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The Frugalmobile

October 11, 2013
Well, I did it. I bought a car. After more than two years of living car-free and carefree the time has come.

As I recently explained, my employer is building a new facility and moving across town. This new location makes it impossible for me to continue riding the bus to work based on where I live and the bus routes available here in Sarasota, and it's not easy to get there by scooter, either. Although this transition is likely not going to be completed until mid-2014, I preemptively changed my method of travel. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be nice to spend a beautiful winter here in Florida with more flexible transportation. For instance, it's terribly difficult for us to get the beach by bus, as due to transfers it ends up taking well over an hour to travel about 15 miles. I'm still a bit mixed on it though, as I really, really enjoyed my time without a car. They're money pits no matter how you slice it.

I'm calling my new (to me) econobox the "Frugalmobile".

I think that title is fairly accurate and descriptive. I picked up a 1997 Ford Escort this past Tuesday. It's in very nice condition, and appears to be mechanically sound. It has just under 90,000 miles, with a recent tune-up, timing belt and water pump replacement. It also has a clean Carfax report. You can never really tell for sure with a vehicle this old, but it seems to be in fairly nice condition and is a low mileage specimen.

After factoring in the purchase price, taxes, title transfer fees, registration, etc., I paid $2,030 for my new ride. Not too bad. Even better, after factoring in the likely proceeds from the sale of my lovely 49cc scooter I'll probably see less than $1,000 actually leaving my pocket. And I'll have a car. I guess that's not too bad of a trade-off?

Initially I was planning to spend $5,000-$6,000 on a car. However, after further thought spending more money does not necessarily equate to a better or more reliable car. Working at a car dealership, I can personally attest to seeing fairly new vehicles requiring extensive (and sometimes expensive) repairs. In fact, I decided quite the opposite - that the cheaper the car the less risk I'm actually exposing myself to. If this car completely clunks out on me, I'm only out about two grand. If I spend $6,000 on a car and a catastrophic failure occurs, I'm in a bad spot.

I was actually chasing an older Toyota Corolla. There's plenty around, and picking a 10-12 year-old Corolla with a manual transmission is pretty bulletproof. However, it seems that, at least in my area, there appears to be some kind of premium on these cars. This premium is probably well deserved, as they're just fantastic cars. However, I had a very hard time finding a Corolla that was not completely destroyed below $2,500. I only found one in my entire month long search, but it was too far out of my area to purchase. I was limited by the bus and scooter, but I was willing to take a taxi for the right opportunity. However, it was not meant to be. The Frugalmobile was located less than five miles away!

According to the EPA, this vehicle was rated at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, for a combined value of 26 mpg. Not overly impressive, but certainly not too bad either. It's definitely not the 100 mpg my Honda Metropolitan gets! I'll likely not see these exact figures as this car is 16 years old and has 90,000 miles under the hood. I'll be gauging it over the next few weeks to see where I stand.

I'm no longer car-free, and I'm emotionally fractured. On one hand, I loved my time without a car. On the other, I'm looking forward to accessing parts of the city difficult or impossible to get to without a car. I'm also looking forward to more time, as I'll be able to leave home later in the morning and get back from work earlier. While at first it was difficult to get by without a car and adjust myself, once I got used to the bus and riding my cheap little Honda I absolutely loved the savings. No car means no 12-gallon tank to fill, no tires or brakes to replace, no repairs to pay for and no liability or responsibility. However, it also means less flexibility and less time. We'll see how this trade-off works.

How about you? Approve of the Frugalmobile?

Thanks for reading.

About the author:

Dividend Mantra
Trying to retire by 40 by investing in dividend growth stocks and living frugally, valuing time over money.

Visit Dividend Mantra's Website


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