Monday, November 13, 2017

Car Lust

Car Lust
I'm horny, dear readers. 

Some days, when Mrs. Done by Forty leaves for work, I take my laptop into the bedroom, put the dogs out in the hallway, and I pull up my favorite site: Craigslist.

But, no, I don't click on the personals or the dreaded casual encounters link. No, friends. I get off on something weird. What gets my engine running is a sleek, gently used, and maybe a little dirty....Subaru Outback.
You know what's funny? We don't even need a new car. Our trusted, 2006 Toyota Matrix, named Skoda (after a matching little red hatchback we drove on our honeymoon in Ireland) is still going like a champ. At only 115,000 miles, she rides just as well as when we bought her five years and fifty thousand miles ago, for only $6,700. (And in cash, too. Like, a stack of hundreds in the front pocket of my Levis, that I got to plop down on the table after we agreed on the price. And for ten brief seconds, I felt cool.)

So here are the great things about Skoda. For one, she's a manual. This used to be pretty common but these days it is near impossible to find any vehicle whatsoever that still has a stick shift. And if you're not shifting, you're not really driving.

Second, the Matrix is like a small-wagon and hatchback combo. I love that the back seats fold completely flat, and so does the front passenger seat, allowing us to put bikes, lumber, furniture from Craigslist, two golden retrievers, or whatever else we may need back there. We've yet to find something we needed to haul that couldn't fit.

Third, she's reliable, just like any Toyota, or almost any Japanese car, in my experience. Other than changing the oil, battery, belts, and other regular maintenance, Skoda hasn't given us any problems. Well, almost no problems. The one sore spot is her paint. This is what the Arizona sun has done to her pretty coat:

Car Lust

Car Lust

Car Lust

The clear coat has completely come off in major sections.

But I really don't want to pay someone a thousand bucks to repaint the whole vehicle. Channeling my inner stubborn male and a desire to DIY everything I can, I want to try to apply the clear coat myself, for something like fifty bucks in materials. Here is all (I think) I'll need for the job:

Car Lust

And of course, some help from YouTube. I'm going to try to follow this guy's process, mostly because he cracks me up:



Of course, I have absolutely zero experience with painting an automobile. There's a decent chance it's going to turn out looking, well, like a DIY job and then we'd be faced with either just living with it (it's superficial), paying about a grand to have the car painted again, or, as perhaps the worst option, I could just submit to my car lust and buy something like this sleek Outback:

Car Lust

My mouth actually waters a little bit when I see an Outback I want to buy. Let's not delve too deeply into that.

We've more or less settled on the Outback as our next car for a lot of the same reasons we like the Matrix. It's one of the only remaining vehicles that's available in a manual, it has great cargo space with seats that fold flat, and, like just about all Japanese cars, is really reliable. And it's a little bigger than our current car: more able to handle a couple future kids and a couple golden retrievers. 

Still, the models we want are between ten and fifteen thousand dollars. It's crazy to think about dropping that kind of coin on a vehicle, to me, especially when our current car is, functionally, just fine.

Logically, I know what the right choice is. It's crazy simple: paint the car with some clear coat (or learn to live with it, or just pay to have it done), then drive it for another eight to ten years.

But my emotions are fighting me on this one. I probably spend thirty minutes a day pining over different cars, just because we can afford it and, as my heart reminds me, I want one

Wants are tricky. I don't know that we're ever really free of them, and at least a lot of the time, they're completely irrational. I don't need a new car, but that's not the whole story. As consumers in a culture that determines status via purchases, and emotional beings, to boot, needs never tell the whole story.

It doesn't help that we have a pile of cash from our last home sale burning a hole in our pocket. After investing a quarter of the profits once we made the sale, we're dollar cost averaging the remaining funds into our asset allocation over the next two years. 

But the cash is sitting there. Earning 1.3%. While I look at Subarus. And mentally plan out one-way flights to various cities in the US, imagining how T.S.A. employees might feel about me having a stack of hundreds in my jean pockets.

What do you say, my kind and wise readers? I need the counsel of those who aren't so emotionally involved in the decision.


*Photo is from Garritron at Flickr Creative Commons.

19 comments:

  1. Even though new cars smell good and there is a certain sense that nothing will happen mechanically, I still think you should drive your other cars in the ground and leave that cash for something else. Until your cars are costing MORE in repairs then they are worth. Remember even that new car you get will someday seem old and lame compared to another new car. Just my thoughts! :)

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    1. That's a good point, Tonya. All cars revert to 'old' soon enough.

      I know the financially smart thing to do is to keep our Matrix and drive it for another eight or ten years, which is possible since I work from home and Mrs. Done by Forty scoots more than she drives. With some luck, we could keep it and turn it over to future Baby Done by Forty.

      But there a ton of things we spend money on that are based on wants, too. Like travel. I think we spent $10k+ on travel last year. Would a new car have been a better use? Debatable. But just saying: we spend on stuff that's not truly practical.

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  2. As someone who's let her driver's license expire (since I don't drive), I always thought it would be super fun to buy a brand-new car. I've daydreamed about buying one in cash, and handing over the money in a yellow envelope.

    If it were me, I'd look to see if there were other expenses to cut in order to ease the pain of buying the car. Maybe no more trips for next year?

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    1. That's an idea. Mental Accounting is one of my favorite tricks to let us buy the things we want, without necessarily spending more overall. Great idea, Luxe Strategist.

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  3. First the house lust...now the car lust! =) You're right that we're never really truly free of wants...even those of us who are naturally frugal. I guess if it's something you're pining over for an extended period of time, it's worth it to consider it. And let's see how your DIY paint job works out. I'm obviously not a car guy (heck I drive a minivan so image means nothing to me), but if it was just appearances, I'd try to hold off. If the Outback has features that would make your life more convenient then I'd consider the upgrade.

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    1. You're right, Andrew. First it was the house, now the car. Next, I'm sure, we'll be wanting cuter dogs and children.

      And yeah, the quality of the DIY paint job will probably determine a lot.

      The Outback has a couple things going for it: it's bigger (less fuel efficient though) and it has room for both kids and the dogs. Of course, we have no kids yet...

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  4. I would hold off on your lust and give the clear coating a shot. Sure you could buy that shiny "new" car, that's the easy route. But take the challenging and difficult route. On top of it all, hasn't Skoda earned your loyalty over these years?

    What about investing some of that capital? If Skoda can last as long as you suggest, then you will quickly be able to build up your savings.

    Lastly, I think this is a GREAT example of the classic "wants" vs. "needs" argument. You want the Outback, but do you really need the Outback when Skoda has been doing so well for you and the damage is cosmetic only.

    Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts. Best of luck in our decision!

    Bert

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    1. Skoda has definitely earned our loyalty, Dividend Diplomats. She's been nothing but good to us.

      And we're investing at a pretty good clip thanks to the recent home sale. We'll have all the funds in the market in the next 18 months or so: at our 'regular' savings rate, a car purchase of this amount would set us back about 3-4 months.

      And yeah, the wants vs. needs dichotomy really is playing out here. I'm personally much more open to giving in to wants so long as you're hitting your financial goals (the real needs). But this is a pretty expensive version of that side of the argument.

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    2. Also, good to meet you, Bert!

      -Brian

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  5. OK, first of all, I have to say that when I think of guys having car lust I tend to think Corvette or Jaguar, so the Subaru Outback lust is, well, a tad bit chuckle-worthy. ;)

    So back to your question. As a person who is still driving the 1990 Honda Civic that I got when I graduated from college (and it STILL has less than 90K miles on it) I'm not sure I'm really the best person to give advice in this department.

    That being said, I guess my observation would be that you've got a lot of life changes happening right now. You've just moved, Mrs. DBF is finishing up her PhD (or is she done now? I forget.) You're planning on starting a family, and presumably you'll be leaving the land of employment in the next few years. So, it seems likely that your priorities/requirements in terms of a vehicle or vehicles will be changing in ways that you might not be able to predict at the moment.

    So I guess I would say that the answer of whether to do the new car thing or not sorta depends on how long you envision owning it. If this is something you view as an investment purchase - a car you want to drive for the next 10 years or so, then you might want to hold off a bit and make sure that the Outback really is the car that will fill you needs. I mean what if you end up having triplets or something?

    On the other hand, if it's something that you just want, and want now, and don't really care if it might not work for you 2-3 years down the road, then I'd say it falls into the category of a treat or luxury item, which you obviously can afford - the only question is: is it worth it to postpone financial independence by xyz time period in order to have a new toy? And only you can answer that question.

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    1. Ha! I know the Outback is not a 'traditionally' sexy car but, man, there is just something about a car that has a big rear hatch.

      90k on a 1990 car is amazing. I thought we drove very little but you are setting the bar, Eco Cat Lady.

      I think this decision would set us back 3 or 4 months on the FI calendar. Nothing too detrimental but it's also pretty unnecessary.

      I like your idea of waiting until we actually have kids to see if this really is the car we'd want. Plus, it will give me time to see if this want is fleeting.

      My real problem is the repeated looking, for a car I'm not sure we even want to buy. It's like self-imposed longing. I need a way to stop looking.

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  6. I am a bit baffled by the question. You have a reliable car that suits your needs. You may or may not at some time in the future have use for a bigger car but there is no urgent need for one. The car you are looking to buy have worse fuel economy so you can not get back a high initial cost through lower running costs. You are not Fi and thus can not afford a new car yet. I can see no reason whatsoever why you would even contemplate this purchase. The answer is simple: become financially independent first, then buy any unnecessary status symbols you desire with cash that are earned after Fi is reached. And stop looking at cars on the internet.

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  7. Dear Done by Forty,

    My husband and I have both wanted to own volvo wagons since before we ever laid eyes on each other. For the past 17 years, each time we've needed a "new" car (we've purchased 5 used ones), we talk about getting a volvo wagon. And, each time, all the reasons why we love and want a volvo wagon haven't surpassed the things that we need in a vehicle. And so we wait for someday, a day that may never come. Oh well, wanting one keeps me out of trouble.

    P.S. I'm pretty sure there's a support group for people like us :)

    Besos Sarah.

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    1. Sarah,

      I love Volvos, too. Always have. There's just something about the old boxy style and, of course, the prudent decision to keep making wagons, that is so heartwarming. Of course, we can't seem to find many (any?) manuals any longer and the cost is a bit higher than we'd like. Still, very cool machines.

      Someday may never come for us, as well. I laid down the clear coat on the roof today and, while not even close to perfect, it hits the 'good enough' spot.

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  8. I was going to say what Karin said just less bluntly haha. I also give zero damns about sexy cars, though, so I don't really have the emotional point of reference on this one. We're all different. :)

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    1. Yeah, Karin is not fucking around! Still, it may be what I need to hear.

      I think my head is right where you're at, but my heart wants to treat myself to a new vehicle.

      All that said, I can always change my mind and buy one later. But once it's bought, it's bought. I really should wait until logic catches up.

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  9. One thing I've discovered, is that a brand new car, vs a "new to you" car, usually have the same amount of gratification in the end. If you learn to work on cars, it can also really open up the possibilities. I was able to pick this up for $2800:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/QUdYdKId5QLFxPby1
    with 115k miles on the clock. 2 days of tinkering and about $500 worth of parts and she drives like a brand new one. Dead quiet, solid, and comfortable at 80mph. Plus, being a wagon, tons of utility.

    If I couldn't work on it myself, it would end up costing too much to be viable. But I should be able to get her up to 200k without spending much on maintenance.

    Sure, I could get a Civic or Subaru to do the same, but I just love the solid feel and great engineering in German cars, particularly old Benz's.

    Now an 85 300d...that I'd drool on, and probably enjoy more than a new c-class.

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    1. I love the car-hack approach you're taking there, James. And it's a beautiful wagon.

      I may end up trying to do the same thing with a Subaru: just buying something that needs work, and doing it myself.

      Do you have some criteria for what you're looking for in a car? Do you go after salvage title vehicles and, if so, any deal breakers on the damage?

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