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The Patience to Pay Cash for a Car



The Patience to Pay Cash for a Car

My in-laws don’t drive flashy cars. They’ve never bought a brand new one, and they don’t mess with car payments. They go for something good and reliable, and they have the patience to pay cash for a car.

I knew this about them, but I hadn’t seen their process in action until recently: they need a new car now, but they’re patiently waiting until they can pay for it without an auto loan.

My mother-in-law drives a beloved minivan (#swaggerwagon) and my father-in-law an old Taurus, but the Taurus is fading. They live in a super remote area, and they can’t keep having their car break down in the middle of nowhere.

My father-in-law retired a few years ago, and they’re living on a fixed, tight income. They’ve been saving for this next car when they can, but it’s been a slow process. But they still won’t consider financing it.

Selling to Save

Last month they asked for my help selling a few things. They live about 90 minutes north of us. They are not tech-savvy, so I’ve helped them sell things on Craigslist before. It can be tricky in their area because people have to drive out to the boonies to buy from them. Things like yard sales and Facebook Marketplace don’t work great there.

So they asked me to list two major things: their WaveRunners (with trailer) and their 2007 Taurus.

The WaveRunners sold right away. They live right near a lake, so they bought them used from her sister about 6 years ago. They were 1998s, but they worked and we were all excited to use them when we came to visit. They were great the first summer. But the next year? The nightmare began. They’d act up every time we tried to use them! We all helped to replace spark plugs and batteries, tweaking this and that. It was a battle every summer. Sometimes we couldn’t even get them away from the dock.

My in-laws didn’t want to keep pouring money into repairing them. We tried to use them one last time last summer, but alas they were dead in the water (literally). They then sat in their garage this whole past year.

They sent me the images and info, and I posted the WaveRunners on a Friday. By Saturday morning, I had a shortlist of people for them to contact. And by Saturday night, some nice people with mechanical skills drove off with them. We were all elated! The nightmare was over, they were out of the garage, and my in-laws had $4,000 to put towards their car.

Making the Patient Purchase

The Taurus… we’re still working on. She’s got some problems, so they won’t make much. But they’re still planning to put whatever they make off it towards their next car.

I think what impresses me most is their patience. They’re down to one car, but they aren’t pressuring themselves into making an impulse purchase.

A few weeks ago I saw that Hertz is selling their cars at a discount because they’re going bankrupt. I know my in-laws had considered buying a car from them, so I sent them an article about it. The deal won’t last forever, but they’re still not feeling rushedthey know they can’t pay cash for a car from them yet.

They are sticking to their goal and making sure they get the car they want without using a car loan. What a good example.


  • Reply Tpol |

    Thanks for this post. I hope you will let us know about when, how and for how much they get a new car. Kudos to your in-laws for setting everyone a great example.

  • Reply jj |

    Your in laws are right on the money – save, get something reliable and affordable, and you know there is no extra stress if it is financed/leased.

    • Reply jj |

      I meant to say there is no extra stress kinda if you buy outright. Obviously car repairs are to be accounted for, but once it is yours, it’s yours!

  • Reply Ruby |

    I think this is pretty rare nowadays. My husband and I finally bought a car for cash just this year, and it feels great! A few years ago we totaled our 9 year old car, and we went completely car free for almost a year because I did not want a car loan and we were in the process of saving for expensive IVF treatments, which was way more important to me. My dad ended up buying a new car and gifting us his old car, which we drove until this year. Actually, we still have it. We managed to save most of the money we needed for a new Santa fe (we use YNAB and managed to WAM the rest). We will pay ourselves back over the next few months. There is something so freeing to have this new car and know that it is 100% ours and we aren’t saddled with paying for it for the next X years.

  • Reply Petunia 100 |

    Honestly, I think they should consider being a one car family. Owning two cars is much more expensive than owning one. And in their circumstances, (retired on a tight budget), owning just one car makes a great deal of sense.

  • Reply Drmaddog |

    I love my 16 year old car, and having no car payment. I have yet to encounter a repair that was more expensive than buying another car. Many people spend way too much on vehicles and things with engines.

  • Reply Annie |

    Once I pay off my car, I am going to put my car payment money into a high interest savings account so I can pay for my next car with cash. I plan on driving my current car until it costs more to fix it than it’s worth.

  • Reply gmtb |

    Hertz’s liquidation of their fleet is unprecedented and a good opportunity, IMO. I bought a car that was previously a rental and the only bad thing were key scratches at the ignition. It drove like a dream and never had any problems.

    I was hesitant to buy a former rental before, but an older NPR show called Car Talk with Tom and Ray Magliozzi actually spoke in favor of it, because they are meticulously maintained and checked for damage between customers.

    • Reply Sara |

      We love Car Talk! I didn’t know they were fans of buying a former rental. We actually used Hertz for our last car purchase, which is why we recommended it. I’m glad it worked well for you too!

So, what do you think ?