Why I Still Drive A Beater Car


Yesterday I hopped in my car with Garrett and made the 750 trek up to Nashville. It’s a pretty regular drive for us since my entire family lives in the area, and it gives me a lot of time to think about my car.

Image shows a car parked under a tree with text that reads "Why I still drive a beater car"

As I’m going to meet hand out with my friends and family, I realize that my car doesn’t exactly give off “prosperity vibes”.

It’s old – thirteen years old – it’s an econo car, and not only that, it’s a station wagon, and the body has seen better days (thanks to me scratching up the passenger side in my first ever wreck).

Exactly the opposite of a cool car.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve thought about replacing it.

On the one hand, I’m kind of proud of that car. It was my first major purchase from money I earned as a work-at-home-mom. I found this car on Craigslist because yes, you can buy a used car without losing your shirt, and was thrilled that I got a car that fit our needs so perfectly for about 2/3 of the budget I’d set.

But on the other hand, it is older with zero frills, and as I park it among all my family’s nice, shiny, newer cars, I feel a twang of embarrassment.

Image shows a woman in a car with two small children in the backseat

But as much as I’ve fantasized about an upgrade,

Here’s why I still drive a beater car:

  • It doesn’t cost me anything. In order to upgrade, I’d have to spend more of that hard-earned money, because I’m pretty sure it’s trade-in value is about equal with a cheap bicycle. We paid cash for it, it’s paid for, and other than maintenance doesn’t cost anything to have around.
  • It’s gets pretty great fuel mileage. Living out in the sticks the way we do, everything is far away, so good fuel mileage is essential. I’d spend roughly twice as much as gas driving a small SUV, and that would make trips to Nashville, or even just homeschool co-op or Gabe’s Jujitsu class less frequent, and more of a strain.
  • We live on a bumpy dirt road and I realized that I didn’t want to sink money
    into a new car only to have the road rattle it apart. Not to mention the dust and gravel that works its way into every part of the car during dry weather (which is 90% of the time).
  • We’ve chosen to put money into improving our house (and other things) instead. Last year, we bought a small how to renovate, and it still has a ways to go (although that has a lot more to do with us not knowing what we’re doing, than money).

And in the end, does it really matter what your car looks like? The reality is, it’s a good car, it’s just totally not cool. It holds my kids, my groceries, and my dog. What more could I ask for? …as long as it keeps on working, and gets us from point A, to point B.

Image shows two small children and a dog in the back of a car

This car may not look like much, but rather than being a sign of prosperity, the fact that it gets me where I’m going, doesn’t cost me in monthly payments, and saves money on gas make it an aid to prosperity.

I know that one day the car will start nickel and diming us, or maybe it’ll fail catastrophically, and we’ll have to replace it, but for now it’s working well. I don’t know about you, but I really like having things that aid me on my path to financial freedom, rather than those that bog me down with their useless shininess.

Because the bottom line is it doesn’t really matter what people think of your car.

So drive that old beater car with pride.

Update For the sake of transparency: I totaled that “beater car” about a year after this article was published. Never thought I’d say this, but boy do I miss that car! The extra cargo space, the visibility, etc. Count your blessings, right?

Anyway, I ended up “upgrading” to a smaller, and somewhat newer car. It gets much better fuel mileage, but isn’t as practical. I’m the only mom I know who drives a compact, but that’s okay – I like the fuel cost savings!

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  1. That’s funny. I went and looked at new cars yesterday. My car is a 2005 Elantra. I love everything about it except that it slides. Living on the Illinois/Wisconsin border, we get a lot of snow. OK, and she is rusting a bit.

    They tell me the new ones handle much better. That might be what puts me over the edge. I wasn’t in love with the new car enough to want to make car payments, but it would be nice to drive in the winter without stressing out every time it snows.

    I don’t want car payments. Sigh….

  2. Yes!! We have a 2003 Saturn Vue and a 2003 Dodge Stratus. I LOVE them both… and a few times it’s bothered me that we don’t have nicer cars, but the Vue is paid off and the Stratus only has 4 payments left, so really… it’s the best situation we could ask for. It would be silly for us to just get in debt so that we can compete. My brother in law has a really nice cadillac SUV and yeah, sure, every time I see it I wish we had one like it, but that will come with time. Someday. 🙂

  3. I love this! I continue to drive old cars, because as much as I would like a shiny car with bells and whistles, I just can’t justify the cost of something I can get for much less. And it doesn’t matter how great of a car you get, you will always put money into it – often the fancy cars cost more to fix than an old economy car anyway.

    On the occasion I feel embarrassed of my old car, I ask myself “would you really get a knew car just for the sake of another person’s opinion?” Silly!

  4. I am so glad that there are others out there driving older vehicles. I truly believe the best kind of car to drive is the paid off kind. I will never understand the concept of trading in a car that has just been paid off. Why give something away that you have worked so hard for?

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