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Here's Why I'll Drive My Car Less Often And Until It Dies

Illustration for article titled Heres Why Ill Drive My Car Less Often And Until It Dies

Is my Honda Logo GA3 old? Yes. Is it underpowered? Depends on your definition. Should it be manual? Yes, but it isn’t. Am I tempted to buy something else eventually? Yes... but I won’t. The reasons will probably upset you, fellow Jalopies. Too bad.


I’m a driver. I enjoy driving. Yet, I’m going to drive my GA3 less and less, and I’m going to keep it (properly maintained of course) on the road until it dies. To understand why I would do this (both not drive a car I have and love, and keep that car until it falls apart), we have to understand how I’ve come to view my life in regards to financial freedom and how my vehicular choices fit into this view.

Concerned about the Japanese welfare state, my further credentialing plans, and my medical needs, I’ve been going down the rabbit hole of how to maximise Roth IRA contributions for long term saving and income generation, as well as short term investments in stocks and bonds... which led me into the world of decreased consumption, increased saving/income generation as exemplified by Mr. Money Mustache. While I haven’t any interest in going to his extreme, the more I read from him the more I realise what I can do and will do just seems increasingly reasonable by comparison, even if it didn’t seem that way just weeks before.


To say that MMM is the ultimate in “cars are appliances” individual would be understating it. He’s pretty much anti-car as much as it is possible for him to be. He’s made that pretty clear, again and again and again. At least he’s completely pro-manual? Maybe that’s not enough to redeem him to you, esteemed readers, let alone endear him, but what he has to say is worth thinking about. We don’t need to go to his extreme, we can choose a vehicle we generally love to drive, but we can think hard about what we’re doing when we choose to do so... And I have generally come to agree with MMM that purchasing a new car is stupid (my apologies to Tom McParland), paying for the privilege of doing it with money belonging to someone else (a loan) is even stupider, and paying for the privilege of purchasing a used vehicle with money belonging to someone else is fucking insane. I don’t care if I can get a Bentley-Masarati Rare Combination Hybrid With Every Option Ever for the price of a new Mustang. Because a new Mustang is way out of my price range and I’d need to pay to use someone else’s money. Not even Tavarish can make that sound appealing.

First let’s consider what MMM has to say about the cost of driving in the first place:

Cars don’t cost you money per month, they cost you money per mile.

Because folks are financing their cars and not thinking about the long term, most people assume that once a car is in your driveway, you might as well use it with abandon. Totally wrong! When the car sits in your driveway, or even better, your locked garage, it is staying largely intact. As soon as you start using it, you are burning gas, oil, tires, wearing out each of its approximately 20,000 components, increasing your risk of a crash, and connecting a large-diameter Shop Vac hose to your Money Mustache, ripping out precious strands right from their follicles.

Here’s what happens when you use your cars sparingly: they last forever.

Okay, let’s face it it, we’re drivers. But we have to understand that what we’re paying for when we drive is a luxury. It’s enjoyment. It’s leisure. It is not a need, and it’s not even a very cost effective want. Most of us justify our purchases through a combination of “I need a vehicle” (potentially true for many of us, myself included) and “I want this kind of vehicle because I just do.” That was certainly my rationale when I purchased my certified pre-owned 240-HP BMW 3-series. And frankly put, it was a very, very bad rationale. Of course, at 19, as a junior in university, I was very much “sub-prime” and I shouldn’t have been even offered such a loan. It’s not a mistake I will make again.

So if we’re going to enjoy our vehicles? Okay, fine, but we still need to think about what that enjoyment will cost us in the long-term. Over the course of ten years. Or thirty. If you can look at those numbers and still come to the conclusion, “yes this is worth it, and no it won’t cause me to lose out on financial freedom down the line,” then go for it! You buy that “I just do” vehicle. However, for many of us... It’s not going to be worth it. Especially since most people my age and younger (Cold Y and Millennials) may well live to see a 100 year average life span.

For me, given my immediate spending requirements and my long term retirement goals, buying a new car when I have D-series Honda “baby civic” with only 90,000 miles and which only cost me $975 (even with the $300/yr ownership tax, the every two years shaken inspection, etc of future costs), is... well... a very bad financial decision. Even buying a different used car is pretty awful. Because there’s no way my associated costs are going to go down, they’ll just go up with another purchase. It gets insanely good gas mileage, especially if I practice hypermilling (Sorry, Torchy!) when I am not driving for enjoyment. Owning a vehicle in Japan is expensive enough, and if you choose the right used car for the right price with low mileage, and you choose a car you actually like, and you repeat this process over and over for as long as you need a vehicle... Holy shit is that a lot of money (saved, and hopefully invested). MMM uses this example:

Consumer Carl buys a new 2012 Toyota Corolla S with a 5-speed manual transmission, for $20,000 including taxes and fees and registration....He drives it for 13 years, traveling 200,000 trouble-free miles....After 13.3 years, tying up that $20 grand in a car cost Carl about $38,269...

Mustache Mary buys a 2006 Toyota Corolla with 90,000 miles on it for $9,000 including taxes. She can only get 110,000 miles out of this car which takes 7.3 years to use up. At that point, she buys a second used Corolla to cover the remaining 90k miles. To make our numbers clean, let’s say she buys a slightly older one such that it only has 90,000 miles of life remaining. This costs her $7,500....She has to go without that $9000 for the entire 13.3 years, which could have earned her $17,221 if she had used it to pay off her mortgage....Then she spends an additional $7,500 which is missing for the final 6 years at a cost of $10,050.

So at the end of 13 years, Consumer Carl spent $38,269 on Corolla ownership, while Mustache Mary spent $27,271. She saves about $11,000 even while doing the same amount of driving, and she will repeat that windfall every 13 years or so by continuing this strategy.


Now, let’s set aside the fact that both Carl and Mary bought Corollas, the most boringestly boring boringmobile out there. However, despite MMM’s assertion that 90% of the car market is pure overkill (and in Japan, that’s probably even more the case, because we have kei cars), you can’t deny the logic of the numbers he’s offering here. There’s enough diversity in the car market, that you can choose something you like and want and feel comfortable driving that just isn’t that expensive, and with the proper maintenance will keep for a long time. You know what the answer might even be?

That’s right: Miata, Miata, Miata.

My Honda Logo GA3 is my answer, and it will continue to be the answer until it just doesn’t go anymore. I’m going to take a couple years off of teaching to drastically improve my Japanese ability and get my formal Japanese teaching license. As I am naturalising, I need to start considering what the rest of my life in Japan looks like. This means I have to look at how I am going to decrease spending and increase income/savings/investment both short term (as in the the next year) and long term (as in a comfortable retirement).


With the help of MMM, and using my GA3 more efficiently, I’ve made some pretty awesome changes. In a single month, I have already slashed my utility bills, sold unneeded stuff on eBay, increased share purchases in my Vanguard accounts (recommended by LifeHacker’s Two Cents writer Kristin Wong. If you’re not reading her stuff, you’re wrong, period), organised and paid down very much unneeded credit card debt (I mean, if I’m socking away $12K into my retirement and brokerage accounts, why the hell am I carrying credit card debt?), changed my eating habits and my exercise habits, which have affected my shopping habits, and just generally made myself feel better all around. Oh, yeah, and my skin is softer, smoother, my pores are smaller, and I’ve got a nice olive tint and glow (if that’s important to you). Better food, more exercise, less stress, and more money working for me, instead of me working for more money.

What happens when the GA3 does eventually die? Well, I’ll probably buy a manual something or other. Maybe by that point the S660 will be a reasonable, Mustachian purchase. If not, maybe I’ll pick up another GA3, this time for something like $600 instead of $975, pull my modifications off the previous one, put them on the new one, and laugh myself silly all the way to the bank... on foot, because who in their right mind would drive the two blocks it takes to get there?


Image via Kat Callahan/Jalopnik.

Jalopnik East is your daily dose of the latest automotive news out of Asia, covering domestic developments and car culture in Japan, Korea, China, Southeast Asia, and beyond. Just because you can’t drive it, doesn’t mean we can’t share it with you. You can usually catch us every day between 5am and 7am ET.

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Stewart Murray

Or you could just walk everywhere and when your shoes fall to bits you can fix them with cardboard and elastic bands. Then after work sit in the dark in your house, with no heating on, drink nothing but water and eat uncooked rice. You’ll be a millionaire by the time you are 50!