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Practical / dependable transportation $25k or a car you’d love to drive for $45K ?
Old 06-30-2019, 11:42 AM   #1
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Practical / dependable transportation $25k or a car you’d love to drive for $45K ?

Spent some time reading older threads on this site. One of the threads that was interesting was from a couple years ago asking about everyone’s favorite car they had owned. That thread got me thinking since I’m going to be in the market for a new vehicle pretty soon.

I’ve generally bought new basic vehicles and kept them until repairs become frequent and / or not making financial sense given the age of the vehicle. Used cars have never worked for me (always buying someone else’s problem) and I keep vehicles long enough that the depreciation isn’t a significant issue. My current vehicle, a plain white two wheel drive 2003 Chevy pickup (work truck model) with very few options has 215K miles and is starting to become unreliable.

I’m considering buying something nicer this time - a vehicle that would probably be classified as my “favorite vehicle ever”. I can buy a practical and reliable vehicle that will cost about $25k or one that has always been my dream car for about $45k.

I can afford the more expensive car but my personal frugality is struggling with the choice. Determining value is a pretty personal thing, but I’m curious what standard others here might use to determine the value / happiness / cost ratio? Do you find it easier to write the check for a car you love or a smaller check for basic transportation that you can live with?
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:16 PM   #2
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You’re right, it’s a personal decision about happiness for the $$ spent. My experience is that new car happiness fades quickly but having $$ in the bank never gets old. I would only part with $45k for a car if I had accomplished all of my financial goals and was ready to “blow some dough” (see related post); otherwise, I’d opt for a less expensive car. I’d feel too much buyer’s remorse.

FWIW, I buy used cars exclusively and I can tell you from experience that if you’re careful, instead of “buying someone else’s problem” you are actually “buying someone else’s depreciated asset” and can find very fine, very reliable, gently used cars all day long. Americans have a habit of trading out of cars too frequently, which is great for bargain hunters—in fact, I consider hunting for cream puffs more exciting than actually buying them. The point is—you might make a game of finding your dream car for a great price by looking for gently used and low miles. I would find that more satisfying than paying full price for a new car.

But if spending $45k on the new car of your dreams will make you happy, and doing so does not materially affect your finances, then go for it!
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:21 PM   #3
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False choice IMO. For example I have driven and raced many, many cars over the years. For a street car though, I see little reason to spend the dough for a Porsche or Beemer. My last street car was a Mazda RX-8 and my current ride is a Soob WRX. Both were bought as new, last year, models at significant savings over new price. My point is that there are mid-range cars that are definitely not "basic transportation" but do not cost $45K.

High performance street cars' value IMO is primarily ego. You really can't use whatever performance they might have anyway. Both the WRX and the Soob are fun to drive and have entirely adequate horsepower. Neither really turns heads however. They work for me.

Wild card: 2018/2019 Kia Stinger. This is a quite interesting GT car that, as I expected, is a marketing flop for them. Who goes to a Kia store for a GT car? (Reminds me of the Merkur Scorpio debacle of 30 years ago.) So the punch line is that IMO they are going to be very cheap to buy these days. DW and I drove one, thinking we might buy it for her. Lots of good things about it, but the poor rearward visibility was a show-stopper for us. YMMV.
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:32 PM   #4
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I am in the camp where experiences are a higher value than things. I find that the novelty/fun of an indulgent purchase is fleeting. But that's me, I suppose. In full disclosure, I'm a little silly with travel spending.

I just bought our 3rd Santa Fe last week. Still own an 07 and a 14. OTD for a mid-range trim (SEL +) was just north of 25K. Well equipped for the money. Considered (briefly) the Geneses right beside it ($45K+), but stayed in my lane.

Santa Fe's are built like tanks. Only out-of-pocket repair so far was the fuel sending unit on the 07 a couple years age. On the very few warranted issues, I've never gotten any nonsense. YMMV....
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:45 PM   #5
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Normally we get a new car for DW, last was Subaru Legacy in 07, and just hit 65K miles. Only problem was the low profile tires caused a lot of damage when curb was hit. Then for me has been used Ford Rangers. Got a new one in 91 base model for $9K and have 2 used ones since then. Only replaced when repairs got expensive.
Currently driving a 2001 model. Gives us a reliable vehicle and one to use day to day. I judge by how much it costs for years of use. Just one opinion. Works for us.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:05 PM   #6
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Hard to beat a new Camry or Accord for around $23K in their lowest trim levels. I jumped for the 2018 Hybrid Camry, and am now getting 49.5 mpg after I put new tires on it.

For a truck, the new Ranger is hard to beat--especially since they all have a turbocharged 270 hp stock and a 10 speed automatic as an option.

SUVs are another favorite of mine. There's not really a dog in the whole retail market. And it's a very competitive field.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:13 PM   #7
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Experience over things, yes, but it sounds like the OP has enough to do both, not pick one or the other. If that's the case, it really does come down to your choice. Will you appreciate the comfort and performance of a nice car? Perhaps even the additional safety features? Or do you get distracted by those things more than they help, and simply not view a car as anything other than going from point A to point B? Either is legitimate. Some would really just rather have a car they don't worry about getting dinged in the mall parking lot or left out in the weather, and might even prefer a car that hides their wealth. Others like the driving experience and the status.

Figure out what you are, and do it. If money really isn't an issue, don't make it a money issue. Decide which car you'd like to have.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:23 PM   #8
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When I was in accumulation mode before ER, I'd go with $25k car for sure. Today, I'd happily depart with a part of "would be inheritance to DS" to go with $45k car I'd love to drive. I saved so that I can make an easy decision like this one.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:24 PM   #9
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I like my car. It's not $45k but it's not basic either.

I think part of the equation has to be how much time you'll spend in it. When working with a commute, especially a long one, the comforts and pleasure of a nicer vehicle are easy to appreciate.

We're no longer working, but do take a few road trips, and I'm out and about most days. I like my leather, my moon/sunroof, satellite radio, remote entry, etc.. I like that it has good pick up, feels comfy, has heated seats when I want them.

In your shoes I'd go $45k if it's truly always been your dream, and makes no real difference to your plans or bottom line. We've all got our numbers of what we are willing to spend or not.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:41 PM   #10
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Still into cars, so my choice would be the more expensive car given what you have shared.
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Old 06-30-2019, 01:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
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... I’m considering buying something nicer this time - a vehicle that would probably be classified as my “favorite vehicle ever”. I can buy a practical and reliable vehicle that will cost about $25k or one that has always been my dream car for about $45k...
I think you should get the $45K car. The happiness that you can buy with the extra $20K is cheap enough.

I myself do not care about cars, but I realize that it is just me.
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Old 06-30-2019, 02:04 PM   #12
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The newer models that cost more have some great safety features.
This is what I will concentrate on for my next vehicle.
Auto collision monitors, back up and side cameras with proximity alerts, electronic stabilization, and stuff I don’t even know about.
Getting older now so every bit helps.
Night time light reducing windshields would be nice.
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Old 06-30-2019, 02:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snidely Whiplash View Post
Determining value is a pretty personal thing, but I’m curious what standard others here might use to determine the value / happiness / cost ratio? Do you find it easier to write the check for a car you love or a smaller check for basic transportation that you can live with?
That's a super easy question for me. Pricing is my last consideration in buying a new car. My criteria today for a vehicle is in this order, (1) ultra high performance - there's no such thing as to much "factory" power (2) reliability (3) comfortable and roomy (4) latest gadgets (5) cost. The last vehicle I bought was a new Jeep for ~100k. Meets all my requirements (well my wants anyway).
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Old 06-30-2019, 02:36 PM   #14
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... there's no such thing as to much "factory" power ....
Just for the fun of it, I'll debate that. I have owned a number of street cars with too much power. First was a Shelby 289 Cobra roadster. Another was a Shelby Mustang GT500KR convert that I bought and flipped to make a few $K. Really, my old Porsche 911 also had more power than necessary. A Jensen Interceptor, also flipped, was ridiculous on many levels including for its Chrysler 440 engine.

The problem is you can't use the power on the street except for silly stoplight drag races and a few illicit bursts of speed on an open highway. Boring.

My power criterion for a street car is this: I want to see acceleration from 55 to 85mph in about 3 seconds. This amount of power gives me 2-3 seconds of passing exposure on two-lane roads, which we routinely drive on the way to our lake home.

My Soob WRX actually has more power than necessary. Kind of fun once in a while I guess, but I would be happier with fewer ponies and a more predictable and linear throttle response. Six is too many gears, too, but that meets a marketing department requirement and is not anything that the engine needs.
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Old 06-30-2019, 02:48 PM   #15
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I'm fine with a little splurge on a vehicle that you will enjoy in addition to getting you from point A to point B. My attitude is... why not?

That said, our two vehicles were both new and were $32k (2016 Subaru Outback Limited) and $36k (2016 GMC Canyon AWD 4-dr pickup) out the door. In both cases we ordered them, which prior to that we had not done for many years. We found the vehicles on dealer lots included higher trim levels and options that we didn't think were worth the cost.
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Old 06-30-2019, 03:19 PM   #16
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I still take frequent long road trips so find splurging a little for a ride with some extra comforts is worth it, if all I was doing was short drives around town I probably wouldn't bother.
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Old 06-30-2019, 03:50 PM   #17
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For a truck, the new Ranger is hard to beat--especially since they all have a turbocharged 270 hp stock and a 10 speed automatic as an option.
Gotta love my rangers, but a new one for $35-$40K ?? But then I heard a quick news item about new Chevy pickup that can run to $100K so maybe I’m stuck remembering those prices from few years ago.
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Old 06-30-2019, 03:51 PM   #18
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So many great thoughts and suggestions. Thank you for giving me some additional viewpoints.

My dream vehicle is kinda boring compared to some of the great cars of others here. And I used the term “car” too generically, I should have used truck or vehicle. I’ve primarily driven base model pickups but am considering upgrading to the base Chevy Suburban. It would certainly be a more comfortable ride for my wife and I (main concern) but the frugality that got me here is pretty tough for me to get away from now. Years ago we had a Chevy Avalanche (my wife’s vehicle) , it was my favorite vehicle ever because of the utility and comfortable ride, but an accident totaled it after a few years and we had to replace it with something else. We are down to one vehicle now and they no longer make the Avalanche so it’s not an option. I’m thinking the Suburban might be a comparable vehicle.

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That said, our two vehicles were both new ...... In both cases we ordered them, which prior to that we had not done for many years.


How did you handle this? I’d love to order exactly what I want but I’m not sure how to handle incentives / make a deal a couple of months before delivery.
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Practical / dependable transportation $25k or a car you’d love to drive for $45K ?
Old 06-30-2019, 03:52 PM   #19
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Practical / dependable transportation $25k or a car you’d love to drive for $45K ?

Do what makes you happy! Figure out what’s important to you in a car and then find cars that meet the criteria. For me it’s an SUV with AWD (NH winters), heated seats and satellite radio. Balance that with your priorities - for me that’s travel. $20k more for a car buys travel so the new car choice for me is easy - lower cost one.
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Old 06-30-2019, 04:22 PM   #20
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I am in the camp where experiences are a higher value than things. I find that the novelty/fun of an indulgent purchase is fleeting. But that's me, I suppose. In full disclosure, I'm a little silly with travel spending.

I just bought our 3rd Santa Fe last week. Still own an 07 and a 14. OTD for a mid-range trim (SEL +) was just north of 25K. Well equipped for the money. Considered (briefly) the Geneses right beside it ($45K+), but stayed in my lane.

Santa Fe's are built like tanks. Only out-of-pocket repair so far was the fuel sending unit on the 07 a couple years age. On the very few warranted issues, I've never gotten any nonsense. YMMV....

I am also in the camp of experiences are a higher value than things... Although I admit to buying 3 Genesis.... But I am not in the accumulation phase any more. So the Genesis is my choice.... They are a great car and better than my previous 3 Lexus...... So in the end, get what you want, as the price is soon forgotten.
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