We Only Drive Fancy Cars

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Luxury 4x4
Luxury 4×4

It’s that time of month again where I talk about cars! If you don’t know where I stand on these wonderful machines, you can read about them here and here. I love to find a great deal on a car, and am an advocate for using MATH to determine what you can afford and what is a waste of money. Today I want to let you in on a little secret that has allowed us to enjoy luxury without breaking the bank. I’ll show you how awesome it is to buy cars like we do, and allow you to enjoy luxury as well.

We Only Drive Fancy Cars

It’s true. Ever since we got married, Michelle and I have been blessed to be able to enjoy the luxuries in our automotive ventures. We have driven vehicles with all the fancy amenities one could ask for. We have all the luxury options, including power everything, leather seats, full sunroof, and premium speaker packages, along with more powerful and enjoyable motors. We’ve gone through 3 vehicles so far, and I couldn’t ask for more. Oh…and we haven’t paid more than $2,800 for any of our fancy cars.

A History Of Vehicles

But let’s rewind, because there was a time when I didn’t understand the value of purchasing a used vehicle, and I didn’t get the best of the best, and wasted thousands on ridiculous cars that weren’t even the premium model. So let’s go through my history of vehicles to see what was going on, and see how our purchases got smarter as we financially matured.

Jake’s Cars

  1. 1981 Mustang P.O.S. This was my very first car. I saved up $1,600 from my first job, and had it stashed away in a HUGE pile of cash in my closet (I felt like a total baller!). My mom had a friend whose son was selling a car, and I decided to buy it. It looked kinda cool, but man it was a HUGE piece of junk. It started breaking down within 6 months of buy it, got horrible gas mileage, and was SUPER SLOW. I ended up selling it to a friend (though I told him it was junk), and the motor blew up about 6 months after. DOH! It had manual windows, crappy transmission, was super slow, heater barely worked, and was overall crap. Waste of $1,600.
  2. 1999 Chevy S-10 Extreme. This was my ultra-baller car that helped me pick up my wife (w00t!). I was on a $100,000 spending spree, and dropped $9,500 on this piece of machinery. Well, it was only $8,500, but with taxes and other dealer “fees”, it ended up being $1,000 more…somehow. It also had manual windows, was super slow and didn’t get great gas mileage either. I did pimp it out with subs, a TV, and underglow, but that was also another waste of $4,500! Tons of wasted cash, and ended up selling it all for $7,000 to pay rent once I ran out of cash.
  3. 1985 Toyota Celica GT-S. I ran out of cash, so I needed a cheap car to get me from A to B. I dropped $1,200 on this old car, but it had a few amenities that I had never experienced. Power windows, locks and mirrors, and a little bit of power gave me a taste of luxury that was fun. What was even more fun was how little I had to spend to achieve it. It wasn’t the BEST car out there, but had what I needed to get around and enjoy myself a little bit.
  4. 1994 Honda Civic. Bought this car for $2,000 to replace the Celica, and it did the job well. It also got 37 MPG highway. BOOYAH! It had power everything and took care of us for 7 years! It drive very nice, but it was that car that made me realize we could go even fancier.

Start Of The Fancy Cars

  1. 1987 Toyota Supra Turbo. I still had my Civic, but wanted to have a bit of fun as well. I had done some research, and picked up this beauty with a turbo for ONLY $1,200. Power everything, adjustable suspension, and almost 250 HP! This car was an absolute blast to drive, and was my first real sports car. I enjoyed it for a while, then ended up selling it because the power steering went out. Guess how much I sold it for? $3,000!!!
  2. 1994 Honda Accord. Michelle was riding her bike to school, but almost got hit by a car a few times, and was riding in the snow. We decided to get a car for her, and found this awesome thing at a wholesale lot. It has all the fancy fixin’s you’d find in any luxury car. Power everything (even the seat), fully retractable sunroof, leather seats, A/C, V-TEC engine with 150HP! And it still got 30 MPG. It had a premium sound system with 6×9’s in the back, and a smooth clutch and transmission. Oh….and we picked it up for $1,600. Baller.
  3. 1995 Toyota 4runner. With an awesome kid and one on the way, we started thinking about getting a minivan. Yes, I had given in a realized we’d probably just need a kid-mobile. But Michelle mentioned being possibly slightly kind-of interested in a 4runner, and 4 days later I bought one. I guess I REALLY didn’t want that van, LoL! We were able to get a luxury model, which included pristine leather seats, HUGE sunroof, power everything, front and rear independent climate control, roofrack, towing package, 4-wheel drive and a powerful V6 engine. It’s been an awesome machine for the family, and has TONS of life left in it. It was only $2,800, and is worth much more than that.

Buying Used Allows For More Options

I don’t know what it’s like to buy a new car. I don’t understand all the choices, and how people add on options and “customize” their car from the factory and all that junk. Because frankly, it’s a waste of time AND life for those who aren’t worth millions. But, you know what, I really appreciate those who do, because I get to reap the benefits later. I like to say that I want to thank those who buy new cars because they are subsidizing my future used-car purchases. They eat all the depreciation, I reap all the benefits.

Most people recommend buying something like a “3-year-old vehicle” to get the best deal. I recommend at least 5-7 years old, because the car is about 70% off at that point. And that allows you to shop for the fanciest, tricked out versions of whatever model car you need. Our last 2 cars have been the premium models, all tricked out with the most options you could get from the factory. Off the lot, these cars were probably $30,000+, but we didn’t drop more than $2,800. That’s over 90% off to enjoy the same luxury vehicle, and all we had to do was shop used.

Enjoy Some Luxury On The Cheap

Life is not about having the fanciest junk. It really isn’t. But I do enjoy having the option to buy something of quality, with all the bells and whistles is I can enjoy it for a fraction of the original cost. Today’s digital marketplaces such as Craigslist afford most anyone the ability to gain access to luxury items that otherwise would not be affordable. For cars specifically, you can get all the factory options by buying used, and don’t need to spend an extra $20,000 just because you want that new car with a built-in-vacuum. Seriously, that’s the world’s most expensive vacuum, and is going to be just as great 5 years from now.

Have some patience, don’t read about new cars or price them out, you’re only hurting your entire financial future. Instead, enjoy some used-car luxury now and know that someone out there is eating all the depreciation on your future luxury automobile. 🙂

Comments: Do you drive a fancy pants car? How much did you pay for it? Are you the one subsidizing someone else’s future luxury used-car purchase?

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

33 thoughts on “We Only Drive Fancy Cars”

  1. Haha, both my wife and my mom saw the built-in vacuum on the new Odyssey’s and freaked out a little bit. Those guys have their marketing DOWN. We didn’t go anywhere near as extreme as you with our recent purchase, but we definitely got an older model at a big discount. It just came out to be such a better deal. Though with the models we were looking at, it was much less of a deal than you might think vs. going new. We would have had to go REALLY old to score something anywhere close to the prices you’re talking about, and that made us nervous. ending up somewhere in the middle felt about right.

  2. Sadly I was once that man.
    Always on a lease contract too.
    These days, I’ve seen the light and drive a 10 year old volkswagon passat.
    Cost me very little to buy, drives like a dream, no more budget busting monthly payments

    • Way to turn it around! I know cars are a drug for some of us (ME!), but we can enjoy the luxuries we want on the cheap by going used, and it sounds like you’re doing just that!

  3. We’ve got a boring Camry now, but I’ll always cherish the memory of the first car I owned (actually co-owned with a high school buddy): a 1963 red Cadillac Eldorado with a white convertible top and white leather interior! Unbelievable car. And it got 9 mpg and had to have premium gas! 🙂

    • I would bring a mechanically inclined friend, or request to have the car brought to a trusted mechanic to look it over. It’s the best insurance against getting a car with major issues. The nice thing is, most used cars aren’t bad, because they’ve been driven for a while, so you know they weren’t lemons out of the factory. You can also hop over to Google and search “common issues with ____ ” and figure out what the main issues are with the car and ask if they have been addressed.

      I also detailed my strategy in this post: http://clubthrifty.com/how-to-buy-a-used-car-like-a-boss/

  4. I feel like I bought a fancy pants car…bought a 2009 Hyundai Sonata back in 2010. It was only one year old and had many features my ’97 Altima didn’t have. Bought it for $13,000 cash. Thought that was pretty good for a 1 year old car.

    • Definitely cheap for a newer car….though that car will lose $10,000 in value over the next 7 years, so that’s kind of a bummer. But buying used has so many perks, and you can usually get many luxuries for cheaper than a “new” base model car.

  5. Nice, those are impressive prices. I’ve never seen anything like that here. From time to time I look for my boyfriend as his car can be slightly unreliable, and Honda’s in the 1990s still go for quite a bit more than he can afford, with 100k+ miles on it. He paid $3k for his 2001 Hyundai Elantra, but has paid for a decent amount of repairs, and it’s not really in selling condition because the paint is wearing off. I purchased my 2002 Civic for $6k, but it had less than 70k miles on it. I thought it was too good to pass up, even though that was a bit out of the price range I was looking at.

  6. Since we’ve been travelling in the US, the prices of cars here have been astounding. T has a mini breakdown everytime he sees a price tag (‘Do you have any idea what that would go for at home?’) Honestly, if we lived here we would probably have a large collection.

    Cars have been our big achilles heel and really held us back financially. We always buy used but cars are not cheap in NZ (a 10 year old car will still be $5-10k) and repairs / maintenance (along with registration and insurance) kill us. What I would do for a car that isn’t a money pit…

  7. Love your strategy Jacob. We spend a little more on our cars, but we also keep them around a little longer. My 2000 Camry was purchased in 2005 for $7500 (cash) with 105k miles on it. I’m still cruising to work and back in it 8.5 years later, 195k miles on it now and I know I could sell it for $4k if I wanted to. But I don’t!

    • I spent about $1,000 in maintenance over 7 years on my Civic. It’s been even lower on my Accord (had it for 5 years now), maybe about $500. So $500 a year is not bad at all. BUT, that’s because I do most of the maintenance myself. Maybe double that cost if you need a mechanic to do it. But $2,000 over 7 years is MUCH cheaper than $20,000 extra for a new car!

  8. I paid right around 16k for a brand spankin new 2010 Honda Civic LX. It definitely isn’t on the higher end of civics, but it still has many luxuries you speak of such as power windows/locks/steering and cruise control. I plan on driving the wheels off of it though, so over the long run it will have been a great purchase!

  9. This is an interesting way to look at it. Being in the auto industry I still can’t bring myself to buy a super cheap used car. So many people I know buy cars under 5k and drive them forever. I can’t get over wanted a new flashy car with all the gizmos. My current car is a 2004 pathfinder that I paid 16k for and have driven for about 80k miles. It’s worth about 4-5k on trade now. I’ve been shopping the lux brands but can’t bring myself to pull the trigger. Near 40k for some of these cars used that will be worth 1/4 of that in a few years.

    I think the key in the strategy of buying cheap used cars is to stay with the japanese brands like Honda, Toyota, Acura, etc. They run forever and require almost no maintenance. Also if you aren’t a tall monster like myself and can fit into a new civic or hyundai than they can also be really good values. Hyundai’s especially come with 100k mile warranties now.

    • Thanks for the insight Dan.

      So, my question is, since you know how quickly cars drop in value, what choice are YOU going to make with a new car?

      May I recommend going slightly used (3-4 years old) and finding something NOT at a “Stealership”, because they WILL tack on another few thousands in fees!

      For example, I found some 2008 Honda Accord EX-L’s fully outfitted for under $12k on Craigslist. Much better than $40k+!

      • I wish I could tell you. To be honest I am 6’2 with pretty constant lower back pain (I’m only 30!) and have had a horrible time finding a car. My first choice was a 2009 Acura TL AWD with about 40k miles on it. It was certified for $28k and a truly amazing car all around. Not really a budget used car but a car I really fell in love with. I knew that because it was an Acura I could own it 10+ more years with very few problems. My back and the car didn’t agree on terms during the extended test drive though. So I’m still on the hunt. If I didn’t have back problems I’d be in that Acura or probably or something else in the Honda family. You’ll always get your moneys worth out of a used Honda or Acura. The same goes for Toyota/Lexus and usually Nissan as well. They all require almost no maintenance and run forever.

        • The modern TL started in 2005, and you can find them for just under $12k.

          Honda/Toyotas are my go-to (obviously), and if you could find something to find your ergonomic requirements, I would definitely go that route.

          The goal here is to get your next car purchase around $10k or under if possible. 🙂


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