A new car: this wasn't part of the plan

I have always had the policy of taking a car and running it into the ground. It has served me well over the years, getting me through high school, college, and those first few years after graduation when every college graduate is poor. For the past 7 months, I had been driving a 1993 Saab 900S Convertible that my grandparents gave to me after my wife’s 1998 Dodge Neon became too expensive to repair. She took my 2002 Subaru Forester. The plan had always been that when the Subaru was paid off, we would try to save up as much as possible for a certified used car or a new car.

Well, it didn’t go to plan. The Saab was a fantastic car to drive, but as all 17-year-old cars, its original parts were slowly breaking one at a time. It felt like every month I was sinking in $200-300 in repairs into that thing. If I am going to do that, why not just get a new or newer car? It had even gotten to the point where we were not taking that car wherever we went. When you can’t drive a convertible in the summer, afraid it will break down, you know something isn’t right.

With our Subaru going to be paid off in October, our search began. Looking around hard for some deals, we weren’t very impressed with the quality of the used cars on the market. It seems like with the economy, everyone was looking for good deals on used cars, not new cars. I was not impressed with the used cars around us.

I began to look into new cars, just to leave no stone unturned. What I found startled me. My wife and I went to the dealer Friday night after work and after 4 hours, walked out with a new 2009 Hyundai Elantra SE.

Our 2009 Hyundai Elantra SE is an automatic, has ABS brakes, Electronic Stability and Traction Control, Bluetooth adapter, iPod interface, 5 year / 60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and 10 years / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty for $16,500. Not to mention it can get upwards of 35-38 mpg on the highway. A compatible American car would run near $20,000 with a warranty that doesn’t come close. Even a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla would come in around $20,000 with similar features.

Why a new car? A few reasons:

  • The difference between comparable used cars in price wasn’t enough to outweigh the added benefits of a new car (warranty, safety features, mileage, piece of mind). Our payments will go up about $100 a month compared to our Subaru Forester.
  • Given our low mileage commutes (mine is 3 miles one way, my wife’s is 6 miles one way), we can use the Elantra for all of our trips and still not rack up much mileage on it. Probably less than 8,000 miles a year total. Yet we would save a lot of money in gas (28mpg combined, but I was getting 36mpg on the highway yesterday!) compared to the Forester (21mpg combined) and our oldĀ  Saab (18mpg combined).
  • The killer Hyundai warranty was a huge selling point. Especially since the Subaru Forester is getting up there in miles and years, we did not have to worry about paying for repairs on two used cars. I can be running this 9 years from now, the transmission dies, and still get it replaced under warranty at no cost. And given our low mileage commutes, we would almost certainly fall under the year limits of the warranty, not the mileage limits.
  • The Subaru Forester is being paid off by October. With payments on the Hyundai Elantra starting in September, we will have one or two months worth of double payments. Plenty room in our budget to work with that.
  • I can’t talk to the insurance agent until Monday, but doing comparisons online with other insurance companies online suggest my insurance will actually go down with the new car compared to the Saab. I am guessing 17-years of safety and reliability improvements really outweigh the cost of a insuring a new car.

Anyways, we are loving the new car and think it was the right choice for our situation.