Dad’s House of Wisdom

My husband and I decided a while ago we are done with our car, a trusty 2001 Subaru wagon. It’s been a real trooper. I bought it while living on the West Coast, with grand visions of taking it camping and making ski treks to Crystal Mountain with the beastly all-wheel drive. I knew journeys to the Pacific and Idahoan bike trails were in my future. I did a ton of research before buying it second-hand, and it worked for us for a long time. I drove a mom-mobile long before I had kids.

But it’s now got nearly 160,000 miles clocked, the paint’s peeling, the A/C is temperamental, and well, we have car fatigue. Given that the average amount of time Americans hold onto cars is 5.9 years, we have gone above and beyond our commitment.

In anticipation of replacing it, I bought the Consumer Reports car edition. I love that publication! I’m no gear head, but I devour the info on price per mile, safety and reliability, and MPG. I read it a bit before falling asleep each night, and put smiley faces next to cars that might fit our needs.

We both agreed to try something new. And by new, I mean new to us. Something a bit sportier than the Subie, but large enough to fit a double stroller (dreams of camping were left behind in Seattle, I believe). Good gas mileage, average or better reliability, and low owner cost were important. Some cars that I love just didn’t fit our budget, and some SUV gas mileage made me cringe.

Then one Saturday, we both agreed to check out a dark horse contender. We went to a dealer where an old high school friend works. We test drove the car, and agreed on its awesomeness, but they didn’t have any used models. We found another dealer in central CT, who had a used one but without all the amenities I wanted, and their online reviews were questionable. Unless I was willing to drive to Montpelier, I couldn’t find what I wanted on Craigslist.  There was a lot of internal hemming and hawing about the insane cost of cars, even used ones. We all drive ‘em, but who can afford these things!? On Friday night, it dawned on me that we could save some upfront costs and lease a new model. Excited about the decision, I let my old friend know we’d be in the next day.

Somehow, my dad got wind of this decision. Dave talked to him initially, and when he came home, relayed that my dad advised us not to lease. He thought it was a poor financial decision. My good mood came crashing down. Mind you, we already lease our other car, and it’s worked out well. However, I called my dad to argue our case.

My dad is good with all things mechanical and structural. He and my mom have pretty much always bought used cars, and invested in them as needed. My mom claims she’s never bought a car from the current decade.  In fact, they buy used everything. They give objects, vehicles, homes, and playthings new life. Buying used has been drilled down over my lifetime. New cars depreciate greatly as soon as they’re driven off the lot. Dad’s way is to let someone else purchase the new car, have it depreciate on their watch, then take a semi-new car off their hands. That is just my family’s way. My dad’s point is, “What makes you think you’re entitled to a new car?”

Against my frustration, I knew he was right. Two leases leaves little wiggle room, should one of us lose a job or come into some other financial hardship. If we’re buying a car with great gas mileage and an engine built for longevity, put some money down and keep it for the long haul. I told him I’d seen an ad in New York for the exact car I wanted, and sent him the link. At 6am the next day he responded, “Go see it”. We arranged a sitter (did I mention how un-kid friendly car shopping is??) and set off to New York. We drove the car, fell in love, and we’re buying it. We texted my dad throughout the process. He was our used-car-buying angel.

The thing is, I never asked my dad his advice on this matter. But when he disagreed with our leasing decision, and he went through his reasoning point by point, I knew I couldn’t feel good about it. The influence of my family is deep. I’m glad we listened to him, and I’m very glad we have him, whispering the right paths to take in this world.

Would you take car buying advice from this guy?


3 thoughts on “Dad’s House of Wisdom

  1. We are the type of people who will not have a car payment. We buy with cash only. If we don’t have the money- we don’t buy it.


  2. Your dad is a wise man. Except for when we bought our car through the cash for clunkers deal (and we traded our old car in for a Prius), we have never bought used. Nor do we lease. Like your dad, we are the type that will buy a car and drive it into the GROUND. Smart to let someone else take the hit of the depreciation costs!

    Love that pic of your dad!


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