So I Bought a New F-150…

I take pride in my frugal habits, especially house hacking (basically living in a 2,300sq ft luxury home for free).  When it came time to buy a car, shouldn’t it have been small and gas-efficient?  After all, a truck is a very non-mustachian vehicle.  To all my mustachian friends, I must simply say that I had different priorities than the money alone.  However, I was honest with myself about the true cost of ownership and had firmly evaluated the decision before pulling the trigger.  In sharing my reasons, I’m not advocating the purchase of a truck.  Instead, I’m trying to paint a clear picture of my approach to this large purchase.  I’ve now owned my truck for a year, and it was definitely the right choice for me.

To preface: My mom works for Ford, and has been there almost 30 years.  I’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve always had the option to lease corporate vehicles with unlimited miles, full maintenance, and full comprehensive fleet insurance included for a greatly reduced cost.  I’m very thankful that I’ve always had a safe and reliable car.  For my first actual car purchase, I wanted to support Ford as long as it made sense.  They offer great discounts, and they had a slew of year-end rebates.  Additionally, since I ended up making my purchase around 7pm on New Years’ Eve, the dealer threw in a couple extra free perks for being the last car sale of the year.    It’s an automatic since that’s what was on the lot, which was fine since I didn’t have a preference.

Non-negotiable Priorities

  1. Safety.  It has to be a safe vehicle on the roads.  This was even more important to me since I had just been in an accident (which is why I needed a new car in the first place). A woman did a U-Turn across 4 lanes, directly in front of me, and my SUV smashed her back driver’s side door right in and bent her back axle before spinning it 90 degrees from the force.  My SUV was caved in on the front passenger side and I went to the hospital for a concussion, but it could have been so much worse.  The F150 dominates in crash test ratings and YouTube videos.
  2. Reliability.  It has to be a good car that holds up well and lasts a long time. An F150 can go over 250k miles if taken care of.
  3. The ability to get me to safety out during an evacuation, potentially 400+ miles (this eliminates electric cars). I live in Florida.  There are hurricanes.  My life is not replaceable, no matter how much money I have.  I need something that can get me out, whether there is debris, flooding, gas shortages or power outages.  Hurricane Irma put this to the test.  The truck held about 600 miles worth of gas, and I can’t even begin to express what a relief it was knowing that I didn’t have to worry about filling up at every empty station we passed during the drive up to Atlanta.  My partner and I were in the front seat, and the dog and the cat were in the back seat.  Every item I wanted in case my house was flooded under 6 feet of storm surge (my grandfather’s paintings, some shoes and clothes, basic food and water to get us through the trip, my camera and our laptops) fit into the bed of the truck.
  4. Far enough off the ground to make it home (or get out) when the roads in my area flood. Some areas flood up to two feet on the sides.  This happens somewhat regularly just from a heavy afternoon rainstorm.  Due to it often being salt water on the roads, I still rinse off the truck when I get home.  I try to avoid the flooding as much as possible since there is still the risk of hydroplaning, even with a truck.  However, I know with my truck that I can make it home or make it out if needed.
  5. The ability to transport large furniture, mattresses, tools, etc. on a regular basis. I own a large house that I rent out part of the time, and I switch out furniture somewhat regularly just due to wear and tear. Additionally, I often find free furniture from Craigslist that’s fun or an upgrade over what I have, which means I can sell what I have and replace it with something different or better.  I want the luxury of knowing I can pick up whatever I want, whenever I want.  The fabric of the ceiling in my SUV was actually ripped due to me putting in a wooden desk that was slightly too large.  I didn’t want that to happen to a car I owned and planned to keep.  I’ve loaded up my truck with not only my own things but with others’ things as well, and I really enjoy being able to assist others when they are moving large things, too.
  6. Able to fit 4+ passengers. I like being able to carpool and be the driver when I want to.  I can fit 6 people comfortably, even with a loaded truck bed.
  7. Good gas mileage. Some cars get 40+, but larger trucks and SUVs aren’t as good.  My truck actually gets about 25mpg for my normal driving and 29+mpg highway, which I’m happy with.  I currently drive about 10 miles one way to get to work from the house I live in for free, part of it highway.  Sometimes I am able to work from home, and sometimes I carpool.  However, I consider my overall gas costs minimal, and only fill up 1-2x per month.

For now, I “need” a car that meets all of this criteria.  I only want ONE car, and I don’t want to worry about renting something else to make up for the needs my car can’t meet.

If my needs change and it makes sense to sell, I will sell.  (For example, if I sell my house or I decide I want to start driving for uber.  Then I should sell my truck and get a different car.)

Other Things I Wanted

  1. One that holds its value. It would be nice, but I know that cars are not assets.  Therefore, I look at the car as a “100% loss.”  That money is just “gone.”  My car is not included in my net worth calculations.  When I purchased the truck, I equated it in financial terms with essentially working one extra year at my job (I rounded up) when looking at the all-in costs of taxes, insurance, gas, maintenance, and initial purchase.  This is something I was okay with because I’m only 26 (I’ve only worked 5 years!) and the truck met all my needs, felt comfortable, and enabled me certain luxuries and freedoms.  Other people are not comfortable with the trade, and that’s perfectly fine.  As long as you are honest with yourself about priorities, needs and opportunity costs, I’m not judging.
  2. Easy to clean. I like for things to be clean, including the inside of my car.  I do a lot of yard work, including tree and branch removal, and things get messy.  It’s a pretty wonderful luxury to load it all into the truck bed and not have to worry about cleaning out my car.  I regularly had to vacuum the SUV due to all the yard work and clean up, even with a tarp laid down first in the back.  With the truck bed, any leaves left behind just fly out as I drive along.  The interior has black vinyl on the floor, too, and I can wipe dirt or sand right out.
  3. A space for my dog that’s not “on the seat.” I take her all over with me, and my shotgun seat of my SUV was always dirty from her paws.  I didn’t mind since the SUV head leather seats, but wanted to make sure that the vehicle I was “stuck with” stayed clean.  I was willing to do an after-market washable cover if needed, but all I have to do with the truck is fold up the bench seat and put her in the back.  She was not happy about not riding shotgun anymore, but she has adapted.

New Instead of Used?

  1. I spent quite a bit of time on Craigslist over the month I was renting a car, and found that used trucks in my area with 100k+ miles were still going for $10-15k+. The F150s can last 250k miles, so a used car would have lasted a while considering how little I drive.  However, it felt worth it to me to spend a bit more up front for a new car that I knew hadn’t been “ridden hard and put away wet” and to get an additional 10 years out of it.
  2. I would not buy a used car unless it was inspected by a mechanic.  I don’t know enough about cars to see half of what they would.  That’s potentially a lot of time and money if we’re only finding lemons, and unfortunately the accident had accelerated my time frame.  The actual length of life of any given vehicle part is dependent on a number of factors including care, maintenance, use, and climate.  Even new cars have problems, but usually the risk is lower.
  3. I could get a car that had exactly what I needed and nothing more. My model is very basic.  I didn’t want to pay a premium for features I didn’t need or use.  It’s a car, meant to get me (and my passengers and my stuff) safely from point A to point B.
  4. The gas mileage was better. Long term, the savings on gas add up.  This is a weak point, because there’s still depreciation on a new car and I don’t drive very much.  Oh well, still a point!
  5. Financing new usually has a slightly cheaper rate, depending on the bank. Do research if financing.  Leading to…

Yes, I Financed The Truck

I know the FI community is cringing now.  I wanted to take advantage of the low interest rates to invest more in my 401k and IRA.  I could have come up with the cash to purchase it outright, and I did put down a hefty down payment.  However, the monthly payment felt affordable for me and it seemed like a net win to be able to leave my investments working for me instead of pulling the cash out.  I already mentioned it, but I do not consider cars to be assets and do not include them as part of my net worth.

My Truck Does NOT Have…

4×4 or All-Wheel Drive.  It isn’t necessary down in Florida.

Cruise control.  For as little as I drive, I don’t need it.

Automatic locks.  Someone made a joke that they didn’t even know cars came without automatic locks anymore.  I was spoiled with a push button to start in my SUV, so I felt like if I had to get my key out anyway, then who cares if it has automatic locks?  I bought a lanyard keychain to hook my car keys to the outside of my purse or the loop of my jeans.  Now I never have to dig around for them, am able to open my car immediately, and I can still maneuver easily when my arms are full.  When I do have company, I open the passenger door first and get bonus points for holding the door open until they climb in.

Automatic windows.  Sounds crazy too, but my friend had her mechanism stop working and was paying to have it fixed.  Would I pay to have it fixed?  No!  I never use my windows.  Plot twist: I’ve found that I prefer it.  After going to the manual windows, I realized that the only time I ever seemed to open my windows was while the car was off and I was waiting for someone, usually resulting in turning the car on again just to open the window.

Carpet on the floor.  Why on earth would I spend money on a carpet for the floor that’s just going to get dirty?! Or worse, pay for carpet and then buy rubber mats?!  It has a great black vinyl flooring that literally wipes clean.  For anyone with OCD, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is, and I wish all cars had it.  Absolutely wonderful!

Leather seats.  They are just cloth seats.  They are easy to vacuum and look nice.  I don’t eat in my car, and I only drink water, so I don’t have to worry about stains.

Seat warmers.  A devastating blow during Floridian winters.

A center console.  I chose a bench for the front seat since it’s more versatile and was significantly cheaper.  It folds over and has a simple cup holder on it.  The bottom seat does come up for a bit of storage, but I don’t carry much with me.

Full doors in the back.  Instead, I went for the SuperCab model with the half-doors.  I don’t often pick people up or drop people off, and don’t mind getting out of the car when I do.

Full seats in the back.  I opted for the bench instead of the seats, which I almost always keep folded up.  There is so much more room for transporting anything.  When I do need to fit people, three can fit safely on the bench, and smaller stuff can still fit under the bench.

A GPS system.  I purchased a phone mount and use my phone instead.

Bluetooth.  I opted for the standard radio and buttons.  I also bought an auxiliary cable so that I can still play the music through the car’s speakers.  Tech comes and goes, but they do have Bluetooth adapters if my phone does away with a headphone jack.

A USB port.  I purchased a smart port charger and it fits in the cigarette lighter.

Running boards.  I purchased stainless steel side step rails after-market.  I got them open-box for less than half of retail.

A cover for the bed.  I purchased the Tyger cover later.  It folds nicely and looks great.

A bed liner.  I plan to have one sprayed in since they are more durable, but I haven’t yet made the time to research.  There are some scratches in the bed, but overall I just try to be a bit more careful.

What does all this mean for you?

Don’t go out and buy an expensive new car/an F150!  (Well, at least not without careful thought and consideration to your own needs.)  I have no car advice to give.  I simply hope to give insight to how I decided on the things I really needed, how I addressed the things that the car was missing, and what was actually important to me when making this large purchase.

The most important point is to make sure that what you own and are spending money on is aligning with your values and meeting your needs in the most efficient way possible.  For me, a truck was the answer.

What do you think?  What car would you have recommended instead?