This is a good thing: my car had made an awful racket since we bought it, cheap, cash money, eighteen months ago, and then it became so much worse, plus developed a sickening fuel smell, but the resident handy fellow fixed it yesterday and now it purrs like a gerbil.
We’ve crunched numbers a hundred different ways and spent many years and dollars testing theories. Your conclusion may differ but ours is this: if you’re the do-it-yourself sort, or the do-without sort, and certainly if you’re both together, there is no reason under god’s blue skies to have a car payment ever ever.
I jokingly, lovingly refer to our cars as old jalopies and I mean it. We have two and both were manufactured before we were married and we’ve been married for a hundred years (or anyway, since before I could legally buy booze and you know I’m as old as the hills now, right?).
It comes down to this: I would rather “defer maintenance” on my vehicles and get by the best we can. Last week that best meant being car-less and having to cancel or bow out of any activity further than we could, or would, reach by foot. If we found ourselves with the disposable income equivalent to a car payment, I’d rather wait a few months and take my children to Disneyland again. No, really. (shush it, disneyland haters.)
Life is one trade-off after another, a steady stream of Choices which are disguised as life just happening. And there are no guarantees. The “newest” car I ever drove (shiny black saab wagon, I’m looking at you! and the shmuck we sold you to, sorry!) died on me in a dangerous place and, oops, sorry, the repair wasn’t covered by the warranty. It was fancy and smooth and totally betrayed me by crapping out. I expected too much. But now, I cross my fingers every time I need to go somewhere, and hope my car will start. And when it does, hooray! Smaug wins! (yes, we name all of our cars. Smaug is my red wagon and the golden behemoth, which has been in our family now for over 6 years, is Grendel). And if it doesn’t start? Well, it sucks. And we might be disappointed. But we aren’t paying extra for the privilege. If you know anything about what last year was like for us, and how we’re trying to recover, you know we aren’t going to be paying extra for anything anytime soon, anyway.
Also, best thing about driving older, paid-for cars: the tape decks.