Nov 12, 2008

On New Tires for an Old Car

I make frequent trips up to the Detroit area in my trusty 1995 Hyundai Accent, a car I purchased last year for the inexpensive price of a mere $700.00. The vehicle, which had only 79,000 original owner miles when I purchased it, turned out to be the best value-per-mile vehicle I ever owned, and I am now into my fifteenth month of driving this high-mileage automobile.

I recently noticed a bit of a vibration in the front end, and I decided that the 15,000 miles I put on the set of used tires that came with the vehicle was long enough time to roll the dice. I took the car to Belle Tire on Secor, and I was also prepared to hear bad news about the front end, as I considered the possibility that the slight shudder might have its origins in a worn tie rod end or some other suspension/steering related issue.

Alas, the new tires and a wheel balancing did the trick, and the mechanic reported the the front end was in "excellent shape." It is always rewarding to leave an auto repair facility spending much less than you planned, and $281 for a full set of 50,000-mile tires turned my car into a smooth-gliding, vibration-free piece of mechanical bliss.

I no longer spin my wheels in wet weather, and I was surprised at how much better the car handles on the open road. I also suspect that the 30 MPG I receive on the highway might creep upward a smidgen, given the balancing and proper inflation. Still, this is a small price to pay for safety and peace of mind, and this fruitful vehicular investment seems poised to provide three or more years of service.

There is a metaphor here in prudent investments and taking care of possessions in a world of financial uncertainty, and I cannot under-emphasize the value that previously-owned vehicles represent to cash-strapped consumers. Instead of dashing out and saddling yourself with a 5-year, $400-per-month loan on a flashy new vehicle, consider instead the money you can save in with a vehicle in the $700-$1000 range that has higher fuel efficiency. Sure, you will not impress supermodels, but they were not going to date you, anyways, dude.

Since going consciously deciding to embrace a more frugal lifestyle at the beginning of the decade, my wife and I have saved a great deal more money than when we made twice as much per year. Moreover, our ability to save also allowed us to take a 17-day vacation to Spain and Portugal this summer that might otherwise have been beyond our ability to afford.

So, chuckle at my 13-year-old purple subcompact when you see me at the stoplight, but remember this: I am saving thousands of dollars per year in this machine, and that I can weather even the worst financial cataclysm by staying frugal.


Anonymous said...

With polluters like you driving dangerous jalopies, it is no wonder that Detroit is about to go under. You should be ashamed to drive into that city in that foreign-made death trap. It is amazing what people in Toledo can find to be proud about.

historymike said...

R-i-i-i-ght. A few quick thoughts:

1. The average "Detroit" car contains 50-60% foreign content, setting aside the number of "foreign" cars built by Americans. It is getting to the point in this hyper-globalized world where buying a wholly American vehicle is impossible.

2. By your logic, I should spend my much-less-than-wealthy income on brand-new cars to keep Detroit from "going under"? I should make my children do without necessities, or forego saving for retirment, just to keep the Big Three afloat? Sorry - I'm not into that sort of sacrifice.

3. Re: "pollution" - I would gladly use mass transit to travel to Detroit or Cleveland if it were: a) convenient; and b)comparable in price. I enjoy vacationing in Europe or the East Coast where mass transit can move commuters inexpensively and with less pollution. However, my only option to Detroit would be Greyhound, and even if I fit into their limited daily runs, I would pay three times what it costs me to drive by myself. Besides, Greyhound will not stop in Romulus so I can visit my grandparents, who are in their nineties.

4. Finally: the last three new cars I bought were American-labeled, so kiss my ass. There is no difference to the lives of UAW workers or GM stockholders whether a person buys a used American vehicle or a used foreign vehicle.

ProfessorSeal said...

You have to love people who have onions so big that they will not hesitate to leave ignorant comments under the label of anonymous.

Cat said...

I too own a 95 Accent(white) and it's the most reliable and best driving car I've had out of 5. You can't beat the gas milage or the smooth ride. Who cares if it's foreign.

Rita McCall said...

Tires are good investments for your car. Next to a functioning engine, tires are the most used part of your car. Having new tires would give you a smoother driving experience. And if you drive carefully, you may not need to change tires too often!

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Michelina Douglass said...

Hi there, Mike. I must say you’re one of the wisest consumers that I know. Yes, it is certainly beneficial to opt for a used vehicle rather than a new one. However, one should be able to get a QUALITY used vehicle. Otherwise, it’s still a bad investment. But you do have a good used vehicle there. It seems like it was well taken care of by its previous owner, and you’re taking good care of it too. This will certainly help you save a lot on car repairs. I guess saving money doesn’t just require you to be frugal, but to be mindful of the possessions you own as well.

Enoch Ross said...

I agree with Michelina. Buying used vehicles that don’t function well and cause you more problems would put a bad taste in your mouth. Checking parts that needed to be replaced like tires, rotors, and radiator parts is highly suggested before getting the vehicle of your choice. That way, you could also estimate on how much you would spend on them.

Enoch Ross