Why I will drive my car into the ground

owning vs. leasing, car, buying a new car, fixing an old car, cost of a car, running a car into the ground, used cars, old cars, money, expenses, debt, savingsOn Monday, The Bumblebee died on me.

What on earth is The Bumblebee? It’s my well-worn, (well-loved), glorious 2004 VW Beetle. Actually, it’s technically “Sunflower Yellow,” but The Hubby likes to tease me for owning a bug, and a bright yellow one at that (did he expect any less from me?), so “The Bumblee” it has been since I brought it home.


The ’Bee is still in good condition. I keep it serviced on schedule, drive pretty conservatively, and don’t put a ton of mileage on it. It’s got some dings from stray parking lot shopping carts (and one jerk at the pharmacy who backed into me as he was pulling out of a space, paused for a second, and then sped off). It’s also got some bumper stickers on it. And also maybe some nose prints inside the back windows from carting Little and Big Dog around.

It doesn’t look like a new car by any means, in other words, but it’s my baby. And on Monday, that baby had some issues.

Why my mother is every car salesman’s dream

What happened? The battery died.

That’s it. The car is 8 years old, and things like this will happen. At the time (stopped at a red light and suddenly unable to go), I didn’t realize this was the only thing that was the matter with it. I just knew that I was blocking traffic and hopefully I had my roadside assistance card on me (I did). So as I waited for the tow truck to come, I called my mother to ask if she could drive me into work the next morning if I needed it (my office is on the way to hers).

My mother’s first reaction? (After “are you OK?): “I think it’s time you start pricing out new cars.”

Here’s the thing you need to know about my mom: In the 8 years I have owned The ’Bee, she has leased 4 (count ’em: 4!) cars. All shiny new red cars that look sporty and cool, which she then turns in for another sporty new red car and another 2 years of car payments. Meanwhile, I’ve been payment free for the last 2 years.

I did not get my frugality from my parents, as some people do. I got it from watching the way they handled their finances, and resolving that when I grew up, I would do the complete opposite.

Even when she found out it was only the battery, and not some huge internal problem that would cost hundreds, my mom still kept pushing the argument that it was only a matter of time before my car died altogether, so I might as well just get a new one now. She even sent me links to dealership sites and offered to help me with a down payment. My mom does not have that much money herself. And it is decisions like this that are the reason why.

I will drive this car into the ground. Because I care about my finances.

On the day of our wedding, as he was helping set up chairs with his groomsmen, The Hubby got a call from his car guy, who was doing an inspection on his 1992 go-cart of a Ford Escort. The verdict? It needed so many repairs to pass inspection, and was bound to keep getting worse given its age, that it would probably cost less to buy a whole new car.

(The Hubby likes to joke that we weren’t even married, and the expenses of married life already started rolling in!)

That’s the kind of scenario in which I will give up The ’Bee to take on regular car payments again. Until that point, I will drive it until its Sunflower Yellow is chipping and rusting, its bumper stickers are falling off, and it has more replacement parts in it than original parts. It’s only when the cost of keeping it running outweighs the cost of a new car that I’d ever consider taking on more debt.

Because in the meantime, those non-existent car payments are going straight into savings…something my parents, in my 30 years of living, have never yet accumulated.

Do you lease or own your car? At what point do you decide it’s time to finally give up on your car?





  • I’m on the same page as you, definitely driving my car into the ground. I drive a 2002 grand am and I plan on having it for at least 5 more years. The only reason I would replace it is if the value of the car was less than the cost to fix it.

    • Exactly! The math seems so simple to me…why pay monthly payments now when I can get away with just a few repairs here and there throughout the year?

  • Glad I’m not the only one that feels like I watched my parents constantly stress over money, never have savings, yet did dumb stuff like got new cars every 2-3 years, go on crazy expensive vacations, and buy all sorts of crap. I love my 2000 Jeep but like you, I’m riding that bad boy til it falls apart, and NEVER buying brand new- it’s too stressful to get pissed if someone (or me…) dings it!

    • That’s another great point about driving “an old clunker”…My mom insists on parking her cars waaaay far away from anyone else in the parking lot and is always paranoid about something dinging it. Me? I couldn’t care less. Another scratch or two will just add character to The ‘Bee. 🙂

      I’m so glad to hear your family was similar to mine. It can be so frustrating and strange feeling like you’re more grown up than your parents on some things. I’m planning on writing more about mine and how they taught me what NOT to do on this blog. I hate watching them make so many bad decisions, but I’ve tried talking to them about it, and they’re stuck in their ways.

  • I own a 2002 VW GTI. I bought it in 2004, paid it off in 2006, and like you I will be driving it into the ground. Almost 114,000 miles on her and the check engine light is on. Shes’ a little beat up, bu8t not in bad condition for her age. She has leather seats and seat warmers and I heart her!

    • Wow, 100,000+ miles and still going strong! Go you!

      Doesn’t your car start to feel like a person when you’ve had it that long? I talk to The ‘Bee sometimes and I swear we have a bond. 🙂 (Or maybe that’s just me being weird, lol.)

  • My parents are the exact same way! And I have to fight myself on a daily basis not to make the same mistakes they do. My husband and I own a used car that’s paid off, but my sister just bought a new car which is making payments on. I tried talking her out of it, but because our parents make car payments and so do most of her friends its just normal for her. I have vowed I will never buy a new car (unless I somehow have cash to pay for it all up front). There is just no point. Great post!

    • Thanks, Ashly. I appreciate the commiseration on the parents issue. I will definitely have to write a post on that since other people can empathize!

  • Hey Em!
    Your Bumblebee is wonderful and you should enjoy her for many years to come. My 1999 Honda Odyssey minivan is my sweet ride. I can haul doggies, friends, or furniture. I can loan her out to anyone who needs her.

    While I often covet the newer models I see around town, I always keep my alliance because the car-payment-free lifestyle feels so good.

    Happy hour? I’m there! Impromptu movie nights with Rob? No problem! (Skyfall was good, Red Dawn was turrible)

    • I have a feeling when we start a family, we may need to consider the minivan route. (Especially with two pups already in the mix!) And, with that just as with The ‘Bee, we will ride her (or him!) until the end of the road. Your Odyssey sounds fantastic. 🙂

  • I have a 2005 Pontiac Montana with 183,000 miles on it. I paid $2000 to replace the transmission when it had $116,000 miles on it and had to pay $300 this past Friday for a new sway bar. But I have owned the vehicle outright for the past 3 years so I really don’t mind. I am hoping to get it to 200,000 miles and then see what happens after that.

    • Well, JT, you beat out a previous commentor who only had 100,000+ miles! If your car makes it to 200,000, drop me a line because I want to celebrate with you. What an awesome example of how long a car can last if you just maintain it instead of throwing it away for a new one the instant it starts to get “old.”

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