Up here in the frozen north, the land of salt and snow, it is hard to keep a vehicle on the road for more than 10 years before it becomes a bucket of useless rust and a fountain of endless repair bills!
I often hear about people selling or scrapping their vehicles because they become too expensive to maintain, so they upgrade to something newer and cut their losses. Doing this may sometimes be the best choice, but I think there is a way to lower repair bills and keep cars on the road longer. Yes, even in Canada!
Consider Buying New And Keeping Longer
It has long been the rhetoric of personal finance gurus that you should always buy used because new cars depreciate up to 20% instantly as soon as you drive it off the lot and standard depreciation is about 15 to 20% per year. As a car gets older, 15 to 20% of the then current value of the vehicle gets to be less and less, which is why it is oft-recommended that you should buy used to save money on depreciation.
However, I’ve noticed the rhetoric is starting to change as more and more personal finance pundits are starting to buy brand new vehicles over a used one. This topic could be debated until the sun stops shining and there probably still wouldn’t be a resolution, because both sides would have valid points. Personally, after thinking I would land on the “always buy used” side, I’ve actually ended up in the buy new camp.
Reasons To Buy New Over Used
- Knowing the vehicle’s history. The biggest reason for me buying new is I know exactly how the car has been driven and cared for. There’s a much lower chance of getting a lemon or a mistreated vehicle and, if you do get a lemon, at least you have the warranty to back you up. People who buy new vehicles every 4 years may not think about doing things to extend the life of their vehicle because they know they will unload it before problems arise - so buyer beware.
- New prices are falling. Prices of new vehicles have gone down so the spread between new and used isn’t as attractive as it used to be. It’s crazy that brand new vehicles can be purchased for less than $10,000 these days.
- Worry free driving. With a new car you get years of worry free driving where you usually have both warranty coverage and free roadside assistance should anything happen.
- Low interest rates. To attract buyers, car companies offer insanely low interest rates and offering to pay cash doesn’t usually sweeten the deal much, believe me I’ve tried. If you can’t pay for the car upfront, then you’ll definitely get a better interest rate buying new. Even if you have the money to pay it all (a good idea), it can make sense to enjoy your 0% interest loan and invest or earn high interest on your cash in the meantime.
- Keep it longer. If you buy new and take care of it, then you should be able to keep your vehicle for 10 to 15 years and by the end you are really starting to benefit from lower depreciation and cost savings, just like if you had purchased used, but you got to enjoy a significant amount of “new time” as well.
- Less hassle. By keeping a car longer, you don’t have to go through the hassle of making such a major purchase nearly as often. Less time researching, finding a buyer, fixing it up for sale, having to buy new winter tires because your old ones no longer fit, and so on. Not to mention actually selling a vehicle is a time consuming and often depressing process while you try to find a qualified buyer unless you choose to trade it in at a dealer and lose a bunch of money that way.
- Fewer fees and taxes. Granted, buying a new car comes with quite a few fees and a hefty tax bill, you’ll have to pay them less often. Every time you buy or sell something, you usually encounter taxes and fees. Sales tax, advertising fees, detailing costs, inspection - they all add up!
Keep Your New Car On The Road Longer, For Less
The secret to maximizing the value you get out of a brand new vehicle is to care for it properly along with finding ways to reduce your repair costs so you aren’t tempted into a premature sale or trip to the junkyard.
Here’s my strategy for doing exactly that:
1) Use Good Rust Proofing
In Canada, rust is public enemy number one to vehicle longevity!
There are still people out there that think rust proofing their vehicle is just a waste of money and more still that won’t bother to do it because their lease will expire in 4 years. They’ll be into something new before rust ever becomes a problem!
And who can blame them? Why pay to prevent someone else’s, a.k.a the future buyer’s, problem? Yet another good reason to wary of buying used.
Let me tell you both from personal experience and from the perspective of the Canadian Army, that has done major studies on rust proofing, it is absolutely worthwhile to spend the $120-$150 annually to get it done. When I was just a young pup, my father pointed out to me what good shape my grandmother’s old Ford was in because it had been Rust Checked every year. Not a single spot of rust on it and it was well over a decade old and never even stored in a garage.
Using good rust protection can prevent thousands of dollars in costly repairs and stop the metal body from wearing out long before the engine and other parts are ready to call it quits.
More On This: Which Rust Proofing Service Is Best?
2) Lower Your Car Repair Bills
Many people think that getting your car repaired has to be an expensive and unpleasant experience especially when faced with an unexpected repair that leaves them without a vehicle. Fortunately, there are options that with a little effort can save you thousands on car repairs. Here’s what you do:
- Find the right mechanic. You don’t actually need to pay $100 or more per hour for a good mechanic. You can pay much less and get more flexible service if you look around. Read more details here!
- Know how much car repairs should cost. You don’t need to feel like you are getting taken when getting a car repair. Get an estimate and then compare that estimate using online estimators that tell you what a fair price for that repair is. Read more details here!
- Buy your own parts for up to 90% off! Quality car parts can actually be found for much cheaper than you will find at a typical repair shop. They use expensive 3rd parties to acquire their parts and pass that premium along with some markup along to you. If you do a little research and buy what you need yourself, you’ll save a fortune. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. I’m not a car guy at all and I’ve done it many times. Read more details here!
- Bring your own oil. When you get an oil change you might be surprised that you can bring your own oil. If you run synthetic oil (you should), then an oil change can cost up to $100. However, if you buy and bring your own oil ($20 on sale), then the oil change will only cost you $20 to $30 plus what you paid for the oil. Read more details here!
3) Run Synthetic Oil In Your Vehicles
It’s well proven that synthetic oil provides much better protection against engine wear and future engine problems than conventional oil. If you’re planning to keep your vehicle for many years, then you definitely want to avoid engine repairs because they are certainly among the most costly. Using synthetic oil is excellent preventative maintenance and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.
More On This: The Benefits Of Running Synthetic Oil In Your Vehicles
4) Consider Avoiding Gas With Ethanol
I’ve made the tough decision to only run premium gas in my vehicles even though they do not require it for the sole purpose of avoiding Ethanol. In New Brunswick, they started including up to 10% ethanol in regular gas around here a few years causing me to research what that meant for the longevity of my cars. These are the reasons I now avoid it:
First. It turns out that many older cars have seals and parts that aren’t meant to handle the corrosive nature of alcohols like ethanol and will wear out much faster when running gas with ethanol. Newer vehicles supposedly have protection built in against it but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Second. Ethanol is known to collect and absorb water and eventually separate from the gasoline causing both ethanol and water to pool in your gas tank. This solution is not combustible and therefore is very bad for your engine because it won’t explode properly in the cylinders. True, this process does take time - a period of a few months, which isn’t likely to be an issue for a regularly driven vehicle. However, when talking about a $30,000+ vehicle, I’d rather not take that chance. I look at buying premium gas as cheap insurance.
Third. Ethanol doesn’t combust as well as regular gasoline in the first place, so buying gas that doesn’t have it will give you slightly better gas mileage. This may partially offset the extra cost of buying premium gas.
5) Utilize Your Warranty To The Fullest
When making a new car buying decision, consumers are very sensitive to the overall length of a car’s warranty, but after they drive their new car off the lot it is usually all but forgotten. Nobody wants to think about potential problems with their brand new baby after all and they will only contemplate it again if a big problem rears its ugly head.
Honestly, that could be a BIG mistake!
It can pay serious dividends to the longevity of your car and the cash in your bank account if you pay close attention to your warranty. Make sure that you pay close attention to any warning signs that could indicate potential problems with your car, especially when the warranty is about to expire. Finding and fixing these things that are barely noticeable now can save you costly repairs several years down the line when minor problems turn into major ones.
More On This: Getting The Most Out Of Your New Car Warranty
6) Get The Best Floor Mats You Can Find
I used to be guilty of buying generic winter floor mats at the cheapest possible price. The result: salt and grime building up around the edges of the floor over the winter from my slushy boots thanks to the ill-fitting mats.
Sure, they only cost me $20, but you better believe that salt, grime, and water was seeping through the carpeting onto the metal floorboards causing them to rust and corrode from the inside out. Rust proofing never has a chance to coat and protect that metal, so you’re out of luck in terms of protection there.
While some dealers will offer very expensive mats to protect your floors, I’ve found that laser cut mats, like those sold by WeatherTech, do the best job at a reasonably affordable price. These mats are custom molded and cut to fit your specific vehicle so that every inch of floor space, and even part of the side walls, is covered so nothing bad can seep through.
The initial investment of $100 or more can sting, but you’ll easily get that back in saved cleaning time/costs alone, not to mention the huge benefit of not having your floor rust out.
7) Use Quality Winter Tires
Winter tires make a HUGE difference in winter driving! I can’t emphasize that point enough - it really is true.
If you’ve been making do with all season tires during the winter thinking they are almost as good as winter tires: I challenge you to drive a vehicle that has a set installed during slippery weather after driving your own car first. I promise, you’ll feel the difference!
When I had my little Mazda 3, I was confident enough to drive through several feet of snow in the depths of winter almost never getting stuck. I’d see 4 wheel drive SUVs stuck on the side of the road, on a hill, or in a parking lot while I just powered through and kept going.
How does this make your car last longer? Well, it probably won’t make it wear out any slower, but it will prevent costly, potentially life-threatening accidents so you don’t total your vehicle. Just don’t become over-confident and start driving too fast in the winter time. That’s something I always have to remind myself every winter since I switched from all-seasons to winter tires
More On This: You Should Mount Your Winter Tires On Steel Rims
8) Invest In A Professional Cleaning Now And Then
Since you will be keeping your vehicle much longer than the average person, it makes sense to invest in a professional cleaning every so often. You may only get to experience that “new car smell” every 10-15 years, which is more often than those who always buy used, but you CAN get that brand new feeling again by getting your car detailed by a professional.
I get my vehicles detailed once a year in the spring just after the winter has finished taking its toll on them. It gets out all the dirt and grime and helps get them ready for an awesome summer! Although you probably aren’t going to see a return on the money you spend here down the road, it does help the vehicle hold up a little better over time and helps get rid of the “new car itch”, which is valuable in and of itself.
By taking care of your vehicle, you’ll also be able to command a higher price or at least a quicker sale when you finally do decide to sell it.
How Do You Make Your Car Last Longer?
I’m sure everyone has their own tricks for getting the most bang for their buck out of their daily driver. What do you do to lower your car expenses? Or, maybe like Sean Cooper who has a guest post coming up soon on HowToSaveMoney.ca, you shun cars and bike to work every day?