The single most expensive part of car ownership is…

38 thoughts on “The single most expensive part of car ownership is…”

  1. I have the same opinion on new cars. They depreciate so much that it turns something that should be an asset into a liability. My approach to this problem has been to drive REALLY old cars that might actually increase in value (but at least won’t decrease anymore). For example, I’ve been driving a 70s Beetle for a few years and not only is it fun to drive but the market value has actually gone up slightly. Of course it doesn’t have any modern features (no AC, and I live in Florida!) and it needs TLC more than a normal car, but I think it’s an attractive alternative to modern car ownership.

    I wrote about it in detail here, if you’re interested:

    1. Very cool, Bryan – gotta admit that I’d look twice if I saw a 70s Beetle rolling down the road. But regarding its lack of features, what you said on your blog is exactly right – the more features it has, the stuff that can break! 🙂

  2. Exception : used Subarus in Alaska. When we were looking for a car, we realized Subarus have an initial depreciation off the lot, but then they maintain the same price for nearly ten years up here! (We live in a crazy place)

      1. Yup, the location does have an impact on car values, no doubt about that. If Suburus tend to hold their value better in Alaska, those are probably better buys, then, brand new. 🙂

  3. When I eventually have to buy a car again it will be a used Toyota Camry or Honda Accord for $10k or less CASH. Made that mistake with the CTS before, but I guess at least I bought it used.

    Unless I strike it rich and get a new M6 🙂

    1. Ha! Good call, Fervent. I do admit that the M6s look pretty sweet. I’ve always been partial to the 7-series, too. I don’t think I’ll ever own a BMW, though. Now a Ferrari F-430? Yeah, maybe. 🙂

  4. Its normal for guy to want to get nice or high performance car, and then proceed to spend a ton of dough we dont have on a depreciated piece of machinery. I make similar mistake, marketing people did their job flawlessly. But the point is the move forward and not make the same mistake again. But we can also still be dreaming of those nice car, just dont take action on it. Unless we win the lottery.

    1. Appreciate your thoughts, Doan. Agreed, the most successful among us aren’t those who never make mistakes, but those who can learn from their mistakes and move on. And, we’re trying to do just that! 🙂

  5. 100% guilty of buying a new car. But I’ve owned it for 5 years, and it only has 24,000 miles on it. It’s like a forever home – I found my forever car! The depreciation factor stings, but I really do plan on driving it until the wheels fall off.

    1. Bingo! Looks like you’re doing it the right way, Penny. Granted that back in 2010 when I bought my brand new CTS, I had no idea that I’d be looking to retire in 6 years and sell the car, but then again, you never really know what your future is going to hold.

      That’s the fun of it all! 🙂

  6. We’ve never bought a new car, but generally that was because of our finances. Of course, I was raised to drive cars into the ground, so depreciation doesn’t bother me. It’s more about how durable a car is. We lucked out last year on a 2012 Civic with cosmetic damage and super low mileage (under 25k). I hope to drive it well over 100k.

    I think the more expensive cars have less resale value/worse depreciation because people spending that kind of cash generally want it customized to their specifications.

    We’ll check out used cars, but if we ever get to the point where we can get my husband his dream car (Challenger), I’m guessing we’ll buy new to make sure his dream car has everything he wants. But like I said, we’ll at least check around to see if we can avoid some of the worst deprecation. Not that I plan on letting him do anything other than drive it into the ground too.

    1. Good luck on the Challenger front, Abigail! I’ve been down the sports car road and the desire to modify the car to make it even faster will eat at him. A louder exhaust here. Spark plugs there. Cold air intake. Supercharger.

      If you do get a Challenger, be ready for it, cause it’ll come! 🙂

  7. Great post! I bought my first new car in 2013 and I think its the only car I’ve ever had a bit of regret about purchasing. It’s nice and all, but it’s only marginally nicer than my old used Mazda that I traded in. Probably the best thing about it is the reliability of driving something new. No maintenance problems is nice! Still, not sure if it is worth it, especially considering that many older cars last longer and longer today. I’m currently debating keeping this car for a long time, or downgrading to something a little simpler…

  8. I wish I thought about this 2 years ago when my wife and I both bought new cars 🙁 You probably read about my experience in a newer post of mine. We bought them with the intentions of driving them until the wheels fall off but now we’re thinking about moving somewhere where we won’t need cars so now we’re kind of in limbo. It stinks that they’re holding us back from moving sooner but it is what it is and it’s a mistake we’ll never make again. You live and you learn 🙂

    1. Hey Marc – yup, I saw that post and it reminded me of, well, ME! Like you said, we live and learn. Mistakes of the past will stay…of the past! 🙂

  9. Great example, when I traded in the Camaro for a more family friendly/better commuting option, we ended up with a Hyundai Genesis. It was less than a year old, but had 7k miles on it from a corporate ownership. The price difference between that one and a zero mile one on the same lot was almost $12k. Ridiculous! Great deal for us as we got a great trade-in value and a huge price break. Otherwise, we would’ve kept looking.
    Like others mentioned, when I got the Camaro, we had no idea we would be starting a family within 2 years, but it still worked great for 3 years with kids.

    1. Awesome, Mr. SSC – looks like you bought the best car possible for depreciation and saved over a third of the original purchase price. Finding a one-year old vehicle can be tough enough, but a Genesis, no less. Good find. 🙂

  10. This brings two thoughts to mind.

    1 – I need to apply my cost of use calculation to see how much my car will cost me per year over a 10 year period (which is how long I plan to hang onto my current car…5 years in so far)

    2 – I don’t think I will buy another NEW car again either. But I will consider buying a used Tesla 🙂 But again that is still another 5 years away before it is even on the table.


    1. Hey Dominic – yeah, figuring out exactly what our cars are costing us is a very worthwhile number to understand. I’m sure for most of us, that cost is probably a bit higher than we expect.

  11. When we moved to the mountains, we knew we needed a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle, and landed on the Subaru Outback as our car of choice — also known as the official vehicle of mountain towns. Because the Outback is such an in-demand car, we literally could not find a used one worth the price of taking on the miles already on it. For what we could get a new one for (negotiated to way below invoice, of course), we would have had to buy a three-year-old, 60K miles used one, and that was a nonstarter for us. So we bought new. And we plan to keep it as long as it will run. We know we didn’t follow the conventional wisdom on this one, but there is definitely a difference between certain models of car, and a difference by region. In our region, buying a Subaru new made sense, AND we know we’d always be able to do pretty well selling it because they’re in demand — not that we plan to sell! Our Subi will continue to be our skiing and camping vehicle for a good, long time, and we even plan for it to haul our eventual R-Pod. 🙂

    How’s that for a long way of saying: We completely agree with you, except in those rare instances when a model’s resale value makes its depreciation minimal, and makes buying new a better deal!

  12. When I first realized how much cars can depreciate just by driving them off the lot after purchase, I was amazed! I decided that I’d never buy a car brand new because of that. I have had some good success in buying cars that are just a few years old, especially when I find them for a good deal. I appreciate the list of cars that depreciate the fastest, especially because I might be able to afford one of them if it’s a few years old!

    1. It truly is pretty darn amazing, isn’t it? I might use the word incredible, too. And yup, buying one of those fast-depreciating cars a couple years after they were new is definitely a huge cost-saving measure.

  13. Hi, STEVE! Although there are 10 cars that depreciate like a stock market crash, Thanks to your post, now I know how to take advantage of automotive depreciation.

    1. Yup, some Toyotas and Hondas hold their value pretty well. But I definitely agree, a 3-year old vehicle strikes a good balance between reliability and already-realized depreciation. I’d say that’s a darn good policy to follow.

  14. Factor in the cost of parking, and you’d get a radically different answer.

    This is a silly headline. How’re you supposed to live in WY without a car? But distances are vast, and housing and land costs reflect that. In DC or NYC or San Francisco, by contrast, choosing not to own a car (especially for people without children) is a real option.

  15. I like how you point out that you can use depreciation to your advantage. In my eyes, I am not sure of the reason to buy a new car when you can find ones that aren’t that old! Thanks for sharing this information!

    1. Thanks McKenzie – yup, take advantage of someone else who paid for depreciation. There are a ton of gently used cars out there that people unload. It’s ridiculous, actually! 🙂

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