I am a big fan of buying assets instead of paying someone to borrow it for a few days. That’s why I used to buy movies instead of rent them. This is also a good thing to do for power tools, carpet cleaners, and other big ticket items – sometimes even including cars. What? Buy a car instead of rent? That’s crazy talk!
Well, that may be crazy talk, but I did it once. I only needed a car for three weeks, so I bought one. I know, it sounds a little extreme, but for my situation, buying a car instead of renting actually worked out very well for me.
When I was 23 and in the USAF, I was returning to the US after living in England for a few years. I owned a British made, right hand drive car while I was stationed over there, but right before I was sent back to the States I got a good deal on a used American Toyota Tacoma. Before I left England, I shipped the Tacoma to my next duty station in the US. Unfortunately, even though I shipped it out on time, my Tacoma was delayed and didn’t make it to the US until 3 weeks after I did.
So there I was, owning a vehicle, but waiting for it to arrive. I had a choice of renting a car, buying a car, or trying to bum rides for a few weeks from people I didn’t really know. For those who don’t know, the military is a really cool place. People look after each other, and if I would have told my supervisor I needed a ride, I could have gotten a ride to/from work for a couple weeks. But I hate being a burden on people, and I wanted to check out my new town. I didn’t have anything else to do at home anyway, because all my belongings were still in transit.
So then my options were buy or rent. Well, renting a car for 3 weeks can be fairly expensive, and I was only 23. Unfortunately, some places will only rent a car to you if you are 25. I was also in a fairly small town where there was no price competition. Basically, it would have cost me several hundred dollars to rent a car, if I could have found a place to rent me one.
Could I really afford to buy a car instead of renting? I remember when the thought first crossed my mind. I almost laughed to myself. But then I started thinking, “Why not? It would be several hundred dollars to rent a car.” This was on my third day back in the States and I was already tired of walking and bumming rides.
On my fourth day back in the States, one of the Airmen in my flight took me out to lunch, and I asked him to pull over to a used car lot. I looked around for a few minutes and found a mid 90′s Saturn for $1975 including TTL. The car had a nice paint job, good tires, a CD player, and ice cold AC – a must in west Texas! I took it for a test drive, asked the dealer to hold it for me, then returned after work to pick it up. He had it detailed and ready to go. I signed a check and away I drove.
Adding the Saturn to my insurance only cost an additional $20 per month because I had liability only and listed it as my main vehicle. With the multi-car discount, it was no big deal.
About 2 weeks later, my Tacoma arrived in tip top shape. There I was, a single man with 2 vehicles. Of course I didn’t need two vehicles, so I immediately put the Saturn for sale in the paper – asking price, $2000. The paper was running a special, pay $15 for an ad and it will run until it sells. In the mean time, I kept driving the Saturn to put the miles on my “rental.”
It took me about a month, but I finally had a serious offer. An older couple came by to check it out for their grandson who was going off to college. They test drove it and offered me $1900 for it. I mentioned I already had someone offer $1900 that day, but I had already scheduled a meeting with them so I would give them the chance to check it out and they could have it if they offered more that the other person did. The little old lady was pretty smart so she offered me $1901, and told me they could have it to me in cash that afternoon. Sold!
Yeah, buying a car instead of renting is probably not the best idea most of the time, but this time it worked out very well for me. In all, I spent about a hundred dollars to own the car for almost 2 months, which is probably a few hundred less than I would have spent to rent a car for those three weeks. Of course, your mileage may vary… Pun intended.