This is the third post of a Friday series called “You’re a sucker to….” which explores whether conventional financial wisdom is necessarily the best advice out there. Everyone’s situation is different; if you’re doing something that I tell you you’re a sucker to do, it doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. There’s just other options out there that you should be aware about. Read the first here and the second here.
I know, I’m hardly being as controversial with this post as my first two, but just hear me out. Anyone who has their financial head on their shoulders knows buying a brand new car is, at least financially, a bad idea. This great old post from Four Pillars estimates depreciation on any car at 20% per year, which I think pretty much nails it. So if you buy a $30,000 car new compared to the same car that’s 3 years old, be prepared to spend close to 50% more. ($30,000 to $15,300) None of this is shocking to anyone I hope.
So why wouldn’t everyone just buy used? There’s the “shiny new car” factor. People don’t want to buy a used car; someone is probably picked their nose and wiped it on the seat. Or, maybe they farted on it. (Guilty on both accounts!) There’s this stupid misconception that repair bills are going to kill you if you buy used. Other people justify it by buying something like a Prius, thinking that they’re smarter than the used car market will be in a few years and they’ll be able to get more for their used car. Quite frankly, all of these reasons are BS, but whatever.
Even though the numbers are pretty obvious, quite a few highly regarded financial bloggers have bought brand new cars. I don’t understand how someone can be so passionate about getting out of debt that they start a blog about it, and then in a short amount of time promptly get back into debt. And of course, rationalizing it is the worst. If these bloggers just admitted that they wanted a shiny new car, everything else be damned, then I think their readers wouldn’t get so upset. It’s not a financial decision for these people, it’s an emotional one.
Take the emotion out of the decision. I’d encourage you to buy something a couple years old, with low mileage, and then drive it until it falls apart. That way you get the benefits of having a nice car at the beginning, and then getting a cheap car at the end. And even if you drive it for just a handful of years, you still end up ahead. Not everyone wants to drive an older car after all.
Oh, and never ever finance it. Even at 0%. There are no dealer rebates on 0% loans, which could push the price thousands of dollars higher. I’m reminded of the old saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Every single month you should be putting money away for that new car. That way, when the time comes, you just have to write a cheque. And if you want a shiny new car? Just don’t do it. Let some other sucker pay that extra depreciation.