I am referring to the fact that their price had gone down significantly from when it was new, and it now sits at something between less than 50% of what it was new if we are talking about recently manufactured vehicles (less than five years old), or those that are a fraction of what they were new.
You see these ads often if you are like us and have a habit of just looking at cars for sale online. I have been doing so for over 20 years, and before that, I have been looking at cars for sale in magazines and newspapers. It is like window-shopping, but without going out to see vehicles. Full disclosure - I do sometimes go with friends so they can look at cars that are for sale.
So, in case you find yourself looking at a used BMW 7 Series, or an S-Class, or just a 3 Series, for that matter, but you are not sure if you could afford one, I have figured out a simple system to help you decide. You might not like the result, but it will help you steer clear of heartache, headache, and financial aches if you know what I mean.
You will need a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper is enough. First, write the price of the vehicle, and subtract from it what you have already saved up if you plan to make a cash acquisition. If you still have money left over when compared to your savings, you might think you are in the clear, but keep following this.
Now, if you want to borrow money to buy a used car or even lease a new one, which can still be considered borrowing money here, write down the monthly payment and subtract what you make each month from your current job.
If the monthly payment is more than 30 to 35 percent of what you make each month, that is a red flag. But idealists do not stop at a single red flag, do they?
Can you afford four new tires from a premium brand? Great. Now, imagine you just had a flat two days after you got them, and one tire is just ruined. Can you afford it?
I thought about this test after a friend bought a set of new tires for his (new to him) car but had a flat tire a week after the purchase. He struggled that month, and he was lucky to have a car with small wheels, thus relatively affordable tires.
The price of a new premium tire was just 1.6 percent of what he paid for the car, but he had already run out of savings after he bought four new tires, so the last one meant a rough month.
How big of a problem is it? If you need to borrow money to buy tires for that vehicle, you cannot genuinely afford it, even if the bank or financing institution says you can afford to buy the vehicle. It is that easy. Affording the purchase is not the same as affording to own the vehicle.
Alternatively, if you would have to buy just one tire the first month you start paying for the vehicle, can you afford that? If not, a used X5 with 22-inch wheels is not the car for you.
"But the vehicle has perfect tires. I do not need new ones for years," you might be thinking. Yes, that may be so, but tires are a cost that will reflect a bit of what the car is like to own. And a flat tire can happen, and you might not get away with the flat tire kit on-board. Then what do you do?
Sure, you can also calculate your insurance quote for a vehicle, but that may be difficult to get online without a VIN or without providing personal information and getting a call from a representative in the next couple of days. That is why the method described above works faster. It is like a reality check, but you have to be honest with yourself.
That is because you can look for tires online right away, without paying anything just to look. Insurance and tax are also two good ways to figure out if you can afford a vehicle.
If you find insurance to be the most expensive thing you get for a vehicle, or if taxes for it make it a burden on you each month, then you might consider you cannot afford that vehicle. It does not matter if it is an exotic, a luxury car, a premium model, or even an econobox. While you might be able to eventually buy a tire in case things go wrong, it will be bad for you, financiall speaking, to have to do so - because otherwise you could have afforded to buy a tire any other month.
Another way to check, but from a running costs perspective, would be to have a good idea of how many miles you drive each month. Use a real fuel consumption figure from a review of that vehicle, not what its owner claims it uses, and calculate your monthly fuel costs.
If you drive that vehicle for a full year, how many of your paychecks would you have to leave at the gas station register? More than one or two?
Well, you are either driving too much, have selected a gas-guzzling car, or you do not earn enough money to genuinely afford to drive that version of the vehicle. Yes, it's that simple.