Why I bought a NEW car

I am 53 years old. Never in my life have I allowed myself to buy a car I truly love...until now. This is the story of how I allowed myself to make a huge purchase just for the joy of it. And it wasn't even a purchase I'd intended to make. Let me explain.

During the peak of the pandemic (early July 2020), I paid $35,990 for a used 2019 Mini Countryman SE All4. The Countryman — which I call a "Maxi Cooper" — isn't a bad car, but I regretted buying it almost immediately. I'd intended to replace my 2004 Mini Cooper with a newer version of the same model, but allowed myself to be talked into a compact SUV.

For two years, I drove the Maxi Cooper and tolerated it. It wasn't a bad car by any means, but it was a bad car for me. I'm not an SUV guy. I'm a small-car guy.

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Cost to drive calculators: How much does it cost to drive?

My girlfriend recently bought a new car. After 23 years, she sold her 1997 Honda Accord to a guy who's more mechanically inclined than we are. Kim upgraded to a 2016 Toyota RAV4, and she loves it.

One of her primary considerations when searching for a new car was the cost to drive it. In her ideal world, she would have purchased a fully-electric vehicle but it just wasn't in her budget. The RAV4 hybrid was a compromise. According to fueleconomy.gov, it gets an estimated 32 miles per gallon. (And actual users report 34.7 miles per gallon.)

Cost to drive a RAV4 hybrid

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Don’t buy a new car without this cheat sheet!

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletCongratulations — you’re about to snag a new ride! We’re assuming that you’ve already done some research: You know how much you can afford to spend, which car you want to buy, and the true market value (what other people are paying) for that car in your area.

And now you’re ready to buy. Follow these steps to get a good deal and make the car-buying process at the dealership as painless as possible. To help make it easier, download our cheat sheet and take it with you.

My plan for purchasing a new car

Build Your Own Mini It's funny. Fifteen years ago, daily personal finance was a chore for me. I didn't understand how to go day to day making smart choices that were aligned with my values. I wasn't even sure what my values were!

Today, things are much easier. Sure, there are challenges. Sometimes I make poor choices. But mostly, what I spend aligns with what I want out of life. (With the caveat, of course, that who I am and what I want shifts over time.)

I'm glad I've developed good habits. Right now, it's keeping me from making a rash decision. For most of 2019, Kim and I have both been fighting the new-car itch. The old J.D. would have succumbed by now. This year's model still does dumb things like spending hours building custom cars on the Mini website, but so far I'm not scratching that new-car itch.

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The end of the road: Preparing to buy a new car

Yesterday, Kim and I joined my cousins for an afternoon trip to the Oregon Coast. Our aim was to harvest a bounty of clams. We came home with zero. We managed, however, to harvest a bounty of mussels. Plus, the dog had fun.

Duane, Kim, and Tally at Cannon Beach

My cousin Duane carpooled with us to and from the beach. We rode in Kim's car: a 1997 Honda Accord that's showing signs of its age.

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Which new car would you buy?

Last week via email, reader David Hatch asked:

If you were going to buy a new car, what would you get do you think?

I wrote a short email reply...then decide this topic is worth a deeper dive (of only for my own personal edification).

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How much does your commute cost?

While I'm not a rabid anti-car crusader, there's no doubt I think the U.S. is too car-centric. I understand the historical reasons behind our vehicle dependence -- we're a young nation with sprawling cities spread far apart -- but I also believe that if you, as an individual, make an effort to live in a walkable (or bike-able) neighborhood, you can save tons of cash while enhancing your lifestyle.

How much can you save? Well, that's tough to quantify. There are a lot of variables that go into the calculation.

The folks at Transportation Evolved, however, have made an effort to crunch the numbers. They've created a cost of commuting calculator that takes into account a wide variety of factors -- then allows you to further explore how this cost affects your true hourly wage and the opportunity cost of lost investment income.

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Ask the readers: How do you know when your car is dead?

Earlier this month, I shared a link to a comprehensive guide to certified pre-owned vehicle programs. In doing so, I mentioned that Kim and I both believe that you should drive a car until it dies. This prompted a great question from Tired Scientist in the comments. She wrote:

Exactly what is the definition of "until it dies"? My husband and I have gone around and around on this question ourselves. We both believe in driving a car "until it dies", but disagree slightly on the definition of this–because, unlike with the human body, almost all problems on a car are fixable given enough money.

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A comprehensive guide to certified pre-owned vehicle programs

Kim and I have been talking a lot about cars during the past few months.

She drives a 1996 Honda Accord with 226,000 miles on it. The car runs fine and has served her well, but she's begun to think about the possibility of upgrading.

I still drive my beloved 2004 Mini Cooper, but the little guy has had some issues lately. (Right now, it's in the shop because the clutch burned out. In the process of replacing that, the mechanic discovered that the transmission needed to be replaced -- thanks to towing the car behind our RV for 15 months.)

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How to save big with a salvage title

What was your first reaction when you saw "salvage title" in the headline? Cringe and shudder? Outrage, that anybody could seriously suggest something so risky on a respectable site like this? In mixed company, no less? Step away from the ledge, slowly, exhale, and then hear me out.

I used to feel the same way … until my friend Peter showed me his "new" 4Runner. Peter is a super-frugalista, and he saw the surprise in my eyes. He laughed, "Hey, it's a salvage title -- I got it real cheap."

He bought his son one of those, seven years back, and that car has run problem-free all that time. So he thought, "Why not get one for myself?" Continue reading...

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