When you think about chasing financial independence (FI), one of the first areas most people often look to save money is with their cars. FI'ers often sacrifice what they might like to have for the practical and cost-saving aspect to whatever they drive.
Meanwhile, it would seem most Americans are driving larger vehicles that get worse gas mileage. Luxury automobiles, such as BMWs and Teslas, seem more common today than they were a decade ago. And the price of a brand new car creeps up more and more each year. Which lends to auto loans being stretched out to seven or even eight years in many cases. All of these factors make it easy to see why cars can be a major drain on your net worth and financial success.
But even so, with planning, you can still enjoy the car you drive. In fact, I just bought my dream car while still pursuing financial independence.
My Dream Car
No, my dream car isn’t a typical FI dream car such as 10-year-old Honda Fit or Toyota Corolla. That said, it isn’t a brand new Lamborghini, either. My dream car is the Saturn Sky. In particular, a Saturn Sky Redline in Sunburst Yellow.
The Saturn Sky is a two-seater convertible. The cars were only made from 2006 to essentially 2009 when GM killed the Saturn brand as part of the great recession.
I fell in love with this car when I was in college, but I knew it was completely impractical. Having a two-seat convertible with no storage as my only car would be insane. And having two cars for one person was completely out of the question, too.
Additionally, these cars had an MSRP of roughly $35,000, which is crazy for an impractical car.
Related: 022 | The True Cost Of Car Ownership
Why I Considered Buying My Dream Car Now
10 years after Saturn ceased to exist and the Saturn Sky quit being made, I still love the car. Every time I see one on the road, I’d joke with my wife that there goes my car, it just isn’t yellow.
Well, one day I decided to look and see how much my dream car was going for. I was shocked at the results. The car that I thought would one day be a classic turned out to be selling for around $10,000.
When you compare that to the fact that the car I currently drive, a 2010 Honda Civic, could potentially sell for as much as $7,000, I seriously started to wonder if I should buy my dream car. I could upgrade to my dream car for as little as $3,000.
Yes, the upkeep costs of a Saturn Sky would be more than a Honda Civic. The car is no longer made, so certain parts are more expensive. That said, many parts were used in other GM cars so those parts wouldn’t be outrageous. Yes, my insurance would go up a little, but not much.
The personal finance blogger and FI chaser in me tried to convince myself it was a total waste of money. The impracticality made it an awful decision.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that part of chasing FI should be enjoying life along the way. Our other car is a minivan and our son never rides in the Honda Civic.
I only drive it back and forth to my coworking space and the occasional work meeting an hour away. If there was ever a time to buy my dream car, this was it.
I Did It–I Bought The Sky
So, I did some research and found my dream car four hours away. I drove my trusty Honda Civic to Louisiana to check out one of the few Saturn Sky’s that matched my dream car desires.
Once I arrived, I looked over the Sky and decided it was the one for me. However, before I moved forward with the purchase, I got it checked out by a mechanic and negotiated a reasonable price.
Even though I loved the car, I wasn’t ready to overpay for a 10-year-old used car. While I had a huge grin on my face in my head, I didn’t show the owner I was in love. I talked the owner down over 10 percent of their list price to a much more reasonable offer.
Once the mechanic gave me the green light and the owner agreed to the price, I pulled the trigger. I am now the owner of a 2009 Sunburst Yellow Saturn Sky Redline with less than 70,000 miles. And I only paid 29% of the MSRP to make it happen.
Related: How To Buy A Used Car
Smart Tips To Save And Still Actively Pursue FI While Loving The Car Your Drive
Chasing FI shouldn’t be about delaying all gratification until you reach FI. You should reasonably enjoy the journey. If the love of cars is something that brings you joy, driving a reasonable dream car shouldn’t be out of the question if you can truly afford it.
So how can you know if you can afford a dream car? First, you need to be able to pay for the car in cash. Taking out a loan is out of the question.
Next, make sure the car won’t make up a huge portion of your net worth. As we all know, cars are depreciating assets. Minimizing the depreciation impact by buying a used version of your dream car is a great way to make your dream car a reality for you.
Even though I love the Saturn Sky, I’d never buy one new. I just wouldn’t be able to justify the $35,000 MSRP price tag even if they still made them today. The depreciation hit would be too great.
Make sure you consider the total cost of the car, not just the purchase price. How much is it going to cost to maintain, insure, and pay taxes on the vehicle? What will be the total cost of owning it?
Finally, take a look at that total cost and see how much it will delay your financial independence date by. If you’re okay with the time sacrifice and it will help you enjoy that extra time on the path to FI, buying your dream car might just be for you, too.