Earlier this week an article appeared on Yahoo featuring a man and his million mile pickup truck. You read that right; the truck actually rolled over one million miles in its seventeen year life. It struck me for a couple reasons. First, I drive a seventeen year old truck myself, but it has barely a tenth of “the old girl’s” mileage. Second, in this day of 36-month leases very few people buy and hold their cars long enough to drive them into the ground. This is good news for used car dealers, but bad news for consumers. So, if Mr. Oresnik has proven that it’s possible to drive your vehicle a million miles, why does everyone rush out and finance a new car every three or four years?
To impress people at a stop light. Seriously, think about the motivation for your last car purchase. Was safety your top priority? If you have kids it might have been. Chances are you were more impressed with the options package than the safety ratings. Were you concerned with the interest rate on the loan, or the early prepayment penalties? Probably not. Americans have had a love affair with their cars for many years. It is a concept that is perpetuated by auto manufacturers and dealers alike. Our vehicles have become an extension of ourselves, a reflection of our self-worth and an indication of our success. Some of us actually believe our cars make us better looking. I personally gave up on that idea a long time ago – I look just as ugly in a beautiful car as I do a beater!
I need a nice car for my job. Oh really? Says who? Real estate agents, contractors and other service professionals have fallen for this one. Let’s pretend I call two plumbers to come out to my home for a repair. One drives up in a brand new Hummer, the other a used pickup truck. Guess who is getting my business? You got it – give me the old pickup truck any day. Driving around in a flashy car might give your customers the idea you are successful, but it probably leaves them feeling like they are the ones paying for that ride by overpaying for your service.
I need a new car to save on gasoline. This is one of my personal favorites. I hear people all the time say, “I bought a new car because it had better gas mileage than my old gas guzzler.” Now, I can appreciate their concern for the environment. However, “green” concerns aside, there is no way you can justify financing a new automobile because of higher gas prices. How many thousands of miles a month would you have to drive to make up a $400 car payment in gasoline savings?
Bottom line, cars are simply a method of basic transportation…that’s all they are. They are assembled hunks of metal sitting on four tires designed for the purpose of transporting us safely from point A to point B. I doubt Henry Ford ever envisioned the kind of luxuries we see in today’s automobile – voice activated radio controls, heated leather seats, heads up displays, and backup cameras installed in bumpers. If families invested the $400 a month wasted on new cars into a good, growth stock mutual fund for 30 years they could easily retire millionaires. Hope you like the car!