Emotion Vs Logic: How we really buy cars (and please weigh in on my car choices)

how to decide what car to buy
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My car lease is up in exactly 18 days and I have no idea what I’m going to do.

First off, yes, I leased a brand new car, which is something I’d probably never do again.  I also bought a highly inefficient, gas-guzzling SUV, which is a little out of character for me.

Go ahead and judge, I deserve it.

Ironically, given how much I’ve expanded my awareness about my financial choices over these last few years, I’m now so focused making the right choice that I’m paralyzed with fear about making the wrong one.

So in typical OCD form, I’ve analyzed the shit out of my car buying process and I’m sharing it with you so you can spare yourself the obsessive energy expenditure when you’re ready to buy your next car.

First off, do I actually need a car?

I live in the birthplace of Lyft and Uber.  I work from home 75% of the time and have access to my husband’s car whenever I need it (provided he’s not using it), so why buy a second car at all? After much thought, I decided that this would be an awesome financial choice until it becomes a bad marital consequence.  As a fiercely independent person living deep in the burbs, having to check if I can use my husband’s car every time I leave the house would get old very quickly.  Having my own car is symbolic of having my own life.  No amount of Uber rides will combat that.

Emotion vs logic: How to think about your next car purchase (and please weigh in on my top 4 picks). Click To Tweet

Should I buy new or used?

The Case for Buying a New Car (it’s weak)

Since last year, I’ve been squirreling away “car money” in anticipation of this day.  I have enough saved to buy pretty much any car I want (non-luxury) in cash, but do I really want to put 30 – 40K into something that’s going to sit in my driveway 80% of the time?  The answer to that is a hard no.  The only way I’d consider leasing or buying new again is if made sense to do so through my LLC with pre-taxed dollars.  But given that I work primarily from home, it’s not clear that this is the right choice for me.

The Case for Buying a Used Car

According to the experts, buying a 2 to a 3-year-old car with low mileage is the best value.  My options are:

  • Honda Fit
  • Fiat 500e (electric)
  • Chevy Volt (hybrid)
  • Mini Cooper (not practical, but super cute)

Ideally, my choice will be:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cheap to own/drive
  • Cute/Stylish (yes, this is important)

I think all three of these priorities are met with my choices above except for the Mini Cooper which is neither environmentally friendly nor cheap, but again, it’s damn cute.

mini cooper how to buy a car

From a pure cost perspective, the Honda Fit wins hands down, but from a style perspective, it’s the least appealing. I know the Mustacians love it, but to me, it just screams “MEH”.

The Fiat 500e is also very affordable and a good environmental choice since it’s a fully electric car, but with an 87-mile range, it would be a huge source of road anxiety that I’m not sure I’m up for.  But it’s also really darn cute.

The Volt is a good, solid, economical and environmental choice, but I don’t really connect with the car.  It’s not “me”.

buying a volt

What?  Am I actually going to buy a car based on my connection with it?

Ah, yeah, and research says that you do this, too.  Brands exude a personality that we either connect with or repel against based on who we are.  We also buy into the narrative of a brand.  So, the option to buy a fully electric car speaks to my internal narrative about being environmentally conscious.  But then, if I really wanted to express that idea, I wouldn’t own a car at all.  I’d bike or walk everywhere.

On the other hand, if I opt for the Cooper Mini, I’m expressing the fun, stylish side, that could also be considered a minimalist car, right? Mini… minimalist… <-get it?

What’s Your Point, Caren?

My point is that I’m trying my best to make a significant purchase based on my newly acquired values around spending less, saving more and funding only those things that really make me happy. But no matter how badly I want to make a decision based on logic, apparently my emotions still need to buy into the choice as well.  Otherwise, I know I’m going to live to regret whatever decision I make.

Why do I know this?  I bought my wedding dress based on logic.  It was nice, but I really wanted a strapless dress and the one I bought was a halter style.  I bought it because it was under $500 and didn’t need a single alteration.  To this day, I wish I had used more emotion in that decision and just bought the dress I really wanted.  I’m trying really hard not to repeat history with my car purchase.

So what’s the verdict?  What car am I going to buy?

Not sure yet.  I’m going shopping on Saturday and plan to make a purchase in the next two weeks.  I’ll let you know whether logic or emotion wins outin the end.  I hope and suspect it will be a healthy dose of both, but I guess we’ll see!

What do you think about the choices I’ve made?  If you’ve had any experience with any of the brands I’ve mentioned, please feel free to weigh in!  I know nothing about cars.

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