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.
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!