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  • Car Thoughts

    March 7th, 2021
    cars, kids
    I've been putting this post off a bit it, because a post about family logistics is a bit of a silly way for people to learn that we're expecting a third child, and I kept thinking I would write something else first, but I didn't. So: with another child coming, in June, I'm thinking about, among many other things, cars.

    My parents always had two cars; given where we lived, where their jobs were, and the kind of jobs they had, there wasn't anything else that would've made sense. I was never very excited about driving: I put off getting my learners permit for over a year, until eventually my aunt learned that I still didn't have one and told me she was taking me to the RMV and wasn't going to take no for an answer. I learned to drive, but once I got my license I was back to not driving: putting me on the family car insurance as a teenage boy would've cost thousands of dollars a year, and I could mostly take public transit places.

    As an adult, I've been able to live in places with good public transportation, close enough to bike/scoot to work, or both. Even as we got more settled and had two kids, not having a car hasn't been a problem.

    With a third kid, though, we're thinking we probably will get a car. Various reasons:

    • Once there are five of us, we no longer fit in a car someone else's driving (standard taxi, getting a ride from a friend).

    • There's not really a safe way to move a baby on a bike, and once they're older you can't fit three in the trailer.

    • We're generally more willing to trade money for time and convenience than when Lily and Anna were babies.

    • It's really nice to have the option to go somewhere on short notice, and many places we might want to go are much more practical my car.

    I was curious how an approach of "just use Uber whenever we would drive if we had a car" would compare, since we wouldn't use a car a huge amount. We thought through our likely car usage, however, and that wouldn't make sense. When you take into account that we wouldn't fit in a 5-seater if someone else was driving us (though we would if when driving ourselves), this would be over $5k/y.

    We have a driveway, and while it's a bit awkward to hold two cars it's not that bad for something we wouldn't use often.

    If we do decide to get a car, there are a lot of options! Considerations:

    • We're planning to drive a pretty small amount (~5k/y), so things that pay off in proportion to the number of miles you drive are (while still positive) less important to us than to most prospective buyers:

      • Electric cars letting you avoid buying fuel.

      • Newer cars being safer than older cars.

      • Driver-assist features like automatically stopping to avoid crashes.

      • Comfort, amenities, etc.

    • We're not dependent on the car for our livelihoods, so reliability is not a top concern. On the other hand, unreliable cars are unpleasant and stressful.

    • Needs to seat at least five people. While more than that would be nice, I don't think it's worth paying extra for.

    I was initially thinking this pushed toward a used car, but when I look at how cars depreciate maybe not? For example, you could buy a new Honda Fit for maybe $17k and sell it in five years for $10k, for $7k net. Or you could buy a five year old one for maybe $10k and sell it in five years for $4k, for $6k net. It's a bit worse than that, because the new car ties up more of your money which you could invest, but on the other hand repair costs for the older one should be higher.

    Estimating over a 5y timeframe:

    • Depreciation: $7k
    • Insurance: $7k
    • Gas: $2k
    • Repairs: $1k
    • Total: $17k ($3.4k/y, $280/m)

    Other things we should be thinking about?

    Comment via: facebook, lesswrong

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