The Very Sensible Vehicle

In 2004, I needed a car. For $10,500, I bought a Certified Pre-Owned Honda Accord, then five years old. Now, this was a big purchase for me at the time. In fact, I financed half the purchase price. (As I recall, I paid $193 per month for three years.) But, I announced, I would drive the car ten years, so it would be worthwhile.

In fact, I drove it twelve years. Together, the Auto Paragon and I:

  • lived in five states, some of them twice, and the District of Columbia;
  • turned 25, 30, and 35;
  • figured out how to install a rear-facing car seat… and then a second rear-facing car seat;
  • earned 2 master’s degrees;
  • and outlasted 4 vehicles owned by the ever-fickle XFP.

But all things have their time, and while the Auto Paragon certainly still ran, it was perhaps no longer a sufficiently reliable vehicle for a single parent.

Thanks to the Frugal Patriarch, I had a replacement budget of $10,000. What to buy? Not another Accord. While I loved mine, I was not in the mood this time around to pay extra for fanciness and excess size. All-wheel drive? Well, I considered it. It was tempting to buy an Outback like everyone else in Colorado and never worry about getting stuck in a snow pile again.

But… you pay more for all-wheel drive. You pay more up front. You pay more in maintenance. You pay more in gas. Since my current income doesn’t meet all my fairly modest “wants” and savings goals, I asked, was AWD even a strong want? Ultimately, I decided it would be more economical to carry a telescoping snow shovel for emergencies and get a small front-wheel drive car.

According to both Consumer Reports and Mr. Money Mustache’s car guide, pretty much the ideal used vehicle for carrying around one or two adults and a couple of small children is a Honda Fit. They are cheap to buy, cheap to own, kind of adorable, and fun to drive, and with the back seat folded down, capable of transporting an entire dining room table. And chairs.

So I bought a Honda Fit. I zeroed in on the 2o11 model year because it was in my price range and was the first year in which electronic stability control was standard. Consumer Reports says that ESC is Very Important for Safety. (Yes, I paged through the actual paper Used Car Buying Guide. I work in a library.)

My research suggested that the best deal was a particular silver Fit Sport offered about half an hour south of here for one of those low-haggle prices (slightly below Blue Book in this case) with a limited warranty. But it was silver. What’s wrong with silver? Well, the XFP drove a silver Fit for the last year of our marriage. (He no longer owns it). Was I really going to drive a car that looked just like his car?

Yes, I was. First of all, being a newer generation, it is a slightly different shade of silver and has a different front look. And I am far too sensible to pass up the best deal on a car just because of color.


Sleeker, more modern front.

In short, the whole thing was such an excess of sensibility that I have dubbed it the Very Sensible Vehicle. It is fun to have a shiny new thing. While making a habit of craving shiny new things is a good way to land in the poorhouse, I savor the experience when it happens to roll around. My car has a USB port! I can unlock the doors by pushing a button on my key! Wow!


Also, the XFP’s fit did not have the fancy alloy wheels. Not that it matters.

What of the Auto Paragon? I considered selling it myself but I was able to negotiate a good deal with the dealership. I traded the AP for $500 and a new set of snow tires (plus TPMS sensors). Also, I sold the AP’s snow tires on Craigslist and got a hundred dollars for them. I think I got my ten grand’s worth out of the car.

You may check back in 2028 to see if the Very Sensible Vehicle has proved as satisfactory as the Auto Paragon.

What do you drive? How do you decide what care to buy?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

8 responses to “The Very Sensible Vehicle”

  1. ChooseBetterLife says :

    I love your new VSV! My cousin had a fit for years and loved hers too.

    I have a Toyota and have almost 100K miles on it. I bought it new almost 6 years ago before I found MMM (shrug) but I do love it so no regrets. I also hope to have it another 6+ years too.


    ___, a beautiful car and I hope it works out for you. I am especially thrilled as I

    can’t see well enough to drive anymore and feel good about you having a car you are proud of. Love, Grandfather.


  3. David says :

    Hope it serves you well! I considered a Fit but they are still out of our price range here.

    Currently we have a 2000 Toyota Sienna nearing 170,000 and a 2000 Honda Accord at 145,000.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Those Fits hold value. The XFP’s 2008 was TOTALED in an accident, whole side smashed in, and he still sold it for $1600 cash.

      I hope you have a run of good luck with your cars now and that the Accord rewards the money you put into it. I would have considered springing for a transmission fix myself if I hadn’t received car-buying money as a gift.

  4. Leah says :

    I am still rocking my 2004 Corolla and love it. We did buy a new car this summer for my husband, as we were a one car family for three years. We bought a Kia Sorento and have been quite pleased. The USB port is amazing; ours links into the stereo, so we can play music off a jump drive. Heated seats are nice in the winter. We switch up using the cars, since we only need one car for daily use. It is so nice to have a second car for camping, road trips, etc since the Sorento has more room. Also nice for when my parents visit and don’t need to rent a car or if there’s some sort of emergency. My husband had to drive down twice to help with family stuff and left me carless each time, and now we don’t have that worry.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Grandma FP has a Sorento. That’s a nice ride. Going one-car is definitely a big commitment! I feel like there is a lot more leeway for how old your backup car can be :-).

      • Leah says :

        Yes, my car getting older was also a factor. It’s still in great shape (I’ve been pretty good with maintenance), but we didn’t want to be stuck out in case of an issue.

        Since we both work at a boarding school, one car is much easier for us than the standard family. We truly do only drive one car most days. But on those odd days where we use two, it feels so luxurious now. For example, my husband is going to run out and pick up diapers tomorrow while I take the little one to gymnastics, and that is so nice.

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