Monday, July 8, 2019

Belladonna has the itch for a new car

2010 Impala is as generic as it gets. Basic transportation: Motor, wheels, brakes.

Bella has been very stressed about her car situation. It died at the start of the extended weekend and she was scheduled to work.

Fortunately she found rides to work but she is still stressed. "Not knowing" is to lose control.

I suggested that she shop for a new (newer) vehicle. Part of the stress is thinking that there is something you can do to improve your situation and/but it is not done. One of those actions is to flesh-out Plan C, get a replacement car.

She took to the task like a duck takes to water. She came up with about thirty candidates in her area. Unfortunately, she fell in love with one on the basis of well done photography and some up-level options.

Sorting through the clutter
One of the gifts that God gave me was the ability to sort through data and make it comprehensible. He could have given me great biceps or a charming personality but no, he made me a data weenie.

One good first pass through the data is to assume a reasonable "trouble free" mileage. Belladonna is shopping used Chevy Impalas and Malibus. I suggested that 200,000 is the new 100,000. Change the oil. Throw new hoses and belts on at 100k and gas as needed and most cars will make 200k.

The fly-in-the-ointment is that Michigan uses much road salt and corrosion is a major issue after fifteen years.

Then it becomes a matter of dividing the asking price by (200k minus actual-miles) to get an estimate for the dollars/mile fixed cost.

The Impalas that Bella looked at range from an estimated 4 cents a mile to 11 cents a mile. The one she is in love with is near the lower end at 6 cents a mile ($6500 and 89k miles)

The vehicle that stood out for me is that a vehicle that was hiding in the swarm came in at 4.7 cents a mile and is within walking distance of where Bella lives. That might be a good, first vehicle for her to kick the tires on. At 93k miles it meets the requirement that she get five years of no-problems driving before she has to deal with car replacement again.

One caveat is that the absolute lowest $/mile car might not give you very many years of service if it is high mileage. The time and hassle of shopping for a car is a fixed cost that is invisible to this analysis.

Getting back to corrosion: The car Bella fell in love with is two years younger than the car that is within walking distance. Besides rust, age can impact rubber and plastic parts. There are many rubber parts on a car that do not get replaces as part of the regular maintenance cycle. Those parts include o-rings, air intake ducting, suspension bushings and the like. Plastic parts include nearly everything in the interior, exterior moldings and such. Things like salt, ultraviolet light and ozone will age metal parts (including electrical wiring and connections in exterior lighting) and the rubber/plastic parts even when the vehicle is parked.

So I am not bent out of shape by Bella not wanting the absolute lowest $/mile vehicle.

This exercise is as much therapeutic for Bella as it is a serious exercise. Payments on a $7k vehicle would be about $200 a month if she pays it down over three years. I think Bella might be falling in love with Plan C.


  1. I'm in the market for a used car also. I would consider either options reasonable. I am impressed that at her age she isn't pushing for something flashy (and expensive). Good luck with the process!
    One thing to think of: if they are a big dealer, make sure that they don't sell her info - this will avoid getting deluged in calls, texts, and mailings (some real, some fraudulent) for services like warranties, insurance, satellite radio, etc.

  2. Good info! And a realistic approach, hope she follows through on it.

  3. I have had my 2012 impala now for 6 years now. We just put new struts all the way around on, first time for those. Other than basic oil, gas, and routine maintenance per the manual, and a new roof/windshield/hood when my husband hit a doe 5 years has been a wonderful car. I am driving in all kinds of weather, on all kinds of roads. It has 228,000 miles on it and runs as well as the day we bought it. It was a leased vehicle that was turned in after the first year with 15,000 miles on it. It ride like a dream, and has a trunk big enough to hide bodies in, which is great for me with my nursing stuff I have to carry.
    If Bella has the chance, my vote is she should grab the impala up as mine has been just a fantastic car. If I could find another one I would get it in a heartbeat!! Bonus is the gas mileage is very very good. I get consistently 28-30 miles per gallon and that is mixed in town and on highway.
    When I go on trips I get 30-32. And it has nice power, so it moves along on these MI expressways.


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