Why Buying a New Car Is Stupid

Updated on January 18, 2019
Anthony T Smith profile image

This author is proud to say he has never bought a new car (and never will!).

Once upon a time, WAY back in the days of my youth, my dad asked me if I’d like to go on a short trip to the local convenience store. I of course said yes, as these trips usually ended with my dad telling me to pick any candy bar I wanted (as long as it was a Payday bar and I split it with him). I climbed into the vast acreage that was the back seat of our trusty 1972 Chevrolet Impala that my mother had endearingly named “Fred the Red Sled” for its ability to plow through the harsh Ohio snow.

On this particular trip, my dad told me I could ride up front, although digging the seatbelt out of the crease between the seat and the backrest wasn’t even a consideration. In those days, as children, we just flopped around inside of cars. Child restraints weren’t introduced in my family until a few years later, after I cracked the glove box in my parent’s Buick Estate Wagon, because “We can’t afford to keep fixing the dash!” However, as was proven by the birth of my younger brother “The Prince” they COULD keep replacing their children.

So, off we went to the store. As we pulled out of the driveway, my dad nudged me with his elbow and said “We’re about to hit 100,000! Do you want to watch the odometer turn over?” As far as I was concerned, at that time, he might as well have been speaking Mandarin, as I had no idea what it was that he had just said. But, he was clearly excited by this odometer thingy, and I was simply relieved that his sentence made no mention of birds or bees, so I said “Sure!” He then pointed to a row of numbers on the speedometer. There were 4 nines and a six. “Only four miles to go!” he said proudly. He turned down a long, straight road and we stared, riveted at the odometer. I was SO excited! What was going to happen? Prizes? Money? Would the local news do a story about us?

To my utter disappointment, literally nothing happened. There was no prize, no explosions, no key to the city, no fanfare of any kind. Just a row of stupid zeros. “Woooow.” I said, apparently too sarcastically for my father’s liking. “Hey! That’s a major accomplishment! It takes a lot of care to keep a car going for 100,000 miles… That’s just over four times around the Earth, at the equator!” (He was right, I checked). I could tell my lack of enthusiasm was disappointing him, so I turned it on. I’m absolutely positive I would have been nominated for no less than 2 academy awards had anyone thought to roll film. “Oh! I didn’t know what those numbers meant!” I said in my best Jack Nicholson voice. He smiled and we continued our journey to the convenience store and—for the first time in recorded history—bought 2 Payday bars.


In those days, 100,000 miles WAS a big deal. The nearer a car got to that milestone, the nearer it was to its demise. It was almost a sort of “life expectancy” for cars of that era.

That was a simpler time. A time when a family of four could live in a typical engine bay. A time when every part of a car was mechanical and adjusted by humans. Engine timing? Clip on the timing light and rotate the distributor until the hash mark is near a specific number on the scale on the flywheel, or until the engine “sounds” good. Air to fuel mixture? Easy! Turn the two screws on the carburetor in or out, until the engine stops sputtering. That was about the extent of it! Change the oil every 3,000 miles and throw in a new set of plugs and wires every now and then and keep your fingers crossed. Compared to today’s highly computerized cars, it’s a wonder any pre-1990s cars ever hit the 100,000 milestone.

Cars Are Different Now

As technology has advanced, few things have benefitted as much as the automobile. Today, there are dozens of sensors monitoring every function of the vehicle, making minute adjustments as needed, to keep the car running at optimum performance. Ignition timing is kept perfect to within 1/1000th of a degree. Air to fuel ratio is strictly monitored and properly adjusted by several sensors in the complicated emissions system. All of the engines delicate clearances and tolerances are kept at optimal levels by an onboard computer. These things, in concert with the far superior motor oils of today, have significantly reduced the amount of wear on the engine and improved the life expectancy of cars. Today, it is common to see cars with 200,000 even 300,000 on the now 6 digit odometers. Once upon a time, buying a used car with 75,000 - 85,000 miles, meant you could expect at least a few headaches and might get a few years out of its tired engine. Today, a car with 75,000 miles is still in its adolescence.

Which brings me to my explanation of the title to this article. New car prices have increased dramatically over the last 20 years, due in part to the increased longevity. 20- or 30-year-old cars are commonplace on the road. Plus, all of these computers, sensors, cameras and doo-dads are expensive to produce. What does all of this mean for us frugal folk? It means that we can buy a car that is a few years old for sometimes less than half of what it sold for when it was new.

We still benefit from the fancy-schmancy computerized gizmos and with proper routine, preventative maintenance, we can still expect to receive several years of trouble-free service, far exceeding what a new car buyer in the 70s could expect. And, if you’re handy with a wrench, you could conceivably own a car for almost nothing.

In 2015 I bought myself a 1996 GMC Sonoma pick-up truck with 187,000 miles on the odometer for the whopping price of $400 to use as a second vehicle and a weekend shrub hauler, bike carrier, all around workhorse. I wanted something that I wouldn’t care if it got scratched or beat up. I spent another $100 on a new battery, some wiper blades and a sweet set of floor mats. I put another 18,000 miles on it and I spent about $150 on random maintenance, a water pump, brake pads and a set of U-joints.

I sold it for $750 two years later to a guy who is still using it for his landscaping business. I remember my boss remarking how I was going to regret buying that “piece of junk” and that it was only going to “nickel and dime” me. He had just spent $48,000 on a brand new Chevy Silverado with a monthly payment around $600. I’m certainly not comparing my truck to his, but I could afford to replace my truck every month for what he was paying and I’d still have money left over to buy all the Payday bars my dad could eat. Who was really getting “nickel and dimed” here?

Am I suggesting everyone should run out and buy a $400 car? Of course not, although there are some good ones to be had! The point of this rambling is to shine a light on the sad fact that a new car’s resale value plummets the moment it is driven off of the lot. Let someone else make that initial, inflated payment for the first few years. Then you can swoop in and get yourself a great car with countless trips around the equator left on it.

© 2018 Anthony T Smith


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Your 100% on point Anthony!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, axleaddict.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)