20 Reasons Why We Still Drive a 20 Year Old Car

September 21, 2017

Long-time readers know that we decided to sell Vanessa’s white Toyota Camry when we got married to pay off debts. We decided at that time to share a car – The Green Machine (as seen below) – which has resulted in minimal auto expenses.

Nearly four years have passed and we are still sharing. Our current situation is convenient, and both of our employers are located within a mile of each other.

Sharing a car won’t work for everyone, but it is a great way to reduce gasoline consumption, insurance costs, repairs, and the other costs of car ownership.

My path to owning our little green machine was plagued with poor vehicle decisions which will serve as an interesting story to help other readers.

The Path Well Traveled

It was 2006ish when I first caught car fever. I was spoiled enough to have parents who would purchase my first car. They weren’t rich, so I had to decide on something roughly $3,500 or less.

After a few months of obsessive searching, I found a 1984 Porsche 944 that looked in good condition. Adult owned and driven. As seen below.

Porsche 944

First of all, this was a neat little car. I still have a soft spot in my heart for clean 944s.

Second, I had short-term-itis at the age of 16 and couldn’t stop to think about the future. I didn’t consider the fact that these cars have high maintenance costs, poor gas mileage, and tiny back seats that are good for nothing.

Also, I hated the gold color but thought I could get it painted for cheap. Except paint jobs are not cheap, and the cost of aftermarket upgrades (like paint jobs) are rarely recaptured when selling the car to the next owner.

But, I wanted it, so I had it painted. I chose Maaco to paint the car. Long story short, they messed up the color, did a botch job, and wouldn’t fix it (typical, Maaco). I was out almost a grand that I would never again see.

Despite the loss, I didn’t learn my lesson with the Porsche 944. I sold the 944 and bought a faster and newer sports car with my hard earned money earned from working my minimum wage job as a grocery bagger.

Greener Pastures

Roughly a dozen cars/motorcycles later (Don’t worry, I became a little more savvy half-way through college and started buying/selling vehicles for profit), I finally settled on the beautiful Green Delight that we currently drive.

A 1996 Saturn SL1 with absolutely no options added. It’s bare bones with manual locks, manual windows, black steel rims, a ghetto CD player that doesn’t play CDs, and a number of other incredible features. I’ve never looked back.

I thought readers might like an entertaining post that details just a few of the many reasons we choose to keep this particular car, and why we won’t be getting rid of it any time soon.

  1. It Runs
  2. It’s Fully Depreciated – I bought it 5.5 years ago for $1,700 and have put more than 40,000 miles on the car. Without a doubt, I could get $1,500 today. Probably $1,700 with my Craigslist mojo.
  3. It Gets Good Gas Mileage – 30 MPG city, 40 MPG highway. Somehow, brand new compact cars can’t seem to top that after nearly 20 years of engineering improvements. And like clockwork, they continue to advertise 36 MPG highway.
  4. It’s Worry Free – I don’t have to worry about the people of Walmart dinging my door in the parking lot, or rocks causing the occasional paint chip. If that happens, who really cares.
  5. It’s Simple – With less bells and whistles, less power everything, and less engine complexity, there are fewer opportunities for problems and maintenance.
  6. It’s Unbelievably Slow – The 98 Horsepower (in 1996) 4 cylinder engine prevents my adrenaline junkie wife from racing those pesky Honda Civics equipped with mufflers the size of your head.
  7. It’s Practical – My primary desire is that my vehicle get me from A to B. This car performs that task well.
  8. It’s Reliable – I’ve had one maintenance repair for $1,000 that shouldn’t have happened. That sucks, but I don’t anticipate any problems going forward.
  9. It’s Uncomfortable – This is especially true when it’s cold outside. The Saturn rattles and vibrates, which makes you want to drive as little as possible.
  10. Insurance is Cheap – Liability only + tiny engine = low price.
  11. Taxes are Cheap – Personal Property taxes are next to nothing.
  12. Tires are Cheap – 14 inches of frugality, yeah!
  13. Keys are Cheap – What is going on with those new computer chipped keys that cost $250? Ours can be replicated for a dollar at Walmart.
  14. Free Theft Insurance – No one would ever choose to steal a 1996 hunter green Saturn with body and paint flaws.
  15. I Love to Eat – After a certain number of years pass, you just stop caring about keeping the carpets spotless. I’ll eat anything and everything while driving. If it falls on the seat or floor, I’ll still eat it. And never for one moment do I worry about stains.
  16. Cars Aren’t an Investment – Buying a new car is like flushing money down the toilet. Vehicles do nothing except depreciate, and I prefer allowing someone else to eat that depreciation before buying.
  17. Temperature Control Issues – It takes forever for the heater to work in the winter, and the A/C works well enough but the lack of window tint makes for a hot ride in summer. Both of these encourage less driving.
  18. It Keeps Us Humble – A 20 year old car draws no attention and helps us remember that cars are meant to get from A to B, not to impress the person in the next lane who is financed up to their eyeballs.
  19. It Makes Me Kind – Life is inevitably stressful, and sometimes difficult. The last thing I want to worry about is my car. That lady with screaming children who bumps me from behind at the stop sign. No Big Deal! Accidentally backed into that pesky telephone pole again? Just another Monday my friend.
  20. It’s Sexy – Saturn is now an extinct and exotic species. Plus, they just don’t make them like they did in the 90’s.

I know someday I’ll have to move on and find something a little more civilized, but til then, I’ll be rockin’ that Green Machine and stackin’ that money.

I’d like to know what year, make, and model you drive. Please share with a comment below.

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247 Comments on "20 Reasons Why We Still Drive a 20 Year Old Car"

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Marilyn
Marilyn

I am driving a red 2000 Volkdwagon Beetle that has 135,000 Miles. I bought it new. I intend to keep driving it. Just bought new tires and had to have a new water pump and timing belt put in. The car still looks great—in the garage at night. A few dings, but it looks ok—Beetles all more or less look alike. No one knows my car is 17 years old.

Kaylee
Kaylee

Nearly 16 year old 2002 hyundai accent with 247k miles. I bought it 3 years ago from my cousin for $2000 when it had 200k miles on it. It is still still running strong and I would like to keep it for 300k miles and beyond. It has been mostly reliable, but I definitely had to have repairs done along the way to keep it going. It still saves me money in the long run vs buying a new car.

Chris
Chris

I drive a 1997 Grand Marquis Mercury with 200,000 miles on it. I change the oil and filter every 5000 miles keep the brakes and tires in good shape do what little maintenance is required. Literally runs today as good as it did the day i bought it.

Liza
Liza

I love it thanks for sharing, im driving a 19 years old honda accord and do not worry about a little bump here and there 🙂 Runs great still .

spirals
spirals

I’m trying to decide if I need a newer car or not. Mine is much like the green machine except that corrosion is mitigating the value of repairs. (I live in a state that is served up heavily iced and salted in winter.) I have a 1993 Toyota Camry with smelly leather seats and a cassette player and broken AC. At least it has a sun roof. At any rate, this article is hilarious and I really did laugh out loud. You’re a great writer.

Pepe Seymour
Pepe Seymour

1991 Fiat Tipo I bought in 1999 for 200,000 Pesetas, around $2,400 in today’s money. My wife’s 2010 Seat Ibiza will have cost more in depreciation by the time it’s exchanged or scrapped than I’ve spent in repairs and modifications to the Tipo.

Chris
Chris

Same with me, except for eating dropped food from the car floor. I’m a little OCD, so that won’t work for me in my used car. I eat in my car, but if it drops, it’s (food) gone. I don’t even utilize the “5 second” rule. That’s why I’m VERY careful when eating in my car – not for the cleanness of the car but for the money I paid for the food.

Norm
Norm

I have a 1996 Toyota Camry with 452,000 miles on it. I’ve been doing the work mostly myself. Replacing the starter, windshield wiper transmission, hood latch were the things I have took care this year on my own. It’s amazing what you can get from u tube for instructions.

Les
Les

My 2003 Mondeo Ghia TDCi was bought new and has served me well. The car before that was a 1089 Ford Scorpio which I kept till it started to rust.

Aaron
Aaron
I haven’t had a car in 4 years, but my last vehicle was a 1989 Taurus wagon with 270,000 miles on it I paid $1200 for. I drove it for 7 years with no problems other than routine maintenance. I repacked my rear wheel bearings, replaced the head gasket, fuel filter, ect, myself. I always viewed a car as an appliance, like a washing machine, so I never had the urge to buy a new or expensive car. My previous cars were a 1984 Olds Delta 88 that lasted me 5 years, gave it to my sister when I went… Read more »
Steve
Steve
I drive a 1992 Ford Thunderbird, nicknamed “Fergie”. I’ve replaced the radiator, water pump, power steering pump and (recently) the head gaskets all myself. It would’ve been easier to take it to the shop, but my skill set as a “shade tree mechanic” sucked until I bought a Chilton and Haynes guide, got under the hood and did it! Bottom line: everyone should have an “oopsy” car in their lives especially new drivers; something less computerized and expensive that they can get under the hood, get greasy and dirty and learn where everything is, and face the fear and get… Read more »
Mandy
Mandy
I’m currently applying for financing for a new truck. planning to replace my old 1 ton 8yr old 132k with a new 2.5 ton truck. this is clearly an upgrade as i most of the time load the old truck more than rated capacity by 50 percent. was thinking hard, but having the capacity to haul, climb hills, good sized tires, airconditioning and nothing to worry about something breaking in the middle of the journey.. gives me peace of mind. Depreciation is a big deal especially if you don’t drive it to the ground. but i see my new truck… Read more »
Tteebs
Tteebs

I own a ’99 Saturn SC 2. It runs like a champ, but the bottom is rusted out now and it is no longer safe to drive. I bought it brand new…I actually love that car. I have cried several times at the thought of getting rid of it. Lol. I’ve had it 19 years. It was its own insurance policy. Lol

Faye Bryson
Faye Bryson

I drive a 94 Saturn SL 5speed did have a 91 Saturn SL and the tranny busted so bought the 94 and put the 91 engine in it. Wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. Only had to move the motor supports. Love my Saturns great gas savers and easy to work on

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