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My Oldie-Goldie, Thrifty-Nifty Truck

March 25th, 2014 at 04:11 pm

I drive a 1996 Dodge Dakota pickup truck. It has over 130,000 miles on it. It runs just fine. It is safe, reliable and comfortable. And it is one of the "secret" weapons that sped up my arrival at financial independence. The big deal here is that years ago I consciously made the choice to treat my vehicle as a means of transportation -- and not as a status symbol. That decision lowered my financial independence "magic number" by $150,000 and cut 8 years off my working life. Here is what I mean.

A status symbol vehicle would easily cost me $500 a month in loan payments and depreciation. If I -- like so many others do -- chose to buy such a new vehicle every 5 years so I could maintain that status symbol impression, that $500 a month would become a permanent part of my baseline budget. And funding that hard-wired expense would require an extra $150,000 in retirement savings (based on an annual 4% safe withdrawal rate to generate the $6000 a year needed to cover those costs).

Not having to bank that extra $150,000 has allowed me to retire 6 years sooner. But the financial power of my secret weapon pickup truck does not end there. Operating my Dodge Dakota is thrifty-nifty too. And cut even more time off my working life.

I do not skimp on maintenance or repairs. My truck gets the full Jiffy-Lube treatment every 3000 miles. Every system is maintained according to manufacturer specs. And once a year, a state-mandated full vehicle inspection identifies and leads to the repair of anything that may need it. My cost for all that is $1200 a year. What would that cost be for a late-model status symbol vehicle? Twice that? More?

And let's not forget the cost of insuring a vehicle. The low $5000 or so replacement cost of my Dodge Dakota lowers my premium payments compared to a late-model vehicle.

If my 1996 Dodge Dakota is only saving me $2000 a year on maintenance and insurance, then that has resulted in another $50,000 I did not have to add to my stash before declaring financial independence. And that meant another 2 years I was able to cut off my working life.

Keeping my truck has given me 8 EXTRA YEARS of financially free life. And that is priceless.

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(There are counterarguments, of course: fuel efficiency, safety and reliability. And we will examine all in an upcoming post.)

7 Responses to “My Oldie-Goldie, Thrifty-Nifty Truck”

  1. Riverbendgirl Says:

    I am enjoying reading your blog. I completely agree with you Bout the car as a form of transportation. I just am now realizing the error of my ways.

  2. Miz Pat Says:

    This is wonderful and exciting to me, because you sound like you know more then I do about car maintenance.

    I have a question - do you use dealerships to have work done on your car? Some things require a dealership, but others don't, and the dealership are really expensive. I've been using a local jiffy lube for some things and have saved money that way.

    I too keep the oil change rule to 3000 miles because I live in the desert and the heat is hard on engines. I have a 2000 honda civic sedan. The body is a bit banged up, but I get good mileage. I never want to get another car.

  3. Retired To Win Says:

    RiverBend Girl, thank you for the compliment.

    MizPat, I learned never to go to a dealership if at all avoidable. They are way overpriced and always try to sell you more billable services. Much preferable to find a local auto service shop. (And it's not that I know about car maintenance; I just know to have it done.) Good luck!

  4. snafu Says:

    We too view our vehicles as transportation and always chose vehicles that served our changing needs. One critical factor was choosing a 2-4 y/o vehicle with a good repair reputation as it's very disruptive to have a vehicle needing an endless list of repairs. Back in the day Honda gave free oil change coupons with each sale. It was an eye opener as the work was always done by a teenage 'apprentice' who fulfilled some school credits + minimum wage while the dealership got a government grant and made a larger profit for labour. When DH took to car in, he got a 2 page list of all the things they checked out well. When I took the car, I got a list of items that needed attention, 'potential for problems' were suggested to scare me about even driving home.

    If there is a high school in your community that teaches 'Automotive', the two teachers usually know the best shops to get work done and the best places to buy parts. When I was driving the neighbourhood kids to swimming, French class and Taekwondo I needed that 7 seater Caravan more for the equipment than the kids. While we did updates and upgrades in two different houses, I loved the CRV cargo space.

    I agree it's super important to go through the manual and list all the things that need to be done at certain mileage points. If you look after your vehicle it will look after you! We need to wash our cars regularly because they 'salt' the streets. I may drive a 'beater' but the body looks nice, the inside is vacuumed regularly, seat covers aren't tatty.

  5. Retired To Win Says:

    Snafu,

    One thing I really like about JiffyLube is that they keep track of all the mileage due-points for servicing on their computer. So every time I go to get my oil changed, we go through that computer record and it tells me what else is due for servicing. I don't have to track it because Jiffy Lube does. And even neater: it's a national computer system so I can go go ANY JiffyLube and my service records will pull up. Smile

  6. snafu Says:

    RTW, thanks for that info JiffyLube. Unfortunately, the nearest JiffyLube/QuikLube outlets are an hour away and significantly more expensive than our local, full service station. I've also used NAPA, Auto Zone and really liked their service.

  7. LuxLivingFrugalis Says:

    Love your post. Still driving my 91 Dodge Pickup. Paid cash for her a long time ago. Less than 60,000 original miles on her. Because I drive her so little I do keep up the maintenance on oil changes, belts and greasing things so that I'm not driving w/brittle belts, etc. About once ever couple of weeks or so I take her out and blow the dust out of her. Good info on the Jiffy Lube. Strong believer in cars/trucks being TRANSPORTATION not a status symbol.

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