I Finally Broke Down and Bought a New Car

OK, I did it.

After commuting to and from work in my 1997 Honda Civic for the past 13 years, and with my son on the verge of getting his driver’s license, I finally relented and bought myself a new car.

That’s right. I’m now the proud owner of a brand-new factory-fresh 2013 Honda Accord.

Frankly, I feel like I died and went to heaven. This is the first new car I’ve ever owned that I got to drive from day one; both my Civic and our 2001 Honda Odyssey were both bought for the Honeybee.

I spared almost no expense this time too, as I purchased the model’s penultimate trim.

For a modest family sedan, my new car has all the feel and accoutrements of, dare I say it, an expensive luxury car. Thanks to her V-6 engine with 278 horses under the hood, the Accord can get from 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds — not that I typically drive that way. It’s also got leather seats, a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition, a Bluetooth hands-free link and streaming audio, and dual-zone climate control.

Since I live in Southern California, I suspect I’ll rarely, if ever, use the Accord’s heated front seats — although I will use the moon roof. I’m also going to make good use of the 360-Watt audio system and its seven speakers (including a sub-woofer).

There’s also a rear camera that shows what’s directly behind my car when I put the car in reverse. I’m loving that. It’s too bad I didn’t have that feature on my old pick-up truck; if I did I wouldn’t have accidentally made mincemeat out of one of those low-profile “drive-thru” signs while backing out of a parking space at my local Taco Bell 20 years ago.

Perhaps my favorite new feature is the driver seat’s 10-way power adjustment option that makes driving a real joy. Ten ways! That’s a big improvement over my Civic; its driver’s seat seemingly has only three preset positions: uncomfortable, awkward, and incommodious. (Contrary to popular belief, the “pestiferous” setting was only offered on the Civic’s luxury model.)

My new car warns me when I’m drifting out of my lane (rarely), or getting too close to the car in front of me (more than I care to admit).

Sometimes it even speaks to me.

The other day, while backing out of a parking space I heard an anonymous chime in the cabin. I had no idea what it meant, so I continued to work my way out of the parking lot. A few seconds later, a very pleasant female voice came through the audio system speakers, politely asking me to disengage the parking break. I couldn’t believe it! After all, I’m used to relying on the Honeybee when I make mistakes like that — but instead of a gentle reminder, she usually hits me over the head with a rhetorical question, followed by the obligatory insult. You know, something like this: “Why do you still have the hand brake on? Knucklehead.”

I know what you’re thinking: Hey, Len! Why didn’t you let somebody else take the depreciation hit by buying a used car that was only a few years old? Knucklehead.

Well, that would have been financially smarter considering that most new cars lose upwards of 50% of their value within three years, but I have lots of good reasons for buying new instead of used. Here were three of the biggest:

I’ve paid my dues. After more than 170,000 miles and many years commuting in my cramped little Civic, I was ready for something a bit more comfortable. Besides, by driving that car for so long, I’ve saved more than $40,000 in car payments over the years.

I can afford it. Frankly, maximum value wasn’t a top priority for me this time around. That’s because after many years of scrimping and saving — and lots of hard work — I’m at a sweet spot in my life now, financially speaking. In fact, I could have paid the dealer cash for the vehicle, but I decided to take advantage of my good credit score and take out an auto loan at 1.9% interest over five years instead.

I’ll be keeping the car for at least a decade. Holding my car for at least ten years will help temper those painful depreciation costs I’ll be incurring over the next several years in exchange for the pleasure of driving my very own brand new car.

For the first time in my life, I’m enjoying my commute to work, driving in a brand-new automobile with that terrific new-car smell.

Yes, I realize the vehicular honeymoon won’t last forever — but at this stage of my life, trust me, it’s well worth it.

Photo Credit: zibe


  1. 1

    Ashley says

    Good for you. You use a vehicle extensively and will get a lot of life out of it. Splurging (within reason) on something you use so frequently is one of the best ways to spend money.

  2. 2


    Heated seats are amazing in Canadian winters. I don’t have them but I love to ride in cars that do. You had better plan a driving vacation somewhere very cold to truly appreciate having a warm rear end after dealing with wind chill.

    I am saving to pay cash for a newer used car because that is what I can afford.

  3. 3


    If you can REALLY afford something, then what you do with your money within those limits is about tastes and priorities, not about doing the right or wrong thing. The problem is that many people make choices they can’t actually afford. :)

  4. 4


    I know you can afford it and you obviously made the right decision for you. I also bought a brand new car in 2010 (a Civic, and one of the lower end models) but I too plan to drive it for 10+ years and drive it into the ground. At least this way we know the total maintenance history of our cars and know that no one has abused them.

  5. 5

    David C says

    Congrats on the new ride! I am about to crack 214,000 miles on my 1997 Toyota. I have a habit of buying new or barely used and then driving them until they are just plain worn out. I am thinking it is about time for a new one. Just have to pry open that wallet.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a replacement vehicle for the past year or so, David. Of course, buying a car — new or otherwise — has never been a decision I make lightly. I owned my first car (a used Datsun 510) for more a dozen years and put 200,000 miles on it. My second car was a used pick-up truck that I kept for another ten years. We’ve had our Honda Odyssey since 2001 and the Civic since 1997.

      I originally started off looking to buy a two- or three-year-old car, but the more I got into the process — and the more I evaluated my financial position and realized I was going to drive it into the ground anyway — the more I realized that buying new was the most logical choice for me.

  6. 7

    Mike M says

    I am so confused by this post. It is not what I come here for at all.
    The first part is basically a car commercial. And you make it very clear that you spent more than was necessary for some comforts and a bigger engine. And you chose interest payments over paying in cash.
    Then you come out with the siren song of marketers and bad influences: I deserve it. It is that kind of thinking that I, and many of your readers, struggle against daily.
    I know that in my life there are times when I chose to pay more for something that is not necessary, but the benefits are important enough to me that I chose the expense anyway. (Usually not on one of the biggest purchases of my life, but ok.) I understand that you earned the money and can justify a splurge if you desire. But the tone of this post is just very surprising to me. Maybe our values are not so alike after all.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Trust me, Mike; our values are very much alike.

      I have to confess, I struggled mightily before finally deciding to write this post for the very reason you mention: I knew it would raise the eyebrows of more than a few of my readers.

      In the end, I decided to write it anyway. The lesson I hope all my readers will take away from this post is that there are circumstances that exist where a financially responsible person can get away with buying a new car — even if it isn’t the most financially advantageous option.

      That being said, there are plenty of financially responsible people who would be crazy to do what I did — the biggest reason being they don’t have the income to support such a move. But there are others.

      I could have run off a bunch of additional reasons why it made sense for me — financially speaking and otherwise — but I wanted to keep this post under 800 words.

      I’m going to go in to them in more detail on my next post. Hopefully, it will put your worries at ease. I promise I haven’t gone to the dark side … I weighed everything very carefully before making my decision.

      • 9

        Mike M says

        I can accept that you made a buying decision that you can afford and that you thought through the choices you made, I will not beat you up about that.
        My problem with the post is that I come to your blog for advice and support in making good decisions for me. Every day I am faced with marketing, peer pressure and my own weaker thoughts saying it’s ok to spend and splurge and buy it all. I come to you to help balance that out.
        Half of this post was about how good it feels to splurge. And when I got to the reason “I paid my dues”, that set me off. I think that is a message I want to avoid and is why you are getting some blow-back in the comments.

      • 10

        LadyLeo says

        I believe I am financially responsible, but I did the exact same thing you did. I haven’t purchased a brand new car since my 1996 Toyota Corolla. Then I bought a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, that I could have paid cash. Instead i put $6000 down on my $17500 vehicle with a 2.59% interest rate and made a promise to myself, to pay the car off in 2 years instead of 5 years. After budgeting for my expenses, I applied any leftover money to my $205 a month car note and my tax refund where I was able to pay my car off in 1 year, 4 months and only paid the bank $233. I made it a game to see how quick I could pay off my car and not give the bank a penny over $250. I even played with loan calculators to help devise a plan.

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      Not at all, Kurt. Give me a little credit here, my brother! :-)

      I noted in the post that buying a new car is a “knucklehead” move financially. In my case, the decision process came down to more than just saving as many dollars and cents as I could.

    • 13

      Billy says

      Sure the new car costs more than something a few years old of the same class. But we are talking about an Accord here. It is a pretty sensible car and not expensive for what you get.

      I would say the only things you could have done without are the V-6 engine and the lane departure warning. Otherwise, it is not like you bought a Porsche or BMW. It is a Honda! Like my Camry it is safe, reliable, cheap to maintain and a good deal.

      You also weighed the decision to pay cash or finance which is nice to see and about maximizing what your money can do for you. I think at 1.9% I would also finance. Congrats on your new car.

  7. 14

    Jen says

    My husband and I are senior citizens and our Corolla is too (11 years old and 215,000 miles). It has crisscrossed the country many times, and we are ready to get an update too if it develops any kind of problem.Thinking Prius at this time if we can afford to pay cash for it. We have never bought a new car on installment, it just would make us feel weird.

  8. 15


    We have two new cars (a Wrangler and a Camaro), and I’m sure a lot of people who read my blog were shocked. We got great deals on them and we like having fun cars. Everyone has a splurge, and this is ours!

  9. 16

    Dan says

    Good for you! This is why we work! The most important point you make is you can afford it. It’s not as if you are living on a tight budget!

    Assuming you can afford it, why NOT buy yourself a new car that you plan on keeping for a long long time anyway? What else are you going to spend your money on? There’s only so much money you can save before it becomes almost counterproductive. In the end, money is meant to be spent.

  10. 17

    pen says

    A large point of being frugal is to be mindful of spending. Save in some areas to afford what really matters to you. Sounds like you decided this was an important area, and are willing to prioritize this purchase. Have fun with the new car.

  11. 18


    Turn in your Personal Finance Blogger ID Card, thanks!

    (Just not to me. I won’t throw stones from my glass house, my friend!)

  12. 21


    Congratulations! I always buy new and run the car into the ground. My last car (Honda), I had for 17 years. My wife’s car (Honda)is approaching the same number this fall. My new car (last year) was a Toyota Prius C. I bought it at dealer cost and love it although it is a little underpowered ont he free way. I drive 99% of the time on surface streets.

  13. 24

    Jason says

    Len, as someone who drove a ’93 Accord for 8 years (until 3 weeks ago), I commiserate with your “pain” and understand your joy. I bit the bullet and purchased a new car, too. At 1.9% it’s almost free money…

  14. 25

    Renee says

    I have to agree with a few others on this board…your decision doesn’t seem to follow what you are all about. Or what I THOUGHT you were all about? You are certainly entitled to make your own decisions, but I would not consider buying a brand new car and financing that car a smart money move. Anyone can justify a purchase like this. Believe me, I’ve tried SO many times as I love a nice car! Do you really think you’re not paying for that low interest loan? I GUARANTEE you that’s built into the price of a car to get people to “justify” taking out a loan. And I’m not saying that I will never have a brand new car. But I assure you my house will be paid for and the new car will get paid for with cash. I am not inviting “Murphy” into my life. I absolutely love the feeling of not having car payments….no matter how much I like that new car smell!

    • 26

      Len Penzo says

      Renee, I understand how you feel. And I am going to HATE making car payments after a dozen years of not having them.

      But trust me, there’s a method to my madness. After taking into account my 1.9% finance rate, real inflation, the time value of money, and the Fed’s continuing efforts to devalue the dollar, getting a loan was a smart money move. There is absolutely no reason to buy the car with cash now; I’ll be paying my car off with increasingly worthless dollars over the next five years.

      I went to plenty of dealers, did my homework, knew the invoice price — and most importantly — bypassed the salesmen and dealt directly with the fleet managers. In the end, I got the best deal I possibly could.

      • 27

        Lee says

        I hate to tell you this, but no you didn’t get the best deal you possibly could have. You admitted yourself. “I went to plenty of dealers…” YOU NEVER SET ONE FOOT IN DEALERSHIP! Yes, car companies ARE going to make you a deal that leave them loosing money….ON THAT ONE DEAL. Yes, they are obviously in the business to make money. When I’ve negotiated the purchase of a new car for friend’s, I solicit bids from several dealerships within a certain radius. This creates a ‘blind bid’ for the dealerships to compete for my business. The process is also designed to ferret out ‘below the radar’ incentives made to dealerships by auto manufacturers that the general public is unaware even exist. As an example, lets say dealership “A” is participating in a program whereby if they sell 200 units that month, receives an additional $250K from the manufacturer. Towards the end of the month, Dealership “A” is 3 cars shy from hitting its sales goal, thereby getting the 250K. Dealership “A”, more than likely will be willing to take a LOSS (minimally) on the last three cars, rather than risk loosing the 250K sales incentive. (I’ve been successful in getting cars 3x prior for LESS than what the dealer paid for that individual unit. Granted they made it up with their sales bonus. )

        • 28

          Len Penzo says

          I agree with you for the most part, Lee. Maybe I should have said, I got the best deal that I was willing to work for, although I’m not sure what you meant by I never set foot in a dealership — I set foot in a half-dozen dealerships. In my case, there came a point where I had negotiated down to the exact same price point from multiple dealers; those dealers knew I was working with rival dealerships but still refused to drop their price any lower (at the time), confirming their price point, and so any potential additional money I may have saved via additional negotiations became no longer worth my time or interest in pursuing.

          Could I have waited until the end of the month and maybe — maybe — saved an additional $500 bucks somewhere, assuming I found a dealer who needed to meet his monthly quota? Yes. Was I willing to do the additional work and postpone buying the car, even though there was no guarantee I’d get the additional savings? No.

          But your point is well-taken.

  15. 29

    Travis says

    As long as you enjoy the smell on the way from Point A to Point B – knock yourself out, Len. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a brand new car. I’d rather save the cash and buy a slightly used car – let some other sucker take the 50% drop in value. I agree with others that the tone of your post sounds like you’ve encountered one heck of a salesman.

    • 30

      Len Penzo says

      Yes, I can see how someone might think the post reads a bit like a commercial. However, I was simply trying to convey my excitement at having a new car after all these years, and my wonderment at all the technological changes that cars have undergone since then.

      Remember, I just transitioned from driving a cramped bare-bones 1997 Honda Civic with manual everything to a spacious 2013 Honda Accord. I know it sounds silly, but I’m still amazed by all of it.

  16. 32

    Ken says

    Good buy, I have a 05 Accord with 141k miles sporting factory brakes (gotta love stick shift) and no issues whatsoever.

  17. 33

    Auntjenny7 says

    Congrats on the new car!!! You chose a good one. I think it’s fine to buy a new car. I chose to do the same thing this time around too. It replaced a car that I had been driving for 12 years), so we had plenty of time to save for it :). I plan to drive it for many years to come, like I have done with my Toyota Solara, which is now on its 14th year.

  18. 34


    As someone who also lives in SoCal AND owns an ’05 Honda Accord (with most of the bells and whistles), I use those heated seats all the time and almost never use the heater itself. I LOVE them.

    While your decision probably isn’t the most textbook “correct” financial decision, if you have the money and want it, that’s why we work so hard to save our money.

    I’m usually a “buy a Honda when it’s 3 years old/36K miles” type of gal, but to each his/her own.

    Hondas are the b-e-s-t!

  19. 35

    Len Penzo says

    Thank you to everyone for your kind words and expressions of concern. I appreciate the feedback and kudos!

  20. 36


    Buy a new car is smart thing to do. Congrats for your decision.
    In my experience I drive them until they start giving me problems. This is around 100k miles, though it could be more or less depending on the vehicle. Anyway, when I hit the “$1,500 for this” and “$2,000 for that” stage, it’s time for a new car. (BTW, it’s not only the cost that’s an issue, it’s the time and hassle factor — dropping off the cars, picking them up, making due with one car, etc.) FYI, 100k miles for my car is about seven years.

  21. 37

    Kate says

    Len, we always have bought new cars and taken excellent care of them. We got 186K miles out of a Dodge K-car, 184K miles from an Olds Cutlass station wagon, and are now on our 3rd car, a 2005 Ford that has over 100K miles on it. (We’ve been married 29 years.) So if you can handle the payments, get a decent deal on price and loan terms, and are committed to keeping the car till the wheels fall off of it, go ahead and buy new. And everyone stop picking on Lenny!

    • 38

      Len Penzo says

      “everyone stop picking on Lenny!”

      ha ha! It’s OK, Kate. I don’t feel like anybody is picking on me. Well, except for maybe Travis (see below). 😉

      They’re just expressing their concerns.


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