rather pricey standard maintenance services.

Camry has 286,000 miles
We’ve only had our 1994 Camry for three years and, yes, as with the Acura, we’ve sunk a good amount of money into it, about $3,000. But that’s only a little over $80 per month.

Show me a brand new production car of any make that you can get for $80 per month and without plopping down at least $8,000 to get yourself down to that payment and I’ll show you, well, nothing! There are no new cars out there to be had for $80 per month, and certainly no new cars comparable to the Toyota Camry in size and model.

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Yes, you might say that you’re throwing your money away on your clunkers, although I would respond that you’re doing the same with a new car. Cars – especially gasoline cars – are crazy expensive to drive and maintain. In fact, AAA estimates it costs about 55 cents per mile to drive a typical American car (this includes gasoline and insurance costs as well as maintenance costs).

I’d also have to say that many of the folks who say they’re getting a new car because maintaining their old car is going to cost them more than a brand new car, are really just hot for a new car and using the “old car will cost me more than a new one” spiel as an excuse so that they get to zoom around in a new car.

Now, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that – especially if the new car’s an electric one (unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait on getting an EV ourselves), but why not just be honest and say, “I’m getting a new car because I’m tired of the old one and I want a new one,” rather than making what is likely to be for the vast majority of us the bogus claim that paying for the new one’s going to be cheaper than maintaining the old one?

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