That’s the debate I had some years ago with a co-worker, as we discussed the cars we had. He and I both had fairly long commutes, but he drove a nicer car, and I drove one that was once good but was on its way to the 200,000 mile mark. Frankly, he had a car that at the time I actually liked, and would have preferred to have. I drove an old Toyota, he drove a new Volvo.
It started with him talking about how he just got a new car, and how they’re so expensive these days. So, I asked what he bought, and he told me that he got a new Volvo wagon. First of all, I know that right away some of you reading this might laugh at the notion that 2 people might find this to be a desirable car! Fair enough, I suppose it’s something that might particularly appeal to people who are new parents. That’s what I was, and so was that guy.
Anyway, the value of my own car was probably $5,000 or so at the time. His car, purchased new, was probably over $30,000. I would have rather had his car than mine if money was no object. However, money was an object. Thus, I would rather have the old car with a ton of miles rather than the sparkly new car.
I commented (nicely) that he could have bought a car that wasn’t as nice, but was less expensive and got better mileage.
He paused, smiled, and exclaimed that it wasn’t realistic for him to do that. His reasoning was that he spent so much time in the car – 1.5 hours each way – that it just made sense to drive something he liked and felt comfortable in. If he didn’t drive so much, he would drive a lesser car.
That was the opposite of how I approached it. My thinking is that if you’re spending a lot of time in your car due to a long commute, the most important thing is getting a cost-effective car that gets good mileage. There are often significant costs when you have a long commute. Clearly, by the car I was driving, I’m someone who embraces car longevity and how that can save money. Saving on your cheap car insurance also has appeal! Anyway, having a car that’s nice is something that I might think is more appealing if you don’t drive much. Actually, I wouldn’t even buy one then:)
One thing to add: he said nothing about safety and family when it came to his car choice. He was focusing on his enjoyment and comfort while driving, though I have to believe those other factors came into play. My other car, not for commuting, was the safe one.
My Questions for You
If you had a long commute and spent a lot of time in your car, what attributes would you focus on when making a purchase?
Would you be more interested in spending more on comfort and something you like, or being practical and focusing on fuel economy?