When buying a car, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If they do, you may end up paying way more for a car than you should.
The 6th grade was when I first laid eyes on her. She was a 1989 BMW 635i Coupe who did donuts in the school’s parking lot after class thanks to an obnoxious, rich kid driver in the 11th grade.
The driver was the son of a royal family who lived in a royal house filled with a fleet of the most luxurious automobiles.
I was immediately smitten and promised myself one day I’d be able to buy such a car as soon as I started working.
The Dream Car
The new 6 series BMW came out in 2005 and all the memories came rushing back. What cost only $35,000 then now cost $75,000 thanks to inflation and the infinite amount of new features. I don’t know about you, but $75,000 is a big chunk of change and my absolute upper limit for what I’d ever spend on a car.
Instead of spending $75,000, why not go back in time and actually buy that 1989 635i Coupe instead! My brilliant idea led me to Craigslist where I found my true dream car listed in “Fantastic condition with only 160,000 miles”! That’s only 8,000 miles a year I rationed and off I went to see the seller.
The sand dune colored BMW was in great condition and the seller was only asking $3,800. After a test drive and over 1 hour of negotiating, I got him down to just $2,500.
What a bargain I thought knowing that even if the car blew up the next day, I’d only be down $2,500. I gleefully drove back home in my dream mobile I had waited for almost 20 years! Of course, as soon as I got home this is where all the trouble began.
Buying A Car Can Be Very Emotional
Having bought and sold 14 cars in the past 10 years, I fancy myself ad a car aficionado. Unfortunately, since I just had to have this new ride I violated one of my basic rules: sell my existing vehicle before buying a new one!
Parking is an absolute nightmare in San Francisco, and unfortunately, I’ve only got one car parking.
So here I am, a guy who takes the bus to work with two cars and not enough space. What a pain in the rump as I had to move my car every several hours before 5pm, or else risk getting a ticket.
I ended up blocking my driveway most of the time instead, which immediately made my other car useless. At least I knew I wouldn’t be calling the parking police on myself!
I finally ended up selling my other car on Craigslist after a month so I could put my new baby in the garage. Ah, how good it felt only to have just one car instead of two!
Buying A Car With Unforeseen Problems
A 20-year-old car undoubtedly has problems and I chose not to get an inspection out of sheer lust. Bad move as my steering gearbox had a crack, which resulted in a massive amount of steering fluid leakage every time I stopped the car.
Cost to fix? $1,200-1,500, which I didn’t end up fixing. I just bought 20 gallons of steering fluid for $30 bucks!
What’s worse than a leaky steering box is a sticky accelerator. I discovered on a routine drive around the city that my accelerator got stuck on “lead foot mode” and I had to ram on my brakes and shut the engine off before crashing into the car ahead of me! It was one of the scariest feelings, ever.
This was a problem I had to fix, so I spent $400 changing out the electronics that controls the sensors to the accelerator. I didn’t want to end my life running a red light and getting t-boned because I couldn’t stop in time!
A third major problem arose soon after. The electronics would intermittently all shutdown so i would lose all lights and power steering. Of course a cop was behind me during one episode and I got a fix-it ticket. The ticket was only $15 bucks if I fixed the problem.
It was just a hassle I had to go prove the fix over at the dreaded DMV. Sweet, another $400 to change out another computer chip.
The final unforeseen defect was a low idle which caused stalling. My dream mobile would just die at a red light, and I’d have to crank the ignition multiple times before she would start again.
How stressful and embarrassing! Back to the auto mechanic I went who proceeded to charge me another $300 for a “classic car tune-up” and idle adjustment.
If Only I Didn’t Let Emotions Get In The Way
I let my emotions get the best of me when buying a car. I knew there would be problems with the car, but I didn’t care. However, I had successfully negotiated my dream car for only $2,500 and that’s all that mattered.
In the end, I ended up spending $1,200 to make the car operable, and it still had the $1,200+ steering gearbox problem I refused to fix. Who needs steering anyway?
All in all, I probably went to the mechanic 6 times and spent more than 15 hours in my 1.5 years of ownership to maintain the car. In the end, it wasn’t worth the headache at all.
If I could do it over again I’d:
1) Bring a friend as a voice of reason.
2) Spend $100 and a couple hours having the car checked out by an auto mechanic.
3) Wait a couple days and then continue negotiating.
4) Check the online forums to understand all the major problems with the particular model and ask the seller about them.
5) Never buy a car older than twenty years again unless it is a show car!
I ended up selling the car to another emotional enthusiast for $2,200. I told him about my problems and all the fixes made except for the steering box which he saw on his own. He has a car repair shop so he’d just work on the car himself.
I’ve learned that I don’t have time to spend so much time maintaining a car anymore. It was fun as a guy in my 20’s, but I want to spend my time doing other things now.
A car should serve me, not the other way around. I will never let my car nostalgia get the best of me again. Don’t let it get the best of you either!
Finally, always follow my 1/10th rule for car buying. If you do, you will dramatically minimize financial regret after buying a car.
I currently drive a 2015 Range Rover Sport and I LOVE it! Getting A Range Rover was another one of my dream cars growing up as a middle-school kid in Malaysia. I plan to drive the RRS until 2025 and reconsider due to better safety features.
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