A year and a half ago, I started an experiment with adding a third vehicle for my commute to work. A couple of weeks ago, that experiment came to an end.
Everything was going well with it, expense wise. I saved roughly the amount that I expected to in my initial post, even with all the work I did to the car (new spark plugs and wires, muffler, tires, battery, belts, seal behind the timing belt, and anything else I’m forgetting). I figured that I saved over $600 total during that time.
Then a couple weeks ago happened. I was driving to work, and my car started making a funny noise. It sounded like something was loose, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Then all of a sudden it got better, but my battery light came on. My battery was only about a month old, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. I didn’t notice until I got off the interstate, but my power steering was out, too. When I finally got a chance to look at it after work, all the belts were thrown off. That includes the belt to the alternator (to charge the battery), the one for the power steering, and the one for the A/C compressor. So I put them back on and started the car back up, and it threw all of them off again. The pulley holding the three belts was not secured.
When I got a chance to take the car apart to see what the problem was, I was really disappointed. The crankshaft sheered, so the pulley couldn’t connect up to it properly anymore. This was beyond my level of expertise, so I figured I’d ask a mechanic what they would recommend. Their response was that I should just get a newer car, because it would require the entire engine to be rebuilt.
If that was an isolated thing, I would consider doing it. The problem is that I know of a lot of other work I need to do as well (fix driver’s window so it operates properly, fix strut in rear of vehicle, replace oil pan gasket so it doesn’t leak, change out driver’s front CV joint), so at this point this car will no longer save me money. It is time to get rid of it.
Now I’m going to do what I should have done a long time ago. After doing more research (and reading articles like this one from Mr. Money Mustache), I’ve finally come to the realization that I don’t need a truck. I’m looking at a smaller hatchback that I can install a hitch to with a trailer, and possibly a roof rack. I figure that configuration should handle anything for which I currently use my truck, but it will save me a lot of money in gas, plus it will remove the cost of an extra vehicle for insurance and license plates. One fewer vehicle (and a newer one than my Civic with 208,xxx miles on it) will mean a lot less repair work and maintenance on my end.
Right now I’m leaning toward a Honda Fit. The hauling capacity in that subcompact is amazing, and it’s not a bad little car to drive with a manual transmission. I found a hitch that I can bolt on myself for just over $100. The resale value of my truck is more than the price of a new Fit too, so I can stick to my original plan of not having a car loan, even if I buy a new one. I’d prefer a used one, but I can’t seem to find a used manual transmission in my area.
So, my experiment with three vehicles has now come to an end. It failed to save me money, even with me doing all the work myself. It wouldn’t have ended so badly if I didn’t have to have the engine rebuilt to fix the current problem. I won’t be able to collect the resale amount back, and I’m hoping to get $500 out of it* (which, ironically, is what I just paid over the past 3 months for new tires and a new battery). But, I have to look forward, and the best decision moving forward is to have one vehicle that gets good fuel economy that can have the hauling capability added to it if necessary.
* I actually got it running again and sold it for $1300, so it wasn’t as bad as I originally thought. I paid $2600 for it, so I did take a loss, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.