worst investment i ever made

The Worst Investment I Ever Made

When my wife and I moved to Panama we bought bicycles almost immediately. We rode to town every few days to get groceries and go to Spanish class. At times it was fun, but more often it was terribly humid. And if you’re thinking “but it was exercise”. No. It really wasn’t. It was so hot we would ride as slowly as possible, negating any “exercise” portion of the ride. But this wasn’t the worst investment I ever made.

As we became busier with things to do, we decided to buy a car. Now, in Panama (and many countries in Central America), the price for a used car is ridiculously expensive, and it is also a “seller’s market” out there. Which sucked for us.

I’m not a car person. I don’t even know where the Flux Capacitor is located! But we looked at a few cars and a friend of ours helped us “inspect” them, at least as much as he could.

The car we settled on was a 2003 Hyundai Elantra. I believe Elantra translates into Albatross. About a week after we got it, the transmission started knocking, and we weren’t asking “who’s there”. This…this was about to be the worst investment I ever made.

We brought it to a few mechanics, all of whom recommended the same transmission guy whose name was not Mr. Transmission. It was a rigger-ma-roll, a boondoggle, a clusterfu–, okay, you get it. After sinking a few hundred dollars more into our Hyundai Albatross we decided to sell it. Luckily we sold it for nearly the same amount we paid for it; however, we lost time and of course money dealing with it.

This was a huge life lesson for us. I should have told my wife I didn’t want to spend money buying a car. She knew I wasn’t keen, but she was adamant. In truth, I had no problem renting one for a long period of time. That would have been smarter, both economically and mentally. But hindsight is always 20/20.

It also taught us not to rush into large-scale purchases. My wife knows I’m not a car guy, but the car things fall on my lap. Car things like; oil changes, tire maintenance, and the plethora of things that can and will happen with cars. She felt we needed one to experience more of the country we moved to. Sure, it helped get us around a bit better, but when you can’t afford a good (read: reliable) car in the first place, you don’t want to drive your $#!tbox anywhere far either, lest you break down.

Having a car does make life easier, I would never deny that. But it comes at a huge cost. We had a 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe many years ago. It was one of the first models of the Santa Fe – a great crossover vehicle, by the way. Oh, and some irony; we knew we needed to replace our Santa Fe soon (my mechanic told me). We wanted it to outlast our greyhound because it was a great car for her. The week after our hound died, our Santa Fe decided it was time to cross the rainbow bridge for vehicles.

Still can’t find the flux capacitor

But back to my point, add up the purchase price, insurance, maintenance (brakes, tires, shocks, etc.), and an estimation on gasoline, we spent about $100,000 on the car over a ten year period. That’s $10,000 a year! If I were smarter, I’d have a business case for those expenses and would write off a lot of that. Alas, I can write with clever wit sometimes, but can’t be clever with finding loopholes in the system.

I know I’ll own another car down the road, possibly sooner than later. I also know I’ll be much wiser when it comes to purchasing, driving, and maintaining it than I was in Panama (probably will always be the worst investment I ever made). I may even take a car-care course to help keep those maintenance costs down, or if anything, to find that elusive Flux Capacitor.

Now go sell all your stuff!


25 thoughts on “The Worst Investment I Ever Made”

  1. Omagosh. Yeah, I’d say that there is a lot to be learned from this. I guess selling all your stuff leaves you with life lessons around every corner. So, the bikes you got initially though, those seem like they were the best idea…

    1. Rob, they really were! If we hadn’t lived in such a remote area we could have stuck to using them. We had them for a year and of course we did have to do some maintenance, but when we sold them we definitely felt we got our moneys worth.

  2. I’m right on the borderline of whether or not I can live without a car. Probably 5 out of 7 days a week, I don’t need one, but my car is so cheap (and basic) that frankly it’s basically the same price to outright own it as it would be to rent a car for those ~8 days per month and a lot more flexibility. But at $10K/year…ouch!

    1. Yeah, we were surprised at the annual cost too, Becky. That’s in Canadian dollars too, but probably works out to $8000 USD over the years. Have you ever looked into car-share programs? Some rental car companies even offer hourly rental rates. Being able to weigh the financials like you’ve done is a great idea for those on the fence. If it makes cents financially, go for it.

  3. $100,000? Yikes. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it will help people avoid doing the same thing. I like riding bikes; I guess in hindsight, that probably would have been the best option.

    1. Renne, thanks for commenting. If anything we hope it makes people think twice and do some financial investigation. We often forget all the other costs that the convenience of having a car brings.

  4. Hindsight is definitely always 20/20! I remember buying my first car – it was super cheap, but I ended up putting so much money into it because something would break. All the time.

  5. Not so much a car person but my hubby is and he really really does a through research. I used to be irritated but after reading this, am guessing it is a smart thing to do.

    1. Ami, I think if the skill set is there, then the costs are much less. BTW, is your hubby able to locate the flux capicitor? 🙂

  6. Hahaha the last time I rode a bike in this kind of weather, I almost fell off because suddenly everything before my eyes turned black 🙂 I managed to sort of throw myself on the sidewalk with the bike still in between my legs, I’m not sure it was very elegant… So I get why you’d prefer a car and if it can be of any comfort to you: I don’t even know what a flux capacitator is! 🙂

  7. Wow! That’s crazy the cost ended up being so high–you could almost buy a new car every year with the cost of repairs. Whatever you end up doing on the transportation front, I hope it goes more smoothly (and a little cheaper)! 😀

    1. Lots of “hidden” costs, Natalie. Okay, not so hidden, we just don’t think of them when it comes to figuring out how much it costs to own a car. New tires every 4 years. Gas every week. Insurance every month. Oil changes. New wipers every other winter. And many, many other maintenance items over the years.

  8. Thank god I am in China…Driving a Car here would be not just insane, but close to impossible, as they don’t allow foreigners to simply drive…so at least I won’t make that investment 😉 Anyway I hope people will switch to public transport more or to bikes (well at least if you are not living in the middle of nowhere). Going full out green here 😉

    So in short great post and thanks for sharing 😉

    1. Sabine, thanks for commenting. Agreed – with the public transit options cities provide I don’t know why one would want to fight traffic in a car. Being from Canada, things are very spread out, so often a car is needed when not in a city.

  9. Aaaaah the car conundrum. The first time we decided to go car-less we quit after three months and bought a refurbished vee-dub. Sporty fell in love on the spot. And then promptly fell out of love with ‘Clementine’ just a few short months later. She was beautiful, but not to be trusted at all! In the end we sold her after about six months and we haven’t looked back since. That was about 3.5 years ago. Nowadays we cycle, walk, bus and Uber and it suits us just fine. 🙂

    1. Yeah, the saying goes “buy a used car and you’re buying someone else’s problems”. City life is great for that (not needing a car that is). I wish Canada’s rail system was better though. It’s really expensive and takes a while to get anywhere.

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