Happy 20th birthday to our car!

Not an accurate representation of our car 40

It’s official - our car is a senior citizen

This year our car turned twenty. While 20 years might not sound like much when talking about humans, twenty years is pretty old when it comes to automobiles. Car years are quite similar to dog years. Usually, cars of this age are either sitting at salvage yards being picked for parts, or being driven by very fragile old ladies that can barely see the road over the steering wheel. Yes, our car is THAT old, yet I’m no old lady and do not live in a salvage yard.


Our car has a lot of history

Our car (and before me and my wife met - my car) has been places. It saw things. If it could talk, it would tell you stories like a Vietnam vet after you buy him a drink. It would tell you stories of empty highways, horrors of finding parking in Vancouver, breakdowns in the middle of nowhere, and police chases. I’d take the police chases stories with a grain of salt, but the rest is legit.

It has traveled far and wide. Our noble servant went as far as Winnipeg once, crossed the Canadian Rockies on the way to Calgary, and took us to Tofino on Vancouver Island. But for the most part it is our reliable way of getting to work day in and day out.


I remember driving this car to college (…I wish I could say graduation, but can’t since I never graduated). I also have memories of driving this car to see Lord of The Rings in theater with my friends. Heck, I remember first time I opened its door for a beautiful girl who became my wife later on.

You ever noticed how old cars tend to have nicknames? And it’s always an ironic nickname. Big ugly truck would be nicknamed “Tiny”. A car that has been around for a while would go by “Rusty”. Someone’s old Honda Civic that barely moves would proudly sport “Cannonball” as its name.  Our car is known as “Donkey”. No idea why, but it’s stuck now.


For its age, our car is in great shape

This is a typical dialogue when somebody asks me about our car:

- How old is your car?

- Twenty years.

- Whoa, how come it’s so clean and well maintained?

- That’s because I clean it. And maintain it.


Our car is spotless. There’s not a single scratch on it. It’s also quite shiny for about 30 minutes after I wash it. It might not be a Show & Tell material, but I could confidently give The Queen a ride if her Land Rover broke down and she needed a lift to the castle without feeling embarrassed.

Also, there isn’t a single thing in this car that isn’t working. Usually when you see a car this old, there’s always something wrong with it - like busted A/C, broken stereo, windows that don’t go up and down, or heater that only works in July on weekends.

Our car is a complete opposite of this. Every single button and switch works, the motor hums away without interruptions, and I can count the number of times it broke down thanks to regular maintenance from a very good mechanic.


Why would we drive such an old car?

We can certainly afford a new car. We even have money set aside just for this purpose in case this one decides to call it quits and commits suicide by blowing its gasket in a garage.

So why do we keep driving an old car instead of buying a new one, with plush seats that warm your bum and windows don’t require physical exercise to go up and down?

1. It costs us nothing to drive this car. An average person in Canada spends over $400/month on a car either by leasing or financing. Our car comes at no charge besides maintenance costs and lets us put more money aside towards investing. In other words, our car helps us build wealth instead of eating our wealth.

2. We save money by avoiding hidden costs of owning a brand new car. Driving a brand new car might feel great, but it comes with additional costs. Everything from higher insurance premiums, premium gasoline, and increased maintenance costs to even car washes costs more money if you own a newer car.

3. There’s nothing wrong with it. Call me nuts, but why would you buy a car simply because your car is old? If it’s still doing its job by getting you from A to B, and sometimes all the way to point F, why does it have to be changed simply because it’s old? I can see if it became unreliable, and would only get you as far as point D. But if it’s still doing what it is supposed to be doing, why replace it?

4. Give me another 30 years, and this car will become so rare, people will pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars for it just like they do for mint condition Mustangs and Corvettes. Actually, I don’t think this will happen 🙂


Does it cost a lot of money to maintain it?

Some people claim that old cars drain their owners by requiring ever increasing repairs due to old age. In some people’s mind as soon as warranty expires, very expensive car parts just start randomly blowing up as you drive to work thus making purchasing new cars a good alternative.

Just out of curiosity, I asked my mechanic to pull my car paperwork to see the last 4 years of maintenances and repairs on it (it required rather lengthy explaining to him what an utter financial nerd I happen to be). I then subtracted all regular maintenance such as oil changes, flushes, body odor fumigations, and fast food wrappers removals. What was left is the amount of money I’ve spent over this time on parts replacement that otherwise I would not (supposedly) have with a newer car.

The amount was $1,654 or $34/month in extra expenses due to old age. Not a catastrophic amount in any shape or form especially if you compare it to the amount of money it saved us over the years by not leasing or financing a new car.


Would I recommend driving a car this old?

Actually, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I’m not a big fan of recommending anything to people, I’d rather tell how it’s working out for me and may be it will make you think twice. For us it’s certainly been working out, and numbers support it from a financial point of view. After all, our net worth has been climbing higher and higher in part thanks to our reduced expenses. But may be we got lucky, and all other cars of this age are not road worthy. Perhaps not everybody is able to maintain it on a regular basis like I do.

But I also met a lot of people who race into buying a new car right after their old car hits 5-year mark just because they can’t imagine driving it a bit longer. Perhaps they haven’t figured out how not paying car payments for 20 years can affect their financial wellbeing. I actually heard somebody pondering about buying a new car because his alternator broke down. Dude, the part might cost you $150, do you really want to buy a brand new car because of it? Kids these days…


I’m not alone!

While writing this story, I asked people on Twitter how old their cars are:

Liquid Independence  is a major baller with his car being only 8 years old.

Revanche said her cars are all 10+ years old.

The Asian Pear beat me with her family car being 25 years or older.

It’s nice to see am I’m not the only weirdo our there! 😀


  • Way to go Donkey!

    I was just gonna say my car is only like 10 years old or something, but then I did the math and realized 1993 was actually pretty far away - wow.

    My car is 22!!

    But unlike yours, plenty of things don’t work because I suck at keeping things clean and maintained 🙂 Still, I love her just the same… And pray she lasts another 22 years! (which prob won’t happen due to my not cleaning and maintaining).

    Oh, and she has a nickname too - but *for* a reason: FrankenCaddy. And also Side Hustler.

    here’s why: http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2014/06/franken-caddy-car-keeps-making-money/

    • Financial Underdog

      Love your left light design! So ghetto 🙂

  • Yup. You are 100% right. As long as my car drives well with well functioning air conditioner and heaters, then I will probably drive it to the ground. My car is 2009 year model so about 7 years so far. I think It will run another 5-10 years without any major headaches. Thanks for sharing!


    • I think in most cases people overplay the “headaches” of owning an older car. Yes you have to replace few parts once in a while, but the cost of it is nothing comparing to a new car. Of course, knowing a good mechanic is a must too.

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  • Our 13 year old car has had close to $3K in maintenance this year alone (we don’t do any work ourselves). We’re hoping against all hope that our string of bad luck is over.

    • Financial Underdog

      We all have bad and good years, hopefully it ends for you.

      But then again, all cars are different. Our Ford Escort is known to be reliable and cheap to maintain. My friend drives an older Mercedes that car is costing him quite a bit - looks nice though but damn parts are expensive for it.

  • Nelinha

    I’m driving our 19 year old Buick Le Sabre, and all my colleagues at work make fun of me because why should a woman not yet hit 50 who makes good money drive an old man’s car, let me tell you, not a scratch no rust, beautiful motor drives wonderfully and everything works (okay the tape deck stopped working about a year ago and I chose not to get it fixed) everything else impeccable. Driving my car to the ground, saving for a retirement Mercedes SUV to be paid for in cash, I don’t listen to others, they’re not the ones who would be making those $500 dollar monthly payments for me. Why throw away something that still works and serves it’s purpose.

    • Financial Underdog

      You got it! 😀

  • Wow, I guess my 8 year old Honda Fit is pretty young in comparison! I hope to keep my car though for many more years as it is still super reliable and although I have had more things start to come up in the past year, the extra repairs are still significantly less than a new car would cost. It may not be fancy but it works for us and we aren’t throwing money towards something that just depreciates in value.

    • Financial Underdog

      Routine maintenance is the key. Make sure to bring your car to a mechanic on a regular basis, a lot of times it saves you money down the road. People usually skimp on routine maintenance trying to save few dollars, but it does bite when something major happens because the car wasn’t looked after properly.

  • I love the idea of having an older car. Our 2009 Rav is a mere college student compared to your 20-year-old senior.

    I only have one objection: “Why on earth would you bring me here?” Seriously? You must not have had a good tour guide for Winnipeg. With a significant concentration of local restaurants and an arts scene that is world-renowned, you missed out! If you ever come this way again, I’d be happy to have you discover the city properly. (And yes, I have lived elsewhere and I travel a lot so I know what a good city looks like. :)) OK. Done with my city ramblings…

    • Financial Underdog

      HA! It was mostly directed at the great scenery around Winnipeg and Winkler, MB where I spent some time! I loved Winnipeg though, great university, good times! 😀

      • Good to hear. You had me wondering about your experience…

        • Financial Underdog

          Honestly, I’m the kind of person who loves it everywhere. I’ve been to small villages in Middle East and absolutely loved it along with snowy wintery Winnipeg.

  • Dawn

    My car is 13 years old, we have owned it for 8 years and gets me everywhere I need to be! I will find myself looking at a newer vehicle but the thought of going back into car payments after so many years without makes me stop looking and appreciate what I have.

    Couldn’t agree more about ownership costs. I have been fortunate to have found an excellent mechanic and have kept up with all regular maintenance. Driving an older vehicle has given us the extra money to travel each year and I would rather have memories then something shiny sitting in the driveway!

    • Financial Underdog


      I think having a great mechanic was a big part of our success as well. On many occasions they’d point out problems before they even appeared and sometimes would find much cheaper ways to replace parts. My mechanic on few occasions ordered parts from salvage yard as opposed to dealer - but he knows what he’s doing. But once we found this guy, we never looked anywhere else!

  • Love that you’re still driving your car. Happy Birthday to your reliable vehicle. Just in the four years that your mechanic pulled your service records, you would have spent $24k in car payments at $500 a month, If you had a car payment….I love looking at it like that. Our two vehicles are 13 and 15….mere teenagers. We spend a couple hundred dollars a year, if that on repairs. We haven’t had a car payment in 10 years, saving us $60k, if you figure $500 a month. Cha-Ching. Great post. Look forward to reading more.

    • Financial Underdog

      That’s awesome! 13 and 15 isn’t too high, but it’s getting there. But modern cars are very reliable these days, and parts can be very cheap. So, even though you have to replace a thing or two on it, you’ll still be ahead. You’ll still get laughed at once in a while by your friends who drive much newer cars, but hey … you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, right? 😀

  • RMF325

    Happy birthday indeed! My car is a sprightly 15 years old with only 32,500 miles on him. I will be driving Klaus until he can’t take another breath. He’s in very sound mechanical condition and in very, very good physical condition, so I imagine he and I will see at least another 15 years together.

    • Financial Underdog

      32K miles???? That’s nothing!!! Good for you! 😀

  • Our only car is a 2001 Camry. With a bit less than 100,000 miles-the milestone marking, as some people claim, a Toyota’s ‘breaking in’ point-we don’t aim to replace it anytime soon. That said, the car did spend its first 9 years in Minnesota, where road salt takes a toll, so that is a bit of a concern. I’d love to get an electric vehicle next, or maybe a plug-in hybrid, but I’m trying to contain my enthusiasm for the move until our Toyota shows unmistakable end-of-life signs.

    • Financial Underdog

      If we ever have to go Old Yeller on our Donkey and need a replacement, I’d be looking into Camry’s as a possibility. I heard they’re solid cars and very reliable.

  • I drive a 17 year old Camry. Runs great. We just sold our 11 year old Odyssey and bought a new to us at least 7 year old Odyssey. Both vehicles have been reliable and extremely cheap to maintain. And the best part is no car payments!

  • This is awesome! Keep driving and maintaining it and it will keep treating you well! I had my last car for 12 years. When it finally died (threw a rod), I had taken care of it so well that I was able to sell it for almost $1,000, even though it needed a new engine.

    • Financial Underdog

      Holy! I don’t think Donkey would go for a $1,000 but then again I never tried to sell it 😀

  • Amazing for keeping the car for 20 years. Ours is over 9 years old and running strong still.

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  • I truly hope our car has your car’s longevity. We’ve had bad luck with cars and accidents (one our fault, one not) that made us have to get new ones. Sigh.

  • I used to drive a 20 year old car but, unlike you, I was an irresponsible college student and didn’t properly maintain it. Our current car is about eight years old and runs like a dream but looks like hell. We’ll probably keep driving it for another five years, even though it’s tempting to upgrade! It still runs, so why would we get rid of it?

    • Financial Underdog

      Right on!

      Just to clarify - I’m not against driving nice cars. One day I might buy myself a very nice car. But for now this one serves us well.

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  • We’ve always had 10+ year old cars and to be honest, it’s been nothing but heartache and headache. Our current car is just a couple of years old and we hope it gives us many more drama free years! (Post on that coming tomorrow…)

    • Financial Underdog

      I can see where you’re coming from, but my experience is different. Now, I’m not saying everybody will see the same results, but I tried to stress the importance of regular maintenance and knowing a good mechanic. If you have these two things, life of your car can be prolonged quite successfully. Also, it really depends on the model of the car, some cars are just better than others, and some models are real lemons.

      Not saying you’re wrong at all though. “Experience may vary” as they say 😀

  • Monie918

    My Nissan is 13 years old with 215,000 miles. and counting. I definitely plan on driving it for another 5+ years!

    • Financial Underdog

      Good job! Take care of your car, and it will take care of you for a long time 😀

  • Heather

    My car is 10 years old and runs like a dream. I have so much history with my car. Traveled across america, graduated college, brought my baby home…. so many memories.

    It has treated this family well. I would never trade it for a younger model.

    • Financial Underdog

      Way to go, Heather!

  • Our car is 5 years old and I am actively thinking that either next or year after that I do need to replace it. I am perfectly happy with the car and just would like to buy the same model but 5 years younger : -:)

    I like the idea of low cost maintenance and fact that I havent stayed on the road, other than red light.

  • sdk88

    my car is turning 20. it’s a saab 9-5, 1999, that rolled off the assembly line in oct 1998. i am proud that i kept it going that long. it has had light usage though, only about 110k mi. i gave it a much needed paint job when it was 11. looks really good for it’s age, no one would guess it’s 20.