When 20 Hours is Worth $7,000: The Price of Cars

This is a guest post from Jan at www.finallygettingtoeven.com and www.themotivationlocation.wordpress.com.

Before we get to her guest post, though, I want to mention that I once participated in a friend’s attempt to save money by doing a simple used car deal on eBay. It didn’t work out very well, and I’ll tell you about it — briefly — after Jan’s post.

Dave and I have been in the market for a new SUV. Well, not really new, but new to us. Being the frugal folks that we are, we learned many years ago how to let others take the new car hit — and we will pay the after-price.

After many months of shopping, haggling and generally driving ourselves nuts over this, we were becoming quite discouraged over the whole ordeal. It has been 11 years since either of us has purchased a vehicle and the prices we were encountering were astounding. Since when has it made any sense to buy a depreciating vehicle that is costing as much as a small house and why are individuals making car payments that dwarf the payments they make on their homes?

I don’t understand the madness of it all, but i suppose that is because — like anything else — I need to see something that makes sense to me. So we were at an impasse: the dealer, offering his wares at ridiculously high prices, us wanting to pay pennies on the dollar for something that would in fact be worth pennies on the dollar long before we were ready for it.

“But this vehicle is $65,000 new,” I would hear the dealer say, after I picked myself back up off the floor.

Well, sorry, Mr. Dealer, that is not my problem. I didn’t create the $65,000 price tag to begin with so I am not much impressed when you tell me that for today — and only for me — you will let it go for $62,900. I’m sure you will, just not to me. Find some other sucker to draw the blood from; I won’t be the one funding your vacation this year.

So we went on like this, month after month until it all got to be too much. It became apparent that we were going to have to change our strategy, but how? We wanted a vehicle and the dealers wanted money — lots and lots of money. So I put on my thinking hat. (I wish I could say I wore it all the time, but sometimes it gets a little hot under there and I have to let the old head breathe.)

By doing more research I found that by living in the Midwest we were paying some of the highest car prices in the country. Why must that be? It is like gasoline prices. Why gouge the Midwesterner? I mean, we don’t have anything fun to begin with — no oceans, mountains. Why pick on us too? Anyway, we are being hit hard when it comes to car pricing. If one would head in either direction out of here we could land a much better deal.

So that is what we did. Two days ago we jumped into our current SUV and drove 10 hours to Pennsylvania to see an SUV. All we had to go on was a dozen pictures sent to us by yet another dealer and his promise that the vehicle would still be there when we got to it.

He kept his word all the way around. The SUV was one of the cleanest, best-kept vehicles we had seen in a long time. The price was excellent and we paid $7,000 less than comparables here in our own fine state. It was a long 10- hour drive each way but every mile we logged made the whole drive seem worth it.

It’s Gip back now. Here’s the point I see in this story: Living a simple, deliberate life sometimes means being frugal. And being frugal sometimes means going to extreme lengths to avoid the silliness of stupid systems — like Jan and Dave did.

One of my friends tried to do that a few years ago, but it didn’t work out as well — for anyone.

David and I accompanied a couple of friends on a Florida trip to pick up a car one of them had bought on the Internet. Neither David nor I had ever been to Florida, and the only cost to us would be $97 each to fly there. We’d ride home in the backseat of the Camry.

The car was just as described, except it smelled of cigarette smoke. You can’t see that in a picture no matter how many megapixels it contains, and my friend didn’t think to ask about that. The deal was already done, so he took the car. Trying to improve his mood, the other three of us went to a nearby Walmart where we bought Febreze and cleaned the inside of the car from top to bottom. It had absolutely no impact on the smell.

I learned a couple of lessons: Don’t buy a car on the Internet. And don’t go on car trips with friends. Their time-wasting, late starts and general inability to make rational decisions infuriated me, damaging the friendship. And they would have been happier feeling foolish because of their mistakes without us as an audience.

The moral of my story is different than Jan’s: The ridiculousness of the events in Florida is something I would never be involved in now. There’s no place in a simple, deliberate life for helping other people play out their bad decisions.

If you like Jan’s writing, visit www.finallygettingtoeven.com & www.themotivationlocation.wordpress.com.


  1. Thanks for the great post today..it’s almost as if I had written it myself. Oh yea, I did..haha – Anyway, thanks for sharing it with your friends here.

    What a nightmare story you had to share. I can envision myself right in your shoes. What a long crappy trip for everyone.

    To everyone else, Gip will be posting tomorrow over at my site http://www.finallygettingtoeven.com – I’ve already had a sneak peak (hey, it’s one of the perks, sorry)…so get your rear-ends over there tomorrow because as usual this is another ‘great Gip post’ and if you miss it, well I just won’t know what to do with you folks…!

    Have a fabulous day today…….

  2. Thanks for reminding everyone about my post on your site tomorrow. We only arranged that yesterday — and I prepared your post here in advance — so I didn’t get in a mention.

    Jan wrote here about $7,000. I’m writing for finallygettingtoeven about slightly less money. See you all there tomorrow.


  3. Hiya,
    Oh that was funny, I know there is a serious undertone but I love your style, it makes me giggle – my thinking cap is a bit like that sometimes too!
    I drive an old banger but it seems to go on and on forever, I love it and only paid £500 for it, bargain!!
    BTW, if you think your fuel prices are bad, check UK, astronomical, luckily I drive very rarely:)

    Best wishes,

  4. Thanks Kate…I am a bit wacky but that is why you all love me so. (you DO love me, right)?

    I would drive an old beater into the ground if I could get the hubby to cooperate but he’s a whiner and try as I might sometimes I can’t tune him out. (He won the battle, but he will NEVER win the war…teehee…)

    Yea I hate buying gas it’s ridiculous. Thank goodness we drive to only local places (for once it’s good being in a small town).

    Check out Gip’s post today over at my site http://www.finallygettingtoeven.com
    he is posting about not spending $7 (you thought I was bad – haha)…just kidding Gip, read my comments and you see that I whole-heartedly agreed with you and at least YOU were smart enough to throw away your damaged toaster.

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