Reader Question: How Do I Convince My Wife That Used Cars Are Awesome?

Reader Question: How Do I Convince My Wife That Used Cars Are Awesome?

I love my readers. Not sure if I’ve said that before. But I do!

You send me awesome questions, which I get to answer, and often they are thought-provoking enough to turn into a fun post. Today’s reader question bring me it back to one of the most costly and wasteful things we spend our money on: new cars.

Our reader, Dave, has seen the light and agrees that buying a new car is a complete waste of hard earned dollars. But he has a dilemma! He needs to convince his wife of this. Let’s see what Dave says:

I’ve read and agree with your articles on reliable older Hondas/Toyotas. My problem is I have had two used cars that were both nothing but trouble. The second one was checked out by a mechanic and given the green light. Three months later the transmission went out. I am willing to give used cars another shot, but how do I get my wife on board? She still has memories of having to get me on the side of the road after my other cars crapped out. Any advice?

I am willing to make a bet that Dave is not the only person to have fallen into this predicament. If fact, I seem to get a case of this posted in the comments every time I write about the virtues of reliable used cars. Sometimes it comes out as “Used cars ALWAYS crap out because this one time I bought a used car that crapped out!!!”, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Other times, it comes through, as Dave’s email, as someone who realizes how much money is being used as kindling by their new car, and they want to find a way to get themselves into a good, used vehicle. But now we’ve got to get the significant other on board.

Here’s my response:


Thanks for reaching out. You are approaching a dilemma that goes beyond savings into the safety and marriage realm.

My wife, too, has been stranded, and has had to pick me up (dead batteries and such). For us, it really was just looking at the numbers that helped us keep buying good, used cars over and over.

Another motivation is in a post I wrote, called Things I Couldn’t Do If I Had A Car Payment. Basically, buying a new car might ensure more safety and reliability (sort of), but at a cost that isn’t worth it. I’d rather be stranded a few times than continue to throw thousands out the window every year.

But I suggest approaching with a warm tone, and a listening ear. Your wife’s opinion is VERY IMPORTANT, and if it’s the fear of being stranded that is scaring her to new car purchases, then you just need to solve that issue for her. Getting AAA might help. Or getting a car that isn’t NEW, but just slightly used (5 years old-ish) and a good track record for reliability could possibly calm her nerves.

Just know that, no matter what car you buy, there is a possibility of issues. It just so happens that used cars actually have a history that you can research for reliability and new cars don’t (because they’re new). And they also happen to cost THOUSANDS LESS EVERY YEAR. So any way you swing it, used cars win. But make sure you convey that in a way that addresses your wife’s every concern and need before making the next purchase.

Thanks for reaching out, and good luck on your impending heart to heart. Let me know how it goes! And as a resource, don’t forget my many fun, new-car-bashing articles:


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What do you think?

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  1. I think you gave some great advice, Jacob. I can’t relate, since both my fiance and myself are sold on the power of used cars and therefore saving money. However, we are committed to buying GOOD, reliable used cars – ones that have under a certain mileage on them, and that have been taken very good care of and are inspected. I bought a used car a few years ago and it hasn’t failed me!
    Daisy recently posted..The Hidden Costs of Flying Out of US AirportsMy Profile

    • That’s great, Daisy. My wife grew up with used cars as well, so she doesn’t mind the occasional stall if it means we can afford our house and her staying at home. Much more important ways to use our money than driving around places in a new hunk of metal that burns dollar bills faster than the government.

  2. Your response was very well put. It can be “nice” to buy a new car and get the perceived reassurances that go along with it, but the price is (almost always) not worth it. It can be tough when the decision has to be joint with your spouse and he/she has a differing opinion or desire. But, that’s marriage and compromising goes beyond just car purchases.
    Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia recently posted..What Happens to Your Loan After a Foreclosure?My Profile

  3. It’s an important point that buying new is not a guarantee of reliability. My parents always buy new, and yet they’ve had multiple lemons (one that turned into a class-action suit) that have cost them dearly in terms of time and money. Which to me is the significant advantage of buying used – after 5 or so years, feedback from owners will be plentiful on forums, and issues associated with a particular model will be easy to identify before you decide to buy.

    • Right? I mean, just look at the news right now. Billion dollar settlement with new Toyotas. GM cars killing people with faulty airbags and ignition switches. New does NOT mean reliable, or safer for that matter. Let a car get some road-proven miles on it before making a judgement on reliability and safety.

  4. I think it always starts with communication.

    Set aside a time — that is, really put it into your calendars and DON’T schedule anything on top of it — to have your first conversation — with plans for many more! Sit down with your wife and ask her to start talking about her financial goals and listen — REALLY listen. Maybe she will mention new and used cars and hopefully, you’ll get a chance to speak as well, but the first and most important step is to listen.
    Mario Adventuresinfrugal recently posted..Simple rules of thumb to split a restaurant check (to save money); math!My Profile

  5. I think it’s all about research into a good reliable car. Once you find a good car to look for, then go for one with low miles. It doesn’t guarantee it won’t be faulty (my dad’s used ’10 Elantra’s transmission died after 38,000 miles–covered by warranty) but it gives you a much greater sense of security. My ’02 Corolla, in the super common champagne coat with missing hubcaps is still kickin’ at 175,000+ miles. When this bad boy dies, I’ll probably replace it with a Camry that isn’t much newer but with much lower miles.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..How to achieve bank nirvanaMy Profile

  6. Great response Jake! Kim and I both drive used reliable cars and we paid less than $4,000 for each of them. People don’t need to buy a new car to have reliability.
    Deacon Hayes recently posted..Everbank Review: An Online Money Market That Actually PaysMy Profile

  7. I don’t mind buying used cars. So long as they’re really cost-effective.
    Max Arthur recently posted..bags beaterMy Profile

  8. What would be an ideal age of a used car to buy? 2 -3 years? Definitely no more than 5 years?

    We usually buy new vehicles but then drive them into the ground. It’s those later year repairs that get quite steep, and leave a bad taste in your mouth. Last ‘old’ vehicle we had was costing us more annually in repairs than the cost of new car payments.

    I’m wondering if we need to change our strategy and buy used but dump earlier too.
    DEBt DEBs recently posted..🙁 Random Ramblings 🙂My Profile

  9. We’ve had a ton of bad luck with cars too, so I can empathize! My opinion is only own a car if you absolutely need one and buy used but not super used if you can afford it (I think 3 years is ideal). I’ve driven cars my age and it’s rough!
    Erin @ My Alternate Life recently posted..Heading Out of TownMy Profile

  10. I personally love our used cars, and haven’t had any serious trouble. I can’t imagine paying full sticker price for a new one. Even with new cars, there are still lemons. Good advice, Jacob!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Should Married Couples Combine Finances?My Profile

  11. Buying a second hand car is more on probability and gathering facts. Just like on finding retirement options. Doing the research on the car and the owner and looking at the car mileage. Not only trusting the owner but looking at the papers. Then, maybe the wife is not confident on the husbands skills on how to determine how to determine a good enough car. Some husbands with mechanic experience can be very good at that. To convince the wife, let her choose the type of car then reassure her that after 3 years or so will sell the car and buy another used 2nd hand car to minimize the risk of high maintenance cost.
    Jeff @Project Ikonz recently posted..Property investment MelbourneMy Profile

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