Detroit’s blowin’ out the overtime these days ‘cause America’s back to buying cars. That’s great for Detroit and other locales and fine for the overall economy, but I swear I shake my head when the subject ever comes up.
Your friend Count Raoul actually went for four or five years of his adult life with no car. No car payment, no insurance or gas or repairs. I never felt so free. It was back when I lived in New York City and nobody had cars ‘cause even if you had one and had an overpriced garage to store it in, there was no place to park the damn thing when you got to where you were going. Then I move to the suburbs and started buying cars and this access to mobility started chipping away at my access to happiness.
First up comes the cost of the car. Please do not pay attention to the ads on TV
or in the paper. There are so many darned ways to skin the proverbial auto-cat that no four inch type in pulsating orange has ever told the truth. Yes, you
can lease a new Camry or Jetta or Malibu for $199 per month. But you have a piddlin’ amount of mileage allowed and the down payment demanded is the equivalent of fifteen additional month’s payment on a 36-month lease. What
other product can one buy (lease) that in the end costs 40% more per month than promised in the ad that got you in the door?
The purchased car has the same games being played. Your ten-year-old sedan you hope to trade-in has a value roughly equivalent to the value of the rear tires on the new car. So if you have no trade-in, the purchase price asked will be higher. Why else is the first question the salesman asks “will you be trading in a car to make this purchase?” They want to know the rules they are playing under and to keep the leverage on their side of the table.
But buying or leasing the car is not where you spend all your money, of course. Let’s try car insurance. A good policy with a real company can cost well over one hundred dollars per month, mostly depending on your age. And expensive cars driven by regular folks with bad driving records can have insurance premiums that are downright unaffordable.
Next time you hear a radio ad for low-cost car insurance, listen closely. They are promoting a product guaranteed to make you ‘legal.’ They never talk about their willingness to pay claims or their customer service. Don’t get rear-ended by a driver with low cost insurance, they might as well have none.
Maintenance on cars is my current bleeding sore. Cars break down as soon as the warranty expires. Hell, they break down before the warranty expires just to make sure you know how to get to the dealership for the post-warranty-gang-beating. The cost of a modern day timing belt is equivalent to a semester’s college tuition in my day. And every little ‘thingy’ is conveniently located under the ‘pulsating turbo manifold and the krypton redistributor core,’ meaning the labor to replace a 90 cent bulb is $900.
I can verify this.
Even the discount oil change results in something invisible being discovered (or broken) that requires $40,000 in additional repairs. That I cannot verify, but maybe. The Full Employment Act for Auto Mechanics came in the form of a Check Engine light created about fifteen years ago. Nervous drivers (read spouses) skip vacations and parent’s heart surgery to make certain their perfectly fine automobile is in a mechanics care within moments of this little bastard coming on. I’m not saying this light is always shining for no good reason. I’m saying the light is always shining when I’m already broke.
So, there’s your choice. Any car is gonna cost you about $500 - $1,000 per month. Cars that don’t break down cost a lot to purchase or lease. Less expensive used cars require repair costs and probably defense attorneys. All cars require insurance and fuel. Well, every car except the car you don’t have
when you live in New York; very civilized.