• Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

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4 Reasons I Will Drive My 13-Year-Old Car Until the Wheels Fall Off

A smiling woman sitting in the driver's seat of a car.

Image source: Getty Images

It’s not so pretty anymore, but it does the job.

Key points

  • Keeping a car for a long time means you get attached — and come to love saving money.
  • New car payments are extremely expensive, averaging $733 in July 2022.
  • If you don’t care how your car looks and it still runs just fine, you can get a lot more use out of it.

It’s funny how humans come to regard inanimate objects with genuine affection. This is true even for personal vehicles. I’ve been driving the same car since June 2009, and to say we’ve been through a lot together would be a massive understatement. This is the car I’ve driven coast to coast (from Maine to California, and many points in between) for various road trip vacations and moves. And I’ve even explored four Canadian provinces in it.

It was my first-ever new car (I had owned two used vehicles before it), and I bought it after my previous car was totaled in a wreck. I was new in my old career then, young and a year out of graduate school, and I needed reliable transportation.

Neither of us is really young anymore, and as I now work from home, most days my car sits outside my apartment, ready to go to the grocery store or on other errands. We still take road trips, and I hope to explore another Canadian province in 2023. It’s not so pretty to look at anymore, but it still runs well, and I still take the time to get it in for regular maintenance. Here’s why I keep my old car running, even though I could conceivably afford a newer one after the moves I made in 2022.

1. I love not having a car payment

Monthly car payments have gotten expensive. They reached an average of $733 for new cars in July 2022. When I paid my car off in 2014, I was elated. My 60-month period of car financing included 14 months during which I was unemployed and one full week’s worth of my benefits went to making a car payment. Despite being unemployed, I managed to keep making my car payments. I am proud of that, and happy to not have a car payment now. Many of the financial difficulties I’ve encountered since then would have been much worse with that extra bill to pay.

2. It’s inexpensive to run and insure

In yet more money-saving news, owning an older car can sometimes mean cheaper auto insurance. And while I don’t drive many miles these days, I appreciate the fact that my older car is cheap to run as well. It’s a sedan, and sips on gas during highway driving, which is great for my bank account.

3. I don’t care if it gets dinged

An older car often tells a story. Mine tells the story of the former spouse who dented a wheel rim and lost a hubcap, so I removed the remaining three. It also tells the story of the other former spouse who forced open the gas tank cover when it was frozen shut, breaking the hinge off entirely.

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It’s got scratches and little dings from road debris, a fire hydrant (don’t ask), and rocks kicked up from lawn mowing. But it’s the mechanical soundness of the car that matters, not its looks. If I was a person who was fussed over those things, I probably would be considering buying a new car. Thankfully for my bank account, I’m not.

4. It has fewer modern features that are prone to breaking

Finally, my 2009 car has fewer bells and whistles to malfunction or break, saving me money on repairs for these things (the car is more than 10 years out of warranty). There is no Bluetooth and no in-car GPS, and the car’s key must be inserted in the ignition and turned to operate the vehicle — no fancy electronic fob that sits in my purse while I drive.

Some things have broken in an annoying fashion. Two out of four window motors no longer function (which makes crossing the Canadian border more fun, as border guards ask you to put down your back window and you explain that you can’t). The trunk’s hinges are broken, which is another inconvenient problem and I generally avoid using the trunk except on road trip vacations. But neither of these problems impedes my use of the car — to me, at this point, they’re just quirks.

While I never planned to keep driving this car for as long as I have, I have always recognized and been grateful for one of the smartest financial decisions I’ve ever made: keeping an old car and reaping the benefits.

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