How long will your car last? A fun rule of thumb

We’ve always paid cash for our cars, with the exception of our second car (a strategy I think we’re going to buck for our next car, which will hopefully last us a minimum of 10 years). Based on our automotive history, I have drawn the conclusion that every $1000 spent = 1 year of life.

Car 1: Red Mazda 626 sedan, $1500

I remember the bank teller looking at me all sideways when I said the cash I was withdrawing was for a car. “Half a car,” I hastily lied, to get him off my back. It served us for probably a little over a year before the gearbox totally gave up.

In between car: We also had a freebie white Corolla hatch worth next to nothing for a few months that helped bridge the gap between the first and second car. I don’t actually remember how it came into our lives/who gave it to us or what specifically happened to it. 

Car 2: White Toyota Levin coupe, $3000

This was all T’s car – his chance to fulfill his desire to have a ‘cool’ car, and learn an expensive lesson in the process. Thanks to this car, we also learned how dang useless the police can be sometimes when it comes to car accidents. I’m really proud of T for going to court and coming out with the result we wanted (in a nutshell: the cops at the scene screwed up, basically tried to lay blame on him rather than the other party, and we refused to lie down and let them walk over us). This one didn’t quite make it to 3 years – maybe 2, actually.

Car 3: White Mazda Familia hatch, $1800

Left in the lurch and scrambling for a vehicle, we wound up with this little thing – again, all we could afford at the time. It is, I think the only car to break down on the road and actually strand us to date. This also remains the only car we’ve ever had that was in an accident where we actually wound up getting damages fixed at the other party’s expense. Unfortunately the engine and rust issues only got worse and eventually proved too much; we farewelled the car not too long after that incident (shiny new back bumper and all). I’d say this lasted us close to a couple of years.

Car 4: Silver Mazda Familia wagon, $4500

Our most expensive car – and the newest we’d ever bought, only being about 12 years old with barely 100,000km when we got it. Also the only car that ever managed to get through a warrant of fitness with no issues at all – you get what you pay for. It was still a pretty old car though, so that lovely streak didn’t last and after one or two warrants, we were back to the stressful cycle of expensive fixes every  6 months in an effort to get it to pass. It also has a weird ghost problem (to do with the tyres/steering/alignment)  that nobody has ever been able to fix.  Nothing that’s terribly off, just an annoying niggle – the pea to T’s princess, if you like.

It’s in a sorry state right now – rubber chunk missing from the steering wheel, no handbrake, no power steering, the ongoing tyre issue, and most recent and worrying, dodgy brakes. It’s coming up on four years, and needs to retire.

8 thoughts on “How long will your car last? A fun rule of thumb

  1. Hmmm by that measure, my car should last for 20 years since I bought it new and paid about $20k for it. That would be pretty sweet if it did!

  2. I paid $10K for my car a year and a half ago, so here’s hoping I get another 8.5 years out of it!

    That being said my $50 car lasted me little over a year, but my $24k car was a lemon from the get go. Maybe they average out?

  3. When I turned 17, my parents bought me a $3k car for Christmas that year (2001). It was a 7 year old car then–a 1994 Saturn (American car, not sold elsewhere, I don’t think and now not made at all). I just sold that car last October for about $500–which was half what Kelly Bluebook said it was worth (I was selling it to a friend of my mom’s and ultimately didn’t care about getting much money for it, I had just decided that I didn’t want a car in NYC anymore). The car lasted my family 11 years (my brother and I both drove it in high school) and although it never really saw heavy daily usage, I think it was a pretty good purchase!

    I hope your luck with your next car is better!

  4. Interesting! My boyfriend paid around $3k for his car, and it’s coming up on the 3-year mark. It’s had issues ever since he purchased it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it died soon. I paid $6k for my car back in 2009, and I really hope it makes it past next year!

  5. with all the repairs you’ve put into the car, couldn’t you have gotten a more reliable car for about $10k and then you wouldn’t have had to change so often? What was the time frame between the older car to your most recent car?

    Eric’s parents bought him his car in 2001, and he still has it, and it looks like it’s gonna last several more years. I think we’re moving toward buying used cars that are about 3-5 years old for our next purchase…not sure when that will be. Only where there is a need!

    1. The problem is the upfront cash. We could never afford a $10k car in cash, that’s why all our cars were super cheap. And why the plan is shaping up to be a $15k car next – which will require a loan – to be paid down asap.

      The whole point of this post is to demonstrate: we’ve always gone the way of buying cars we can afford in cash, and it hasn’t done us much good.

  6. My parent in-laws just bought their new Toyota Corolla 2015 last week because their old car was not functioning well and it already has high maintenance. They hope that it will last longer as what they expected.

  7. Uh oh… And THAT, is why you don’t buy a brand new car. I have to get 28 years out of my car? I’m only at year 8… Maybe I’ll change your rule and switch it to every $2000 I will get one year out of it. Then I only have to get to 14 years! :)

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