Why I’m Keeping My Old Car

In the middle of this winter, on a sad day, I looked down at my odometer which was at roughly 95,000 miles. I vowed to myself I would be in a really interesting place when it turned 100,000. That event should be happening sometime in the next month.

I have the quintessential Maine car: a 2002 Subaru Forrester. It has taken me up mountains and through snow storms. It is an unassuming silver color, a great hider of dirt. And when you open the door, it smells slightly like a mixture of slightly stale coffee and my dog. It is not beautiful but certainly functional.

My Subaru, even when covered in snow, remains unconcerned about the weather.)€”Sarah Amend photo

I would like to say I am not particularly attached to this car. I bought it after the car I actually loved plowed into a moose about four years ago. I still haven’t forgotten what it’s like to plow into 700 pounds of massive animal going 60 miles per hour. My car was of course totalled.

I was moving the week after the accident though and if I wasn’t going to buy a car before I moved, it would take me awhile to get one after. The nearest car dealerships were over an hour from my new island home and as anyone who visits Maine knows, there is almost no mass transit here. In short, to be independent outside of Portlant, you need a car.

I’ve considered Cash for Clunkers (CARS as the acronym for the Car Allowance Refund Program). I’ve ultimately decided against it. Here’s a few reasons why:

I have a Subaru, and those things last a long time.
I bought this car precisely because I wouldn’t have to replace it for awhile.

I don’t have a car payment.
I put on average of $500-$600 into my car every year, but that is still less than $2400 or so a year if I had a monthly car payment of $200 a month.

My car is worth about what I’d get from the CARs program.
If I ever needed the cash, the Kelly Blue Book value of my car is around what I’d get for it if I sold it. If I sold it, I could use the cash to buy something other than a new car, which would be cheaper.

There are hidden extra costs of purchasing a new vehicle.
Higher registration fees and higher insurance rates, even if my theoretical new car was more on the inexpensive side (a Honda Fit running around $16,000), these extra costs aren’t justified to me.

My car is not a clunker… yet.
According to a study conducted by automotive consulting firm R.L. Polk & Co, the median age of cars on U.S. roads was 9.2 years in 2007, a new record, and a substantial 41.3% of call vehicles were 11 years or older compared to just 40.9% the year before.

For those of you who have benefited from the program, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Meanwhile, if you need for information:

Cars Allowance Rebate System Q and A (Government Site)…
Cars Allowance Rebate System Q and A (Non-Government Site)…