mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The end of the chronic new car buyer?

Last year, when car sales were starting to slow down, I was talking to my dad (who drives a 1998 Plymouth Voyager with !30k miles) about slowing car sales, and he went "of course car sales are slowing down - when I drive down the road, it looks like everyone already has a new car". He had a point - I often wonder what's wrong with me when I drive around and see people way younger than me rolling around in way nicer cars- early 20-somethings in Beemers and Escalades.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the decline of the chronic new car buyer. It profiles two people who always buy new cars - sometimes several a year. Even some of these people are starting to wonder if that's a good idea, as people in general are keeping cars longer and the number of people trading in cars that are a year or two old has declined sharply.

But even more interesting than the article is the comments, some of which blame the chronic car buyers for the current economic problems, for the focus on consumerism, and even accuse them of having mental problems.

Now, buying a new car every year or so isn't a great financial move. And if you are financing it, especially if you are trading in a car that you owe more on than it's worth and rolling it into the new loan, then you are throwing away money. But the people in the article sound like they can afford it. They've decided that buying cars is something they like - a hobby - and that they are willing to spend money on it.

Yes, chasing a lifestyle you can't afford is bad. But there is nothing wrong with buying a new SUV or a big house or a flat-screen TV or a Starbucks Latte - if you can afford it without going into debt or taking money away from something else you would rather spend it on.

So where do I fall into the new car buying thing? When it comes to vehicles, I'm torn between two forces. One of them is the fact that I've always been a car enthusiast - as a kid, I had a Motor Trend subscription, a giant collection of Matchbox cars, and an ability to recognize pretty much every vehicle on the road. So I want to have a cool, enjoyable car. But I'm also a cheapskate - I tend to keep things until they absolutely need to be be replaced, and I have trouble bringing myself to spend money on things that I don't absolutely have to.

So right now I'm driving a nearly 3 year old Ford Ranger with ~38k miles. While I sometimes find myself on car company websites, checking pricing, I know it will be a while before I can bring myself to replace a perfectly functional vehicle. I've told myself to not seriously consider another vehicle for at least two more years - at which point I may consider buying a second used vehicle - something sporty and fun - instead of a new car. But I'll cross that road when I come to it.


At 2:15 PM, Blogger Ju said...

You simply have to be able say 'no, thanks at that price' at least once to the dealer. This gives them a strong message that you are serious about your research.

You should also bring a piece of paper to the dealership and make sure you do all the math of the finance calculations yourself. The point is not that they will do the math wrong. The point is you will see exactly how the deal is structured. Do not be afraid to take the time to do this or look like a fool for mapping out your car deal in the dealership.

My dad swears by this process,

At 5:36 AM, Blogger Roderick Parker said...

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