My Dad is a closet car enthusiast. He built his first go cart at the age of 8 from a lawn mower engine. He admires a nice car but ultimately, he’s cheap and has always driven a car that meets his needs at a reasonable cost. As such Dad started keeping a book in each car he owned, and recorded each fuel-up, service and the associated mileage. This is great for evaluating your gas mileage and determining how log it has been since your last brake job. When I bought my first car, my Dad bought an empty receipt journal for my book.
I own a 2002 Ford Escape and I have my book. When I took a new job in 2006 that has my driving 50 miles one way, I used data from the book to analyze if it would be worth my while to buy a different car 9I determined that a payoff would be 4 years, not worth it.) My husband was starting to complain that we seemed to be dumping a lot of money into my beloved SUV. I kept brushing it off, thinking that the repair were less than car payments on a new car.
Now it is 2011. My oldest son will be 16 in April and we are looking forward to him being able to get himself to school and home on his own. That means a car for a teenage boy. After contemplating different scenarios, I decided to purchase a 2010 Prius for me and hand the escape to the teen. But it has been in the shop 3 times in 2011, and it still is not running right. New problems keep cropping up. So we have the car at home and are ready to take it somewhere else to diagnose the current problem (the last shop wanted to just start replace the three catalytic converters).
But here’s the rub. Last weekend I sat down with my book and gathered all of the receipts I found in the glove compartment and my car file. The results were downright sobering. In 2008 we had transmission replaced for about $2200. In 2009 there were various and sundry issue – new spark plugs and coil, new shocks, tires to the tune of at least $2200. (I was missing a few receipts but my book told me what kind of service we had done.) In 2010 a new fuel pump and rack and pinion was $1400. And in less than 3 months in 2011, we have spent $1400. If I had included reviewing my book in my financial housekeeping, I would have known that my beloved Escape was becoming a money pit and I would have traded it in when I purchased my Prius. Now we need to figure out what to do with this barely-running vehicle.