Should I buy a new car or stick with what I've got?
September 15, 2016 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I owe $9,000 on my 2011 Ford F-150 with 67k miles that I purchased used in 2012. It has been a great truck, especially when I lived up in the mountains. I used it a fair amount for my business, which is advertised on the side, and the expenses are run through the business. Now I go to school in the city and it's not so practical. Is it worth finding something new?

While this truck is great and hasn't let me down, it isn't exactly practical for my day to day life. It is probably not a bad idea to advertise my business in the city (which I still own), though it likely has no net positive effect. I also don't like being easily identifiable, considering how many road rage nut jobs there are out there. I could just remove the advertisement, though it still leaves me with an impractical car.

Majority of my driving is city commuting. I do occasionally go into the mountains but with no off-roading. I find I only use the bed of my truck (which has a cap on it) a couple times a year. I would much rather have something more practical that is easier to maneuver around the city and that has trunk space more functional to my daily life. In particular it would be nice to have a hatchback or trunk for my two dogs. Currently they sit in the back seat because I don't want to put them in the bed of my truck.

A caveat about this is that I technically won't be able to run the expenses through my business any more which I really do prefer. This is really the largest hang up with me moving forward with things, though it's not a deal breaker for me.

How much do you think my truck is worth? It is in good but definitely not excellent condition, though with no mechanical issues past or present. KBB says about $16k trade in or $21k retail. If I were to sell it, what's the best way? Through craigslist or dealer trade in? What's the best way to buy a new car: craigslist or used car dealer?

What cars do you recommend I look at? I would like this to cost me minimal money so I am looking at cars around $20k, preferably used. I like my girlfriend's Subaru Forester but it really doesn't have enough oomph to it. Is the turbo significantly better? Any other cars you suggest in particular?

- AWD and good snow capabilities
- Trunk space for my dogs
- Minimal towing capacity: I've only towed once with my truck but it would be nice to pull a mini u-haul or my motorcycle if necessary.

Lastly, is this is a stupid financial decision? I would have to use some savings to pay off the rest of my truck but it's financially feasible. Money is a little bit tight as I've been supporting my significant other soon-to-be wife though I still have income from my business and she is graduating soon and will be a high earner with her new degree.
posted by masters2010 to Shopping (4 answers total)
Personal experience: I have traded in two cars in the last 15 years. Both times I was told they'd never seen cars that age in such pristine condition. Neither time was I offered anything close to the KBB trade in value even shopping around to different buyers. So base your ultimate decision on actual offers, not what the KBB website is telling you. What you're able to get might be substantially lower.
posted by cecic at 7:57 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Since you can remove the advertising from the truck, or add it to a replacement vehicle, it doesn't make sense to factor that into the decision at all. IANAAccountant, but I suspect that if you're not using the truck for business anymore then you technically shouldn't be running the truck expenses through the business either, so I don't find that to be a compelling reason to keep the truck.

In what sense is the truck impractical? Parking in tight spots, I guess, and the mileage isn't great, but otherwise it seems like it does what you want -- it's got oomph, towing capacity, and can handle your dogs. Gas is cheap, and as a student you probably aren't driving all that much so I doubt that the savings on gas from a smaller (but still strong enough to tow and have sufficient oomph) vehicle will mean much. So... is this really about parking? Because I get the feeling you might just be bored with the truck. The fact that your S.O. expects to make a decent income before long affects what sort of extravagances you can afford, but it doesn't have anything to do with whether this would be smart financially.

If you do decide to make a change, selling on Craigslist will surely net you more than trading it in, but it will take time and you have to judge whether it's worth it.

In your position, I'd start by identifying cars you'd actually be interested in.
posted by jon1270 at 10:11 AM on September 15, 2016

That's a very popular truck you could sell it fairly easily on cragslist for top dollar, especially with the cap and the lower miles. I'd do it, having a big truck in town is a major pita, I rarely regret selling mine and when I do it's only when I need to move something which realistically happens 3-4 times per year.
posted by fshgrl at 8:43 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think selling and getting something smaller is a good choice if you don't really need a truck bed, just something to haul dogs and groceries and maybe very occasionally a light trailer. If you've got more time than money, my suggestion would be to try a private party sale and then use the proceeds toward something like a Ford Escape of a similar vintage and mileage (you're looking at $12-15,000 there). If you luck out and find something you like in the $12,000 mile range, you might even be able to pay cash and then everything you save in better gas mileage and lower insurance premiums is gravy. Even if you need to take out a small loan you're going to be in a better position, with lower monthly payments AND lower fuel bills/insurance payment. But whatever you do, don't buy a NEW new car. Basically trade what you've got for the equivalent, only smaller.
posted by drlith at 12:41 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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