What You Learn Doing Cars the Hard Way

Personal car ownership is a ridiculous, unsustainable, consumerist 20th century practice. And I have two. Soon to be corrected by ridesharing electric autonomous google busses or the plain old fact that millennials are dirt poor, this doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun in the meantime.


There’s no good way to go about it. Lease? I already dump too much cash down the rent hole without any wealth in return. Buy new? Sure, let depreciation whisk away 46% of the value of my investment in the first three years and leave me underwater. No, no. the smart stubborn play is to cast aside all time for other interests and any social occasions and grind away at those mechanics skills bro!


Over the last three years I’ve owned a 1998 Jeep Cherokee, a 1998 Eclipse Spyder N/A (at least it was a stick, is that better than an auto turbo? Yes.), and a 1998 BMW 328is. I started with the Jeep as my first proper adulting car decision on the basis of the reliability of the LEGENDARY 4.0 and perhaps a bit too much nostalgia for proper early 90s SUVs. It was acquired from craigslist for $2700. The Eclipse came and went as a long commute supplement and then was replaced by the BMW. BECAUSE STEPPING UP TO EURO USED IS LIKE PRESTIGING IN COD. I AM A BORED GOD!!!


The Eclipse was given to me for free as a non-running vehicle. Because affluent boomers just rain still useful shit. I put $3,202.19 in parts and $2,120 into it in labor. It was taken from us by a confused Saint Joe’s U freshman sitting in the left lane…which was certainly not a right hand turn lane one morning leading to a payout of $4,600.


The Jeep in 3 years has taken $3,267.06 of my money on parts and $13,000 in labor sweat equity. On a good day I could get $3,400.


The BMW was purchased for $4,400 off craigslist in April 2016. I’ve spent $1510.07 on parts and the equivalent of $2680 on labor and to the right person should get $5k but I’m holding out until the E30 lust turns to it’s younger sister.


Saving money on parts goes a long way. The Polk Database is to the auto part industry what  the SPSS is to sociology majors. It tells you exactly how many of a particular model are still on the road sortable by things like body style, engine size, drive wheel and the like. Like how little of the $1.25 bottle of water you pay for is for the thirst quenching H20 inside because the goddamn convention center has the heat cranked so the dry air has you feeling like a 180lb strip of Jack Link’s finest, the price of your sway bar link or tail light mostly depends on how big the market is.


More cars still on the road mean a bigger market, and the competition brings the price down. What you’re looking for in cheap replacement parts is the maximum amount of factories in China pumping out plastic crap just a 27 day ocean container ride away from your local Amazon. The BMW gets bonus points in this regard not reflected in Polk because it is a world car.


A new Subaru Crosstrek, which I like approximately 3/7ths as much as either car should have a payment of just above $400. After three years, average depreciation has cost you $281 a month. I LIKE NEW THINGS11111!!!!. Insurance gives you even more savings for the non-comprehensive carrying motorists. My brother, similar age and location with an 08 Fit pays around $115 per month while I pay $70 for both.


According to my rationalization, ahem, calculation, adding up insurance, payment, value after three years and deprecation vs something entirely reasonable like the $20k between a Fit or Crosstrek leaves you with $796 (wow cars are expensive) to my $183 + 4 hours of every given weekend. All labor was estimated at $50/hr.
So if you’re the kind of person that gets excited about spending $90 on a ball joint clamp as opposed to either $400 on a repair at the dealer or an actual night out of axe throwing and microbrews like they do, this might be for you.


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