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Old Cars: Unsung Heroes of Personal Finance

New Cars are shiny, gleaming, loaded with the latest technology and features. New cars get the big commercials on TV, where they swerve confidently in snow storms, zoom down idyllic country lanes, and maybe even dance a little to the sound of a state-of-the-art in-car sound system near a trendy night club.

Definitely a New Car

Definitely an Old Car

Old Cars get none of that attention. Old cars are relegated to radio spots and newspaper ads. Old Cars have dents and dings, faded seats and cassette players.

But as a proud owner of a (what most people would consider to be) very old car, I have to say, it’s time to show some love to the Old Car. I drive a mid-1990s Honda with – get this – 223,000+ miles on it. And yes, it only has a cassette player.

But despite because of a car’s advanced age and mileage, here are all four reasons why Old Cars are the unsung heroes of personal finance. If you love Old Cars, Old Cars will love you (and your wallet) back:

1. An Old Car is most likely to paid off. Which means… no car payment, which means… more money in your pocket. Of course, repairs can cost higher than a new car’s, but in many cases the math still works out in the Old Car’s favor. Even with periodic repairs to the tune of $1,000-$1,500 a year, my Old Car is still cheaper than a New Car would be.

2. Cheaper insurance. Old Cars are cheaper to insure (and you might not need comprehensive or collision insurance for an old car). Added up over the course of 5 years, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on insurance if you drive an Old Car instead of a New Car.

3. Less worry of damages. A bump on an 1997 Toyota Camry adds character (or so I’d like to believe), a scratch on a 2009 BMW 335i is a glaring blemish. I have little scratches on my car that I don’t worry about fixing. I don’t want my car to be scratched, of course, but if it happens it won’t break my heart. If I were driving a brand-new car, however, that would be a different story.

4. At this point, it’s become something of a “let’s see how many miles I can put on this car” game. I had one mechanic tell me he has a Honda that topped 400,000 miles. While I don’t know if my car can get that far, I’m hopeful that my car have a few more years in it.

Do you drive an Old Car? – Tell us if you love it or hate it in the comments. What would you consider an Old Car (how many years / miles)?

Image source: (1) carrentals.co.uk, (2) dragtimes.com

  • RainyDaySaver - I have a 'middle age' car — 6 six years old, paid off in 3 years. 72,000 miles on it. I will drive it for another 6 years, easy, as long as the old girl holds up! ReplyCancel

  • Carrie - my plan is to always buy new cars (i could have paid cash for my current/first car but i got a 0% loan and paid it off in 6 months which was the best thing i ever did for my credit score) and then drive them until they die. i don't want to deal with any potential problems added by how someone else drove or maintained the car. i want any problems with the car to be either covered by warranty or as a result of me. ReplyCancel

  • PurpleGirl - 93 Ford Escort, 108k miles. I hate it, but it's better than nothing. ReplyCancel

  • girlmakescents - I drive an "old car." It's relatively new to me though. I bought it (from my parents) in 2007. It's a 1999 Toyota. They are similar to Hondas where you can drive them into the ground. Mine has 190,000km on it, and I think it still has quite a bit of life left in it. I have had to replace the brakes and the tires, but that is it other than regular oil changes so far.
    I have a few dings and scratches that add "character" as well, and where I would have been mad that these had happened if it was new, I didn't mind too much because it's old.
    However, I have noticed that my car has a few rust spots and that's one thing I don't want to drive is a rusty old car. So I think I may have to get it repainted this summer. Hope it won't be too expensive! ReplyCancel

  • Moneyreasons - I have a silver 2003 Chevy Malibu (It has 75,000 miles on it), and I HATE it!

    Right after the warranty expired, fan position 1 thru 3 started failing, and now just the high positions work (4 and 5). Air Conditions need recharged, but it's almost impossible to do it yourself (Grrrr).

    Both men and women refer to it as an "Grandma's" car, but my mom (who is a grandmother), wouldn't be caught dead in it :(

    All that said, I got a great deal on it. With special rebates, and rewards amounts from a GM Card, I was able to purchase it from a little over $10,000. Of course, it's now paid off. In fact both our cars (my wife has a Toyota Sienna), are paid off.

    I have to admit, I do like the new Malibus though…

    My next car (or truck) will be a used one, maybe a Toyota Camry… But for the next 5 years, I hope to keep the one I have running (It's just a work car… I drive it from my house to work, then back again…) ReplyCancel

  • Carrie On The Cheap - Awwww I LOVE old cars. I drove a 15 year old Honda all through college. I LOVED it. It started to die on me after college just after it high 200,000 miles. I was devastated. :( I still miss it.

    I just bought a new car in 2006 (which I still say is brand new even though people look at me like I'm crazy) and I plan to drive it for 15+ years (it's a Toyota). ReplyCancel

  • Lawgirl - I bought my 2000 Honda Accord EX two years ago. It had only one previous owner and it's in great shape. It has leather interior, moon roof, power everything. The only things missing (but I can live without) are heated seats and a way to play my iPod. I've tried the external iPod hookups and they just suck to fool with. So I make do with the CD player and the radio. The car had 70,000 miles on it when I bought it – so it was still under warranty up to 100,000 miles. I still have a payment, but it will be paid off sooner rather than later. And I don't have to deal with any of the depreciation that a new car has right away. ReplyCancel

  • paranoidasteroid - I bought my car new 4 years ago, but I'm hoping this will be me someday! Except with my current driving habits, it would take about 35 years to get there! I'm hoping to be retired right around then. ReplyCancel

  • HerEveryCentCounts - I drive a 99 Toyota Solara with 170k miles on it (or thereabouts.) It's the first car I've ever owned. I bought it when I was 22 (I'm now 26) for $7,000 with 130k on it. Some people thought I was crazy for buying a car with that many miles on it, but so far it has treated me well. I've only had to pay to get the tires replaced and for the basic tune ups, as well as getting the breaks re-done. I'm really glad I made the choice to buy the used car from a guy off Craigslist instead of buying a certified used car at the dealer… I was really nervous about that at first but the guy had a good reason to sell his car (he had a baby and it's a two door) and the thing didn't have a blemish on it (until I got behind the wheel, now it looks like a good old car driven by a first-time car owner… my next car will hopefully have less dings. I am not so good at parking.) I'm worried it's getting to its end of life… I've only had problem with the battery wire once and had to get that replaced when the car wouldn't start. I'm not sure how long I should expect it to last… but as of this January I've owned the car for four years, or less than $2k / year. Is that good or bad? ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I think $2K / year is a fair price to pay… once it gets into the $3K range will probably be when I start considering getting a new(er?) car.

      I'm glad the Craigslist deal worked out for you… I have a feeling those transactions can either work really well or really badly… ReplyCancel

  • StackingPennies - As recently mentioned, mine is 100k and 10 years. Repairs have ran well under $1K for the past few years, so I've been lucky. I consider it old and would like to replace in the next couple years, but if it doesn't give me too many headaches, I'll probably wait. I don't know if I would be cool with $2k/year of repairs, but hopefully I don't have to decide that any time soon. ReplyCancel

  • Michele - I couldn't agree more! Until about 2 years ago, I drove a late 1989 Mazda 626 that made it all the way to 275k! I bought it for $950 from an old roommate who was moving abroad, and his family were the original owners, so I knew the entire history of the car. I had it for 5 years, never had to have any major repairs done, and only gave it up because my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved in together and he had 2 cars. So now I drive a 2003 Honda Accord that is completely paid off, and plan to do so for at least 10 more years, or until the cost of repairs outweigh the cost of replacing it.

    Funny that I basically skipped the 90s altogether and went from a 1989 to a 2003. ha! ReplyCancel

  • savvy - I used to drive an old car. I bought a 1995 Honda Accord in 1999 (with 60K miles) and drove it until 2007 (175K miles). I sold it to my brother, who later sold it to one of his friends and it's still going strong. I drive a newer car now (2004 bought in 2007) but sometimes I miss my little Honda. ReplyCancel

  • Joel - Jackass…stole my blog post: http://www.joelthegreat.com/?p=627 ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - You're on to me. I could never formulate such an out-of-left field, innovative idea as 'old cars are cheaper than new cars' by myself. ReplyCancel

  • Chris - I drive an '01 Saturn SL2 that I bought last year for $4200. Only had 44K miles on it at the time. Over the last 13 months of ownership, I've put about $240 into it for repairs (a new muffler and an engine sensor). Cheap to buy, reliable, easy to fix. I'll drive it until the wheels fall off. ReplyCancel

  • Aly - 1998 VW Jetta bought 3 years old in 2001. She only has 95k miles on her (I do a mix of driving and public transportation), so she has a lot of life left. So far I've only done oil changes/tune ups and I think I bought a new clutch a few years ago. Love this car! I hope to drive her for another 5+ years. ReplyCancel

  • NotGetting suckedIn - 2001 Toyota Avalon XLS — 75,000 miles — always garage kept and well maintained. Looks and runs like a 1-year old car. I take care of it and it takes care of me. Hopefully NOT buying a replacement until I can plug it into the wall to recharge it.

    Why do so many, feel so insecure of themselves and their self worth, that they need "bling bling" to impress others? ReplyCancel

  • nikfish - I have a 2001 Prius – Had to buy out the lease since we're such high distance drivers. It now has over 225k miles on it. Definitely playing the how far can we take her game. ReplyCancel

  • five tomatoes - I'm all about the old cars! I drive a 1999 Mazda Protege with 123,000 on it right now. I bought it used when I graduated high school in 2001 when it only had 17,000 on it. It's been very good to me. I don't think I've spent more than $3,000 on maintenance the whole time I've owned it. Before that I drove my dad's hand me down 1992 Mazda Protege that I got with 135,000 miles on it and then I put on another 40,000 before I sell it.

    It'd be fun to have a new car, but this one is paid off and runs great, so I'm driving it until it dies or gets prohibitively expensive to own. I'm planning to buy my next car new and the only thing I'll do differently is make sure I get one with all the options since I'll be driving it forever! ReplyCancel

  • Jessies Money - My car is a '97 Mazda Protege w/ under 200,000km's on it – it doesn't hold heat well which I'll look into in the spring, but it's so worth it! ReplyCancel

  • Tina - I have a 2000 4Runner. I've never had to do any repair work on it until this year, when I spent $500. Not too shabby. It's got 110K on it and I'm hoping to drive it for at least another 2 years, maybe longer. One of the resons I got the 4Runner was b/c they last a long time. And I love not having any car payments. ReplyCancel

  • Investing Newbie - I don't have a car at all, but I'm amazed at how many miles your car has and it is still going! Does it make weird sounds? Do you have to do an extra shimmy to close the door or some other funky ritual to start the car? ReplyCancel

  • Jim - We have a 1998 civic (bought new) that is over 256k miles and is still running great and a 1998 Tacoma (bought used 6 years ago w/ 50k miles) it has 140k now. I suspect they both will go at least another 100k each. Maintenance on both is minimal. ReplyCancel

  • @justinph - My wife and I share a 1994 Honda Accord, almost 16 years old. Aside from a little rust behind the wheels, which is hard to see because the car is black, it works pretty well. We have "only" 152k miles on it, which is pretty low on average for it's age. Other than regular maintenance (tires, brakes, muffler) it's been pretty well to us, too.

    I would always take an older, nicer car, such as a several year old accord with nicer trim, than a newer economy car. Having a moonroof is pretty nice. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - A moon roof is on my wish list for the next car I have (hopefully not for several years, though)! ReplyCancel

  • Phil - i have an 1986 BMW 535i with ~210,000 on the clock as my daily, and a 1988 Ford Mustang with ~130,000 as a weekend toy. do 99% of the work on both of them myself. old cars rule! ReplyCancel

  • Anon - I had a 1990 Volkswagen Jetta that had almost 900,000 miles on it, no joke. I bought it for $1200 dollars, drove it for 10 years, and spent less than $500 in repairs and maintenance a year on it. I finally gave up on it when the axle split in half, causing both tires to go in opposite directions. ReplyCancel

  • rhodies - Drove my '66 Dodge Dart for 27 years (my kids called it the dinosaur, but cried when I gave it away to a charity); picked in a military BX my '71 Plymouth which I had for 273,000+ miles (original engine and transmission); Dodge Diplomat only lasted 243,000 miles, etc. In South Carolina my old car county taxes went up from $3.33 to 9.33 and my wife told me when I complained to stop my bitching and moaning. My days of the wonderful old Chrysler slant six engines has now been supplemented with 4 cylinder Hondas all attempting to scale the 250,000 mile mark (so far no problems with all three of them). Had to replace an oxygen sensor on wife's Honda ($240), but other than that, no repairs except for the normal timing belt exchange, hoses, and spark plugs. Met a fellow whose old, ugly orange Honda runs quietly at 320,000. Still gets close to 40 MPG. I bet I get more compliments on my old cars by men and women alike than most people get with their new cars. ReplyCancel

  • Joel - Sorry for my reaction. I went to The Consumerist this morning, and saw your article on their front page after trying, and failing to get my site into any sort of spot light. I guess it might have been jealousy. Who knows.

    Old cars do rock though. Sorry for my bitterness. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Hi Joel, Thank you for coming back and explaining. I appreciate it. From one fan of old cars to another, happy holidays. :) ReplyCancel

  • Kenny - Care to respond to Joel's assertion that you stole his post? ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Hi Kenny, if you see the replies after Joel's comment, you'll see that he came back and apologized for his reaction, which I appreciated. I don't plagerize. If I write a post inspired by another blogger's writing, I will give credit. In this case, I've never read Joel's blog before this morning. ReplyCancel

  • Will - I drive a 1996 VW Passat Diesel. Just rolled over 225,000 miles. I decided I wanted something a little bit lower mileage so I bought a 1988 Jeep Grand Wagoneer with just 182,000 miles as a secondary car. Each has its own set of minor issues, but both have been good to me. I tell everyone "you can have 10 times as much fun in a beater for 10% of the price" ReplyCancel

  • max - 1991 volvo 740 turbo wagon. 400k kms. Awesome car lots of space, rear wheel drive, turbocharged, and bulletproof. ReplyCancel

  • Ken - I drive a 96 Camry…right at 285,000 miles….repairs have been minimal considering all the distances I drive per week…I really love the payments!! ReplyCancel

  • Hawkeye - Three cars in our family 1990 240 with 240,000, 1990 760 Turbo with 302,000 and a 1988 240 wagon with 300,000+ all Volvo cars. All have cost very little in the way of maintenance. ReplyCancel

  • Forest - I'm rolling a '99 Honda with around 130k on it. I am hoping to take it to 200k and more! ReplyCancel

  • Craig - Happily still driving my college car, a 1989 Honda Civic. Just 102K miles because I commute by metro. I tell my friends, "Not having a car payment means you can live a whole other level better." Better trips, better restaurants, better clothes, better electronics. For those times when we go on a road trip, we rent something shiny and new. At this rate my Civic will see another 20 years. ReplyCancel

  • Meg - "What would you consider an Old Car (how many years / miles)?"

    People, old cars are from the '70's and '80's at this point… Not the '90's! Or is that my denial talking? ūüėČ

    My cars:
    2001 Honda S2000, less than 100k miles, paid off, fairly modified
    1997 Mazda Miata, ~126k miles, paid cash for, daily driven track monster
    1990 Nissan 240SX, over 300k miles before engine & tranny pulled, owe ~$2k to build credit, still in the process of swapping the engine

    And all the cars I want are old, like an BMW E30 M3, a Toyota AE86 Corolla or a Datsun 240Z. We're possibly looking into a Honda NSX, and those are anywhere from 14 to 18 or 19 years old in our price range.

    I think I totally want to write about this myself now, haha. Your blog is so great for ideas. :) ReplyCancel

  • Matt - I have a 1995 Altima I got when I was 18. It had 126 thousand when I bought it and it's at about 210 thousand miles now. I'm hoping to top 300 thousand miles before looking for a newer Altima. ReplyCancel

  • George - I drive a 94 corolla with 203k on it. I bought it from the original owner at about 190k miles on it and have had it for close to 5 years now.

    Since I have had it I replaced:
    4 tires
    Brake / Rotors / Alignment
    AC switch
    Battery x 2
    Inside door handle (on toyotas they seem to crack after 10+ years when it is really cold)

    I barely drive, so I plan to drive it to the ground, and probably rent my parking space out instead of have a car.

    I also like having a car I care less about because I can throw a table (or anything else) on roof, tie it down and not worry about scratching or damaging the finish.

    I recently killed my cigarette lighter when I plugged in an inverter, so I need to figure out how to fix this. No gps/ipod/charging anymore )c:
    .-= George¬īs last blog ..Dyson DC31 Handheld Vacuum Review =-.ReplyCancel

  • Drew - I've got a 92 Honda with just under a quarter million miles (242k at the moment). I'm with you; I love my car, it drives perfectly, and the best part, it gets better gas mileage than most "fuel efficient" cars these days (I average over 40mpg). Seeing as my family has been the sole owner of it, it's the perfect little machine! ReplyCancel

  • The Last Carnival of Personal Finance of the Year! - […] from Well-Heeled Blog presents Old Cars: Unsung Heroes of Personal Finance, and says, “Old cars lack the flash and dash of new models, but they are wonderful for your […]ReplyCancel

  • Taylor - I definitely have the coolest car on the blog comments so far! 1994 Honda Accord. 241,000 miles and going strong. Paint is starting to fade though, and that makes me sad. But my net worth? $300K +. Ha. Take that, new car owners! ReplyCancel

  • Chance - I once had a 1992 Honda Accord with over 150,000 miles on it. It drove like a dream! I absolutely loved that car! I never had any trouble with it and it was paid for! Unfortunately a jerk (a car salesman of all people) hit me and totaled it! I was livid! I could've cried! I was so upset I could barely look at the damage done. Now I have a 2006 Nissan Altima. It's a good car and I am ready to pay it off praise God!ReplyCancel

  • MysticNerd - We bought two new cars in '86 and '87 and were thoroughly soaked by them dollar-wise. From "95 through 2008 we drove only 10-15 year old Volvos; I did as much of the maintenance as I could myself. I still have my most recent Volvo, an '89 240 wagon with 339K mi. on the clock. My current commuter is a '97 Civic with 182K. I drive 55 mi. each way to work and I enjoy having the older cars. ReplyCancel

  • A Frugal Chick » Frugal Friday (On Saturday) - […] an old car and love that you have no payment? Check out this article singing the praises of older […]ReplyCancel

  • Weekly Wisdom: Starting the New Year Off Right » The Online Investing AI Blog - […] to Well Heeled Blog, the old car is the unsung hero of personal finance. What about old pickup […]ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - The car we drive right now is a '97 Honda Civic with over 270,000 km on it. We've had it for almost a year now, and all it's needed were repairs to the exhaust, a replacement upper radiator hose, and regular oil changes. Much better than the '97 Ford f-150 we had, which was falling apart, right at the worst time. Hopefully, this car will last us for a couple more years, I'd hate to have to find the money for a replacement. ReplyCancel

  • my old car - StartTags.com - […] car… VERY sadly it passed away. Was in a few mags back in its days… ( 2years ago) anyways …Old Cars: Unsung Heroes of Personal Finance | Well-Heeled …New Cars are shiny, gleaming, loaded with the latest technology and features. New cars get the big […]ReplyCancel

  • I Love You...Like A Blogger! - […] Blog – Old Cars: Unsung Heroes of Personal Finance […]ReplyCancel

  • ¬Ľ Show AND Tell: How to Raise Financially Responsible Kids - […] bought reliable cars new, but then drove them for over a decade; they almost never went out to eat; and they refrained from buying a DVD player until a few years […]ReplyCancel

  • Show AND Tell: How to Raise Financially Responsible Kids « Finance Blog - […] bought reliable cars new, but then drove them for over a decade; they almost never went out to eat; and they refrained from buying a DVD player until a few years […]ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - The only issue I have with older cars is safety features. If you're planning to buy a brand new car and drive it until it's literally falling apart, I think it makes sense to pay extra for features.

    Right now, for example, if I were in the market for a new (or used car), I would want ESC and side airbags. And if possible, blind spot notification and the cruise control thing where it automatically slows you down if you get too close to another car. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - That's a fair concern… I think about that too. I don't have side airbags, but when I buy a new car those are things I'll be looking for. ReplyCancel

  • Moving vs. Not Moving: Where I Prize Life Over Money - […] More Old Cars: Unsung Heroes of Personal Finance New Cars are shiny, gleaming, loaded with the latest technology and features. New cars get the big […]ReplyCancel

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  • About Finance - Simply just needed to mention I truly respect your work on this blog and the quality posts you make. These type of posting are generally what keeps me going through the day time. I uncovered this post right after a very good companion of my very own suggested it to me. I do some blogging and site-building myself personally and I am always grateful to check out others adding high quality data towards community. I am going to definitely be following and now have bookmarked your web blog to my twitter account for others to check out. ReplyCancel

  • Payroll Services - my Ford car is 11 years old, with 165,000 miles on and still goes without much trouble ReplyCancel

  • Finance Corner - We have just started our own forum and would love comments, feedback, and any general financial advice or information that would be of benefit to our customers.

    We look forward to your posts at http://www.financecorner.co.uk

    Finance Corner ReplyCancel

  • Used Cars - That old Accord brings back some memories ReplyCancel

  • imhsar - I drive a 1994 Acura Integra with 272,000+ miles on it. The clutch recently tanked after the longest time and I got the flywheel, clutch disc and pressure plate replaced. Car still runs super smooth and it works great. It gets to where I need to go and I'm happy with it.
    http://www.oldcarsinc.com ReplyCancel

  • imhsar - I drive a 1994 Acura Integra with 272,000+ miles on it. The clutch recently tanked after the longest time and I got the flywheel, clutch disc and pressure plate replaced. Car still runs super smooth and it works great. It gets to where I need to go and I'm happy with it.

  • Old Cars - Old is gold, is the known proverb which states the effectiveness of old things and same goes with vehicles. Old cars can prove to be of greater use especially if purchased from proper seller who takes in to account every factor which is essential in the process of renovation of car. ReplyCancel

  • New Car | Well Heeled Blog - […] think about it (and have thought about it before), but really, I am crossing my fingers that my oldie but goodie Honda will continue traipsing over 60 miles of the concrete jungle a day until it’s time for […]ReplyCancel

  • Rayson Smith - Old cars are recommended to those who are learning or buying their first car. Its the best way to learn how to keep a car and maintain it. ReplyCancel

  • Martilyo - As you saw in my pf blog, http://www.angrymillionaire.com I drive a 1998 Honda Civic with 195,500 miles. Nothing drives like a car that is paid off! Thanks for stopping by my blog, I see that I have a lot to read on yours!

    To your financial health — Martilyo!
    http://www.angrymillionaire.com https://twitter.com/#!/angrymillionair

  • 250,000 Miles on Car | Well Heeled Blog - […] what I wrote in ode to old cars post back in 2009: 1. An Old Car is most likely to paid off. Which means‚Ķ no car payment, which […]ReplyCancel

  • owen - I used to hate when I would pull up to a stop and my brakes would sequel (the breaks are fine, the clip is broken). Eventually I realized that is has some benefits since I donot have to honk at predestrians cause they can hear my brakes, lol.ReplyCancel

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