I'm going to skip the whole "been too long" because that is obvious and get to the meat of the issue.
Betty, my long-owned and hard-driven 1994 Subaru Legacy Wagon is gone. Gone to auction after being traded in on Thursday.
Sol (or any word for "sun" in any language other than English) is the "new" car in town.
I had Diana (Hi Diana) go with me because she's good at finding vehicles. I'm good at finding cheap housing. Also, she is good at peer pressuring me into just buying something.
Betty needed new struts all the way around. 1200$. The struts were so bad that they were going to become a safety problem. A few days after I got this news from the mechanic, something let go in the back end (Betty's, not mine) and made a noise that was sort of "clang...sproing" every time the back driver's side wheel hit a bump. I'm guessing something actually snapped. That noise and the metal-on-metal screech of all 4 struts, as well as the delay and thump between pressing the gas and actually moving, were about to make my nerves snap.
I'm pretty sure I squeezed every ounce of value out of Betty. I paid 5960$ net (after the cash payout from the insurance when the Toyota was totaled by that damn teenager with a cell phone). I put out about 4000$ in major repairs over the years. Notable repairs: camshaft pulley shot off on the interstate in western Minnesota; alternator went out on the highway to Pullman one day; various CV joints/axles/bearings; 1 or 2 brake jobs though never replaced the rotors just had them ground. I got 1300$ for the time that chick hit the back end of Betty on an icy day. I spent $250 getting the tail light replaced. So that's about 1050$ free dollars to deduct from costs.
That makes a lifetime net cost (because oil changes and that sort of thing are assumed and I never did a timing belt, gasket, or pump of any kind) of 5960 + 4000 - 1050 = $8960
For that I drove 208,000 miles. My miles per dollar of purchase cost and major repairs for Betty is: 23.2
I have always shot for 20 miles per dollar so I was ahead but with a few major repairs (and there would be more than a few once we got started), I'd be behind
If I'd done the struts: 20.67. One big repair after that and I'd be losing even more ground.
I also had been wanting side impact airbags (and I'm sure my passengers had been wanting ANY airbag), my windshield was so scratched up from a life on the road that I could barely see at night from all the glare, and my seatbelts have been damaged and technically illegal for about 3 years. Never mind the water that flowed out from the bottom of the dash whenever it rained (that's been going on since I got the car), and the new leak along the top of the drivers side window. None of these things actually made the car stop or needed immediate repair to get from point A to point B, so I hadn't done them.
I got $759 on trade in for my car. That is deducted from the net outlay on the new car, but I haven't figured the full details on that yet.
I had to realize that I'm not going to get 20miles per purchase and repair dollar anymore. I'm sure as hell going to try, but it is something to shoot for, not a guarantee. I've been driving on borrowed time on the last car for a while. You just don't know an engine and transmission are going to last that long, never mind the differential and the rest. Betty must have been one of those cars made on the day when workers are at their peak of performance.
So, the new car. 2009 Forester with 44000 miles on it , roughly. It's a certified used car with a warrantee up to 100,000 miles (total miles, not mine) and three more years. I drive about 20,000 miles a year now so I'll about hit that. This is the first time I've bought a car without going to a mechanic. That is scary, but realistically, I had researched this "certified" business and thought it was too far out of my price range but it looks like it is a real thing. We'll see. This car was bought locally, driven locally, and so all maintenance records are with one mechanic, at the dealer. I'm sure any problem will show up in the next 3 years. It has some sort of extra warrantee for the first year or two; I need to reread the materials. And finally, I did not sign the arbitration waiver thingy so I can sue their asses if there is a problem.
This is quite a bit better/newer car than I planned on buying, but I really wanted the safety features and I still had cash for the purchase.
The dealer...Oh yeah!. The name of my salesperson is "Cinnamon Crabb". She's very nice despite what had to be a nightmarish journey though her school years with that name.
The dealership checked my credit rating and based on that, gave me the car immediately. I hadn't brought my title or checkbook with me because I figured I'd have to go clean out my car anyway. Nope. Based on my stellar credit rating (I'm in the 93rd percentile...only slightly lower than my Iowa Test of Basic Skills percentiles), they wouldn't even take the cash deposit I had brought with me. I asked if I should get a cashiers check. "No, we'll take your personal check." OK. I emailed a heads up to my bank that I would be writing a big check to a car dealership. I drove home in the car and went back on Friday with a check and the title to the old car. I had forgotten a couple of things in the old car so got those while I was there.
All very exciting. Now...if only that hail storm last night had dented up the car I would have gotten money back! Oh well. Someone will put a dent in it eventually and I'll get money back. I do not do cosmetic repairs.
That worked well with Betty. If I'd spent the 1050$ to get the tailgate and bumper dents fixed rather than kept the money I would have gotten a whopping 50$ increase in my trade in value. I might have gotten another 50$ if I'd taken off the rust bits and gotten a paint job. The cracked windshield had pretty much no effect on trade in. Once a car has that many miles and 18 years on it, cosmetic defects are nothing.
I just checked a loan calculator and I'm saving about 3000$ by not paying interest on a loan for this car. That's 3000$ that I will immediately designate as going towards the next car purchase, planned for either 2022 (10 years of use) or 2027 (Sol will be 18 years old).
Why name it "Sol"? Because I bought on Summer Solstice which was also a super hot sunny day AND it has an automatic sun roof.
Other accessories it has that I don't care about:
audio controls on the steering wheel
AC (which I did turn on because there is a warrantee on the transmission...more on that at another time)
a bunch of security stuff
reclining rear seats...they tilt back 4 inches so passengers can chill
CD player (that technology must be on the way out if I have it in my car)
Stuff I DO like:
back seats fold flat
those safety features
continuous readout of mpg average for 2 different trips so I can work on my fuel economy (this has a bigger engine than Betty so I'm losing a few miles to the gallon, but they don't make the smaller engine anymore)
getting in the car and assuming I'll get where I'm going
getting 3 years to see what will break in the engine or transmission due to the warrantee
ipod connection thingy that I don't know how to use yet.
I'm waffling on the seat...it's not terribly comfortable so I'm going to have to play with that. Oh well. Aunt Marcie was right. Also, my old car's seats were 18 years old (but surprising had no rips or stains) so I'm still used to the pains those gave me. I'm sure I'll adjust.