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No Help

Matt C. White  |  Jul 4, 2022

OUR LAST SUMMER road trip didn’t exactly go as planned. That ordeal changed my mind about an annual expense I’d been paying without much thought. I gained a new perspective—even if I did learn my lesson the hard way.
On a Saturday morning last summer, Sarah and I woke our kids at 4 a.m. for a predawn drive through the mountains of East Tennessee and across the Carolinas. We were on our way to enjoy the beaches of Hilton Head Island,

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Driving a Bargain

Logan Murray  |  May 20, 2022

“NEVER BORROW MONEY to buy a depreciating asset.” This personal finance tip is often used to dissuade folks from taking out car loans. But does a car really leave folks poorer?

When we value an asset, it’s typically thought of as its dollar value on a balance sheet. The monetary value of my car might indeed decline, and quickly at that, but it has far more usefulness than my personal balance sheet shows. When I consider my car’s true value,

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Ride of a Lifetime

Ron Wayne  |  Apr 13, 2022

SAVED A BUNCH of money so you could retire and buy that sporty car you always wanted? My advice: Do it.
In almost 50 years of owning vehicles, I have bought just one car that was almost fully impractical. It had a shallow shelf of a trunk. My wife couldn’t drive it because it had a stick shift. More than a few times, I had to start it by pushing it down a hill,

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Our Chosen Road

Kenyon Sayler  |  Apr 12, 2022

CONSUMER REPORTS and other authorities will tell you that you get the greatest value for your car-buying dollar by purchasing a two- or three-year-old vehicle. They also often recommend selling your current car after you’ve owned it for about seven years.
We favor a different strategy—one that suits our family but certainly isn’t for everybody.
My wife’s No. 1 priority is that her vehicle be reliable. She insists that every time she gets in the car,

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Road to Nowhere

John Yeigh  |  Feb 13, 2022

I’M DEBATING whether my life is better described by Tom Cochrane’s Life Is a Highway or Eddie Rabbitt’s Driving My Life Away. In a recent article, I noted that our family has driven our cars about 1.9 million miles. Since I’m the family’s King of the Road, I’ve been along for at least two-thirds of that ride.
I’m also, alas, the king of lost time.
The average commuting speed in the Washington,

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Driving Lessons

John Yeigh  |  Jan 17, 2022

THIS PAST YEAR marked my 50th anniversary of driving. Over that time, our family has owned 19 cars and driven them roughly 1.9 million miles. While latte purchases frequently evoke financial debate, cars seem less discussed, despite being Americans’ second-largest expenditure after housing. The purchase, ownership, maintenance and sale of cars can all get pretty complicated.
Cars are considered a depreciating asset, but not always. My first car was a 1967 Mercury Comet, which I bought for $400 in 1973.

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Closing the Deal

Dennis Friedman  |  Dec 28, 2021

I HATE BUYING CARS. I can’t think of too many sales transactions that are more loathsome. When I look back at all the times I purchased a car, the one with my father in 1976 was the most memorable.
I needed a new car. I was living in San Diego and often driving to Los Angeles to visit family and friends. My 1966 Volkswagen Beetle couldn’t take too many more trips.
I asked my father if he wanted to come with me to look at new cars.

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Driving Me Happy

Howard Rohleder  |  Dec 6, 2021

MY CAR EMAILED ME to say its tire pressure was low. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it this way: An email from Subaru was triggered by data uploaded from my 2020 Forester, all part of the automatic safety and maintenance technology built into the vehicle. The email confirmed the dashboard light indicating the same problem.
My frugal friends and I have had friendly debates about car buying. Is it better to buy a used car and avoid the instant depreciation when you drive off the dealer’s lot?

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Drive Buy

William Ehart  |  Dec 3, 2021

THOSE OF US WHO aspire to be shrewd investors try to buy when opportunities present themselves, while avoiding “crowded” trades.

I broke that last rule when I recently bought a second car. Yes, prices are skyrocketing as a result of supply-chain bottlenecks and strong consumer demand. But I had a good reason: My son’s entering the fulltime workforce—and he’s taking over use of my current car.

It was the worst time to put myself at the mercy of car dealers.

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Hybrid Math

Kyle McIntosh  |  Nov 17, 2021

MY FAMILY WILL SOON be in the market for a new vehicle. With gas prices approaching $5 a gallon in California, my gut tells me that we should set our sights on a hybrid. Upon doing some math, however, I get a different answer.
I priced out a few different vehicles, including the Toyota Camry and the Honda CR-V. In both cases, you pay an all-in premium—including taxes—of about $4,500 to own a hybrid over a similarly equipped model with a conventional engine.

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Fit to Be Bought

Ron Wayne  |  Oct 21, 2021

I ALMOST NEVER MAKE fast decisions. But I bought a used car in August immediately after seeing it. If I hadn’t, I might still be looking.
Inventories for new cars are at record lows. Prices for used vehicles are at record highs. This was not the year to buy another car, but I wanted to replace my 14-year-old Mazda sedan with a more reliable vehicle for long trips to see my children. I was tired of months isolated at home,

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Diminished Value

Sanjib Saha  |  Sep 18, 2021

A CRUCIAL STEP WHEN buying a preowned car is to scrutinize its Carfax report. A single-owner car with a regular maintenance history and which was driven solely for personal use should be a safe bet, while an accident record gives most people pause. All things being equal, a car that was in an accident, however minor, ought to cost less than a similar one with a clean history.
Some bargain hunters don’t mind taking a chance on a car with an accident history as long as it drives well.

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Wheel Deal

Richard Connor  |  Sep 8, 2021

I’VE BEEN KNOWN to overanalyze decisions, especially financial ones. When faced with a money question, often my first thought is to create a spreadsheet. While this brings groans from family and friends, I find them a great way to clarify my thinking and gain insights. Sometimes the resulting insights are glaringly obvious, and I get to laugh at myself.
My wife and I were looking to replace her nine-year-old SUV. We had read and heard that new car inventory was the biggest problem we’d face,

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13 Rental Car Rules

Michael Flack  |  Aug 20, 2021

IN SEPTEMBER 2017, my wife and I sold our home, car and almost all our earthly possessions. We spent the next four years driving across four continents. Along the way, I learned a great deal about renting a car that, in this rental-car-challenged world, could make your travels less costly and more reliable.
1. I use Expedia, Kayak and Hotwire to compare rental car rates. When you book, pay attention to whether your reservation is free cancellation or pay now (noncancellable).

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Black Beauty

John Goodell  |  Aug 4, 2021

AFTER 20 YEARS, the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan. The news brought back memories of the year I spent deployed there—and a crucial financial lesson I learned. Perhaps that lesson resonates even more today given the past year’s pandemic and the role deferred gratification has lately played in many of our lives.
When you’re deployed to a combat zone, the government doesn’t tax your wages. Consequently, most soldiers can sock away a lot of money.

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