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What do our cars really say about us?

by The Happy Rock on June 3, 2007

I am going to show you a picture of a car, and I want you to try and picture the owner and their life.

The car of a Rich Person?

What do you think this car says about the owner? Maybe that the owner has a lot of debt, low income, lives in a ‘bad’ neighborhood, and can’t afford anything better that a an old beater.

This interesting article from 2001 has some interesting things to say about what the color and model of our cars says. The color says that the driver is “cautious, conservative, often introverted personality likely to drive the good bargain.” The model says that the driver is an accountant and voted for George W. Bush

A car can speak volumes about who we are and more specifically what we value. My car looks almost exactly like the car in the picture(same pealing paint job and all). I am guessing that common sense gave you the wrong opinion. You probably don’t think that I have owned the car for about 6 years, haven’t had a payment in 5, have a net worth of well over $100,000 at age 28, live a quarter mile for million dollar homes, and earn an above average income. This little exercise leads us to an interesting observation that will aid our journey to freedom.

We are not our possessions – Materialistic cultures constantly bombard us with the idea that you are not somebody unless you have nice things. We often lust for better cars and houses, but those things will not bring us fulfillment. We need to redefine how we view ourselves to align with things that we truly value in this world, not with some external expectations. Things like families, your dreams, morals, and how we treat other are much better examples of ways to define ourselves. Remember that part of redefining ourselves require us to redefine how we view and value others.

The truth is that my car aligns with my values and dreams. I originally bought the car with debt, but I will never purchase another car with debt. I fight the occasional desire to upgrade, by framing the purchase in light of values. It has helped me to not care that people give you glances when a beat up car pulls into a nice restaurant. I know most of those people don’t even own a car, the bank does. Ultimately, I want my money working for my family and my dreams, not towards creating a false image of myself.

Just in case you are wondering, I have not had a major repair on this car yet. That being said, this car may not have much life left in it, but I have already chosen to start saving $4,000 – $5,000 dollars for the next reliable ‘beater’. This car is a ‘beater’, I call it my ‘debt beater’. Can anyone out there top this jalopy?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Thecpa June 4, 2007 at 1:42 pm

You are dead-on with this advise. It’s hard to understand why someone would invest their hard earned money (and usually a fairly significant amount) in something that will depreciate into nothing over time. And usually they borrow all or part of the payment and pay even more in interest payments over the life of the car. The worst is the 2 to 3 year lease where you have nothing at the end of the payments.

I can’t see the color of your car from your post. I’m guessing it’s dark blue or green. My current wheels are 13 years old. I am hoping for 150,000 thousand miles before I even begin looking for an upgrade. By upgrade I don’t mean a brand new, 10 miles on the odometer, car. I mean a three to four year old “pre-owned” pay cash for auto. Debt is the enemy if you want to be free.

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Q at $1 Million to My Name June 4, 2007 at 5:49 pm

I drive a black minivan. I am a bad mofo!

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Jay June 5, 2007 at 9:47 am

Totally agree with you on this one. Good post. I drive a 15 year old Ford pickup with 266,000 miles on it. I’ve had it for about 5 years now. I should let you know that it is a diesel so 266,000 is about half life for it. I plan on driving it “until the wheels fall off” or a major repair comes along and it would make more sense to go get another slightly experienced vehicle.

I have had a few repairs in the five years I’ve owned it. However the cost of the repairs is still way below (read: 10 of thousands of dollars) what a car payment would have cost me over the past five years.

You must develop power over purchase and learn to be content with what you have. You also have to be carefull not to settle for what you have… make a plan to move upward and onward… but with cash!

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TheHappyRock June 5, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Thecpa and Jay,

Thanks for the comments. I suspect that we are all much better off because of the choices surrounding our vehicle purchases. Thanks for sharing. I also agree on the sentiments about paying with cash.
-The Happy Rock

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Pete @biblemoneymatters April 12, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Great post – my car is 7 years old now, over 110k miles on it, and running great. No car payments and low insurance rates. The only major costs I’ve had on the car include an accident i had this year ($800), and an ignition problem two years ago ($200).

It is so nice to be free of a car payment!

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Frugal Babe July 9, 2008 at 4:49 pm

My car is a 1991 Honda Civic wagon. The muffler is held on with a couple coat hangers, which are doing just fine. I replaced the windshield and the muffler last year. I’ve also replaced the brake pads, alternator, and spark plug leads. That’s it – no other repairs needed in the five years I’ve owned it. We paid $2300 cash for it in 2003. It has 214,000 miles on it, and I plan to keep driving it until it just won’t go anymore. So far, I’ve had no indication that will be anytime soon.

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Kiel July 16, 2008 at 1:20 pm

My first car was a 89 mazda mx-6, and that car did very well for me. I wouldnt mind getting another mazda. Right now we got a 01 hyundai accent and a 00 eclipse, both pretty good cars. We didnt pay a whole lot for either, and almost have the eclipse paid off. No car payments is a nice thing!

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Me the car dude October 26, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Well my first car i paid off was a 1992 chevy bubble and I always felt like I was driving miss daisy in it i said i wouldnt buy a new car till it fell to pieces not because i am broke but i loved not having a car payment, but i cant help my self i will be getting the 2009 porsche 911 carrera s when it comes out.

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Aloha Nema November 5, 2008 at 6:16 am

I love what you say: “We are not our possessions”.
Just look what Bill Gates drives and guess how much he earns?

There’s a man tell me that: “We are what we do, not we are what we have” (sorry, I can’t remember his name, but he wrote a famous book)

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Mike C. December 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Do you scratch your head and say “Wow, even as the years go by, I still get comments on these old posts”?

I want to tell you how much I love your blog and your thinking. And though I’m not a Christian, I love how you proclaim Jesus.

Not bragging, but I have a $45K and $25K car, but paid for cash. I relish that you can be mature and happy to drive a “Beater” car, but you even have the sense of humor to call it a “debt beater”. That’s great.

I read blogs that mention either cut your expenses, or increase your income. For some reason, though I have the money to just about do anything I want (within reason), I really enjoy those who are responsible and do creative and frugal ways to make life better.

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