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David Brown

brown on green

Avoiding the Car Trap



Brown on Green is a regular column written by Free Will Baptist Foundation Director David Brown. The column offers financial advice, addresses hot-button business topics, and answers your finance questions. Contact David with your questions.



Automobiles are the second largest expense in most household budgets (next to housing). Purchasing a car is a very important decision that should merit much research and attention. It can be an emotional decision for many as Americans have been in love with the car for over a hundred years.

Obviously the main purpose of a car is to get you from point A to point B. Therefore in theory the cheapest way to accomplish this purpose is the best choice. A Hyundai Accent at a list price of $10,665 can provide just as adequate transportation as a $151,325 Mercedes Benz S Class. Which car is right for you? Likely it falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

Other factors will impact your decision such as how many people you need transport. An automobile for a 6’2” 250-pound man will likely be a different choice than that for a 5’ 2” 98-pound woman. These are legitimate factors in your choice. Buying an automobile based on the image you wish to project rather than the appropriate size and type can cause automobile expenses to be higher than they need to be in your household.

Most financial advisors believe that leasing or trading cars every two or three years is not a good option as these choices will drive up the cost of your transportation expense. Keeping a car until it is worn out is the best choice. Most cars that are regularly maintained can be kept in service for up to 150,000 miles or more.


Brown on Green


To keep costs lower, you should consider buying used rather than new. Savings of around 35% are likely by purchasing a two-year-old used car. Often these automobiles can be obtained with less than 30,000 miles. This means you will receive 80% of its useful life but it will only cost 65%. Remember: a car is an expense, so try to keep the cost as low as possible. Don’t allow emotion to overrule logic as you consider your purchase. See you down the road.  

Five Cheapest Cars to Own*

1. Hyundai Accent GS

Starting price: $10,690
5-year total cost: $25,958
Cost per mile: 35 cents



2. Nissan Versa Base

Starting price: $10,710
5-year total cost: $27,196
Cost per mile: 36 cents



3. Chevrolet Aveo5 LS

Starting price: $12,685
5-year total cost: $28,360
Cost per mile: 38 cents




4. Suzuki SX4 Sedan

Starting price: $13,994
5-year total cost: $28,965
Cost per mile: 39 cents




5. Pontiac G3 (also pictured above)

Starting price: $15,055
5-year total cost: $29,049
Cost per mile: 39 cents



*According to Russ Heaps,

©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists