Lessons Learned from My Car Ownership Thus Far

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The following is from Crystal Stemberger at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. She's been blogging for more than 5 years and is now a professional pet sitter by day and a personal finance super geek by night.

I'm 32 years old and have been the primary driver for 4 cars over the last 13 years. Here are the lessons I picked up over those years.

The 1998 Mazda Protégé

My first car was a 1998 Mazda Protégé that was repossessed and bought from the bank. It leaked a quart of oil every week or two, sometimes just turned off at stop signs and traffic lights even though it was an automatic, and it didn't have a working air conditioner (in Houston, TX…that stinks).

My parents bought it for me in 2001 for less than $2000 and I put $1500 into new engine parts. The car insurance premium in it stunk because I was young, the car had bad ratings, and I didn't shop around. I should have looked at places like cheapcarinsurance.net, Geico, or Progressive to help find a way more affordable price. I ended up selling it 2 years later in 2003 for $1400 since it just wasn't worth keeping. It had stopped passing inspections.

First Lesson Learned – Just because it's inexpensive doesn't mean it is a good deal.

The 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier

My second car was my parent's brand new, standard transmission 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. They bought it for less than $9000 in cash. I used it for the last two years of college. It drove like a dream and didn't have any issues. It ended up being in the family for 11 years before being totaled by a crappy Austin, TX driver that hit my little sister.

Second Lesson Learned – I prefer to buy new and stay on top of basic maintenance since it means way less trips to the mechanic. For me, it ends up costing about the same or less per year over buying used IF you keep it for as long as possible.

The 2005 Chevrolet Aveo

The first car I really bought was right after college. It was a brand new, 2005 Chevy Aveo. I bought it for $11,800 through 5 year financing but I paid it off in 2 years. It had a ton of little problems since it was cheaply made. It was definitely not as great as the Cavalier. I drove it less than 65,000 miles in 9 years, and sold it in 2014 for $3800. It lasted only because I barely drove anywhere. I vowed never to give Chevy my money again.

Third Lesson Learned – Even buying new does not guarantee a perfect experience. Quality matters…I seemed to have forgotten my first lesson…

The 2013 Honda Fit

In early 2014, I sold my Aveo and bought a brand new 2013 Honda Fit. It was $16,300 drive out with 0.9% financing for 5 years. So, it'll cost a grand total of $16,600 over 5 years plus its basic maintenance. In the last year, I've already driven 17,000 miles. And all I've need to do it replace two tires (I ran into a curb and the dealer tires stunk) and I've gotten two oil changes. Overall, it's still new so it's still driving awesome as expected.

No lesson learned yet, but I'm hoping to show that buying quality is worth it overall. Fingers crossed!

How many cars have you owned? What have you learned over the years?

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