Am I a saver or a spender Part II – transportation.

In my initial post searching for the answer to the question above I looked at one of the big spend items for our family – housing. Today I’ll look at my family’s transportation spending where once again I think we’re doing some things right and some things wrong.

We live in New Hampshire and I work in Massachusetts with a commute of about 45 minutes each way. This is offset by my wife who works a couple miles away from our house.  We chose our housing location when I was at another job but with a similar commute so this is nothing new to us. We accept the fact that our transportation costs are higher than they would be if we both had nearby jobs or lived in a state with a good public transportation system.

I do periodically look for a job that will bring me closer to home. However I make a good living at my current job and even after taking out the state income tax, reduced transportation costs and other factors I have not found a comparable job nearby. At some point the right job may be there but for now I will continue the daily commute.

CARS

My wife currently drives a 2012 Honda Odyssey. With two kids and a dog coupled with the shuttling to various activities and trips to the lake a minivan is the most practical vehicle for her to drive. We purchased this car new at the end of 2011 after getting 10+ years out of her Toyota Sienna and she will most likely keep this car for the same amount of time. Two cars in twenty years is a pretty good track record considering the wear and tear of transporting children and dogs. I’m pretty sure when we got rid of the Sienna there were still cheerios hiding in the nooks and crannies from when the children were younger.

I am currently driving a 2008 Toyota Camry. With the above referenced commute and extended commuting distances in the summer I average about 30K miles per year on my car. That means that roughly every six to seven years I end up buying a new car. If I was at all mechanically inclined I would keep my cars longer and repair the inevitable issues that arise when cars get over that 150K-180K mile marker but I’m not so I don’t.

My wife and I don’t get “bored” with our cars or feel the need to always have a car with that new car smell but when we buy we do buy new. For my wife, amortized over a ten year period, it seems reasonable. For me it comes down to the fact that I’m putting a lot of miles on per year and the idea of buying cars more frequently than I already do is not a concept that I look forward to. Could I buy a used with say 50K miles on it and save some money? Yes, I could but then I would be back looking for a car most likely a year to a year and a half earlier. Since we do not like having debt of any kind excluding our mortgage, we do not finance our cars unless there is 0% financing. Even if there is 0% financing it usually comes down to that or a rebate and most of the time crunching the numbers shows that taking the rebate is a better deal. We make car payments to ourselves to replenish the money we take out of savings to fund the purchases.

Kind of a balanced scorecard on the car front but I haven’t added one major transgression – a third car. My father in law had a 2009 Mustang convertible that he was selling. He knew that I had been looking longingly at that car and when he decided to sell he gave me a deal that was kind of hard to pass up. The car has about 45K miles on it and it is garaged during the winter months since it is not a snow car. It is superfluous and impractical, adds about $700 to my insurance and about $600 to my gas consumption but damn, it’s fun to drive with the top down in the summer.

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