There are benefits to buying used

By Jeffrey Fazio
DriveTime Columnist

Used cars is where it's at. That's my statement and I am sticking to it. I'm honestly not sure if I am trying to convince my readers or myself that used cars are the best buys out there, but we'll see where this goes.

You see, I need to believe in used cars since I currently own four of them. If I am wrong that buying used isn't the best thing going, then I have made the same mistake four times. Although this wouldn't be the first time in my life I repeated mistakes, I'd rather not add any more to that list.

Okay, you are probably prepared for the lecture on buying used cars that are only 2-3 years old, still within their warranty, just broken-in and already had some other sucker take the initial depreciation hit when they drove it off the lot. Nope, that's not what you are going to get here.

Hold onto your chairs folks because I am actually suggesting buying cars that are more than 10 years old, have logged more than 120,000 miles and most likely have questionable reliability. I'm talking about automobiles so old they can't even remember having a warranty.

Let's look at some math. How much would you expect to pay for a new car -- $15,0000, $20,000, $35,000? How much would you expect your monthly payments to be? For how long?

In the last five years, I have bought five cars for a total of $9,750. That comes out to a mere $162.50 per month for five years. How's that compare to your new car math? Keep in mind, I acquired five vehicles, not just one.

Of course, there are other costs involved. My bill on maintaining these cars is higher than it would be on a new car, but those bills are somewhat optional. If life happens to push you into a tight money spot, your new car loan is due no matter what. In comparison, since my vehicles are paid for, if one of them breaks down I can let it sit until I can afford to fix it.

Speaking of optional costs, consider car insurance. Yes, it's true that car insurance is not optional in Pennsylvania, but the types and amounts of coverage sure are -- unless you have a new car loan. With a loan, you are more than likely going to be required to have collision and comprehensive insurance in addition to the mandated liability insurance. I only carry the additional insurance on the two cars I actually care about. The other two vehicles I paid just over $1,000 each for, so it does not make much financial sense to insure them for collision and comprehensive.

What about their reliability? The combined mileage at the time of purchase of the five vehicles in question was well over 750,000 miles and I have only needed to call a tow truck twice in the last five years. Not too bad considering the potential for bad stuff.

There are benefits to buying such high-mileage cars. For one, no need to ask if the timing belt has ever been replaced or if it needs a tune up. You can pretty much assume it needs it. As things break and fail, you can upgrade them to better parts or purchase new, factory-quality pieces.

Cars that cost less than $1,500 equal peace of mind. No more worrying about where you are going to park. Shopping carts all over the lot, so what? Driving in the snow -- no worries. Haven't had a chance to wash your car in two or three years, who will notice? Spilling your drink on the passenger seat is no big deal either. In fact, you can do it just for fun.

In addition to having cheap cars, there are all kinds of advantages to having several cars:

Inspections -- Never forget your vehicle is due for inspection again. With multiple vehicles, one of them is always due.

Stalking -- Feel like "they" are following you? Make it harder, change cars every time you leave the house.

Stalking revisited -- Maybe you want to be the stalker. It is so much easier to stalk "them" when you can change vehicles every few hours.

Impressing drive-thru workers -- With all the money you saved on car payments, you will be able to afford to eat out every night like a king (assuming you like fast food). Let me tell you, when you are a regular drive-thru customer, you can really impress the employees and get a lot of respect by having a different car each night.

Key chains -- Remember how cool and important the janitor at your elementary school always seemed with all of those keys? With multiple vehicles, you can have that cool factor and not have to clean up after a bunch of kids.

So you see, as I have stated since the beginning, owning used cars is where it's at. Of course, if you prefer, you are still welcome to buy a fancy-pants new car and spend $3,000 per month on payments and insurance. I'll still be carefree and smiling when I inadvertently park too close to you. Don't worry though, most of the time I look before I swing my door open.