Cheap Living: Driving a Turd

Here’s another way I keep my cost of living down: I drive a cheap car, which I researched with intensity and tenacity. And, when my wife’s VW Golf died, I got her one of these cars as well.

Hi, I’m Kaleb, and I drive a cheap car.

We drive these cars because they’re cheap to purchase, cheap to maintain, reliable, fuel efficient, and common enough that parts are easily available and repairs are well-documented.

Perhaps I should introduce the cars.

My car is a 2002 SL, which is the base model sedan. It’s manual everything except brakes and steering. Manual windows, locks, and transmission. We purchased my car in late 2011 and have put about 27k miles on it in 3 years.

The wife’s car is a 1998 SW2, a slightly more powerful wagon. My wife doesn’t like to drive stick, so hers is an automatic. Between the DOHC engine, the automatic transmission, and the extra weight of it being a wagon, fuel economy takes something of a hit, but it’s not too bad. Its  fuel economy is about 27 MPG (mostly city) over the span of our ownership (10k miles).

I do as much work as possible to my own cars. I always do my own oil changes. I’ve done a couple of tune-ups. Recently, I changed the automatic transmission fluid in the wife’s wagon.

You may chose a different car for yourself, but there are a few things I’ve learned from my car ownership which apply to anybody:

  • Research. It’s your own neck on the line. Learn as much about your car as you can.
  • Learn to change your own oil.
  • Watch videos on YouTube on how to do common maintenance and repairs.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of all maintenance, repairs, and gas. Here’s the one I use: car-work.xslx

Note: since I first wrote this, I sold my Saturn SL. I still love it. If the situation were appropriate, I would buy it back, no question about it. Ashlea still has the Saturn SW2.

The reason I sold my Saturn SL? I was looking at a business opportunity where I would require more space and hatch on the back. I got a screaming deal on a 2007 Ford Focus manual wagon. I still consider myself to solidly be in the “cheap car” bandwagon.