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The Man Who Gets His Cars for Free

mbitions

Don’t make this one of your ‘mbitions’

When it comes to the Automobile, you really have a choice between two possible relationships.

You can be the Master, and thoughtfully use cars as a tool as needed to reach your goals. Or you can be a Slave to the auto – worshiping it, allowing it to steal your money, your physical fitness, and your sense of control over your life.

The Master sees the Auto for what it really is: A very elaborate and heavy gas-powered wheelchair. There is no shame in using a wheelchair to get around if you need one. But it’s obviously counterproductive to do so when you don’t. So the Master chooses the most efficient model he can find, keeps it in good condition and uses it only when necessary.

The Slave finds the very definition of the Master to be insulting. “I need my car!”, “And maintaining a certain image is important in my lifestyle and profession!”

So he buys wheelchairs so expensive that he has to borrow money from a bank for them, and so enormous and complex that the ongoing fuel and maintenance costs are more than what he even manages to put into long-term investments each month.

Slaves make up the overwhelming majority of auto users here in the United States. Our irrational habit of spending virtually all of our income on the constant driving of cars we can’t afford is so common that people offer only a speechless dull stare if you mention you don’t do the same thing yourself.

So until recently, I thought I was doing pretty well in the auto department because I get plenty of blank stares. Walking my son to the school in the morning, we notice the zoo-like roads from the comfort of our powerful sidewalk.  Junior office workers swipe on smartphones while idling in BMW M3s. Teachers on $45,000 salaries show up at school in $42,000 Honda Pilots. Young fathers rip the breathable air to shreds as they spool up the turbos in their jacked up Diesel farm trucks after dropping off a 60-pound child.

Meanwhile, my car and van sit in the driveway waiting for the monthly trip to another city or a haul of building materials, burning just a few tanks of gas per year. It’s a complete luxury that I even own these things, but at least the cost is kept down to a reasonable percentage of my income: a hundred or two bucks of fuel, $400 of insurance and registration, and under $1000 of combined depreciation and maintenance per year.

When you compare this spending of $1500 per year with the average two-car family’s spending of over $9000 and assume I invest the surplus, after 10 years you end up with a wealth difference of $104,751. 

That’s 104 grand. Every. Ten. Years. Just by having slightly less new (and slightly more efficient) cars and being slightly less ridiculous about the amount of Car Clown driving we do.

So there I was, going along feeling smug as usual, until I met a new friend named Ben.

Although Ben is an American, we got to talking while riding in adjacent seats on a bus in Ecuador. A fellow fortysomething retiree, it turned out that he was virtually a copy of Mr. Money Mustache, but with strengths in different areas. And one of these differences is in the realm of cars. Ben doesn’t just limit his losses on cars, he makes money on the habit. To the point that he has owned and driven over 50 cars in his lifetime, and sold almost every single one at a profit after he decided to move on.

Suddenly I wasn’t so impressed with myself, but my mind had been opened to a new paradigm about car ownership.

  • Most people assume you should blow everything you earn on cars.
  • Mr. Money Mustache works on the idea of keeping this waste to a minimum.
  • But where we see only loss, Ben creates opportunity and actually makes money on the habit.

So I followed up with him by email to get more information on how he does it. In his own words:

The Man Who Gets His Cars for Free

by Ben M., a Mustachian who lives in Maine

My friends think I’m crazy. “You look like a grease monkey! You went to a fancy college, saved enough money to retire early, speak another language, etc. just to work on a creeper, stuck under a car?”

It’s true. I’ve reached FI and I work on cars. Junky older cars, not even fancy restorations or sports cars. Why? because I like to drive and I like free. So I found a way to combine them.

I have to say that one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life was when I fixed some fancy Honda MaxiVan* sliding doors for $4 in parts and an hour of my time tinkering (well, OK, I did some research online for about an hour as well, from the cozy comfort of my couch and there was nothing else I would rather have been doing). Seriously – it was WAY better than when I got my degree, or landed my first consulting gig in Tokyo, or won any race. $4! Take that, Honda Stealership!

Driving is a right here in America, not a privilege. Or at least car ownership is. I know it’s supposed to be the other way around, but it’s always been shocking to me how many people seem to believe they’re entitled to a car, but then stop right there and forget that how they get a car, and what type of car they get are entirely up to them. And if they go a step further (and they’re Mustachian Car Drivers – yes, we exist!), they can do the impossible (according to MMM): Driving For Free.

Yes my friends, DFF is not just for people with trust funds or car sponsorships and I am living proof.

My vehicle background begins with my first car back in the 80s and continues to today, and not one of my literally 50+ vehicles has been sold at a loss. In fact, at times, I’ve made significant profits buying, fixing, driving and selling cars, all with the goal of DFF. I’ve made great friends, learned tons of fun stuff and gotten from Point A to Point B in a motorized barcalounger, all while earning money.

So, how do I do it?
Here are some simple rules:

Buy low.
Almost all of my purchases these days are made simply by searching Craigslist. Once in a while I hear about someone (foolish) trading in their car or better yet, paying to have it junked and I swoop in and match any offer since I know any dealer offer has plenty of profit in it.

My first DFF deal in Maine was when my wife’s coworker lamented the “dead” Subaru Forester in his driveway and said he was having it junked for $100. I readily offered to trade him a crisp (single!) piece of boring paper in exchange for 3100 pounds of high tech steel and plastic – a complex machine that has the power of hundreds of horses and four wheel drive to boot! What a deal. I drove it for a few months (can you say four-wheel-donuts-make-winter-in-Maine-more-fun five times fast?) and sold it to a friend in need (bankrupted by the health care system [and a brain tumor] but that’s another story) having covered all of my expenses, including all the gas I used, insuring and registering it, AND the cost of all the repairs and inspection.

Look for neglected cars.
My wife thinks I should start a little company called Ben’s Foster Cars. I foster cats for the local shelter – unwanted animals that usually have nothing wrong with them but for various reasons their owners are no longer interested in caring for them. Some are pretty much ready to be re-homed, others have a little damage. The same goes for cars – there are tons of cars, EVERY DAY, being sold/traded in/junked that are just a little TLC away from being reliable, safe and enjoyable but the current owner just can’t see it.

My current ride is a 2001 Honda Odyssey. The seller was tired of it and even let me know during our meeting (“I just want to get rid of it. We need room in the driveway and we already bought a new car”- not the best negotiating on his part, huh?) and it had some deferred maintenance and one major problem (in his mind) – the sliding doors on both sides were not working.

He called the dealer and was quoted $1K per side to repair the doors. A minivan without side doors is really just a small box truck so what was he to do? Dump it on Craigslist. I got it for $500, spent $4 on parts and had both doors working in my first hour of ownership. I detailed it, registered and insured it, did the minor repairs necessary to pass the safety inspection and now I have a killer, leather/heated-seated, luxury MaxiVan that so far has cost $878 including gas, registration and insurance. I am planning to sell it next month and will ask $1000 more for it. DFF and then some!

Research, research and more research.
Find a car you know/like/want and check out all the cars in your area online. You will start to develop an innate knowledge of what a 200x Honda Odyssey is worth so you’ll be able to quickly respond when you see one that’s underpriced. The seller will often fully admit why they don’t want/like the car – that’s your chance to not only research the frequency of those issues, but you also have a great prybar with which to separate their thought of what it’s worth from what you’re willing to pay. They’ve handed you the psychological keys to their wallet.

I wasn’t lying when I pointed out to the Odyssey owner that it certainly was a large vehicle and that I wasn’t sure if it would fit in MY driveway… but that I was willing to take that risk (and remove it from his driveway, conveniently) for the right price.

Do as much work as you can, yourself:
This includes the research part. Case in point: I had a 1990 Montero with a frozen brake caliper. Before I learned how to do this myself, I called a few shops to get quotes. They were all around $300 for a front brake job. Then I did a bunch of research – watching YouTube videos showing the entire job, pricing the parts, etc. I then made calls back, telling the shop exactly what I needed done, that I had parts, and asking what their T&M (Time and Material) rate would be, knowing that even John Amateur on YouTube did it in under 2 hours. Voila – I get a not-to-exceed quote of 2 hours at $75/hour. Half the original price, since I did the research and made it much easier for the mechanic to feel like he would be able to make quick money on the deal.

Remember, that original quote was not because the mechanic was sleazy; she was just trying to cover the possibility that it was much more involved (sight unseen).

As I did more research, I began to notice that other successful DIY mechanics people I saw or read about were normal people like me, with normal, cheap tools and a desire to learn and save money. Now I do brake jobs myself, and know that if I ever get in over my head, I’m just left where I was when I started – having a car with no brakes.

Sell quickly and at a modest price:
I don’t set out to make money though it always ends up happening. The goal is DFF, remember? In the case of the Forester, my friend still got a killer deal (since I sold it at cost) because I bought it so low and only priced it at my cost. All of the other vehicles I’ve sold have been very fairly priced and every buyer has walked away from the negotiation happy. This comes from knowing the market, having cash ready to pounce on a good deal, and keeping my expenses low.

This includes shopping for the best insurance deals, separating accessories from the vehicle when documenting the purchase** and in Maine, rolling over registrations from one vehicle to the next***. When it comes time to sell it, I price it according to the market and the research I’ve done, and I value my time so I keep it fair. I also market the heck out of it with really good photos (and I use all 24 photo spots CL offers), concisely written ad copy and honest details. I respond super quickly and politely to every contact I receive and I offer incentives to friends and even strangers to sell it “for” me by telling their friends, etc. I’ve had potential buyers decide they don’t want a car, but end up bringing me a friend of theirs who wants to buy it!

The point is:
You can do this. It can be at a high level (maybe you want a Subaru WRX and who am I to judge you for wanting that? That’s MMM’s job…!) or a low one (search Craigslist with a <$1500 filter and see how many awesome cars there are) but the point is to come from the DFF perspective and you just might surprise yourself.

Here is a list of some of the more memorable or recent transactions. All cars from Craigslist unless otherwise noted):

The List:
2003 Jetta TDI wagon – bought for $5200 after five months of searching online; knew I wanted over 40MPG without the magic (and complexities) of a hybrid. Later sold for $6500.
2005 Toyota RAV4 – bought for $19,000 back when we lived in California, enjoyed it for five years. When we moved to Maine,  got someone to drive it here for free and sold it here as a rust-free California car for $18,000.
2006 Jetta TDI – bought for $3900 and it’s still my wife’s car. Learned a lot from that first diesel. Started with a failing camshaft and luckily for me, the owner only went to the VW stealership for a quote (of $6200!). I didn’t lift a finger on this car except to call an independent shop after doing my research. Got it fixed for $900 total.
2003 Saturn Vue – bought for $1000 from a guy who had a bad breakup and this was his ex’s car (remember that psychological prybar?). ‘nuf said. Later sold for $2500.
2001 Subaru Forester – you know about this one already!
1999 Audi A4 Quattro – Bought for $900 because seller didn’t realize color matched paint comes in a spray can. Sold for $2000. It’s amazing what a million little scratches do for depreciation…
2002 Passat AWD Wagon – Bought for $1000. Seller was tired of the car failing to start on cold mornings and having the Check Engine Light on all the time. Invested $8 in spark plugs. Later sold for $3480.
1988 Chevrolet 2500 pick-me-up truck w/plow – Seller bought a house in winter with an old truck in the back yard, covered w/snow. I offered $400 knowing the plow blade alone was worth that. Turned out to just need fluid changes and it fired right up! Separated the plow and sold it separately. Sold for a total of $2,000, making 500% markup on the entire package.
1999 Mercedes ML320 – Bought for $1000 – Seller waited until a week before they were moving out of the country. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Meet my friend Ben Franklin! Later sold for $2100
1997 Toyota Tercel Blackhawk (ooh! Google it!) – Seller thought it had a transmission issue. Turns out the brakes were all seized from rust. Brute force and ignorance (aka a sledge hammer and nothing to lose) and I drove it home after I paid him $400 for it. Sold it for $1300.
2004 Honda Element – Belonged to seller’s ex-wife. It had a cracked radiator so no heat. Bought for $1300. Replaced the radiator, bought a used hood to replace the dented one and sold this highly-desirable, cult car for $6500.
2008 Mercury Grand Marquis – offered to me by an elderly neighbor’s out-of-state family when they came to dispense w/his property and heard I was a “car guy”. I offered to help sell it; they asked for quick $. I offered to match dealer trade-in of $3200. Later sold it for $6200.
2003 Kia Sedona Van – Seller’s rich mother handed down her fancier car. I pointed out how the neighbors in their McMansions didn’t have surplus cars outdoors cluttering their pretty driveways…and flashed some cash. Bought for $1250, sold at cost to a local school.
2003 Honda Odyssey – Seller hit a deer and dented the front quarter panel and hood. Replaced these parts from the local junkyard. Also the passenger windows wouldn’t go up after the accident so the interior got wet. Seller haphazardly covered windows with plastic but got sick of it and bought a new car. Bought for $1000. Turned out the child safety switch had been tripped by the collision – I flicked a switch and closed the windows for the first time in 6 months (and avoided the stealership quote of $600 to replace window regulators). Sold at cost to local school
2001 Honda Odyssey – you know this one.
1990 Mitsubishi Montero – given to me for free by a Californian acquaintance who was tired of her old (yet very reliable) car. It failed smog in CA and rather than pursue repair, it came to Maine where it’s a highly desirable hipster rig with NO RUST. I still drive this one but it’s worth about $4k.
2001 Mercedes C320 – Seller came out to a dead car one morning and almost lost his job for being late (I’m guessing this wasn’t the first time). Took a taxi to work and then a taxi to the stealership after work. Couldn’t be bothered to do any research so I bought it off him for $1000. Sold to a local friend in need at cost. Another cheap Benz for DFF!
1989 Jeep Wrangler w/Plow – my latest project. I’ve always wanted a plow rig. I found this up North (very sparsely populated) and knew as soon as I saw it that it was underpriced. Took my trusty prybar (Seller said it wasn’t “truck enough” for him) and a few pieces of green paper (man, people love trading real stuff for abstract stuff!) and now I have a Cheap DFF Jeep! Bought for $2250, current market value is $5k including plow.

* Like Mr. Money Mustache, Ben considers US “Minivans” to be absolutely huge, so he calls them MaxiVans.

**In most states, the DMV needs to know the sale price to calculate taxes and other fees. I don’t advocate tax evasion, but do appreciate tax efficiency. If the jeep is worth $1500 and the plow, extra tires, cool Hello Kitty seat covers and Truck Nutz (trucknutz.com) are worth another $1000, then I’m going to be sure to document that I paid $1500 for the truck, not $2500.

***Learn about the rules in your state. In Maine, for example, we remove the plates from a vehicle when it’s sold; the plates can then be transferred to your next car for a small fee.

++Keep in mind that I have legally and fully registered, paid taxes on and insured every car I’ve owned and I’ve driven them as my own. I’m always looking not only to DFF but also to find the car of my dreams. If only the former happens, I sell it. So, I’m not a dealer; I’m a guy looking for the right car and I can honestly say that to anyone who asks.

An Epilogue From MMM:

It turned out that Ben and his wife and I got along so well (plus each family has a single 10-year-old kid), that we decided our families should meet. We booked a vacation rental for next month on an island in South Florida and started working on logistics.

Should we rent a minivan? (Ben emailed me a Craigslist posting entitled “2004 Chevrolet Venture LS – $800” and said we could drive it for a week then sell it at a profit. Minutes later another one arrived for a big old Chrysler Sebring convertible for a similar price.)

How much is the water taxi to get out to the island? (Posting for a 6-person paddle boat for $80 on Fort Myers Craigslist)

Where can we get food? Fun? Bikes? All questions readily answered with just a few seconds of research.

You adopt this philosophy very casually or dive right in as Ben has done. The point is that resourcefulness and not following the standard consumer script pays great dividends, in both money and fun.

  • Sir Exodus January 28, 2016, 7:17 pm

    This is why the engineers and mechanics of the world have us liberal arts majors beat! I wouldn’t even know where to start on fixing the cars for a profit, but I am highly impressed with Ben and his acumen. Has Ben done the calculation to see how much profit he made over the course of selling all 50 vehicles (after accounting for cost of parts and time)?

    Reply
    • Reuby Tuesday January 29, 2016, 7:59 am

      You don’t have to fix them. I’m a Psych major with no engineering ability. I have owned 7 cars over the last 14 years and all things considered I have netted -$900 and my current car is worth $6k. Not exactly getting my cars for free but pretty darn close.
      If you look at the ages of the cars TMWGHCFF is buying/selling they are mostly 10+ years old which means depreciation over a few months or a year is negligible. That is huge.
      Plus, I am always shocked how cheaply people will sell valuable items when they “just need it out of the garage.” This summer I played a game where I went to garage sales and bought lawnmowers, grills, and bicycles cheap, drove them straight home and posted them to craigslist. I made a 5,000% profit. Easy money because they needed it gone and I had the time to post good photos on craigslist and sit back and let buyers come to me.

      Reply
      • Eldred January 29, 2016, 1:14 pm

        That’s awesome! I’ve just challenged a friend of mine to do the same thing for at least ONE lawnmower and bicycle this summer… :-)

        Reply
        • Not2Shabby February 2, 2016, 6:10 am

          You can absolutely do this with bicycles. Even covering wear parts like tires, tubes, brake pads, and handlebar tape is easy!

          Reply
    • Finance Clever January 29, 2016, 8:02 am

      Not an engineer so I see your point. However, I have been able to sort small things out with my own car, learning a lot in the process. It’s about being open minded and willing to try, start small. Another place you can add value if you are not ready to get your tools out and jump under the hood, is to do research and buy the parts yourself.
      Ben gives a good example of when he was able to do this and save 50%, even though he took the car to a professional mechanic.
      What he has done is great! And I’m not implying it’s a piece of cake. I feel we can all get there with some practice and experience.

      Reply
    • Chris Durheim January 29, 2016, 8:09 am

      I wouldn’t even necessarily start with targeting selling the cars for a profit. Rotate your own tires, find a friend who changes his own oil and help him out until you feel comfortable doing yours. Move on to replacing other fluids in the car and watch youtube videos whenever an issue comes up.

      To a point in Ben’s post, he still used a shop to fix some stuff but by understanding the details and self-procuring parts, he was able to cut the cost in half.

      Start small and build on your knowledge – remember that all the engineers and mechanics started without knowing any of this stuff too; we had to learn along the way :)

      Reply
    • Stephen January 29, 2016, 12:39 pm

      Everyone has some sort of skill that can be similarly applied; Ben’s system isn’t limited to just cars. Good with electronics? Fix up some broken down computers, use ’em for awhile, and sell for a profit. Find some beat up old furniture, renovate it and eventually flip it when you move. Website revamping is another viable option if you have a mind for it. Hell, you could touch up and reframe some worn thrift paintings/art then resell them if that’s your thing.

      I’m sure you picked at least one skill you can apply. If not, you can take some time to learn one! You’re a liberal arts major, get creative!

      Reply
    • Danny January 29, 2016, 2:07 pm

      In my experience, studying STEM doesn’t give you many special tools to fix up, say, a car.

      One thing you DO learn, though, is to be able to grind through really complex and difficult topics and come out the other side unscathed. You can say, “Fuck, I had to learn multivariable calculus… surely I can learn how to hack this car.” Like, when I was a nerdy teenager I thought I was hot shit for learning HTML, but now after studying much harder stuff I realize that was nothing. It’s like after forcing down the super-insanely-hot salsa for a few years, you get used to it and kind of like it, and medium salsa makes you laugh.

      But on the flip side, as a liberal arts major, maybe you had to understand Finnegan’s Wake, and that’s damn hard too. So really all it requires is persistence and a dogged sort of patience: learn all the terminology and concepts, understand the car holistically, understanding the MEANING of the repairs you’re doing, and then go in there.

      Reply
    • Monaca January 29, 2016, 4:39 pm

      I learned how to fix cars in the best way possible. I started with a Chilton’s Manual, a junk yard, and disassembling. Let’s say your mechanic tells you that the alternator on your vehicle need replaced. Go to the auto parts store and purchase a Chilton’s manual for your vehicle. Or, look online, for free, however a Chilton’s guide can be reused for the life of your car and resold when the car is gone. Take the manual to the junk yard and look for a vehicle that matches yours that has an alternator in it. Take the alternator out of the vehicle. With a junk yard vehicle it doesn’t matter if you mess up anything, or cut the wires, or strip any bolts. This disassembling phase is how you learn to assemble it in your own vehicle. Go home and immediately remove your own alternator. Now that you have practice on the junk vehicle you can do it correctly. Installing the “new” part is almost like the third time doing it! Voila… you can now feel like “the shit”. There are so many parts that can be changed from the junk yard. Sometimes you might get a bad part, but over time you learn how to spot the bad ones (ground out rotors, cracked boots etc..). Its a win-win. Savings, self satisfaction, and an education!

      Reply
    • Jim Wang January 31, 2016, 6:39 pm

      If this were 10-15 years ago, you might have an argument wrt engineers vs. liberal arts but Youtube and the internet have changed all that. There are a lot of exceptional tutorials online nowadays and while you probably couldn’t rebuild a car in a short period of time, I suspect you could do it.

      Reply
      • Riles January 31, 2016, 7:28 pm

        Thanks to the expertise of both, we have the Internet! (Along with years of collaboration and persistence)

        Reply
    • JC February 1, 2016, 12:05 pm

      You don’t necessarily have to do the work yourself. My wife backed into a post recently and destroyed her back bumper. The Toyota dealership quoted $2,500 for the repair. She then found a shop in the hood which did the same work for $600.

      Reply
      • Thalia February 2, 2016, 4:52 pm

        This is so true! Someone recently busted out the passenger window on my two door coupe to steal the GPS (yes, my fault for leaving it in plain sight. Lesson learned!). My deductible is 1k which is too high for this kind of damage, so it was out of pocket. It’s laminated glass, and Safelite wanted $750. That was even more than the dealer, who wanted $450. Still too much. A local shop said they’d do it for $320, but no laminated glass, just regular. No go. Finally, I decided to go on eBay, found a wrecked car like mine, got the laminated glass for $125 shipped, then asked the local shop how much they’d charge just to install. They said $65. So, I got the laminated glass I needed installed for only $190. All for a two-year old GPS that’ll go for $5 on the druggie market. smh.

        Reply
    • Mike February 9, 2016, 6:51 pm

      Most local community colleges offer in-depth auto programs for basically nothing (its $65 per credit where I live) so for basically nothing, you can get experience working on a range of cars, ask as many questions from experienced pros, and they typically let you use the space and their tools to work on your own car. I live in an apartment so I don’t have the luxury of having a garage to work on a car so its a win-win.

      Reply
  • Daniel January 28, 2016, 7:42 pm

    Ha! Ben sounds exactly like my dad who spent most of his weekends underneath one of the many older cars (average age about 10 years) we had growing up. He would buy cheap, fix ’em up, drive them for about 4 years, then sell them for more then he paid. Wash, rinse, repeat. He once bought a Ford Mustang II for $1.00, fixed some minor issues, and I drove it back and forth to college for 3 years, after which he sold it for $1,000! Not quite as good as a free car, but close!

    Reply
    • superbien January 29, 2016, 12:08 pm

      Not quite as good as a free car? No, that’s WAY better! You got paid $999 to drive that car for 3 years! Wow

      Reply
  • Jeremy January 28, 2016, 7:45 pm

    Excellent post, I used to make good side money flipping cars. Got a real job that pays enough to support a family, bought all the things, have kids, working on mustache but I miss the thrill of making money on blood and sweat. Thanks for the go ahead and a kick in the pants article.

    Reply
  • Sarah Jane January 28, 2016, 7:52 pm

    Punch Debt in the Face guy does this too, but with furniture… so, sure, why not?

    Hmm.. well.. personally, I would object to encouraging the use of vehicles running on fossil fuels. In fact, I’m surprised MMM condones this car-flipping practice in the same post that he describes how such vehicles “rip breathable air to shreds” (back away from the Jetta!). I can’t handle the contradiction!

    Reply
    • RyanE January 28, 2016, 8:15 pm

      There’s no contradiction there… Keeping an older car on the road (even an inefficient one) creates *less* pollution than purchasing a new car.

      Since 15-20% of a car’s emissions come from when it’s *made*, the optimal time to keep a car on the road is 19 years.

      Reference found here: http://www.monbiot.com/2009/03/10/scrap-it/

      Most of these ‘saved’ cars have plenty of good life left in them, and you are *saving* the planet keeping them running.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2016, 9:19 pm

        I think Sarah is right – there’s is a bit of a contradiction if I wanted to be really ideological about it. In fact this is why in my own upcoming article on buying a car from Craigslist, it’ll be a Nissan Leaf.

        But either way, I think everybody wins when you find ways to spend less of your life in a car. That’s by far the biggest factor.

        Then there’s even more winning if you spend less money on it. But if you are skilled enough to get a neverending stream of cheap, polluting cars from Craigslist and then proceed to use these in place of walking, biking, and designing your life so you don’t need to drive as much, you’re not really winning anything.

        In real life, Ben and family are Mustachians all around. They moved to a small town after retirement partly to live in a walkable and natural environment.

        Reply
        • Matt Rothwell January 29, 2016, 6:38 am

          I’m incredibly intrigued by the thought of a used Nissan Leaf. They’re dirt cheap on craigslist, but you don’t get that massive tax incentive and you run the risk of having a battery with no range.

          I can’t imagine that working on a Leaf would be THAT awful though. For me, fluid changes are by far the worst part of working on a car (oil, transmission, differential, transfer case, coolant, brake fluid…hate em). With a leaf you get to eliminate all but two of those, and I suspect that refurbished battery packs will be available for surprisingly low prices for years to come.

          Reply
          • Erin B. February 8, 2016, 9:52 am

            I stumbled upon a website a few months ago detailing either how to repair the batteries yourself, or how to send them to a 3rd party company that replaces them very cheaply — sort of like taking your printer cartridges to Costco instead of buying new. I think like anything there are options other than the dealership that are much more cost effective to deal with electric or hybrid car battery issues.

            Reply
          • Patrick February 10, 2016, 1:58 pm

            You may want to check your own State’s policies on the tax refunds. Here in Colorado, you can still get a state tax incentive if you buy a used Nissan Leaf (or other hybird/EV) that hasn’t been registered in the State (i.e. hasn’t received the incentive in Colorado already) and register it here. Of course, you wouldn’t get the federal government incentive, but every little bit counts. The obvious downside is that since it is an electric car this means you would potentially have to ship it, but it could still be an option in some states.

            Reply
        • Chris February 1, 2016, 10:39 am

          I hope you follow it with a post on how to power your house with the Leaf. (For emergency situations.) Seems like it would be right in your wheel-house.

          Reply
    • Bob January 29, 2016, 11:57 am

      Sarah, Thanks for the reference to the Punch Debt in the Face Guy! He’s a fun read (when he writes) over at:

      http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/

      I handle the “contradiction” because I come here for a wider discussion of possible lifestyle choices, not to be herded into one absolute PC way of living my life.

      Reply
  • Malcolm January 28, 2016, 8:18 pm

    This is great for those who really like to work on cars. That being said, the time you spend on your cars is absolutely part of their cost, especially if it’s not super fun for you. This is the same MMM website that recently told me to add up and monetize the seconds wasted by locking my front door, right? And the same website that considers commuting time to be wasted because it’s unpaid work? Monetizing time makes sense, so we shouldn’t stop doing it just for our car repairs unless we love to be elbow-deep in an engine.

    Reply
    • Andres January 28, 2016, 8:41 pm

      The difference between time wasted locking the door versus working on a car is that the former teaches you nothing. The latter teaches you a valuable skill that you can use to better yourself, make money, save money, help out friends and neighbors, etc.

      Now, if you live car-free in a reasonably dense city (as I do), then you could certainly argue that learning to fix cars is a waste of time. But the same logic applies to other skills – learning to fix your bicycle is not a waste of time. I figure I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years fixing my family’s bikes. Plus, I’m useful to friends when their bikes break, or they just need a non-biased opinion. And I feel more empowered – I’m not at the mercy of whoever happens to be working at the bike shop that day when it comes to upgrading my bike, or when I’m miles from the nearest bike shop and something breaks.

      Reply
      • Al Fred January 30, 2016, 6:13 am

        This is misguided thinking. You have one life (based on your belief system). Time goes one way and can’t be slowed down. Why waste your weekends fixing a car if you don’t want to(regardless of it being a good skill to have).

        I agree with the save money, don’t buy what you don’t need, focus on experiences not possessions message of this site, but I’d rather do something fun than fix a car to save a few bucks. There’s being frugal, and there’s being cheap and not seeing the true value of time.

        And yes I realise the irony of me preaching about the true value of time while wasting my time commenting on a blog but I felt like ranting

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2016, 8:31 pm

          The only hitch with this line of reasoning is that often the things we don’t “want” to do are exactly what we should do and what will make us happiest.

          For example, I find I “want” to have a few beers almost every day at 5PM as I kick back on the couch with a laptop. But I’ve found I am happier if I have zero beers and go out and do some hard physical labor instead. Accomplishment and learning have a much better effect on wellbeing than avoiding stuff you think you don’t want to do.

          Reply
          • Malcolm February 1, 2016, 9:35 pm

            Oh, man, are you ever right there. But the consumption addiction is *so hard* to destroy.

            Reply
          • Maximus February 5, 2016, 9:06 am

            Absolutely! Replacing existing habits by identifying cues, routines and rewards is no easy task but it definitively provides us with a great opportunity to make good use of our private selfconsciousness to identify those habits that may not be supportive of our goals in life. The way I see it, replacing non supportive habits it’s a WIN WIN move taking into consideration that it will help you stimulate your creativiy by coming up with innovative ways to rewire yourself and at the end you will end up with new/modified habits that are more in line with your goals.

            Reply
        • Kathy Abell January 31, 2016, 1:24 am

          And let’s not forget that Ben loves, loves, LOVES to work on cars and spend time researching information about cars. So for Ben any time he spends on researching and or repairing cars is not wasted but fulfilling. The fact that he comes out ahead money wise is a bonus. ;)

          Reply
  • The dude January 28, 2016, 8:44 pm

    Surprised Ben didn’t go one step further, car auctions ! Much cheaper then Craigslist

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2016, 8:58 pm

      Yeah, I have wondered about car auctions too. I looked into them around here and the instructions said you had to be a licensed car dealer to attend.

      So I looked into that, and it involves submitting a mini business plan to the state business department, sharing how many cars you planned to sell (and where), and how you planned to keep the business stable and reliable. I wasn’t sure if they would accept me if I filled in “1 car per decade”.

      Has anybody else bought cars at an auction successfully? I agree that there are surely some great deals out there.

      Reply
      • Brooke January 28, 2016, 9:10 pm

        It was my understanding that auction cars are the ones not good enough to go to dealerships, is that right? If that’s true maybe he avoids it because the issues would be beyond his scope.

        Reply
        • Crystal January 30, 2016, 9:00 am

          Actually, the opposite. A large bulk of the newer “pre-owned” dealership cars come from auctions. Rental car companies make large profits buying new cars directly from manufacturers at a wholesale price with a volume discount and then resell the fleet at auction a year or two later. Even with depreciation they make a profit and the dealers get the cars discounted enough at auction to sell to consumers and make a profit as well.

          Reply
      • Lennier January 29, 2016, 4:34 am

        Can’t believe that you have to be a licensed dealer to buy cars at auction in Colorado. Here in ‘over-governed’ Australia, anyone can turn up and bid.

        If you [i]sell[/i] lots of cars, then you may need a license.

        Reply
      • Keith Schroeder January 29, 2016, 7:20 am

        I have several clients with small lots buying at auction. It is profitable for my clients. As a small “dealership” they fix up some of the cars they buy. The auction prices around here are pretty good compared to retail or Blue Book, but I would expect that if they are going to resell at a profit.

        My clients attend the auction every week up in Green Bay. According to my guys you have to be careful when buying; there can be some real clunkers in there. I’ve been temped to ask them to bring me along to the auction and buy a car for me. Instead, I buy bank repos. If the bank doesn’t sell the car off their parking lot within a week or two, off to auction it goes. Most vehicles I buy from the bank are around $4000 under Blue Book. So I feel good about myself, I tell myself I’m getting a good deal.

        Reply
      • Matt January 29, 2016, 10:30 am

        In 2011, I went here – http://www.pacificautocompany.com/ – to purchase my first car. I wasn’t a licensed dealer at the time, so maybe rules have changed but I would think not…I didn’t see anything on their website anyway. Got a neglected Audi TT Convertible Quattro for $7200 (in retrospect, I probably overpaid). However, the whole situation was fascinating. Considering that is a mere 40 miles from your abode, and the fact that you don’t have to be a dealer, you should bike down one Saturday afternoon and check it out.

        =)

        Reply
      • Matt January 29, 2016, 12:27 pm

        There are “dealer” auctions and then “regular” auctions. To buy at a dealer auction, you need to have a license (or know someone who does). You can find all kinds of cars at dealer auctions, both new and old.

        I once knew a guy who would buy 1-2 year old cars at dealer auctions, drive them for a year, then sell them via private sale and break even on them (not including gas, etc). These newer cars were still under warranty, so he had very little in repair costs. I’m not sure if this approach would still work today.

        Reply
        • meek er January 30, 2016, 9:59 pm

          Oh…believe me, this still works. My father-in-law has a dealer license, and we buy 2-year old cars that are under warranty, yet “unloved” in the current market. Within a year, we sell them, and break even. Sometimes deals are so incredible, I’ll keep the car a while.

          An example: a few years ago Toyota had an issue with sudden acceleration. Remember? Actually,99.9998% of the cars were fine but some models needed new gas pedals. People panicked. Prices plummeted. Today I can sell the family sedan for more than it was purchased long ago.

          Shopping for 20014 VW TDIs and Priuses right now. The Volkswagen brand is in the dumpster , but this won’t last forever. A used Prius is cheap because gas is cheap (notice all the monster trucks on the roads again. Sigh.) That won’t last forever either. Circling like a vulture for a real steal….and I’ll wait out the market, if I keep the car. Otherwise, I’ll flip it in a year and break even.

          Reply
          • nevlis February 2, 2016, 9:28 am

            I don’t know why I never considered this idea. It’s exactly how I invest in the market (buy good value when panic/fear drops the prices), but it could easily be applied to so many other things…

            Reply
      • Fuzz January 29, 2016, 2:04 pm

        I’ve bought cars at county auctions in Wyoming and Washington State. Both times have been screaming deals.

        2006 Chevy impala with 100,000 miles for $2750. Drove 3+ years, put 50,000 miles on the car and spent $300 for a part one time. Sold for $2500 cash. 2003 Chevy Tahoe, bought for $1000 and sold for $2500 a month or two later.

        If you’re interested in a recreational vehicle, it’s possible to get an ambulance, school bus, or firetruck! for cheap. That would be fun to retrofit or even AirBnB.

        Reply
        • diana February 1, 2016, 7:47 pm

          I thought “hey! my brother did that! in those places!” then realized that Fuzz is my REAL LIFE brother, haha!

          Reply
          • Sarah February 5, 2016, 3:51 pm

            Oh man, I totally want to AirBnB an ambulance, now!!!

            Reply
      • Jazz January 29, 2016, 4:08 pm

        Make a friend! My mechanic uncle has a license and probably half of what he buys is purely for friends who go along with him to “borrow” his license and buy in his name.

        Reply
      • KM January 30, 2016, 7:53 am

        Great posting–the Master/Slave concept fits very well here and with many of the possessions people own.

        I have only owned 2 cars, both used, in my lifetime. The second one was picked up from a Florida auction. Both Toyota/Lexus has a huge auction here regularly where they auction off cars that have come back from leases. I had a friend with a license, so I was able to get my car at wholesale price. That was in 2005. I plan to keep the car until I retire early, which is now 6 years away. If you have a friend or someone you know who can get in for you, that’s the best way to do it.

        One other point–you referenced cars as “mechanical wheelchairs” which is a term I really love to use after I had read it in Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. Not sure if that is a coincidence you both called them that, but that is where the term actually originated from. Great book, I have read it so many times I have lost count.

        Reply
      • Jeremy E. February 1, 2016, 10:48 am

        Where I live there is a car auction place and anyone can bid on the cars there, the cars come from an auto title loan place that repos unpaid car loans. When I was in high school i basically made this my job, I’d buy cars for $50-$100 and either fix/resell them or scrap the car. Sadly most of the time I’d end up scrapping them, if I took the catalytic converter off and scrapped it separately, I’d get around $120 for scrapping an average sized car. I’ve also gotten a few cars from storage shed auctions, but you generally pay more there, as the cars are usually in better shape, so you buy these to resell not to scrap.

        Reply
    • Lennier January 29, 2016, 4:32 am

      Oh yeah, auctions!
      The year before last, Brisbane (Australia, not California) had a huge summer storm roll through, complete with more hail than we’ve seen in a long time. And right at rush-hour. Tens of thousands of cars damaged. So many, in fact, that the insurance companies were basically writing off pretty much anything that came in for a claim. it took the auction houses six months to get rid of everything.
      Not being hung up on appearance, and with my GFs family in need of a better car for work use than the 80’s era Ford ZK Fairlaine they were then using, I sat at the computer for several Saturdays in a row, carefully noting the prices various cars were going for. Being a Ford Family, I concentrated on those.
      I ended up buying three Ford BF/BFII Falcon Stationwagons (LPG) for a combined cost of AU$1800 (plus fees), expecting to make one good car out of three, and part out the rest for a profit. In the end, they were in such good mechanical condition that one became the new work vehicle, one replaced the GF’s mothers clapped-out Ford XF Falcon, and my own mother intends to buy the remaining car off me to replace the Holden Captiva which is costing them too much money in repayments.
      All three cars have hail damage, but run like a dream (heavy fuel use in town, though).

      Reply
      • Melinda January 30, 2016, 10:42 pm

        Hi great to see a comment from someone not living to far from me in Australia, don’t have much to say about cars, but last cars have been several years old and 4 x 4 s as tow a caravan (trailer vans ? in US) with all the extras we need/want eg tow bars, bull bars, a chip, etc

        Reply
      • TropicalCat January 31, 2016, 7:04 pm

        Hey Lennier, we’re all the way in Cairns and hubby makes a living buying and trading off repairable write-offs from the insurance biz. We’ve had amazing deals. The best one was $50 for a 10-year-old Subaru which had the sole function of sitting by the road advertising the dental surgery! You can imagine the clicks on this! Anyway, it got pranged in the bumper and looked a bit sad. No mechanical damage to speak of. Some panel damage but nothing that couldn’t be gently tapped into position. Hubby then straightened out the bumper with a hairdryer. Sold it for $5K to a single mother from the Daintree. She loved it. Could’ve sold it 10 times over! Love the auctions!

        Reply
  • frank January 28, 2016, 9:00 pm

    Yeah Pete is a lightweight..;).

    The car I drive now is a ’99 Dodge Neon Sport that I picked up for $350 with excellent bodywork with a bit of scosmetic damage on the front. I repainted the front half of the car, rebuilt the engine (it didn’t need any machining work) and put new synchros in the manual transmission. The best part is that its almost identical to the 97 Dodge Neon I sent to the scrap yard.. After I pulled all the parts out of it which are now sitting on a large shelp in my shop. A complete set of running spares in fact… If I don’t end up selling it for a profit I’ll be amazed..:)

    Reply
  • Brooke January 28, 2016, 9:07 pm

    We too got a screaming deal on our 2002 Honda Accord with 51,000 miles on it that we bought last year. It was an impeccably maintained, rarely driven car of a neighbor of ours and my husband and I share it (he bikes the 10 miles each way to work). I work from home two days a week so this car maybe gets 3 or 4,000 miles per year. When we sell it I’m sure we’ll get all or nearly all of our money back because of the crazy low miles.

    My only concern about Ben is that I hope he’s being totally forth coming with the people he’s selling the cars too, and including the original issues. Especially that car with the rusted brakes. That could get scary for the new owner.

    I think more people would take the time out to learn to do things for themselves. It’s gratifying. As Ron Swanson said, “People who buy things are suckers”.

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh January 28, 2016, 10:17 pm

      Hi Brooke…

      That’s a fair concern.

      As it happens, I know Ben personally.

      Not only is he impeccably honest in his dealings (cars and otherwise), there have been several times where he has seen more need in a buyer than available cash and let the car go for cost or even below.

      Reply
      • Wobblydeb January 29, 2016, 9:10 am

        Well, impeccably honest with buyers, but not sellers ;-)

        Reply
        • Scott January 29, 2016, 9:44 am

          Yes. I’ve done a craigslist deal with the local bicycle version of this guy. I posted a bike for sale on craigslist. This guy is super friendly, says he is looking for a bike “for his girlfriend”, and gives me a super lowball offer. I hold my ground and get the asking price. A week later I see my old bike posted for sale priced at $50 above what I sold it for. After clicking around on craigslist I find that this guy has quite an inventory of bikes for sale. In my mind he is a “dealer” that likes to sweet talk sellers. I am all for arbitrage but the whole “girlfriend” story made me feel like the guy definitely misrepresented himself. It’s not like I got ripped off, but it was just sort of a slimey human interaction.
          I am not implying Ben is deliberately misrepresenting himself to sellers, and I don’t know what the technical definition of a “dealer” is, but 50+ transactions like he has done sort of speaks for itself. I just wonder if Ben is only fooling himself with the “I’m just a guy looking for the right car” bit.

          Reply
        • jlcollinsnh January 29, 2016, 12:56 pm

          Hi Wobblydeb…

          Your comment sent to back to give the post another read.

          But I’m still not seeing anything dis-honest.

          Can you share what specifically struck you in this way?

          In several of the stories I do see times where Ben was willing to take risks, spend time and do research and work the sellers were unwilling to do. I don’t fault the sellers for this, most personal times in these cases I’ve been that seller where it was worth more to me to unload the object and move on than to do this work.

          The willingness to take on those things, and the hard-earned knowledge to recognize the opportunity, are what create the spread and profit. I’ve never begrudged the buyers of my stuff the profits they might have made in seeing value, investing the time and taking on the risk and work that lead to a higher price.

          Reply
          • Wobblydeb January 29, 2016, 3:27 pm

            “- not the best negotiating on this part, huh?”

            “but you also have a great prybar with which to separate their thought of what it’s worth from what you’re willing to pay. They’ve handed you the psychological keys to their wallet.”

            “I wasn’t lying when I pointed out to the Odyssey owner that it certainly was a large vehicle and that I wasn’t sure if it would fit in MY driveway… but that I was willing to take that risk (and remove it from his driveway, conveniently) for the right price.”

            A lovely bit of negotiation – not too heavy handed, but enough to reinforce the seller’s concerns about the car, and worry the seller that he might not get the sale.

            “and knew as soon as I saw it that it was underpriced. Took my trusty prybar (Seller said it wasn’t “truck enough” for him)”

            “bought for $1000 from a guy who had a bad breakup and this was his ex’s car (remember that psychological prybar?). ‘nuf said”

            Hey, Ben is clearly an experienced negotiator, and I applaud his talent as a buyer, but I wouldn’t call it impeccably honest. One simple question would give you the answer. In each of the examples he gives, would he have treated the seller the same if they were a family member or close friend? Would you?

            It is noticeable that he buys from people he doesn’t know, and sells (in many of the examples) to folks and organisations he does know. I guess that is why he isn’t always as commercial when he sells.

            Reply
            • jlcollinsnh January 29, 2016, 6:12 pm

              Mmmm….

              I take your point.

              But I see it as a process of understanding the seller’s needs, psychological as well as financial, and offering a deal that meets both.

              Much like, I would guess, you did when you got the screaming deal on your Accord. That bargain price wasn’t dishonesty on your part, but the same process of meeting some of your neighbor’s needs other than just the financial.

              As to the question of how he (or I) would treat a friend or family member, we’d very likely give them a better deal. But that’s a gift, not a reflection of mistreating others.

              Reply
              • David January 30, 2016, 9:47 am

                Ben looks like an opportunistic guy who takes advantage of sellers that misprice their cars. He is not above using some psychological trickery to get the victim, er seller, to part with the asset. He fits right in with the pawn shop owner, pay day loan operator, arbitrage analyst or any other bargain hunter who pounces on mispriced assets. He certainly doesn’t need to be cloaked in some sort of strange morality.

            • jlcollinsnh January 29, 2016, 6:15 pm

              Oops!

              That was Brooke who struck the deal on the Accord.

              Sorry, Wobbydeb! :)

              Reply
    • Alissa January 29, 2016, 3:11 pm

      I just had to comment on your Ron Swanson quote! I just recently watched that episode and thought “What a Mustachian thing to say!!” That was, by, far, my favorite moment in the show…

      Reply
    • 80Westy January 29, 2016, 7:52 pm

      Brooke, Rusty brakes usually mean the pads have seized to the rotors. This is not a safety issue as your comment implies, it is simply what happens when a car sits too long. Once freed, the only ill effects are vibration during braking. Please refrain from implying that folks who understand cars, when you do not, are scammers or jerks who are placing others at risk. Sorry if my comment seems harsh, but I am offended by your inference.

      Reply
  • Paul January 28, 2016, 9:19 pm

    As the owner if a 2002 Subaru with 205,000 miles on it and a hefty timing belt job coming up that if done by a shop would cost half the cars value, timing belt job or let it ride?

    Reply
    • dave January 29, 2016, 12:53 am

      shop around to get the lowest quote on a timing belt. Not a hard job for shops. I got mine done for 350 bucks last time. I would keep it can get easily another 100,000 miles on it.

      Reply
    • Chranstronaut January 29, 2016, 9:41 am

      When is the scheduled maintenance for the belt? I’d do a little research online for your particular engine and see if it’s common for the belt to need replacement on schedule or if people often change earlier or later. Opinions differ wildly — some people feel you should always replace timing belts early as you’ll destroy an interference engine if it breaks, others feel you should inspect it and replace it once there are signs of wear and cracking. Get a baseline on Suburu repair forums and you’ll get an idea of when it’s due.

      I do a lot of DIY on my car (early model Focus) and find online forums invaluable for these kinds of decisions.

      Reply
    • Ewan January 29, 2016, 3:06 pm

      Subarus are much harder to do timing belts on due to their boxer style flat four (or flat six) cylinder engine lay out and difficult access. Unfortunately it will cost more to do at a shop and you’d be very brave to diy unless experienced. They are very well engineered though.

      Reply
    • Fred NYC Biker January 31, 2016, 2:05 pm

      Re-assess your valuation! The repair cost in relation to the fair market value of your car maybe quite high however by asking yourself how many more years of driving for the repair cost plus forgoing the cost of another ride may greatly tip the scales.

      Good luck

      Fred

      Reply
    • Lee February 1, 2016, 2:21 pm

      After wrestling with this exact question, at 212,000 miles, I recently decided to replace the timing belt in my 2007 Subaru Outback, partly because I have spent a lot of money on other repairs in the last few years and figured my next 80-100,000 miles might be relatively trouble-free. I asked my mechanic if it was worth it. The mechanic (who is very honest and drives an old Subaru himself) told me that if they were going to take the engine out to do the timing belt, that I really needed to replace the head gasket because oil was leaking badly. I knew this, but had been hoping to avoid it. He said that it was probably worth it because everything else looked good. (I have maintained the car well.) After some consideration, I agreed. In sum, the timing belt was around $1,000 and the head gasket was around $1,500. (There were parts that needed to be machined as part of the head gasket repair.) In my area, these were fair prices. (I checked with another trusted mechanic.) There was no way that I was going to do either of these repairs myself. I spent the money because, other than that, the car is running fine and I really do not choose to buy another vehicle until this one hits 280,000-300,000.
      I think this decision is difficult and will depend on the individual vehicle and how long you plan on keeping it. No doubt some people will point out that I could have waited and tested my luck, since timing belts are lasting longer these days. (I believe that Subaru recommends that the timing belt be changed every 105,000 miles. It was done at the first 105,000.) I think my decision was based partly on the fact that I drive long distances in very remote areas quite often and did not want to be stranded if my timing belt broke, and partly because I abhor buying cars. I have driven every car that I’ve ever owned into the ground.

      Reply
  • Dave January 28, 2016, 10:05 pm

    I think here in Colorado if you sell more than three cars per year you are considered a dealer and need to be licensed.

    Reply
  • Quigs January 28, 2016, 11:08 pm

    Yes, now is a great time to buy an electric car or hybrid. And when oil hits $160 a barrel in 2 years, it will be a great time to pick up a replacement work truck. Be contrarian.

    Reply
  • Suvi January 28, 2016, 11:30 pm

    This was great! I know nothing about mending cars, but this sort of tactic can be used for a lot of things. I used to wonder about a friend of mine, she seemed to spend loads and loads of money on her kids’ brand clothing. Turned out she bought everything second-hand online. She would only buy really popular brands in just the right size, be really smart on the prices, and take good care of the clothes. Then when the child grew out of the clothes, she’d sell at the same price or more. That too takes preparation of course, but it’s a useful hobby if you like it, resulting in free clothing. With cars it’s even better of course and you get real compensation for your time.

    Reply
    • Adam January 29, 2016, 12:13 am

      I agree with Suvi, this kind of tactic works well for lots of things, not just cars. Be good to see more MMM articles on it.

      I’ve done this quite successfully with Photography equipment (Ken Rockwell has some good articles on how he does it)….for about three years there I was shooting regularly and replaced my gear about three times over completely, without spending an actual cent, buy buying low really carefully, looking after all my gear, and then selling it carefully on ebay.

      Similarly with bike gear, I’ve manged quite a few times to buy bike parts and later sell them for more than I paid, after using them or otherwise cleaning them up (eg get a non-roadworthy bike for almost nothing, remove good vintage parts, clean up, sell parts on ebay, keeping what I need, make back my money several times over).

      Some “stuff” holds value over time much better than other “stuff”. Knowing which does or doesn’t, and how to maximise the holding of value and/or getting the best Cost Benefit out of it, I think is a key aspect of mustachianism (depreciating vs non-depreciating assetts). Most Mustachians probably do this in many aspects of their lives (if not the actual selling for profit part) without realising.

      Reply
    • superbien January 29, 2016, 12:17 pm

      Re buying/selling used kids’ clothes – I find that friends are delighted to hand over bags of lightly used kids clothes, just to clean out space as their kids grow. Garage sales too. If you’re willing to put in the time with eBay, selling kids clothes could be nicely profitable, as a side hustle.

      Reply
      • nic February 1, 2016, 9:48 am

        My colleague and I have a word for this – we call it “finvisible” – financially invisible. If you buy something and use it and then sell it at the same price then it is a financially invisible transaction! Love it!

        Reply
  • Pierre January 28, 2016, 11:33 pm

    Many different ways to solve the car problem. As i happen to hate spending on cars, including spending time, my plan is : only buy smallish, used, 500$ cars. Then drive them till something happens that really needs fixing. Then ditch the car except if repair cost is 30$ or less, so most often ditch it. And buy another one.
    Such cars lasr me between 6 months and 3 years, so on average, it ok.

    Reply
  • Mr Zombie January 29, 2016, 12:01 am

    Awesome work Ben! Strikes me that so much comes down to planning and not being in a rush. Some of the sellers…In a rush to get rid of their car. The buyer (you)…not in instant need of a car and willing to do the research and wait for a deal. The result…a quick sale for them and a deal for you :)

    It pays to not have to pay for convenience… In all aspects of life!

    Happy friday

    Reply
  • Jim McG January 29, 2016, 12:52 am

    I like watching the programme Gas Monkey. Here are a bunch of blokes doing something they absolutely love. Buying, cars, doing them up and selling them on. And getting paid for it too! Not too many similar programmes out yet about early retirement. I wonder why?

    Reply
    • L16A January 29, 2016, 11:56 am

      What corporation would sponsor THAT?! :-)

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2016, 8:54 pm

        How about investing companies? I get a lot of inquiries from TV production companies about doing a show about Mustachianism.

        I was initially interested until I got into the details with a coupe of the companies. I learned that the work of producing commercial TV is actually pretty unpleasant. When money isn’t an issue, you might as well produce your own video features with no meed to cater to the motives of selling anything to anybody.

        Reply
        • TheHappyPhilosopher January 31, 2016, 12:33 am

          I think you should start your own YouTube channel. That’s something I would actually watch. Just live your life with a GoPro (sourced used off Craig’s list of course) or something and film the infinite number of absurd things that are in complete contradiction to mustachianism.

          You could be like a frugal Casey Neistat or something.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

          Reply
      • lurker January 31, 2016, 4:24 pm

        Vanguard!

        Reply
  • dave January 29, 2016, 12:55 am

    Good idea is to car shop for used cars in higher income areas. They are less likely to negotiate hard on price more likely just to be happy to get rid of it and move on to a brand new one which they have plenty of money for.

    Reply
    • Missy B January 29, 2016, 2:03 am

      Can’t say I’ve found that to be true. The wealthier they are, the more likely to drive a hard bargain and assume their second-hand stuff is so great you should pay a premium for it. I’ve run into this so many times with garage sales and car/boat etc sales that I no longer bother with the really shi-shi parts of my town.
      And I well recall one multi-millionare who tried to dicker me down on my professional rates to the point where I was embarrassed for him. The moderately prosperous middle class can be quite complacent about getting their value back on their used stuff, but real high income people aren’t so easy.
      There’s a reason some people are rich :)

      Reply
  • Ashlea January 29, 2016, 2:55 am

    These are all very low key deals. My partner does this, and has owned hundreds of cars in his lifetime. It’s how we plan to pay the mortgage off in 5 years. A very recent deal was a car he brought in very bad shape for $6.5k. Did it up, and it was worth at least 20k. The guy who wanted to buy it didn’t have 20k. So he offered my partner 10k and the same model car but “broken”. He wanted to get rid of it as he had been told it would cost $12k to fix. It ended up taking a few hours and $0 as the ignition was wired wrong. He just sold that car for $20k. We ended up getting new solar panels for our house essentially for free, and a bit off the mortgage. We are just waiting for the next storm so we can buy some repairable writeoff’s that are hail damaged. Takes him a few weekends to repair. But we just got rid of a car that was a 2011, had 26,000km on the clock, and we paid $1200 for it due to the severe hail damage it had. Ended up swapping it for another vehicle that was worth more but in “poor condition” according to the old owner.

    Reply
  • Niek January 29, 2016, 3:40 am

    *I bought my car for 160$;
    *It’s a Mazda Demio from 2001;
    *It was dirty and disgusting when I got it, but I cleaned it up!
    *I’ve been driving it for exactly two years now and only had to put up 2 new tires;
    *It has driven 190.000 miles, but still runs great. It still drives 37 miles per gallon;
    *The best part is I can put the front and back seat flat so I can sleep in it when I have a party (and I’m 6 feet 5) :)

    Love your site!

    Regards,

    Niek
    The Netherlands

    Reply
  • Doug January 29, 2016, 5:12 am

    Great article as usual. A couple of questions, how did you register the car in Florida during the vacation? In Massachusetts when I buy a used car they always charge me the “book” value and not the paid for value, am I missing some detail on this?

    Reply
    • Lakemom January 29, 2016, 6:05 am

      Indiana has the same law. We used to buy and sell cars as a hobby (usually just needing cosmetic work) until they changed this law. Now the tax is charged on the “book value” of the car regardless of what you paid. Mass. probably has the same law but ME doesn’t.

      Reply
  • TurboDave January 29, 2016, 5:26 am

    If you find yourself anywhere near the Sarasota-Bradenton area just south of Tampa, it would behoof you to visit the Ringling Art Museum and Ringling Mansion. The Art Museum is free on Mondays and features some truly unique art that would normally require an intercontinental flight to Europe to see.

    Reply
  • jestjack January 29, 2016, 6:20 am

    What a great article! I’m currently in the “hunt” for a used SUV and the prices are crazy. What worries me is the repair costs of some of the vehicles. I recently saw a 2004 Saturn Vue on CL for $500…my first thought a GREAT deal. But it needed transmission work. id some research and because it was 4 wheel and had a CVT trans….replacement would be $5k. Much more than the car was worth. Thanks for the timely post….

    Reply
    • Andy January 29, 2016, 12:18 pm

      A few years ago I found a shop here in Phoenix that showed me how to replace my brakes all by myself. It was no more than what other places charge for full-service, but now I’ll never have to pay for more than parts. U-fix-it automotive. Sadly, it’s closed now. But perhaps there is something similar in your town? Maybe not for transmission, that sounds complicated.

      Reply
      • jestjack February 2, 2016, 7:57 am

        Thanks Andy for the “heads-up”….BUT your right transmissions are very complicated and I’m told with this particular model it’s easier to just pull the whole drivetrain/engine….which is BIG $ in labor costs. In this vein, I just read an article where some are predicting Ford will sell 900K F-150’s this year. The cheapest 2016 F-150 I can find is over $30K and most go for the mid $40’s to the $50’s. My question….who buys these things? At $50K with 0% financing for 60 months the payments are $833 a month….Who does this???

        Reply
  • Peter January 29, 2016, 6:33 am

    I love the idea of doing something like this when I am FIRE but with a job not sure I could ever find the time. Also not sure I am enough of a car nut. But what else could this concept be applied to? How about finding old bikes and fixing them and reselling. Furniture? Computers & Laptops (probably not on that one), others ideas?

    Reply
    • superbien January 29, 2016, 12:24 pm

      I used to be so good at flipping couches on craigslist. I stopped because of the rise of bedbugs, but it makes me so sad.

      My main tricks, which I think work for most online selling: 1) clean the item, 2) take great photographs – warm light, clutter free background, multiple angles, 3) provide plenty of detail, 4) use mild emotionally evocative descriptors, 5) disclose all issues.

      Reply
  • Keith Schroeder January 29, 2016, 7:12 am

    I have always subscribed to the philosophy of “buy a bank repo, drive it 15-20 years, repeat”. Now I have to rethink my position, Ben. Another awesome article, MMM. This idea of profiting from owning a wasting asset appeals to me. It seems to go against the rules of nature. And selling a vehicle at a profit? Only did it once in my life and it was an accident (sold a bank repo a year after I bought it).

    Reply
  • Gwen January 29, 2016, 7:18 am

    Wish I could join you guys in Florida! I’m headed up to visit them in Maine over Labor Day weekend though, which is the next best thing!

    Reply
  • Chris Durheim January 29, 2016, 7:58 am

    The list of stories attached to the cars is a great reminder on how a lot of people have been brainwashed to think that they either can’t take care of their own problems or that the work is beneath them.

    I’ve been working hard to get better at this – in the last 6 months I’ve fixed my own furnace (kinked drain tube) and whole house humidifier (shoddy wiring job by the last guy) for just the cost of my time. I easily would have dropped $500 between the two if I hadn’t found the motivation and self confidence to spend a couple hours researching and tinkering.

    I think we have a problem in the “personal finance” community where we talk about the “value of our time” in solely quantitative terms. If you make $70,000 a year, then you shouldn’t do anything that costs more than $35 an hour to pay someone else to do. I get the math and the economics of specialization, but it totally discounts (1) the learning, confidence, and satisfaction you get from accomplishing the activity and (2) are you actually going to go spend that hour working to make your $35 to cover the cost?

    I see lots of people use this rationale to pay someone else to shovel their driveway, mow their lawn, and other stuff but then have a $500/month lease on a shiny gas-guzzler or sit on a mountain of credit card debt.

    In the meantime, I’m feeling awesome about learning more about how my furnace works and the pride that I didn’t have to depend on someone else to fix it for me.

    Reply
    • Joe F January 29, 2016, 1:22 pm

      I agree. I used to have someone clean my (stainless steel lined, don’t try this otherwise) chimney. He would show up and tell me all about how he rigged up a spinny cleaner thingy with post ties and used a drill to spin them up and down the chimney blah blah blah. After a couple of times I decided to try it myself and now I save a few hundred dollars a year.
      Same thing with my on-demand kerosene water heater. It needed a cleaning twice a year so I watched the guy one day and decided to try it myself. It has now run fine for over a YEAR with the cleaning I gave it. Should save me a few bills a year now.

      Reply
      • Chris Durheim January 31, 2016, 12:05 pm

        Nice! And don’t you feel like a badass every time you do it?

        One of the best feelings is learning how to do stuff for yourself and free yourself of that dependence!

        Reply
    • Danny January 29, 2016, 2:37 pm

      I’ve been thinking about insourcing a lot recently. One of the major problems in modern society is that many of us are deprived of meaningful work – we sit in a corporate environment and tinker on a project that may be cancelled, has questionable benefit, and is for a company we don’t even necessarily respect. If we were to somehow find a way to do no work at all (and some corporate employees do manage to pull this off), the world wouldn’t really be impacted.

      But learning to fix your own problems gives you something magical: meaningful work. You can see the fruits of your labor, and it can be tremendously rewarding.

      So insourcing is a way of bringing back meaning into your life.

      Reply
      • Suvi January 29, 2016, 11:56 pm

        This. So many of us struggle to see the point in our jobs, big house small people -effect.. So why do even more of it for more money to pay for someone, who’s doing the thing you would love to do if you just went and did it yourself?

        Reply
      • Chris Durheim January 31, 2016, 12:02 pm

        Totally agree – ideally you get meaning in both, but ultimately it is up to each of us to put ourselves in situations where we get true meaning.

        I’m lucky that I can work on meaningful products at my day job; that said, I’m in management and find that I miss being hands on. Thankfully there’s lots I can do in our home life that scratches that itch to actually do something with my hands.

        Reply
  • Daniel January 29, 2016, 8:34 am

    I wonder what Ben’s opinion is on the type to title the car has? In KY we have clean, salvage, and rebuilt titles. I have always steered clear of anything but clean titles.

    Reply
    • Bob January 29, 2016, 11:08 am

      I once “sold” the same car twice, both times at a “profit”!

      I’m not speaking for Ben, but I once got a steal on a nearly new 1990 Subaru Wagon that had smacked a power pole behind the passenger door. The photos at the re-builder’s were pretty gnarly – there had been almost a perfect half round crush zone of destruction from top to bottom. The car was “rebuilt” by welding on the back half of an entirely different car, and then repainted. I put 100,000 miles on it over several years, and it was then slaughtered in a hail storm – it looked like someone had taken a ball-peen hammer to it.

      The insurance company totaled it, and paid me more than had I paid for it, evidently they didn’t account for the rebuilt title.

      I bought it back from them for 1/10th – a common option, as it still ran perfectly, just needed a new windshield. I drove it several thousand more and then finally sold it again making a small profit this second time.

      I’ve sold lots of cars at break even after use but not including gas and insurance, etc … guess I need to step up my game. LOVED this article, even with the contradictions to the overall MMM ethos, this is more what I come to read.

      Reply
  • John January 29, 2016, 8:47 am

    I love this article. I’ve been doing the same thing for quite a while and making a few extra grand a year. The unfortunate thing is I use it to pay (insurance and gas) tribute to the clown race car that lives in my garage and I only drive a couple thousand miles a year. I am starting to enjoy the wrenching on my foster cars more than my fancy clown car.

    Thanks for the motivation. I’m going to get rid of the clown car this spring and start putting the extra few grand in my vanguard account instead.

    Reply
  • Dan January 29, 2016, 8:47 am

    I would say the this is an article about one market on a method that works universally.

    The same methodology generates profits on bikes, appliances, houses, computers virtually any thing that can be repaired with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of tolerance for learning/making mistakes. The key seems to be making it easy for the seller to make an emotional decision without basis in economic reason.

    Reply
  • Troy January 29, 2016, 9:14 am

    I’ve been waiting for an article like this for a long time. I love cars, and I know that isn’t very mustachian. However, I do all of my own work, and follow most of Ben’s tips. Have for years. If you are patient, you can make money. My current job pays me .57 cents a mile and I cover a large territory. We have to have cars no older than 3 years old. Sounds expensive, but if you buy smartly… I routinely put on a couple hundred thousand miles per vehicle, and this has always ended up very profitable for me. Even after accounting for expenses. I do have co-workers who manage to somehow ruin this great advantage. Ex. New every year land rovers and BMWs. I imagine they make similar mistakes with housing, food, and pretty much every other financial decision.

    Reply
  • BMW January 29, 2016, 9:29 am

    I own that 5 series Bimmer in your post pic (530xi in silver), and have always felt guilty about it given my otherwise MMM ways. Fortunately I bought it for a song ($5k) with less than 100,000 km’s. Key is having cash on hand to exploit opportunities. Going on 4 years now with very little trouble. My fancy Xenon headlight recently died. Local Automotive Retailer (not BMW) wanted $100 for one. I ordered two online for $15…delivered…taxes in. Took me 10 minutes to swap it out. Kinda scary that something can be manufactured and shipped so cheaply. This vehicle costs me less than $3k all-in to run annually (fuel, insurance, maintenance, licensing, depreciation, etc). Yes, it is possible to drive an awesome car (if you value that) and still be frugal.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2016, 9:05 pm

      Wow, pretty amazing that a nearly-new all-wheel-drive BMW depreciates to the less than the price of its own leather seats option so quickly. Can you imagine the sheer folly of buying one of those things NEW???

      Nice work BMW man – I agree that if you still have a taste for fancy cars, that is the way to do it.

      Reply
      • brc February 22, 2016, 5:59 am

        I have done a similar thing. If you know what you are doing, you can find quality high end cars for less than the price of their original options list. Dealerships offer the owners shockingly low trade values, so you match that and people will sell to you just to spite the dealer. Amazing how they listen to a dealer tell them it’s the most wonderful thing in the world and pay (with finance) yet 5-7 years later same dealer tells them it’s a worthless heap.
        I also get on the dealer mailing list – lots of dealers run specials like ‘safety inspection’ or ‘holiday service’ or ‘air conditioning service’ for dirt cheap – $50 cheap. The dealer does this to get you to bring your dirty unloved car in and sit in the showroom next to the shiny new ones, while the service manager tells you all the ‘problems’ they found. This is the trigger to start talking about a new vehicle – if you’re stupid enough to listen. Usually these are either nothing, or fixable easily. But you just got them to give you a professional check of the car for peanuts.
        After ten years of running used bmws I have skills in fixing them that make other guys jealous, and I have been riding in high quality cars, all for less than the interest payments on a used Camry.

        My motto is ‘a person made it and a person can fix it’.

        Reply
  • Stockbeard January 29, 2016, 10:00 am

    I just love the wheelchair analogy, I’ll definitely reuse that

    Reply
  • Scott January 29, 2016, 10:40 am

    A couple of unrelated comments and questions…

    1) Thanks for introducing the concept of DFF. I love it. I’ve been thinking about trying to find a good deal on a mini-van, buy it, and use it for summer vacation adventures. Hoping I could sell it at the end of summer and get my money back or even turn a profit.

    2) I am wondering if every single sale transaction was a success? Is Ben 50 for 50? Or did he ever by a lemon? Any stories of losses or failures with valuable lessons learned?

    3) Why not focus on newer, more expensive cars where margins are higher? There will always be people desperate to unload like new cars that were financed because they can no longer make the payments. If you can convince a seller to lower the price of a $2,000 car by 20% you create $400 of value for yourself. If with the same amount of time and effort, you convince a seller to reduce the price of a $20,000 car by only 5% and you create $1,000 of value.

    4) I am lamenting the near total loss of usefulness of my local craigslist marketplace. It seems now that almost everything is sold via members-only facebook groups. They often have clever names and are difficult to find using the facebook search function. I know that spam is a huge problem on craigslist but there has to be a better way than finding, joining, managing, and searching all these decentralized facebook groups. Anybody else noticed this trend or is it just a peculiarity of my local region?

    5) Ben notes that he is on top of registration, insurance, and property taxes. I wonder if reports his profitable sales as taxable income? They are most definitely taxable transactions. Additionally, while the definition is far from black and white, an IRS auditor could easily make the argument, based on the quantity and frequency of Ben’s car sales, that his craigslist deals rise to the level of a “trade or business”. That would mean he also owes self employment tax on his profits. Of course, this may be a moot point as we all know a retiree with mustachian levels of consumption (I must mention here that I am eagerly anticipating and hoping for another instant classic MMM 2015 Annual Spending article ;) ) can easily avoid paying income taxes for the remainder of their lives.

    Reply
  • Bob January 29, 2016, 10:51 am

    And the golden words of Craigslist are “I just want rid of it.”

    Reply
  • Marcia January 29, 2016, 11:18 am

    This was a very enjoyable article. My dad was an auto mechanic. He was always fixing up broken cars. I don’t think he made money on them, and we often had no working vehicle. On the other hand, he never ever borrowed money to buy a car.

    Reply
  • Mavwreck75 January 29, 2016, 11:20 am

    MMM – I really enjoy your blog and the money ideas you present. Thanks to Dave Ramsey I’m debt-free including the house. My retirement contributions are maxed out & I have been investing in mutual funds for 23 months. So far so good. I only purchase used cars and it has served us very well. Especially since we add 100k or more miles to each vehicle. Please keep the great information coming. Thx Mav

    Reply
  • Mavwreck75 January 29, 2016, 11:25 am

    Great video from Dave Ramsey: “Free Cars for Life” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXHj2aU5H-I

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2016, 9:01 pm

      Aaaack! That video is terrible! It tells you to keep spending more and more on cars until you get to a hideous $26,000 Ford Explorer, and implies that you should plan on stock market returns of 12%.

      How about “Buy an excellent bike for $400, and keep a nearly-new $2000 car around for emergencies, if you can truly afford it”

      Reply
  • Diane January 29, 2016, 11:40 am

    This is a very timely post! I have a 2000 Toyota Camry that runs perfectly except for the giant leak in my exhaust pipe. My mechanic gave me the whole “it’s not worth it to fix it” speech and told me that I’m better off buying another car. I used to accept this flawed logic until I started reading MMM’s blog! This post just reinforces my decision to get it fixed in a less conventional way.

    Reply
  • Mike January 29, 2016, 11:55 am

    Great for Ben. I know a few people who made their living like this.

    Sadly new car sales are back near all time highs.

    Plus 85% of all new cars are bought with financing. I know the majority cannot afford them. My good friend works at a Ford dealer. Says most the customers come in stating they need the loan to be at least 5 years to afford the payment. Of course the business obliges and its no wonder the amount of car debt just topped $1 trillion dollars in 2015.

    We have a long way to go MMM in getting the word out to people that their cars are literally turning them into weakened slaves. The only bright spot I see is that transit/fitness bike sales have increased 16% since 2011. If only politicians supported this industry as they do for auto’s.

    Reply
  • Andy January 29, 2016, 12:08 pm

    1) New favorite word = “Stealership”, thank you for that. The masses think those places sell cars, but in reality they sell financing.
    2) I don’t make a lot of money, but I live debt-free. And even though I drive a car every workday, it’s a 38mpg little Versa that is completely paid for. Only owned two cars since 1999. When the coworkers brag about their new clown trucks, I proudly share those 3 facts and I’m the black sheep of the bunch? Hey guys, guess which one of us will be FI in 5-7 years and which will be still paying off last year’s bad decisions…

    Reply
  • superbien January 29, 2016, 12:28 pm

    Wow. I love this article! So exciting!!

    Reply
  • CALL 911 January 29, 2016, 1:01 pm

    I did this recently, but for a different Mustachian reason.

    I want to know how to fix an engine. I don’t have an engine needing fixing.

    I hop on Craigslist and find a 2012 Triumph Daytona that “doesn’t run”. I did run, then made some God awful sounds, then didn’t run.

    I offered some green paper then waited. Then waited some more. Then he said nobody else was serious, and my “not really serious” paper offer was good enough.

    Several (many?) hours later, I have $3300 into a $6000 motorcycle.

    And I know I can fix a real problem, in a real engine.

    Reply
    • Eldred January 29, 2016, 1:41 pm

      I considered getting a ‘project bike’ at one time as well. Maybe even a car. My rationale was this – I already HAVE working transportation, so it’s not like I *have* to fix it over the weekend for transportation to work, so I could ‘learn as I go’…

      Reply
  • Joe F January 29, 2016, 1:12 pm

    I also live in Maine. Though I should probably bike more than I do, the last couple of years the missus has spotted cars in people’s yards and made inquiry. I scored two small, efficient cars(Nissan and Hyundai) for $500 each. after putting around $1000 into each of them I have dependable transportation for my kids to get to work and school. I could have made several hundred bucks easy off of both with a newly minted inspection sticker if I wanted to sell. One useful tool in the process is an OBDII reader. for under $50 you can get the same tool the garages have and can read and reset your engine trouble codes. (disclaimer: you will need a laptop or smartphone to run the software). The internet is full of error code descriptions and remedies to solve the problems encountered but honestly half the problems were from neglect and cleared up after a few dozen miles of driving. A useful site is ericthecarguy.com. it is chock full of DIY information. Old used cars cost almost nothing to insure or register here in Maine as well.

    Reply
  • Stuart January 29, 2016, 1:33 pm

    Great post! 

    I spent nearly £80K on cars through my 20s and early 30s before I finally seen the light in 2013. Near bankrupt I stumbled across YNAB and found MMM and others and these sites have helped transform my finances. Now 3 years on I have eliminated £8000 in credit card debt, ditched the car loans on expensive cars for some more sensible fully paid off options and have started on the road to FI with now £15K in savings. 

    So many people are still living way beyond their means, desperate for pay day while driving about in cars they don’t own and can’t afford. I wish I’d realised sooner but at least I’m fixing it now. 

    Very grateful for all the articles here. They’ve had a huge impact on my life. I’m by no means doing everything but getting better all the time. 

    Reply
  • Tim Krik January 29, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with this article! I have turned a profit or two from Craigslist flips myself.

    My OCD is kicking in, and I found the math to not work out in the following provided example of purchase/sale…

    “2005 Toyota RAV4 – bought for $19,000 back when we lived in California, enjoyed it for five years. When we moved to Maine, got someone to drive it here for free and sold it here as a rust-free California car for $18,000.”

    This one looks to be a loss, due to lower sale price and cost of driving for 5 years. I’ll presume the numbers were just transposed.

    Additionally, auto maintenance and repair is an important trait I continually try to instill in my two young boys. I have many stories of the hundreds of dollars saved by purchasing parts from a salvage yard and performing the repair myself.

    Reply
    • SwordGuy January 30, 2016, 9:12 pm

      If he sold the $19,000 car for $18,000 after driving it for 4 years, that means he paid $250 per year to drive it.

      I would be ecstatic to get that good a result, much less actually make a profit on the car!

      Reply
  • Danny January 29, 2016, 1:54 pm

    I am just now entering the wonderful world of DIY car repair.

    My girlfriend’s air conditioner was leaking water, and I’m sure a shop would charge $200-$500 to repair it. I instead did some research, found out that the drainage tube was blocked, and literally just took the damn tube and sucked it clear my mouth. Now there’s no more dripping.

    Okay, maybe it’s gross – it’s just condensation, dirt, rubber and ground up leaves – but I just moved overseas and I don’t have any tools with me. I just think it’s funny I saved that kind of money using precisely 0 tools – not even a screwdriver.

    Reply
  • Allen Monroe January 29, 2016, 2:55 pm

    The average car’s family bill is OVER $9,000!???!

    Hahahah. I’ll bet that was an unintentional meme invocation.

    Reply
  • Ash January 29, 2016, 3:17 pm

    I’ve done similar things many times myself. Sometimes I’ll buy highly desirable (for my area) “toys”, like snowmobiles, dirt bikes, motorcycles, skis, bikes, etc at the end of the season from someone looking for the next season’s “toy” at a real bargain. I’ll hold it till the next appropriate season, have my fun with it and then sell at a price significantly higher than the price I originally paid it for…..FFF – Fun For Free!

    I get a fair amount of flack from my friends for doing this; they see it as taking advantage of people. But I see it differently. I see it as being no different than picking an investment that you understand. Everyone who buys stocks hopes to buy low and sell high. I do the same with recreational equipment: buy low, sell high, and the “dividends” are the fun I have in-between. How is this any different?

    Reply
    • Suvi February 2, 2016, 5:41 am

      I can’t see anything wrong with that as long as the items are still in good condition, wich they usually are after such short use.

      Reply
  • Daryl Gerke January 29, 2016, 5:03 pm

    Gotta love engineers! I’m an EE. Here are two quick engineer-car stories:

    Engineering Manager #1 – An old bachelor who drove old Cadillacs. Kept them about 7-10 years on average. He didn’t seem like a Cadillac guy, so one day he clued me in. When he decided it was time for a new one, he’d check the want ads. The ones he bought were typically several years old, owned by a widow who no longer wanted a big car, and WELL maintained. He didn’t make money, but he drove a nice reliable car pretty cheap.

    Engineering Manager #2 – This guy liked Corvettes, so he bought a used one. Several years later he sold it for a profit. So he bought another used Corvette. Rinse and repeat. When I worked for him, he had owned a half dozen Corvettes and had made money on every one of them.

    Me? I have two Toyotas – 96 and 04. Both bought used. BTW, I left the rat race 28 years ago to consult. My office is in my home so I average less than a tank of gas per month. And I LOVE the 20′ commute.

    Reply
  • 5-Speed January 29, 2016, 6:53 pm

    The cost of transportation makes it a prime target for disruption.

    I drive a seven year old Honda Fit. Total cost of ownership is $200/month all in. It normally has four humans and a full cargo area, and I don’t think I could optimize things much more. To compare expenses, we spend 50% of the money we spend on food (important) to schlep the family to school/work (should be cheaper). People with fancy cars have no idea how high their TCO is.

    I’m looking forward to my electric powered autonomous Uber/Google Car.

    Reply
  • Graham January 29, 2016, 7:02 pm

    Here’s my car story:

    3 years ago, I bought an Alfa Romeo Milano Verde sedan for $7,000. I speculated that it would increase in value over the time I owned it. But, 1 week into ownership, the engine grenaded. I taught myself how to rebuild an engine by going out and buying a $300 replacement engine on CL (with free gasket set) and spending $500 in machine work. I had a rebuilt engine for around $1,000, and I could now say that I knew the basics of rebuilding an engine (one build doesn’t make you an expert)…

    Fast forward a year, and I’m working for Ford Motor Company…and being at least 50% mustachian, I eschewed homes and condos in the fancier areas of Detroit metro for a house 0.4 miles from my office. I walked to work every single day. I saved my Alfa for trips where I could write about the experience and even test my on-the-fly mechanicing skills -I’m an engineer, and engineers are probably the last people I’d ask to fix my car; they often miss the big picture, and I’m not immune to that.

    Well, one day while repairing an ignition issue on my Alfa, it caught on fire and burned my garage down. I lost two cars, two of my brothers cars, countless tools that I had painstakingly combed craigslist for, my bikes, and my outlet for venting frustration from work.

    2 months later, after clearly losing my shit (I spent a lot of time in the garage…) I lost my job. It was a bad fit, and I was looking to exit myself, but the fire killed every last bit of motivation I had in the ensuing two months.

    But then, that summer, I rebuilt my 24×24 garage by hand (with my brother and girlfriend’s help!). It took about 2 weeks to get every little detail buttoned up, but the financial pain was nonexistent – I didn’t lose much in that fire. I didn’t lose my ability to rebuild an engine, or rebuild an entire suspension, or weld, or to wield so many useful hand and power tools, and I GAINED the ability to build a simple stick structure, work with a strict city to gain permits, and run an efficient jobsite.

    After spending 6 months “unemployed” – during which time I helped a friend build a tiny house, built the aforementioned garage, and worked for an Alfa supply company in Lafayette, CO, I finally went back to work, this time with a $6,000 raise over my old salary, and with much more confidence and motivation than I had before. During my time working at the Alfa parts company, I was able to buy spare parts proactively for my (new, yes I’m a bit touched) Alfa at basically wholesale, which would put my at a huge advantage when certain parts did eventually wear. And, at the price I paid for that car, I’d be hard pressed to lose a cent on it, with the way prices are going.

    Unsatisfied, and fortunate enough to live in a state with “storage discounts” for stored cars, I bought a $1,200 Alfa winter car for my new commute. I’ll have $2,500 total into it once I finish all new brake lines, pads, rotors, hoses, calipers, all new front suspension bushings, a new clutch/flywheel, reman alternator, reman starter, new muffler new snow tires, and fresh oil. I don’t know if that car will ever go up in value, but I’ve put relatively little into it, have formed a mechanical bond with it, and stand to spend very little on it in the future. Spare engine? I’ll buy one when I find one for less than $300. I’ve got a guy at $450 right now but he’s delusional.

    So, though I’ll never defend cars or fossil fuels as reliable or viable transportation for the future, I must acknowledge how the single most complex consumer object that I own has taught me much that I can apply to any field. And holy shit do Alfas sound good. I’m looking forward to opening or purchasing an Alfa shop when I retire in the next 6 years or so.

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