Oh, the Cars I’ve Owned

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We probably all have a repertoire of inspirational, disappointing, motivating or just plain ridiculous car stories. Some we share for the humor, some for the lesson learned. Some just so we can see how far we’ve come.

For me it started when I owned a car before I could legally drive. An older couple down the street was going from two cars to one and there were selling a MINT 10-year-old blue Mazda hatchback.

Granted it was not exactly that sexy. But it was a DEAL!

I think I got it for about $3,000 and it had next to zero mileage. But man did I treat that car poorly! Despite my best efforts to destroy it, it was still doing everything I could ask out of it and it probably had another 10 years left in it. Sadly after 3 years of treating the car as badly as a teenager could, I was rear-ended and the car was totaled.

I was without a car, but it was a financial win in the end as my insurance settlement was more than my purchase price.

Unfortunately, instead of making another smart buy, this time I looked for something SEXY.


I spent right around $6,000 on a Toyota Celica that was in decent shape and only let me down once…

Naturally, it was driving in the middle of a winter night with no lights, radio, heat to try to make it 100 km to civilization before the alternator went. It died in the parking lot of our hotel, gotta love a Toyota.

But, if I had analyzed the purchase it would have been pretty obvious that I was going to lose big when I sold it, which I did for about $2,500 6 years later.

I moved stateside after selling the Celica and lived car-free for about a month before buying a car from my Great Aunt on the cheap. There were no issues with that car and although I had to sell it under duress (I attempted to take it back into Canada but did not do the proper research and had to sell it to the closest dealership I could find) I still ended up with a profit that I split with my Great Aunt.

Upon getting home I went car-less for a while before I started to run an old GMC Jimmy that my Dad had bought from my Uncle that ate up a tonne of gas but didn’t cost me anything to buy (because I didn’t own it!).

Car #5 was by far my biggest mistake.

I was working as a Realtor and I thought image was important. I ended up leasing a Nissan Altima. I was paying right around $500 per month for about 3 years before I took it back to them.

That’s $18,000! If I had found a $3,000 car and invested the rest in VTI that extra $15,000 that would have turned into over $33,000 by now.

That car was a total drain on my financial situation and I resolved to never make another transportation mistake again.

Since then I have owned the following vehicles (with purchase prices):

CarPurchase Price
Some sort of 4 door car~$1,000
Nissan Pickup ($50)*
Honda Civic$1,000
Grand Caravan$400
Toyota Corolla$0

*I paid $50 for this truck and it was truly a junker BUT the guy selling it forgot to take a lot of good tools out of the cab AND $20 in change!

I junked the Corolla in August after it died on the side of the highway (I knew it was dying and trying to get through the gas tank before I junked it but didn’t quite make it).

The fact that the Corolla died actually turned out in my favour as I got a $750 credit with the car share Modo through the B.C. Scrap-it program. I have not owned a car since.

Modo rents cars by in 15-minute intervals and charges $5 per hour (plus 30 cents a km) or $8 per hour (with 250km included). You have to return the car to the location you pick it up from to end your booking. It costs me a little more than I would like it to (about $200 per month so I could find a junker that would cost me about the same and give me more convenience).

The biggest issue is that Modo is a two-way car share (drop the car off where you pick it up) so if I plan to spend any time doing an activity or visiting with people the cost becomes excessive.

My favourite part of using Modo is that it forces me to actively consider the cost of transportation every time I need to make a decision – forced consciousness!

I am still evaluating if no cars are the right number of cars for me but so far I have not been tempted to buy anything.

Summer is coming and I am planning to tune up my bike and see if that helps get my transportation costs to where I want them (around $100 per month or less). Wish me luck! And if anyone has any advice I would love to hear it.

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About the Author: The Economist


  1. I’m impressed with your frugal car-ownership history. Wish I could’ve realized this at a younger age. While we’ve always been reasonable with our car purchases, and always paid with cash, they’ve all been new. All our future cars will be used.

    Modo is a good option, but the two-way sharing isn’t always ideal. Do you have Car2Go in your area? They seem to be the most widespread in Vancouver and allow for one-way sharing, and offer a variety of vehicle types.

    I’ve never used them myself, but know friends who have.

    1. Unfortunately, we don’t have one-way car sharing here. Certainly, I look forward to that possibility in the future as well as for the possibility of a user-friendly ride-sharing. In most other jurisdictions I believe the no car path would certainly be easier and less expensive.

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