I drive an SUV that I purchased new in 2002. It has relatively low mileage but, after nearly eight years of hauling sports equipment for my kids and mulch for my garden, and after assorted spills while my kids negotiated who got to sit where, my car is not as pristine as it once was. The exterior is faded and scratched. It has more than a few dings, including a few that I inexpertly tried to hammer away. The interior is stained and faded and its storage area will always have clay from the sports fields in every nook and cranny, no matter how many times I vacuum. I can’t deny that the bloom is off the rose when it comes to my vehicle.
That’s OK because I like it that way.
Unfortunately, my wife does not like it that way. For the past two years, she has gently been nudging me to buy a new car. It does not have to be an expensive car. It does not have to be a flashy car. It does not even have to be new. A quality pre-owned vehicle would suit my wife’s tastes just fine. Quite simply, it just has to be any halfway decent vehicle that is not the vehicle that I currently drive.
I won’t do it. I want to keep my SUV and if I did not trade it in during the Cash for Clunkers promotion, I am not going to do it now. That said, I do need to consider all of the reasons that I should not trade in my vehicle and, I hope, determine a few more reasons with the help of my readers. Here are the reasons that I have established so far.
Familiarity is a Good Thing: I am comfortable in my SUV. It is like a familiar chair that I can slide into any time I wish. I know its blind spots and the size of the speed bumps that it can clear without scratching anything. It is a part of me that still works just fine. I really have no functional reason to get rid of it.
A New Car Means New Stress: Whether I purchase a new or used vehicle, I would have to spend thousands of dollars. I have no desire to spend thousands of dollars on a shiny new car only to have a shopping cart scratch it or a careless passenger spill something in it. To have a new car is to have the stress of worrying about the first time it gets marked, stained or dinged. If my current SUV gets a new stain or dent, I can shrug it off, but I cannot do that with a new car as easily.
A New Car Means New Costs: If I purchase a new car, I will need to spend thousands of dollars. Admittedly, those dollars can be financed over time, but when I do not need to spend thousands of dollars, why should I? Moreover, if I buy a new car when I do not need one, I will have to pay increased insurance and taxes. Again, why incur those costs when I do not have to do so.
My Wife has her Own SUV: My wife has a shiny, slightly newer SUV. If I go anywhere with her, I drive her vehicle. It is incredibly rare for my wife to have to ride in my car so whether I need a new SUV should really be relevant primarily to me. (Of course, if I wanted to buy a new SUV, my wife’s concerns would certainly be far more relevant.)
My 16 Year Old is getting his Learner’s Permit: My 16 year old son has put off getting his learner’s permit for about a year. I know that very soon I need to intervene and force him to get his permit, just to ensure that I have a couple of years to teach him how to drive before he goes to college. Why would I want to get a new car just in time to let a 16 year old get behind the wheel?
I do not Drive My Clients Anywhere: In my entire professional life, I have never had to invite a client into my vehicle. Indeed, I don’t think any have ever seen my vehicle. Accordingly, there is no reason growing out of my profession that would require me to get a new vehicle. (By comparison, I am trying to persuade my wife that I have very good professional reasons to get new golf clubs.)
My Car Still Runs Fine: A neighbor once told me that if a car is not sold before the odometer hits 40,000 miles, the car should be driven until it stops running because the resale value fast will approach zero. My car still runs and I maintain it religiously. Every year I continue to drive it just adds to the value of my initial investment in it.
What other reasons can you offer that might help me to persuade my wife that I should keep my current vehicle? What is your approach to cars? Do you keep them until they are ready for the junk yard or do you trade them in every few years? How long do you think a car owner should keep a car?