Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Member Of The Family

It's been a while since I've updated my auto blog.  Most of my time has been on my writing blog lately.

Anyway, after years of scrimping and saving, I purchased a new to me silver 08 Toyota Yaris 3 door hatchback to replace my aging 98 Saturn SL1.  This is the first car I've ever bought that was my choice to get what I wanted.  Ever.  Every other car I have ever owned was either inherited or intended to be shared or for my significant other.

So why did I pick this one and not something else?  I had my eyes set on picking up a natural gas car during the final months of saving.  The fuel costs are much lower and there are fueling stations close to my home and my work.  The engines last a long time due to the cleaner nature of natural gas over gasoline.  I even test drove one and liked it.

But then I found a local listing for a low miles Yaris for slightly less than the CNG models I was looking at.  In running the numbers, yes I could save money within the first 2-3 years with a CNG bi-fuel Cavalier over the Yaris but then I would hit the snag of the CNG tanks expiring and I would be stuck with a 30 mpg gasoline car or have to invest money into a replacement tank, which would eat away at the gained savings.

Over 5 years the Cavalier would be cheaper but not by much (assuming the typical seasonal gas price fluctuations we've been seeing) but an 02 Cavalier would be beginning to get long in years by that point.  Although the engine would be in good shape, other components would begin to have issues steadily, like my Saturn has today.

By being 6 years younger, the Toyota Yaris will have that many more years of being in good shape before things start falling apart left and right.  It will be a car I can own for longer for a lower upfront cost.  The higher fuel cost will match fairly closely to what I already got in the Saturn so I'm accustomed to that expense.  I see it as the price for the extra reliability time.  And extra reliability time reduces maintenance costs, at least for several more years.

I still believe in natural gas and other alternative fuels.  However, for the decision to swing the other way for me, I would have needed more money for an even younger car.  For example, if I were buying new off the lot, the few extra thousand dollars for the CNG system would still pay for itself easily in the first 2 years or so and the CNG tank wouldn't expire for another 15-20 years. That would be many many years of driving with the added savings.

So why didn't I buy new?  Because the only thing I'll go into debt for is a house and would have needed to go into debt to get a new car.  I paid cash for my Yaris and own it outright.  The last three vehicles we've owned, we paid cash for.  There is no feeling greater than that of being debt free.  And cars are never an investment, they're liabilities.  Unless you have Henry Ford's personal Model-T or something, it will go steadily down in value over its lifetime.  The worst of the depreciation is in the first four years or so for most vehicles.  Getting a car that is a few years old avoids much of that initial depreciation.