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Why I’m keeping my old car with 200,000 miles

I have never heard a yak scream. And prior to six months ago, I had never considered the thought of a yak screaming. That was until one day when I went into my garage, put my key into the ignition of my 2004 SUV, and twisted the key forward.

What happened next? Well, I don’t know, but it sounded like a yak was screaming. It was somewhere between a cry for help and a cry of disappointment, I imagined. Alas, we didn’t own a yak. The sound was emanating from under the hood of our trusty old vehicle.

“Was a water buffalo mating in your garage?” my neighbor Brian asked. “No, it was a yak,” I answered. He too had heard a rather embarrassing sound coming from my garage. Up until this point, our vehicle had been quite trustworthy, although you could tell it was 13 years old. But here’s the thing – it’s paid for. That makes me happy.

To say I hate spending money on a car is an understatement. Everybody has something different they hate spending money on. For me, it’s cars. My strategy has always been to pay cash for four or five year old cars, and then drive them until they die. When you adopt this methodology, you have to be alright with not having the latest greatest vehicle. You can’t care at all what people think of your car or what it says about you.

That’s great and all, but now whenever we start that car, the yak bellows. It’s a head-turner too. Other parents thought the little league brought-in a petting zoo at the final game of the season, this past weekend. There was no petting zoo. We were starting our car so we could leave. I even thought I saw a women mouthing “is that Pete the Planner’s car? What a cheap bastard.” I couldn’t hear those words though, so I can’t be certain that’s what she said.

Hoping the sound would go away didn’t work. The yak has stayed, and he/she is still screaming bloody murder. Mrs. Planner and I decided to have that dreaded discussion – should we begin the car buying process or wait until the yak dies for good.

To heal the yak, we would need to part with $1,000 to $1,500. The SUV has roughly 200,000 miles on it, but we’re confident it could last another couple of years with regular maintenance.

Here are some factors we considered:

  • We refuse to have a car payment.
  • We would prefer an SUV.
  • Our children are about two years away from not trashing the interior car with griming griminess.
  • It’s Mrs. Planner’s turn to get a newer car. In other words, I’m not going to give her the car I drive and get a newer one myself. I drive a 2008, by the way.

Our hope is that by dropping $1,500 into the yak, we’ll be able to ride him/her for another two years or so, and just pray that he/she stops screaming. In doing that, we’d be able to put together a plan to save $25,000 or so over the next couple of years.

The decision we made is consistent with our other decisions that involve patience. For instance, a few years ago we decided we wanted to finish our basement. Instead of taking out a home equity loan or dipping into our emergency fund, we set-out to save tens of thousands of dollars over a couple of year period. I have never regretted that decision and vowed to make future decisions the same way.

In that spirt, the yak stays. Next step? Open a savings account at a bank not associated with my current bank. That’s how we save for big ticket items.

I share all of this with you for one reason – I try and make the best financial decisions possible too. Every day I fight the temptation to have the latest and greatest things, primarily because I value stability. I hope you’ll do the same.