Drive Your Old Car and Shut Up

buying-a-new-car-dealer-optionsThis is a guest post by CJ over at The Great Jollyhoombah.  CJ and his wife, Tammy, went from an overworked couple to a joyous tandem…and now they blog about their incredibly simple adventures in life in a poetic fashion.  

My father made a mortifying scene at a car dealership moments before I purchased my first car.  It was a 1994 Plymouth Sundance.  Inexpensive, fuel-efficient, durable, and easy to park, it made a perfect starter vehicle.  My Sundance and I rode together for five sunny years of bliss, two prior to finding Tammy, and three more after that.

Shortly after we I married, the three of us hiked ourselves down to Houston from New York to see what teaching elementary music was all about.  Despite the regrettable pay, its steadiness was enough to consider substantial purchases, such as new cars.

In 1999, just as I had paid it off, the Sundance was traded in for a brand new Chevy Malibu.  Genius, right?

Suicidal Numbers

The Sundance cost me about $14,000.  I had no down payment or trade in.  But the payments were low, like $220 a month.  It was easily paid off with two teacher salaries and could have been enjoyed, payment free, for years to come – perhaps ten or fifteen more.  We’ll never know, will we?

What I do know is that a quick search will, much to my chagrin and agitation, reveal happy drivers with 199,000, 240,000 or even 265,000 miles on their beloved Sundances.

The Malibu, on the other hand, listed for $19,954.  The dealership gave me $3,585 for the Sundance, a $750 manufacturer’s rebate, whatever that is, and I made a measly $1,000 cash down payment.  So I ended up financing a total of $14,773 at 8% APR.  When we add the finance charge of $3,929 to the $14,773, we get $18,702.

Crash, smash, boom, very loud grunting, and a living room lamp breaks.  Muffled sobbing ensues.


How much would I like that back right now?  No, not the lamp!  The $18,702.  How much do I deserve to have the Malibu’s manual inserted diagonally and with great force in my keyster?  How badly would I like to clamp the jumper cables onto my privates and start the Malibu?

I’m trying to have a nice life here!  I’m trying to polish a financial dung ball.  I’m trying to avoid physically assaulting innocent pedestrians over this!  My apologies.  Let us see what went wrong here, shall we?

Why CJ? Why?

I can recall thinking that the Sundance was an old man’s car.  It was too small.  It had four doors like all my parents’ station wagons and sedans.  It appeared boxy unlike the sleek sports car with which I should have been tearing up the road.  And unlike said hot rod, it was 4-cylinder slow.  It didn’t even have a freakin’ tape deck!  I was embarrassed to drive it.

Now I am far more embarrassed to admit that I was embarrassed because it’s an admission that I allowed my identity to be linked to a car.  Now that’s embarrassing!   How queer that the Sundance fits my philosophy on spending better, 15+ years later, than the Malibu I now endure.


Perhaps you noted that the Malibu was purchased in 1999 which makes it 14 years old.  It’s been paid off for quite a spell and it has only 88,000 miles on it.  We made the best of an insanely stupid choice.  Our financial philosophy has undergone dramatic transformation.

Even so.  Even so.

My poor father with his long ago elaborate song and dance at the car dealership, all his efforts gone to waste.  And that lamp was an antique.

A note from Tony:  CJ, I have paid a ton of “stupid tax” over the years buying new and luxury cars to impress people I will never meet.  Tens of thousands of dollars wasted that could have been put toward my kids’ college fund or retirement savings.  The numbers are clear:  let someone else buy new and pay for the depreciation, then you go snatch it up and drive it to the ground!  Also, one should never buy a car that is worth more than half of your annual income….ever!!  

Readers:  Share your stories and tips for car purchases in the comments!


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