Tuesday, May 24, 2005

American Mindset at Work

Retirement-age gentleman comes to pick up his vehicle this afternoon after having some maintenance stuff completed. His car is a 1997 Cadillac DeVille with 77,815 miles on it. He purchased this vehicle from us (used) in 2000.

He made a comment regarding the service records on his car, and then posed this question:

"Just got 'er paid off, you know. Time for a new one. You got anything good on the lot?"

And there, Dear Reader, is the American Mindset in all its glory. (Well, maybe it'd be more realistic if he'd bought the car new . . ..) Five years ago, Mr. Customer financed his used Cadillac. Five years pass, he pays it off, and now he's determined that it must be time for another one. You can almost hear the advice he's giving his grandkids: You'll always have a car payment, Johnny. That's just the way it is. Always have a car payment . . ..

And then the slow nod, the blank stare ... and then he'll go back to writing out another check to GMAC.

Future repair-cost inclinations of Cadillacs notwithstanding (as noted elsewhere on this site, they ain't cheap to buy, and are even more expensive to keep on the road), you have to be impressed with the how pervasive the "Always Have a Payment" mentality is. Even the Doorstep of Retirement crew has been sucked in.

So, thanks, Mr. Always-Have-a-Car-Payment Man. Lots of salesmen, and service-department guys like myself, owe their jobs to the silly notions in your head.

— Posted by Michael @ 6:51 PM


I'm fighting my roomie on this about my little Saturn. I think it's a great car and want to keep for a while, atleast until 150k, but she keeps trying to talk me into the cool 'used' car/truck that would be neat to have... I fight and fight the urge.. I WILL NOT GIVE IN!


Oh, the pain!!!

You hit the nail on the head -- so many people pay off loans only to get a new one asap. When will people learn!!!!????


Ugh! I cannot wait to pay off my car. Then that money can be split to save for a newer car that I will pay for with cash and maintenance until this car dies. Plus, think of the savings on insurance. Your story reminds me of my roommate. She didn't want to get her 2001 Malibu serviced (donít ask) so she went to trade it in and came home with a 2005 Focus! But here is the kicker; she wasn't finished paying off her other car loan yet. So this Focus was going to $336.00 a month for 72 months, I believe, at 7.6% interest. I nearly died. She wasnít too happy when I asked her who went with her to the dealership. I always consult my uncle who has more experience with financial matters and has taught me things like how to read a contract. To make a long story short, she returned the car. The salespeople wanted her to take it with her for the weekend to help her think about it. She ended up getting a Kia and extending her current payments for a few more years. What do you say to that?This time, I just smiled and nodded.


I bought my Honda Civic (lowest end model, can't remember which one it is) in 1995 with 8800 miles on it. I paid it off in 1999; I still have the car (it now has 116,000 miles). It costs me about $300 a year in maintenance costs. I will keep the car until it absolutely rolls over and dies - I'm not interested in "trading it in while it still has value" Hello? Isn't it valuable to me as free transportation for as long as it runs??!! I can't believe some people and their car ideas!


You're going to wait for your car to roll over before you sell? I'm hoping I'm never in a roll-over...

Good points Mike. Used cars paid for rock.


I just had this conversation with my 9 year old in the car on the way home. He is fascinated by all the "cool" cars aka expensive. We have 2 cars 1 fully paid for and 1 that is falling apart faster than we can pay for it. My inlaws are giving us their old Montana van next month and we will be selling the falling apart vehicle for $1000. We still owe like $3500 on it. My car is 100% paid for and I just pray that no one runs into me and writes it off. It gets me from A to B and costs me about $1000 a year for all the maintenance it needs. Still cheaper than a $300 a month car payment.


I used to be an always-a-payment guy until the following conversation with a friend that drove an old Saab he was always fixing:

Q: John, why don't you get a new car that you don't always have to be fixing?

A: I only spend money on my car when it's broken. You spend $360 a month on your car even if it's working fine.

I was converted right there on the spot.

Here's a new concept for Americans to embrace: vehicular equity. (Gasp!)


One other note: my wife and I, almost 2 years ago, were surprised with a baby on the way. We'd been trying so long we kind of stopped planning for it financially. We had to sell one of the cars to get by financially, and that would have been impossible if we always had a car payment.


can the bank charge me for the time i didn't have insurance after my car is paid for- i haven't had any the last 2 years on a 5 yr loan

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