Spend Less on Driving

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Driving can be fun; it’s often necessary. But rarely is it cheap. From buying a car to maintaining it to paying the seemingly endless (and myriad) fees associated with the “privilege” of being “allowed” to use the damn things – repetitive/annual taxes, insurance-at-gunpoint, etc. – many of us end up spending a far-from-small fortune to get from A to B.save lead

Here are some ways to notch that down some:

* Never buy more car than you can pay for in cash.

There’s nothing wrong with buying new, as such – if you can afford to do so. And the test for that is, simply: Can you afford to cut a check?

If not, you can’t afford it.

An occasional repair bill is as nothing compared with a regular monthly payment – for the next five or six years.  Even if you’re not paying any interest, you’re still paying. Every month, like clockwork. A guaranteed “x” fewer dollars in your pocket or bank account each month.

And the less you have . . .  the less you have. Your money is tied up – pre-committed – for the next several years of payments. Meanwhile, your income may decrease during that time. Or some other major expense may come up. Or perhaps an opportunity – which you can’t take advantage of because . . . your money is tied up.100-Dollar-Car

Some people buy a new car on the easy payment plan in order to have the peace of mind that comes with a new car warranty. But this is not unlike buying an insurance policy. And insurance, for most people, most of the time, is a terrible deal. You are accepting the sure thing of more debt/expense – in order to avoid the possibility of an expense (i.e., an unanticipated repair). But if you have money in your pocket – or in your bank account – paying out for the occasional repair that an older/used/out-of-warranty car might require is no big deal. And if the car doesn’t need repairs, you’ve still got your money.

The best car to own is neither new nor used; neither import – nor domestic.

It is, simply, the paid-for car.

* Be realistic about the equipment you need – vs. the equipment you want.

It is the job of the car companies’ PR and marketing arms to convince you that a given new car feature is an absolute must-have. Often, it is marketed to you in terms of your safety – or, your children’s safety. And like so much that marketeers purvey, it’s exaggerated – as well as expensive.  Example: Roughly a third of all new cars either come standard with or offer AWD. It is touted as a “safety” feature – and the ads play to people’s fear of getting stuck in the snow. But step back and ask: How many days in a typical year does it snow where I live? If the answer is less than 30 days (and that’s a lot, unless you live in New Hampshire or Colorado) then you ought to be asking yourself whether it makes sense to buy a car based on that – as opposed to the (roughly) 330 days of the year when it’s not snowing.  When you’ll be paying more to drive – because AWD not only costs more to buy, it makes a given car heavier – which means it will use more gas than the same car without AWD. It – the AWD-equipped car – will also usually be slower and tires will wear faster. There are also more bits and pieces to maintain – and which will inevitably wear out or break at some point down the line.save 3

The above considerations apply doubly to 4WD (truck-based systems with a two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing). Because while AWD does provide a handling enhancement on dry (and wet) pavement, truck-type 4WD is a no help at all on dry – or wet – paved roads. In fact, it is a liability on dry/wet paved roads because truck-type 4WD systems are not designed to permit the inside and outside wheels to rotate at different speeds  when the vehicle is cornering.These systems are designed to enhance traction on uneven surfaces – that is, off-road – and in a straight line. If you engage 4WD on dry/wet pavement, you won’t get a handling advantage. All you’ll get is faster wear and tear of the 4WD components.

Tires, too.

And, you’ll be burning up a lot more gas.

* Be wary about the latest turbo-boosted “economy” engines.

You may have noticed that small – and turbocharged – four-cylinder engines are becoming fairly common in ordinary cars, including economy cars (examples include the 2014 Ford Fiesta and Chevy Cruze). They are also being used in lieu of six-cylinder engines in higher-end cars (e.g., BMW 3 and 5, Range Rover Evoque). These engines have been designed to maintain the power/performance levels of larger engines when you push down on the gas pedal – but to deliver better gas mileage when you’re not pushing down on the pedal. And, they do. But, there’s a catch. While a bigger engine will use more gas when you’re just cruising along than a smaller engine would under the same conditions, the bigger engine is two things the smaller engine isn’t which will probably save you money down the road:save 4

It is “understressed” – which is just engineering-speak for an engine that’s the mechanical equivalent of a guy who has the strength to bench-press 300 pounds benching 150 pounds – vs. a guy who can just barely bench 180 pounds bench-pressing the same 150 pounds. The smaller guy can bench the 150 – but he’s closer to “maxxing out” -and so, exerting a lot more effort than the bigger guy lifting the same weight.

In terms of engines, an understressed V-6 will probably have a longer life than a heavily turbocharged four. The bigger six also makes more power with fewer parts (e.g., the turbo, the intercooler, the specialized exhaust plumbing and many other components besides). That means fewer things to potentially – and inevitably – wear out.

And that means more money in your pocket.

* Buy ugly – and unpopular.

You can save a pile of money by purchasing an unwanted/unpopular – but mechanically unobjectionable – car. For example, the much-mocked Pontiac Aztek. Yes, it’s ugly. It is definitely the object of endless car jokes. But aesthetics aside, there’s nothing functionally wrong with it. Under the skin, it’s the same vehicle as the perfectly popular Buick Rendezvous – and is powered by the same (and well-regarded) GM “corporate” V-6 that’s used in numerous other – more popular – same-era GM vehicles. But the difference in resale value of an Aztek vs. the more comely Buick is enormous. Be like Heisenberg! Who gives a damn what the guy next to you at the light thinks. You don’t know him, you’ll never see him again. He’s probably making payments every month. save 5

But your ride is paid for.

* Invest in a radar detector.

This is a true  investment  – unlike your car – which is a depreciating consumer appliance. A radar detector, unlike your car, will save you money. Because it will reduce the number of bullshit traffic tickets you get. Virtually all traffic tickets are bullshit. Which is why we all (even Clovers) get them. If “traffic safety” weren’t all about the revenue, instead of a ticket, we’d get taken off the road. Instead, we’re given a scripted lecture – and a piece of payin’ paper. It’s as cynical – and corrupt – as 1920s-era Prohibition.  Everyone “speeds” (and ignores stupid, arbitrary traffic laws) just as everyone drank, back in the day. And just like back in the day, the object of the exercise is not to obey stupid, corrupt laws – but to evade them and avoid the enforcers. A high-quality radar detector (I use a Valentine V1) is just the ticket for evading tickets. save 6

Though not infallible – so-called “instant-on” radar (and laser) are very hard to dodge – a unit like the V1 will alert you to most speed traps – and in particular, automated speed traps. Given that the typical fine for “speeding” is now well over $150 in most places (and as much as $200-plus in some, such as California) and a radar detector like the V1 costs about $400 – you’ll be in the black sooner rather than later. The cost-benefit ratio is tightening up, too – because cash-strapped local and state governments are becoming more and more aggressive – and rapacious – about their enforcement of BS traffic laws. Keep in mind, too, that even one “speeding” ticket on your driving record can notch up the cost of your state-mandated insurance by 10-20 percent annually every year – for years.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. Eightsouthman. Maybe you’re that kind of parent, but my wife and I are very close to our children. My son has never listened to a rapp song, and when exposed to that type of music in a store or elsewhere, covers his ears and grimaces. He listens to classical and religious music, by his own choice. Not all kids are spineless, parentless wild animals.

    • Oh dog, come on now. You have no idea of what your son has listened to. It has nothing to do with being a good parent although there’s no substitute for that either. Kids listen to what’s popular and I’ll guarantee your child has heard some raunchy rap music whether he chooses to admit it or not. I’m not saying he likes it, he’s just heard it, a good way to not like it. Kids have stashes you haven’t found and may never. I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily, just the way it is. Now we couldn’t listen to a black guy go nuts singing Good Golly Miss Molly….in our house but that doesn’t mean we didn’t know it by heart. As an overprotected child I can only tell you not to be too surprised when at 18 you get a glimpse of your “living out of the house” son on his chopper with long hair and tats, a wild girl on the back and plenty of company. It’s in them and it’s got to come out….sooner or later….preferably sooner since it’s so gauche to see a guy turn 40 and go off the deep end and he might not be able to even do the long hair thing by then and can’t really get the wild chicks and the wild sex he could have at 18. Just sayin’….and it doesn’t reflect on you as you seem to think, it’s just the way humans are. We are weak and tend to do things that please us. We learn….over time.

  2. I love your articles–but! Could you please leave off the vulgar and curse words. I like to have my kid read your stuff, but I don’t want him becoming accustomed to that kind of language, since my wife and I are trying to train him to find actual literate words to express himself, instead of the easy garbage language.

    just my pathetic thoughts.

    • dogg, go listed to your kids rap music and then see who has the red face. I was always amazed my parents didn’t know more sophisticated cuss words and words of denigration to retort to their detractor. Any child that can understand what’s being said here has been exposed to rougher language every day, probably on the school bus.

  3. Whats with the fetish on this website with Ford/Chevy/Dodge pickups. I’ve had one domestic model pickup and it was a Chevy S-10 – what a piece of S%!T, I put more money into that junk than any pickup I ever owned. Since that mistake, Ive owned 4 Toyota Tacomas with only minor problems with any of them. The previous one I owned had 270,000 miles and was still going strong when I traded it in for another slightly used 2010 Tacoma.
    Good luck getting any trade in value from a used Chevy with 270,000 miles on it. Heck I dont even think you would be able to get that many miles out of that brand of vehicle.

    • Hi Mike,

      It’s because we were talking full-size trucks. While there are some nice import trucks in this category (Titan, Tundra) they are limited in terms of bed/body configurations and just haven’t been around that long.

      Now, when it comes to smaller trucks, I agree with you completely.

      I myself own two Nissan pick-ups (Frontiers) and have nothing but good things to say about them!

  4. Mark, stay away from 6L Ford diesels because they’ll be plenty cheap for a good reason. My renter recently bought a used Ford 2009, I think, for his construction company. The guy who drives it likes it ok but he named it GULP. He said it automatically slowed down for a gas station. I think the Dodge’s and GM’s are better in this dept. If you’re looking for 4WD I don’t think you’ll find a Ford in gasoline like that. And if you don’t want to pull a gooseneck then Nissan and Toyota are in the mix also. I reread your post and see people have recommended mid 90’s Fords. I guess it must be just in TX but you can barely find one hereabouts since most people work their pickups and the gas Ford didn’t hold up. If you want a diesel then any of the big 3 could be keepers and if you get a diesel, you almost have to have 4WD because of their weight.

  5. I live in Montana. I own a recently restored ’86 3/4 ton 4×4 pickup for pulling horse trailer and occasional ranch work. I want to buy a daily driver–a pickup from ’95 to 2005, any make. I’ve been thinking about 2wd to save money and upkeep, since they’re cheap in this part of the country. But I might weaken and buy another 4wd. I want to use the daily driver to carry a pickup camper for work trips. Any suggestions as to year and make? I’ve heard mid nineties fords are good trucks. Thanks in advance for any tips.

    • Hi Mark,

      We’ve been discussing the relative merits of Ford vs. GM (and so on) and, if it were me, I’d be shopping a mid-late ’90s/early 2000s-era Chevy Silverado – chiefly because of what’s under the hood. And what’s behind the engine. The Chevy small-block engine is simpler/stronger/more durable/cheaper to keep up than the Ford OHC 4.6/5.4 V-8s. Chrysler V-8s are good, too. But Chrysler transmissions aren’t as good as GM hydramatic transmissions. (Chrysler has also had spotty build quality issues, etc.)

      If you don’t mind going older, the Ford F-trucks built before 1996 (IIRC) still had the excellent 302/351 and even 460 (big block) V-8s. No issue with them – they’re great trucks.

      • The 4.6L is very cheap to keep around. Not only in my personal experience but also in fleet service. I don’t know automatic transmissions, but as far as manual transmissions go Ford and GM often share the same ones (last 20 years or so) with only slight differences.

        • I have worked on some Fords and never noticed the same Gear Vendors 4500 transmission in them. Dodge has the exact same transmission except Dodge had their transmission with a synchro reverse. Wow, the whole format has changed on EPA. I only know what I’ve seen in Texas and Ford once again didn’t make their cooling systems up to par for this heat. I’ve seen many melted along with their Slushomatics. Ford also had some front brake issues on their post ’96 models which is unusual since I’ve driven many Ford work trucks and the only thing I thought was good were the brakes.

      • eric, I think people who know about the ’89-95 model GM trucks would disagree with you. The old 350 engines outlasted the later 5.7L engines by a long shot. I know a guy with an ’89 GMC and one with a clone to my diesel except it has a 350(’93 model)that have gone over 500,000 miles on the original engine. Strange thing, but the auto trans for these pickups generally last about 200,000m but if you order a GM replacement transmission, they are good for over 300,000m and more. You can tell the diff after installing one too. They just feel different, crisper, more solid. These pickups run well too as in performance although their HP rating isn’t close to the later 5.7L. Of course the 5.7L do run like stink but they don’t have that long life the 350’s have. That 350 is cheap to replace too, good warranty on crate engines.

  6. * Never buy more car than you can pay for in cash.

    There’s nothing wrong with buying new, as such – if you can afford to do so. And the test for that is, simply: Can you afford to cut a check?

    That’s not cash.

    … while AWD does provide a handling enhancement on dry (and wet) pavement, truck-type 4WD is a no help at all on dry – or wet – paved roads.

    Eh? I know we don’t speak the same language – “sidewalk” is what you lot call pavements – but I thought pavement was what you lot called surfaced, i.e. paved, roads as opposed to others, the same distinction that until a couple of centuries ago used to be made between streets (cobbled) and roads (fit for riding). So, what are you talking about?

    • I am assuming that by check Eric meant that there was cash in the checking account to cover the check.

      I am assuming that by paved roads Eric meant roads with asphalt, cement, etc. that are designed for use by the motoring public.

      (Sometimes I think we are separated by a common tongue. 😉 )

      • I meant, in the first part of the sentence he is talking about “pavement”, but then he switches to “paved roads”, which is a pattern that indicates that they are two different things. So, just what is he talking about the two different times? I know that one of them is referring to bitumen/asphalt/tarmac roads, but I don’t know which, and I don’t know what the other one means.

        Oh, and there has been some damned upgrade to the blog that makes it less accessible for ordinary viewing and for comments and replies. There is now a distracting chunk of text that sits on top of things and can’t be moved away.

        • Change your browser zoom and reload the page PM. It worked for me.

          I think Eric’s interchanging paved road and pavement to mean the same thing. In Australia, we call your sidewalk a footpath or a pavement either way 😉

        • In my neck of the unitedstate woods, “pavement” and “paved roads” means the same thing: The road.
          Although sometimes the terms mean: “paved roads” are made of asphalt and usually in poorer areas or out in the countryside, and “pavement” is made of concrete,… usually in the city, or the Interstate Hyway System, or in rich neighborhoods, or are a part of some goberment boondogle in poor areas where they aren’t needed or wanted.
          Neither term refers to sidewalks for pedestrians to walk on. At least not where I’m from. BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT DOES. It’s weird that way. If you’re looking for a job, your feet will “hit the pavement” while walking the sidewalks looking for work.
          The key is, if you’re talking about cars, the terms refer to roads. If you’re discussing walking, it may or may not refer to the sidewalk.
          Yeesh, I never knew how screwed up the terms were until I tried to explain them!
          If that helps you any.

    • Unless you want to be investigated by the DEA you write a check for the cash in your account. If you show up with stacks of hundreds in a volume to cover most new cars the dealer has to report you to the feds.

      • Good enough reason to buy from an individual. The last time I bought a vehicle I produced $11,500 in cash to which the previous owner choked and said he’d never seen that much cash to which I replied Now you have two reasons to remember today, too much for your truck and all in cash. My dad got a good deal on the farm I inherited by using cash to tempt the former owner. He always advised me to keep as much cash on had as possible. He was right. Now Tx, is doing a little end run around vehicle buyers in paying taxes. They give you the price of the vehicle and the tax you must pay. I was going to buy a used truck with a bad engine but didn’t want to spend countless hours avoiding the “tax” they imposed when I wasn’t going to give nearly that much for the vehicle. Goddamn bureaucrats…

        • Works well so long as you’re not pulled over and searched on your way there…

          Countless people who went to buy vehicles, equipment, buildings, and land with cash have ended up losing their money when pulled over by the cops.

  7. Great points by all, my newest car is a 2001 Chevy Prizm, which is really a Corrola in disguise. Bought it used for less that the equivalent Toyota would have cost since Chevy has less snob cachet. It runs great and have only spent money on maintenance items such as oil, brakes, tires, etc. so far. From what Eric has written here about the spyware being mandated on all the newer cars I’m hoping to keep this one going until I’m too old to drive anymore 🙂

    • Excellent point. I think Eric had an article wondering will uncle force us who dont have to have a new car every 3 years to upgrade in order to spy on us, I mean, for our safety? Was cash for clunkers partly coined as a way to get the masses to upgrade their cars to enable uncle to better track us? Going down this rabbit trail, are airbaged cars proven safer that non airbaged, or lightly airbaged?

      • Forced car retirement schemes have been attempted before. I don’t think one has been attempted in a decade or more. They tend to fail pretty miserably.

      • Hi Tomas,

        I’m convinced they will try – hell, they already have – via “cash for clunkers” (which was subtle) to proposals that would have required older cars to meet current emissions standards. The latter have failed – to date.

        As far as “safer” with (or without) air bags:

        There are lots of variables here – including the one most people miss: Most “accidents” aren’t. They are the result of avoidable driver error. An alert/skilled driver can go decades – a lifetime, even – without a major accident. Most of us know such drivers. Now ask yourself: Which is “safer” – the alert/attentive driver in a car without air bags who never crashes? Or the not-alert/not-skilled driver in a car with air bags who does crash?

        It is not unreasonable for an alert/skilled driver to reason that – for him – an air bag (let alone multiple air bags) is a superfluous expense. On the other hand, a driver who isn’t as confident or who just wants the extra protection might want the air bags. Both positions are equally valid in that it is – or ought to be – their choice to make.

        The problem is not air bags, per se. It is the air bag mandate.

        • That’s about as far they have ever been successful. To offer people money greater than the car’s market value.

  8. I am firmly in the cash only car buying group. Some neighbors of mine are the same, judging by the proliferation of 8 plus yr. old sedans, jeeps and minivans. My other neighbors seem to have a new car in the driveway every couple of years. As he was extolling the virtues of his good deal on the new car (and it sounds like he did get a good deal, including his brothers dealer discount) he called the vehicle purchase a sort of,investment. Funny. I pointed to my investments in the driveway, a 1998, a 2000, a 2004 and 2007 ( the wife gets the newest car). None of them has cost more than $1200 a yr. in maintenance/repairs, including tires. Beats $400/mo. All day long.

    • Tomas, I did the $1000-2000 beater car thing for a lot of years. As the cars started lasting longer, I’ve been able to still pay cash when I need a vehicle. My wife was pissed at my most recent purchase, when I refused to get a car loan on a new POS small SUV and paid $7k for a ’01 Town Car. Now that she has put some miles on her TC, she’s no longer pissed. Now I am looking for a fugly Aztek for my youngest son. Onward…

      • Onward indeed. I wonder, will we be able to get a decent used 2016 whatever in 2022 that is worth a crap? Will these ecoboost, whatever boost, hybrid, 38 airbaggers be usable by then?

        • That is going to be a problem.

          I think we – those of us who are of a like mind on this subject – have a window of about 10 years before the pool of decent used cars that are not like today’s new cars dries up. Buy now, in other words.

  9. I have 1 vehicle that I bought new in 2002, it’s paid off and has about 200k miles on it. Insurance is cheap since I only carry liability, and the engine I put in 2 years ago has a 5 year, 100k mile warranty. My other vehicles have been beaters that cost me between 1,000 and 1,500 bucks, safe to drive but as soon as they break down, my mechanic buys them from me for parts, and I pick up another beater. Again, real cheap insurance. No more car payments for me-ever again

  10. For the love of the god who clearly doesn’t exist, if you don’t already know how to ride a motorcycle spend the 150ish dollars and 16ish hours of your time to take a “motorcycle training” course that will give your driver’s license the “M” certification to be able to legally ride a bike. Bikes are the last “sort of cheap” way to get from point A to point B, and unless you’re flying colors, cops usually don’t harass you as much as they would if you were driving a “cheap ghetto looking” car.

  11. Eric, another great common sense article. I bought a new car once, when I was young and foolish. All I could afford was a 1985 Mercury Marquis, which I got sick of long before I paid off the loan. Since then, I have only bought used, and for the last 15 years, have only bought when I could pay cash. Just a few weeks ago, I picked up a 2001 Lincoln Town Car in great condition with 80k miles on it. I expect I’ll get at least 200K more miles with little problem.
    My wife loves her “new” car, and it’s paid for. Now I’ll make a monthly payment to myself in a CAR account, so that the next one will be paid for also.
    Onward thru the fog!

  12. 2 comments:
    1) I live in Colorado. I would say a majority of grocery haulers are AWD and all of the trucks are 4WD. Very few have real winter tires on them. The trucks have big, wide off road tires that are fantastic on the slickrock in Moab, but nearly worthless in a real snowstorm. The SUVs and Subaru wagons mostly are stock, if they’re a recent model year. My work truck has stock all-season tires that aren’t worth a damn in snow, so I need to kick in the 4WD more often than I’d like. My personal car has Blizzaks (normally not worth the money, but I got a deal) and front wheel drive only. I have no problem navigating on snowy roads, other than trying to get away from the idiots sliding all over the place when trying to stop.

    2nd point: Sometimes older models are just plan better than the new one. The old 80s Subarus with the 5 speed and manual 4WD were fantastic, and I still see some on the road from time to time. The VW Jetta from 2010 and before had a much better suspension and options package than today’s (I think it was cutting into Audi sales, so they went cheap), and in some cases the used equivalent was going for higher than the new model.

    • Agreed. What is it with fat tires and snow? My 4wd Ramcharger came with wide tires and it stinks in snow. (And we just set a record for consecutive days of snow on the ground here this past season, some 157 days or so.) I would’ve thought just the opposite.

      • Hi Ross,

        in re fat tires:

        It’s all about looks – and marketing. People (most people) have been sold on the idea that fat/wide tires equals “high-performance.”

        One of the all-time best snow cars I ever owned was an old VW Beetle – which had tall/skinny tires that just cut through the snow. With the engine’s weight pushing down on the drive wheels, it would go through almost anything.

        • My grandfather told me a story that took place in the 1940s I guess… it had snowed quite a bit and his model A ford was the only car that could move. The newer cars followed in the path he cut.

          Narrow tires work in the snow because there is a smaller contact patch that can push through the snow. (pressure = force / area) Of course for the same reason they don’t work so good for everything else.

          Modern snow tires are quite good. They get traction through the compounds and the design of the tread. Get them a little bit narrower (even on the same size rims) and all will be good.

          Furthermore some tires just plain suck in the snow regardless of size.

  13. I’m going with Blekko/Mozilla/DuckDuckGo

    Good News?
    Blekkos’ “Web search bill of rights”
    Search shall be open
    Search results shall involve people
    Ranking data shall not be kept secret
    Web data shall be readily available
    There is no one-size-fits-all for search
    Advanced search shall be accessible
    Search engine tools shall be open to all
    Search and community go hand-in-hand
    Spam does not belong in search results
    Privacy of searchers shall not be violated

    Bad News:
    Blekko recently put its SEO results behind a paywall, in violation of its pledge.

    Top Search Engines:

    1 | Google
    1 – eBizMBA Rank | 900,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    2 | Bing
    17 – eBizMBA Rank | 165,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    3 | Yahoo! Search
    18 – eBizMBA Rank | 160,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    4 | Ask
    26 – eBizMBA Rank | 125,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    5 | Aol Search
    144 – eBizMBA Rank | 33,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    6 | MyWebSearch [!!! *** Malware Mofos *** !!!]
    233 – eBizMBA Rank | 19,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    7 | Blekko
    615 – eBizMBA Rank | 9,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

    8 | Lycos
    1,094 – eBizMBA Rank | 4,300,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Most Popular Search Engines | Updated 5/1/2013 | eBizMBA

    9 | Dogpile
    1,707 – eBizMBA Rank | 2,900,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

    10 | WebCrawler
    1,972 – eBizMBA Rank | 2,700,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

    11 | Info
    1,980 – eBizMBA Rank | 2,600,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors | 371 – Compete Rank | 286 – Quantcast Rank | 5,283 –

    12 | Infospace
    2,570 – eBizMBA Rank | 2,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

    13 | Search
    3,607 – eBizMBA Rank | 1,450,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

    14 | Excite
    3,780 – eBizMBA Rank | 1,150,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

    15 | GoodSearch
    5,020 – eBizMBA Rank | 1,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

  14. Another great/homerun write up Eric!

    You hit all the important points.

    I’d just add that a couple of ways to keep your car costs low is to buy OLDER but fun vehicles that you enjoy in car/bikes…stuff that goes UP in value but it still fun(like your old trans am):

    For instance, I’ve been debating getting an old 240Z because I love their lines, and they are currently rising in value, but you can still get/drive the cheaply.

    I also love Corvairs! That’s another on my list.

    Old Jeeps are awesome, etc. et al.

    These can all be had for not a lot of money but are rising in value. I restored/resto modded my 23 year old Bandit 400 for the same reasons.

    I can drive them all with just “liability insurance”, pay hardly any tax on them, get them fairly cheap for cash and still find enjoyment because they aren’t “pedestrian” rides. Of course, as I’ve pointed out before there’s always the race track too…and you can pick up a used race bike or car pretty cheaply if you pick the right class.

    Thanks again Eric! Great write up, especially given the times.

    • You bet, Nick!

      PS: Speaking of “…especially given the times” –

      EPautos is being blackballed by Google – apparently, along with a number of other pro-liberty web sites.

      Alex Jones was talking about this just the other day. Events are picking up speed.

      • I’m really sorry to hear that about Google Eric.

        In the end, the Google’s & Facebook’s of the world will suffer if they don’t focus on what made them successful-the customer and their reliance on their “unpoliticized” service.

        The day you have to start wondering if the Google search you just made is reliant on their link algorithm or some internal Orwellian version of “Minitrue” is ultimately going to be a bad thing FOR THEM.

        They might hurt guys like you in the short run…but they are ultimately only punching themselves in the face.

      • Eric – out of curiosity, what are some of the symptoms of being “blackballed” by Google? If I type “epautos” into Google, your site is listed at the top. Is it if you enter something like “car reviews”? You don’t appear to be in the first 10 pages of a “car reviews” search, while there are various “twitter”, “pinterst”, a gamespot, and even a Google book “Practical Text Mining and Statistical Analysis for Non-Structured Text Data Applications” in the first 10 pages.

      • Hi Eric,
        I am not surprised to hear this. I recently listened to an LRC interview with the cryptohippie and he commented that the battle to control the Internet is well underway. No coincidence that the heavily promoted concerns like FB and Google are at the forefront of this.

        Also, do you remember the day you heard this on Alex Jones’ show? I like listening to him but my blood pressure goes up when I listen over a period of time.

        • EPAUTOS has been notified by the government, shit I mean Google, that our stuff will no longer be indexed. The other night when I was posting on CIA.com, shit again.. I mean facebook.com, the content of the post would not pull over. We being censoring mang!

        • The Internet has been likened to the Gutenberg press and the way that invention helped dissipate the Dark Ages and gave birth to the Renaissance. But, there’s a critical difference: The printing press – and the ability to produce written documents easily/cheaply – is an “accessible technology,” something almost anyone can build or buy. But the Internet is a medium we, as individuals, have virtually no control over and which will be tightly controlled – even shut down – by those who do control it.

          A certain “G” comes to mind….

          • Are the other search engines behaving in the same way? I am going to dispense with using Google if the others are behaving better.

    • I’m seriously thinking of restoring my ’77 SS El Camino. Yeah, it’s a lead sled but it’s comfortable, handles well with the TT package and WS-6 parts in the front. Those things are great dirt road pounders also. I got in a race with a turbo Jap coupe on I-20 and showed him my end gate as well as the two 100cc Yamaha racing carts in the back. A trucker came on the CB and said Boys, get outta the way and let these guys go on, I think they’re in a hurry and that’s what all the trucks in front of us did. We did well in excess of 130 for many miles. And no, it wasn’t a stock anything.

  15. If you buy everything just based on your needs and not wants, life (for me at least) would become extremely boring, especially since cars are such a big part of my life. I like fully loaded cars, to a point. That point stops at a built-in gps/touchscreen radio. But sunroofs, power-leather-heated seats, nice stereo, ect are all bliss to me. It’s too saddening to think logically all the time.

    @MikePizzo, I agree with your 4×4 and gun rationales.

    On European cars, I’ve come to learn that on some Mercs, you need to jack the car up and go underneath it to replace the headlight bulbs.

    • Hi Brandon,

      Oh, I agree. But, since few of us have limitless means, it’s important to pick and choose what you buy. I buy many things based mostly if not entirely on need – in order that I have the means to buy the things I want!

    • I agree, Swamp – with one exception:

      I’d drive something along the lines of late ’70s/early ’80s RWD Olds 98 or Cadillac deVille as an everyday car because they’re not much more complex than the Chevy Malibus they’re kin to. Something like this:




      No over-the-top electronics; a simple/reliable/understressed low/RPM/cast-iron/pushrod V-8; simple transmission; simple suspension; 15×7 steel wheels… etc.

      These cars had plush, three-across seats and rode like sofas. Wonderful!

      No, they didn’t “handle.” Who gives a flip? They’re luxurious. Not “sporty.” I think “sporty” has its place – but not ever car needs to be “sporty.”

      Our in the real world, a soft/quiet/comfortable cruiser can be the ticket.

      I miss those old boats…

      • True. They don’t build them like that anymore. I think that cars like that had their place. I was never into them, though. My dad hated them, believe it or not.

        He liked european cars because he (and I) are short people. When I was a kid, he owned a Jaguar 420, which was the mechanical basis for the Series 1 XJ6. It was advertised as a sports sedan, perhaps the original…The short overhangs, the wood and leather interior and the comparatively crisp handling were my favorite characteristics. The Mark 2 series (420, S-type, Mk 2) served as the model for many of the sports sedans of today. Crisp handling, well matched engine, and gauge clusters( tach/speedo with gauges are now standard equipment in almost every car.

        I do think that the sports sedan has been overdone, though. Most people do not use the handling and performance capabilities of, say, an Infiniti G35.

        I do prefer the sports sedan to the big boats, though.

        • I wish we had both!

          Today, very few luxury cars exist; arguably, they’re extinct. What exists are luxury-sport sedans. Bucket seats, consoles, very firm rides relative to what luxury car rides used to be like.

          All to the good – except most of their owners can’t/won’t use them for much more than slow-poking from A to B.

          I think these people would be much happier in a car like a ’79 Olds 98!

          • eric, try a ’72(regular only)Olds 98 with the downtuned 455 HD…station wagon even. That was a luxo-barge with GUTS, lotsa springs, ability to off-road, just mow down trees. What’s not to like? It had disc brakes on front and the rear drums were finned and it all worked well. With the 2.54 rear gear you could only run about 130 all the time on cruise control pulling a trailer(I’ve done it). I never had a tach on one but it seemed like the engine was just loafing at any speed. I realize that’s not really accurate but the sound-deadening made it seem so. Just think what one with a 700 R4 would be like. Sedan or SW, plenty of room and lots of comfort with lots of storage too. The glove compartment wouldn’t hold but a couple pair of cowboy boots and only spanned about 2’X1.5′,maybe more. You could get the optional suspension or just do it yourself to increase the already outstanding handling(for a car that size). I’ve gotten some good sleep in cars like this at triple digit speeds with a trustworthy driver. I’ve gotten more than that in the back but that’s another story.

          • Oh yeah. The 1977-79 Oldsmobiles, GM cars in general were the apogee of ride and luxury. I liked the sheered, downsized looks of these haulers. They seemed to be the most luxurious of the cars back then. For old times sake, I give you the ad for the 1977 Grand Prix. I’ll never forget it.

          • On that note, I noticed one of my neighbors bought a brand spanking new ford pickup, one of,those,boy racer, Baka 1000 looking ones. Gotta be 40 grand if not more. This guy is older, and has trouble getting out of the darn thing. Kinda funny what you think about paying that much for an uncomfortable grocery getter that will probably go off road less than my minivan.

            • He sounds like my neighbor!

              Good guy; a friend of mine. But I can’t understand his thinking. He’s not young – about 70 – and he’s not wealthy (far from it). Yet he decided to buy this 2500 HD Chevy truck. Cost him over $40k – payments for the next six years.

          • Not many people practice the ‘bad consumer’ way of buying new which only may require the first new car to have a loan. Simply pay it off as soon as possible and then save the payment. Next car can be purchased with cash.

          • Ditto those truck prices. The local Costco had a duallie Dodge sitting on the floor, nice truck. With the Costco discount it was $52,000.

          • eric, I’d bet my future-sense is right on and Ford has screwed themselves royally. Their new line of engines are complex and unproven. Replacement costs will be just like their engines prior to this, very expensive. For some reason I don’t understand, Ford can’t seem to build a reliable pushrod engine…nor any other type(trucks). Reliability will be the issue with this whole line of trucks, the very reason Ford is in a bind. I’d advise them to simply re-badge a GM engine and go on. Hey, the public has fallen for this countless times because it simply didn’t know. I had a friend back in ’80 who bought a T-Bird. He was telling me how great it was, how the a/c was the best he’d ever seen, all the usual things you say when you like a car. I popped the hood and low and behold what do I see? GM a/c compressor, GM power steering pump, GM(Donaldson)radiator, evaporator and various pieces and parts hung on a 460 engine. If they’d only stuck a 454 in there they’d have had a long term winner. It’s worked like that many times before and very few buyers could knock off a BBC with Ford stickers all over it.

            • Hi Eight,

              I remember when Ford dropped the 302/351 OHV V-8s in favor of the new “modular” 4.6/5.4 OHC V-8s. This was circa mid-1990s. As I recall, they did this chiefly because – they thought – the pushrod/OHV layout could not be made fuel efficient enough and low emissions enough to comply with then-pending and anticipated federal fuel economy and emissions regs. So they abandoned them and went with the 4.6/5.4 liter OHC engines, which at first were very weak compared with the same-era GM V-8s.

              Meanwhile, GM has worked near-miracles with its “old school” pushrod – and two valve – OHV engines. These now not only produce 400-plus hp in several applications (and also the tremendous torque that comes with their larger displacements relative to the Ford V-8s) they’re also much simpler to build/service – and take up far less room in the engine bay due to their compact layout. They have an excellent reputation for running reliably for a really long time (150k-plus) without needing much beyond the usual/routine things.

              Ford fucked up.

          • Oh, and a TH 400 to replace the c-6 that came in the car. There’s a really good reason countless drag racers use a 400 and you very rarely see any serious racer using a Ford transmission. Let’s look at the track record, think Powerglide, yes, the one they keep re-casting and re-engineering for monster trucks.

          • I wouldn’t call the 4.6L a ‘fuck up’. They are very durable long lived engines. 150K is just a fraction of a 4.6L V8’s life.

            The modular engine family in general has been very successful as well.

            The downside of OHC is engine volume, but the downside of OHV is not being able to rev as high. This and more are just tradeoffs from one to the other.

            Furthermore OHV and OHC are about the same age. Both go back to the 1930s.

  16. I agree with Eric on the car payment thing, although for what I have in the bank, there is no way I could afford anything other than a 15 year old Chevy Cavalier. Okay, its not that bad, but it isn’t great either. If you end up financing a car, try and keep the payment at or below $250.00 a month. That way, if you lose your job, you can maybe still swing the note. When you have a job, try and pay more than what the note says. That way, you shorten the term of the note. I am currently doing that myself. I didn’t want to, but that’s the way it had to be. Needed reliable transpo to work.

  17. Old chevy C/Ks, Ford pickups, Dodge trucks, and Jeeps are all good used vehicles- parts are averywhere and super cheap, and most made before 1995 are as easy to work on as a 60s car (I can fit half my body into the engine compartment on my K5 with everything in there). The vehicles themselves are cheap as well, plus there is still plenty of aftermarket options. Same holds true for same era Japanese trucks. If you want better fuel economy, you can always hook up an HHO generator as well

    • I have one of those HHO gen but no installation instructions
      Anyone out there with knowledge about A magdrive 11a series?
      It is new (purchased in aug ’08)I have a 2005 camry le

  18. Here’s a rule that not everyone will agree with: How about avoiding any of the German makes?

    I knew a guy that had a 10 year old Mercedes and it was shocking was a problem-filled rust bucket it had turned into.

    One of the dumbest things you could do would be to buy an older high end Merc or Beemer.

    My experience is these cars are not that reliable, and the repair bills will make your eyes pop out. A given repair on these will always cost 2-3x that of other makes.

    • I would add the same comment for a Jaguar as well. I drove a 2003 model. In 3 years, I put over $6000 in maintenance and repairs. I had $12-1500 in suspension repairs alone (including new dampers). A radiator repair cost me $1000. The Jag was great as a second car, but avoid high end luxury cars for daily driving duty. They are mainly made to gobble up miles and miles of asphalt at eye popping speeds. Where they fall down is driving on a bumpy commute. If you need a commuter car, buy a cheap American car you can dispose of or a Japanese compact. Avoid Honda’s and Toyota’s though. All things being equal, they’re great for that type of duty, but the problem is, people who drive them treat them like crap. Few good deals can be found on the market. Searching for a Honda Civic that hasn’t been chewed up, spit out and rode harder than a $20 crack whore is like finding gold. As for Corollas, in Texas, most of the people who drive them here are problem drivers, so I wouldn’t want their problems. They block the left lane, drive erratically, and probably never change the oil.

    • May I also add, that while the German cars are very well made, and will last for years, they are not made to be driven at our speeds here in America. They are made to be driven fast, and there are very few States in America that one can drive a Mercedes or BMW, or Audi at the speeds you can drive on the Autobahn.

    • I agree about MB’s and BMW’s but my VW TDI’s have been awesome cars. With a little mild chip and suspension tuning I can mimic the performance and handling of a lot of sports cars costing many $1000’s more and get 42+ mpg to boot! I have put over 300,000 miles on one of them without any major issues. I love to shut down Priuses (Prii?) – the bane of my existence – knowing that I get better actual mileage and less true impact on the environment.

  19. Over the years I calculated that for every dollar you used for credit or gave away, is worth double its face value. You had to go to the expense of earning it, paid tax on it – and then you don’t have it anymore. Such a waste.

    Across Australia, radar/laser detectors are banned. Back in the 80’s when radar was becoming all the rage with local constabularies, car ads sprang up all over the TV proclaiming a free built-in radar detector with any new purchase of a Ford Laser or other shitheap. As I understand it, it’s now still a $2000 fine if caught with one in your car – even if not operational.

    Similar, but lower fines are available if a police scanner is found. It’s blatantly obvious the system’s geared toward revenue only.

  20. Eric, I agree with everything, except your recommendation against 4×4. Obviously, that beast you depict is not cost effective. But there are lots of stock 4Runners, Tacomas, etc out there…..with real off road capabilities, that are pretty affordable. Certainly, 2WD would be less costly, if you’re sure that you will never….ever…need to go off road. But even excluding all “recreational” off roading, I can think of several reasons why citizens in the future may wish to make certain trips while avoiding our road and highway systems. And I bet you can too. 😉

    A rational, factory 4×4 system is very much like a gun. You know, “better to have it and not need it…..”

    • MikePizzo, Good points re 4WD. Another reason: My vehicle is a 4WD 2012 Toyota RAV4 V6- 269HP. High HP, in a front wheel drive vehicle, results in torque steer and wheel spins. Toyota’s 4WD cuts off at 25mph – affording great no-spin intitial acceration and good road milage. Some even drag race them for the traction – 13,8 1/4 mile times.

      Catch me at a stop light – most will lose 🙂

  21. I think this piece matches up well with one of your earlier comments about having older, paid off vehicles as your daily drivers. You don’t worry as much about door dings, minor fender benders, etc. it allows you to carry minimal insurance as well, which saves you a whole lot of mo eh, rather than mandatory full coverage as you do for a car you’re still making payments on.

    There’s a whole raft of advantages that used, low cost cars have over new ones, and new cars have certain advantages as well, but if cost savings is the driving factor, you’re better off getting used. If the new car appeal is of great value to you, you will be paying a lot more for that.

    Consider a few other tips I’ve learned:

    – Decide ahead of time on a price range and stick with it.
    – Decide ahead of time on what characteristics you must have ahead of time (person carrying capacity, trunk space, etc) and be wary of upwelling yourself on an emotion buy rather than logical need.
    – Be wary of the first 2-3 years of a newly updated or brand new model. If the body style was first made in 2000, for example, you should t really consider a year before 2002 as a good option. Nearly all new or redone models take a couple of years to get the bugs worked out (with exceptions).
    – Try to do due diligence in researching the particular make/model/year you’ve discovered. Consumer Reports and a couple of other websites have some info on reliability of cars by year. You can also find out through Googling what sorts of problems are common on certain makes and models and what to check for. This can also give you a better idea of what a car is worth used. This may mean that you pass up the opportunity to buy that used car the first time you see it in order to go home and do your research.
    – There are exceptions to the unstressed or less stressed engine rules, too. Typically with Honda cars from the 90s and early 2000s. For example, the Honda S2000 and Acura NSX are high output, small displacement engines tuned to within an inch of their lives at the factory yet are paragons of reliability. This is why it’s helpful to know specifics of the model you’re considering.
    – Consider electronic technology to be a double-edged sword. Some systems, particularly GPS nav units, tend to become dated and outdated much faster than others. What seemed like the new hotness in 2007 now becomes defacto standard in much cheaper cars in 2013 while being up to date and easier to use. In other cases, these are things that simply add unnecessary complications for the sake of ticking a check box on the features list but that are easily broken and may make the car more difficult to live with when they do, but be too expensive to be worth fixing. Think about how power windows used to be when they first became popular and how much they have improved now vs the 70s.

    Cheap, simple, reliable. These are things that make a good used car.

  22. +1 on the radar detector. If you combine that by getting a slow (or looking car (e.g. old Jeep) it’s even more effective. They never seem to bat an eye at my old Scrambler or Defender yet I’m frequently harassed while driving a sports car: pulled over for no front plate, not keeping my turn signal on long enough, going from one gas station to another, etc….

    • michael, you are so right about the vehicle. I had a Nissan 4WD shorty pickup and drove it literally on the mat everywhere I went. I got tickets in it, when I was THE only vehicle in sight and DPS had their latest and greatest speed detector on but never got one in traffic. I was literally flying under the radar.


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