Mr. Octopus Gets A New Car

There’s a popular saying about cars… One that reaches a level of truth that bares repeating here.

“Once you go hatchback, you never go back.”

I certainly tried for 13 years to drive a small sedan.  I tried.  I really did!  But the siren son of ‘the hatch’ and those acres of storage space eventually called to me in a deeply practical way.  Yep, it’s true!  I finally bought a new car!

Well, new to me anyway… and it’s of the ‘family-sized’ hatchback variety!


The New Car Hunt

As some of you know, I started looking for a new car this last summer.  While I don’t drive a lot these days, I certainly do need to haul my kids around and run the occasional errand.  My little old 2006 Honda Civic just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  The kids were starting to complaining they didn’t have enough space, and we really didn’t have enough room for bikes or other paraphernalia.

honda civic
As much as I still love it, my old two door Civic is too small to be a family car.

At first, I test drove a bunch of different models trying to find one that might fit our needs.  Initially I tried smaller hatchbacks like the Honda Fit and the Volkswagen Golf, but they were just too damn small.

Eventually I settled on one of these popular ‘crossover’ vehicles (sometimes called a ‘compact SUV’).  I like to think of it as a “family-sized” hatchback.

I decided it was the kind of car we needed because it could:

  • Seat 4 people comfortably.  The car needs to seat myself, Mrs. Tako and my two growing kids comfortably.
  • Be affordable (common enough that it’s inexpensive).  We already have one good car, so I wasn’t looking for anything fancy.  Used is just fine.
  • Have room for a decent amount of cargo.  I routinely carry bikes, wood from the hardware store, and odd shaped cargo like furniture.
  • Be reliable.  Nobody wants a car that’s in the shop all the time!
  • Be reasonably efficient.  I don’t put a lot of miles on my car, so efficiency is not my primary concern.  I don’t want it to suck either.

In the end, I purchased a 2011 Honda CR-V EX-L from a private party for $10,400.  (That’s roughly blue-book price if you’re curious.)

Here’s a beauty shot of the new car:

new car 1

It might be just another one of those extremely popular SUV’s on the market, but I certainly like it!

new car

And then there’s that lovely hatch with all that ample cargo space in the back…  Oh yeah baby!  She’s got back!


Are the kids happier now?  Yes indeed!  Tako Jr. #1 gives his seal of approval with all that extra leg room.

easy rider


Why Did It Take So Long?

When most people go car shopping, they typically find and buy the car they want within a week or two.  This is usually done by plopping down giant piles of money in front of a car salesman.

That’s not exactly how I do things.  I approach buying a car a lot like making an investment — I wait until I see a really fat pitch before I swing.

In my case it took 5 months before I found a meticulously cared for Honda CR-V.  This ‘new-t0-me car’ is one of those proverbial “little old lady” cars that’s been well taken care of — parked in a garage every night, regular oil changes, never commuted with, and only seen highway miles during it’s lifetime.

Instead of spending $35k on a brand new CR-V, I bought a very good used car for $10k.  That’s what I call a fat pitch in a used car.

Now technically the little old lady happened to be dead at the time of sale.  It’s certainly never ideal when the seller is deceased, but it ultimately only added a little extra complexity to the transaction.  (The car needed to be purchased from the individual’s estate)  But the good folks at the DMV helped us sort it all out.

Did I learn anything from buying this used car?  Absolutely!

For one, don’t be in a hurry to buy.  Eventually the right car does come along… even if it’s a corpse selling it.  Having patience and waiting for that fat pitch is key.

Second, if you decide to buy used, only buy from a private-party NOT a dealer.  Used car dealers are really good at putting lipstick on pigs and charging a high price for it.  You won’t find good deals in a used car lot.

It does take time to find really good used cars… and I was certainly picky.

I wanted a one-owner car with no accidents, a verifiable service history, and less than 110,000 miles.  That’s harder to find than you might think!  I also restricted my searches to the last two model years of the Gen3 CR-V, primarily because of some refinements to the famously reliable Honda K-series engine in those years.  This meant I was restricting my searches to only a 2010 or 2011 model.


It’s Not Perfect

To be fair, it’s not a perfect car.  I wasn’t looking for perfect either.  In my price range I was expecting plenty of wear and tear.  That means dents, scratches, and marks.

Yep, there are plenty of “little old lady” marks on my the car, and it doesn’t bother me.  I’m not looking to impress, and I don’t need a perfectly polished-up car.  I just need something that can drive me and the kids around reliably.

The new car has plenty of scratches!


There’s even a dent in one bumper piece of plastic!

car dent

I’m not going to win any beauty contests with this car!

In a way though, a few nicks and scratches were exactly what I wanted.  I’m going to be hauling my kids around after-all!  If the door gets dinged or it collects another scratch from childhood mishaps, I don’t need to freak out about it.  It just adds to the patina.

And we can’t forget the importance of Stealth Wealth!  Not looking like the richest guy in the room is how you win the Stealth Wealth game!  Dents and scratches are excellent camouflage from the gold-diggers!


The Timeless Debate: New vs. Used

I would be remiss as a personal finance blogger if I didn’t take this opportunity to address the timeless debate of new vs. used cars.  For example, Jim Collins recently bought a new car (a Subaru Forester), and he had plenty to say about the reason he purchased new.

Basically, Jim had more than enough money to buy new!  What perhaps went unsaid is that buying new is probably easier, and Jim didn’t want to worry about maintenance issues with his car.  (He doesn’t really seem like a ‘car guy’)

That’s my interpretation of course.

To be perfectly fair, all cars have issues and need maintenance.  When a newly redesigned car is released, there’s loads of recalls and issues the first couple of years while car makers work out the bugs.  Then there’s manufacturing issues and various small things that break in the first three years.

Simply put, you’re still going to be bringing the car into the dealer to get issues fixed, even when the car is new.  It’s not really a time saver to buy new.

The only difference is that you won’t pay for that warranty work in the first three years — You already paid for it in the up-front high cost of a new car.

new vs used

With used cars, stuff wears out and it’s a fact of life.  We expect to be fixing things and taking it into the shop occasionally.  No matter what kind of car you own.

Historically people have always sworn by Toyota’s and Honda’s for being long-lived vehicles, but recent data seems to indicate all manufacturers have gotten A LOT more reliable in recent years.  I think it’s fair to say that most car brands can now achieve well over 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) without major problems.

That said, there’s always the possibility a used car might leave you stranded on the side of the road.  If you’re the type of person that worries about that kind of thing, then paying $35k for a new car offers peace-of-mind.

If you ask me, the financial choice seems obvious — Used cars are cheaper even if we take into account higher maintenance costs.  We also shouldn’t forget to compound that $25k we saved by not buying new!  Compounding can go a long ways to making those repairs!

When it comes to cars however, rarely is personal finance at the fore-front of the decision making neurons.  Ego and the societal belief that a car is a representation of status seem to drive the decision-making wheel.

It comes down to a deeply personal choice about what matters to you.

Happy driving everybody!


34 thoughts on “Mr. Octopus Gets A New Car

  • November 20, 2019 at 4:01 AM

    Great post. We just bought a new Honda BRV in Thailand for the price of approximately $28k. Here cars don’t depreciate very quickly so buying new is less of a premium. Our previous car was a 2006 Honda City, bought new for $20k and driven for 13 years with 80k miles on it and then sold for $5k. Now that is a reasonable deal ($1.2k of depreciation per year).

    We got the BRV as it is a 7 seater crossover vehicle. About half price of a top of the line CRV too. Of course three days after buying it my six year old daughter spilled a full glass of pink milk under the front seat. We found a shop that removes the carpet and cleaned it and put it back for $100 and that led to a new no drink policy on the car for anything other than water.

    Enjoy your car.


    • November 20, 2019 at 9:43 PM

      I’d never heard of the BRV before until your comment! Had to go look it up. It seams overseas the CRV is a top of the line premium SUV, where as the BRV sits more in the mid-range like it does in the states.

      Looks like a great car! Thanks Mike!

  • November 20, 2019 at 4:08 AM

    An economical decision! So cheap at $10K. Love that it’s already slightly broken in and you don’t have to worry about the dents and stuff. I got a 2015 SUV in Dec 2016 private party. It worked for me so far.

    But we’ve been looking at the 2020 Toyota Highlander for third row seating. Looks pretty sharp… but it’s like $40K+. Ouch.

    Goal is to keep my car for another seven years, for a total of 10 years.


    • November 20, 2019 at 9:47 PM

      Hi Sam! Yeah I shoot for around 10 years of ownership as well… unless perhaps I’m buying brand new then perhaps I go a bit longer.

      10 years seems to be a long enough time period that technology makes efficiency and safety advances
      worth having.

  • November 20, 2019 at 5:27 AM

    Great post. We’re in the market for pretty much the same vehicle. My wife likes the CR-V, both in terms of size and general Hondaness–our beloved 2006 Saturn Vue (with a Honda V6) was just totaled by the insurance company after a deer hurled the jersey barrier and flung itself into the side of the Saturn. She sold her Civic for it so we could fit a car seat in the back (we were a one-car family then and, Crom-willing, will be again).

    She wisely wants to avoid AWD (unnecessary and mechanically complex) and the Honda CVT (our trusted mechanic says that history has proven it reliable yet). So that means finding a pre-2014 Honda, which is fine by me. The trick will be convincing her to avoid a dealer. With a dealer, at least, you have someone to rage against if they sell you a lemon. All the little old Honda CR-V drivers around here, it seems, are unhelpfully healthy.

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:02 PM

      Yeah the newer CR-V’s have some issues (They are bigger too). In particular, Honda dropped the super reliable K-series engine and went with a new turbocharged series that has oil dilution issues. I think some of the early CVT’s had issues too.

      I didn’t really want to be beta-testing Honda’s new tech, so I stayed with the tried and true (and cheap) technology.

      Stay patient and eventually the pre 2014’s will show up. Sometimes the owner has to die, but they do show up! 😉

    • November 27, 2019 at 7:35 AM

      Don’t be afraid of the Honda AWD system. It needs a fluid change about every 60K-80K miles. Look at the maintenance schedule but change it sooner if you hear the rear differential “moan” during hard parking lot turns. Drain out the old, pour in one bottle of the new. No filters.

      We have a 300K mile old 1st gen and it has been great. AWD system eventually (at 250K+ miles) needed a new driveshaft b/c the universal joints wore out. Replacements are $400 or so aftermarket. It was not a hard DIY task. Also a rubber vibration dampener wore out in the rear cross member of the car. Can’t remember the cost. Maybe $150 from Honda. Two bolts. Easy to DIY in 20 minutes. The differential and the rear axles have never given any trouble and works fine today.

      We love our CRV and probably will continue to drive it. If we do replace it with another Honda product, it’ll be an HRV. It is small like our 1st gen CRV.

      • November 27, 2019 at 8:23 AM

        I need to get better at car maintenance, and an older car increases the chances of putting that in practice while diminishing the consequences somewhat.

        My sister still has her 1st gen CR-V, as well, and it still runs fine.

  • November 20, 2019 at 8:25 AM

    Nice work! Looks like a great deal, and I think you’re right that hatchbacks are pretty addictive.

  • November 20, 2019 at 8:27 AM

    Haha, when I read the title, I kept thinking, “there’s no way he went with a ‘new’ car!” Nice job on the hatchback – looks good and should give your family some space over the coming years!

    — Jim

  • November 20, 2019 at 9:37 AM

    Patience is indeed important, great job! Instead of hatchbacks I was more of a station wagon guy back in the day, tons of room and I could put my bikes in them without even taking off the wheels

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:06 PM

      You know, they kind of stopped making station wagons in recent years. I think only VW and Mercedes makes one anymore. SUV’s are super popular now.

      • November 27, 2019 at 7:38 AM

        All the European brands still make wagons. We just don’t get them here in the “land of the free” (markets). Too bad we can’t just import whatever we want from other first world countries.

  • November 20, 2019 at 9:49 AM

    There seems to be a lot car buying happening in the FIRe circles these days!

    We bought a new one for 11.260 euro
    We won’t be winning any beauty contests either and if you approach it from a stealth wealth approach: we already had 2 people thinking we didn’t have a lot of money probably based in part on the car and part on the fact that between a hobo and me, the hobo is in most cases the best dressed. I was pretty annoyed not getting a 0% financing for it, though …

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:10 PM

      It’s always need to see the different kind of cars you guys get overseas. We never see any Renault’s, Opels, or Dacia’s here!

      Congrats on the new car!

      • November 22, 2019 at 10:37 AM

        Thanks! We our unfortunately starting the see USA pick-up trucks like the dodge Ram. They probably have their use in some USA states but in Belgium?! They honestely look like tanks compared to a lot of the compact cars driving around here.

  • November 20, 2019 at 12:43 PM

    Brilliant post summarizing a very sound financial decision. It is a completely non-glamorous decision but a very logical one.

    As I read the article I kept muttering to myself… wait a minute, how much is this guys net worth??? 🙂

    The discipline some of the FIRE community shows is amazing. Just amazing.

    We have always bought new, conservative models (I drive a Toyota Corolla) and driven them into the ground. My last Corolla lasted for 220,000+ miles. I currently have 114,000 miles on my 2011 Corolla. When this dies in 5-6 years or so, I am not sure what I will do next but I am darn tempted to buy used based on these inspirational stories.

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:14 PM

      Yeah, I happen to have a pretty decent net worth, but I can guarantee you I didn’t get to this point by buying fancy cars or trading-up cars frequently. 😉

      I figure if good financial habits got me to this point, it makes good sense to keep doing what works. 🙂

  • November 20, 2019 at 1:44 PM

    Congratulations! Used is definitely the way to go with cars most of the time. I think you will be happy with it. I used to have a 2004 Honda CRV that I traded off in 2016. I had driven it for around 8-9 years. During that entire time, I only had two repairs. One the air conditioner and the 2nd the electronic door locks started going out one after another. Both were real common repairs for that model, but with only around $1500 of repairs for 8-9 years I feel I did pretty good. I think you will feel the same. You lose so much money to depreciation by buying anything less than 3-4 years old. I bought mine for $14,000 and traded it off for $5000. So I paid about $1000 a year for it not counting the repairs and maintenance like tires and oil changes.

    • November 20, 2019 at 4:58 PM

      10k is our upper limit on cars going forward. We’ve driven beaters and brand new cars, and the sweet spot is right in the middle. And that’s a very clean looking vehicle, you won’t get any raised eyebrows in the carpool line lol

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:16 PM

      $1000 a year is pretty good actually! That’s right around my “target” for deprecation. I’ll probably do a little better when I sell the Civic, but not by much!

  • November 20, 2019 at 2:18 PM

    I bought a new 2002 Cavalier back in the day for $10,351. It was the ad car. Has no bells, whistles, or even electric windows. I turn a crank. It has almost 200k miles and has been very nearly maintenance free. I hope to drive it another 100k miles and then trade in on an all electric econo-box that is plenty of car for my single guy needs.

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:17 PM

      Some day I hope to see good deals on used electric cars. They don’t exist yet, but maybe some day…

      As always, Thanks for reading FV! 🙂

      • November 27, 2019 at 9:28 PM

        We bought a 2 year old Nissan Leaf for $7,999 under warranty. Hubs spotted it at a used car lot. We normally avoid used car lots but this was such a good deal. It has been a fantastic car. Bonus, it costs us about $5.00 in electricity to run each month, hubs uses it as his commuter car. We also try to use on the weekend as much as we can for errands and my son’s basketball games.

  • November 20, 2019 at 9:38 PM

    yes, hatchbacks all the way! we’ve had them since we were kids, and i’ve only had them since i purchased my first car. i usually buy new, but my mind may change in years to come. 🙂

    • November 20, 2019 at 10:18 PM

      Believe it or not, most of the cars I’ve owned have been used. 🙂

  • November 20, 2019 at 11:33 PM

    We leave in Europe and own a Nissan Qashqai .Bought it in 2016, one owner previously that had it from 2011 I think. We didn’t have any problems with it so far and I do hope it will stay with us for about 10 more years. My hope is to buy afterwards a Toyota Yaris (second hand) or a Renault Zoe. I keep thinking that by then, our kid will not want to vacation with us anymore and then he could get the car most of the time. (We don’t use the car too often and a smaller car I think would be better for us later on).
    Prior to having our kid, we had a Fiat Punto for 9 years.Small car but in the last years I hated the 2 doors.

  • November 23, 2019 at 6:56 AM

    Mr. Tako –

    Love the CR-V and I think you’ll be having/enjoying that car for years on years to come. My wife has one, and she has had it for 7 years already, no real issues and looking to have it for at least 7 more years. Her family has another, older, 2005 model STILL moving like it was fresh off the lot. Wise move!


  • November 23, 2019 at 8:51 AM

    Mr. Tako, good job, good choice of car. I paid 18k cash for a new “2017” economy car in 2016. The only reason I bought new: My car’s 10 year warranty — I found that warranty to have sufficient probability to offset the immediate capital outlay (and foregone investment income). But, by mere a coin flip, I would have chosen a similar car as to your choice. PS: My car is almost a hatch back, and on some grocery store runs I do encounter hatch-back envy.

  • December 3, 2019 at 1:42 AM

    Nice! The CRV is a nice car.
    Our 2010 Mazda 5 is still going strong, but it is a bit beaten up.
    I’m hoping it’ll last 5-6 more years. Then we’ll look for another vehicle. Used is fine with me.

  • January 27, 2023 at 6:08 AM

    Mr. Tako, I’m about to get a Tesla and this post is making me rethink. You see, we’ve driven our beloved Honda Fit since 2011, and feel like a bigger, stronger car would keep us safer. Plus, I fantasize about long trips and camping while my daughter is young and still talking to us, older folks.

    I was actually going to get a Toyota Rav 4, but the recent drop in Tesla prices (65K to 53K), then the tax credits ($7.5 fed + 2K state) brings it down to about $43K – which is more or less what the Hybrid Rav4 costs. Decent used cars are quite expensive as well.

    I suppose I’m just trying to justify my decision, but would you have still bought a used car in 2022?

    • January 27, 2023 at 8:40 AM

      Yes, I still would have bought a used car in 2023. 😉

      As a tip: You might want to think about long-term cost of ownership, not just the initial purchase and “I will be saving money on gas”.

      Tesla’s tend to have higher insurance costs (call your insurer to find out), and very high repair bills. This will be unique to your individual situation, but this is generally true for all consumers.

      I saw a study recently that took all of these costs into consideration and found that current gen EV’s actually cost more per mile over the life of the car. (This says nothing about total carbon dioxide output of course)

      Based upon personal experience, I’d place the longevity of a Toyota well over a Tesla.


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