February 7, 2017

How To Drive Cool Cars on a Budget [Update July 2017]

One of the biggest expenses in budgets is transportation, especially cars. I love cars, and love getting different cars. I get bored driving the same vehicle for more than a few years. You could imagine this would be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m 25 and have owned 6 cars, and I’ve not lost much money on them at all. The biggest downside is that you have to pay registration and taxes on every car you buy, which on my Corvette accounted for about $3,000!

The list that follows is all of the cars I’ve owned, how much I paid and sold them for, how many miles I put on them, and about how expensive it was to own each one. I’ve included insurance costs, city/highway MPG, and the cost of oil changes and registration so that you can see how affordable each was to own. My first 3 cars I owned in high school, so my helped me out by paying for gas, insurance, and registration. Also, all 6 of these cars were Rear Wheel Drive, manual transmission cars! And the first 5 were American made. I finally got a German to drive now.

Update: I got a second German, and my first automatic!


1. 1993 Ford Mustang LX

Bought: $1,700 / 195,000 miles
Sold: $1,750 /205,000 miles
MPG: 25/30, regular gas
Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
Engine: 2.3L 4-cylinder, 100HP
Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

This car was bought by my parents for me and my brother to learn to drive a manual transmission. I broke the clutch in it, and the A/C compressor went out in it, which cost about $600 to fix both. We owned it for a few years as an extra car, and sold it for more than we paid.


2. 1996 Ford Mustang

Bought: $3,600 / 118,000 miles
Sold: $2,400 / 135,000 miles
MPG: 23/28, regular gas
Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
Engine: 3.6L 6-cylinder, 150HP
Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

This was the first car I bought myself, the older, silver Mustang in the middle of the picture. I put a $70 Cold Air Intake on it. Other than that, I did no major work on the car, so it had no expenses outside of gas and oil changes. I originally sold the car for $3,200, but the buyer blew a head gasket on the way home. This really surprised me, since after I had 17,000 issue-free miles, they broke a major part in a 5 mile drive home. Since they were family friends, I took it back, and sold it as is a week later for $1,000 less.


3. 1999 Chevrolet Camaro

Bought: $4,000 / 99,000 miles
Sold: $3,600 / 115,000 miles
MPG: 22/27, regular gas
Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
Engine: 3.8L 6-cylinder, 200HP
Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

I bought the Camaro before heading to college as something more exciting – it had T-Tops! The picture doesn’t portray how enthralled I was. I drove this at the beginning of my college career and had no issues with it. Just a couple hundred dollars upgrading the headlights and front grill, hey, I was 18! When I sold it after a few years, I didn’t lose much money to upgrade to my next car, which was a…


4. 2004 Cadillac CTS-V

Bought: $17,800 / 49,000 miles
Sold: $13,000 / 99,000 miles
MPG: 16/23, premium gas
Insurance: $120/mo for full coverage
Engine: 5.7L 8-cylinder, 400HP
Oil Changes: $100 for full synthetic oil change, every 10,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

I bought this with the money I had saved from summer jobs and my first semester of Co-oping as a Test Engineer. It came with new tires, I got one set of new tires for free a few years later from my brother (he won them), and I sold it needing new tires. The CTS-V was an amazing car: a luxury sport sedan with a Corvette Z06 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. I loved it! However, the insurance was really high, and so were the gas costs. This was the longest I had ever owned a car, which was about 4 years. I sold it when I moved down to Florida for my first real Engineering job.

5. 2008 Chevrolet Corvette

Bought: $27,500 / 36,000 miles
Sold: $26,500 /49,000 miles
MPG: 23/30, premium gas
Insurance: $90/mo for full coverage
Engine: 6.2L 8-cylinder, 430HP
Oil Changes: $100 for full synthetic oil change, every 10,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: $3,000

I bought the Corvette after getting my first paycheck as a full time employee after college. A bright blue Corvette with a targa top in perfect Florida weather, why not? A few months later, I was wondering how bad of a financial decision it really was. My dad and brother gave me 0% loans since I couldn’t pay for all of it at once, and I was paying them about $1,000/month to pay it off quickly. It took about 6 months to pay off. Finally selling my CTS-V really helped. I owned the Corvette for a little over a year, and luckily sold it for not much of a loss in order to pay off the down payment on my house.

Buying a Corvette and a house in the same year might not be the best financial decision, but it worked out for me once I sold the Vette. This was the nicest and fastest car I’ve ever owned, and it got looks everywhere. I miss that about it, but I love not worrying about my car being hit in a parking lot.

The expenses on this were really low, since insurance is super cheap and it got relatively good MPG for a sports car. Everyone wonders how the insurance low, so think about this: Who buys a Corvette, and what do they do with them? Most Corvette owners are 60+ and retired, and they use their Corvette as a weekend car or cruiser, not a daily driver. This means they are garaged the majority of the time, and there are not very many insurance claims on them. This drives the insurance price pretty low, which was great for me! Most people in Corvette clubs like to brag how few miles they put on their Vette, I was the opposite. I put about 13,000 miles on mine in the year I owned it, and loved every single one of them.


6. 1999 Porsche Boxster

Bought: $5,500 / 85,000 miles
Sold: $5,000  / 89,000 miles
MPG: 19/25, premium gas
Insurance: $50/mo for legal minimum
Engine: 2.5L 6-cylinder, 200HP
Oil Changes: $95 for full synthetic oil change, every 7,000 miles
Taxes/Registration: $500

I bought the Porsche as a replacement to Corvette, which I sold to pay towards the down payment on my house. The difference in selling my Corvette and buying a Porsche was over $21,000! My co-workers wondered why I “upgraded” from a Corvette to a Porsche, and their jaw dropped when they find out I only paid $6,000 after tax and registration for it. The insurance for full coverage on it was about $130/mo, which I thought was insane on a car that’s so cheap. Therefore, I just went for the legal minimum. If I wreck it, I can just buy another car. I’m also quite confident in my driving abilities, and it is unlikely that I’ll wreck it.

I called it my cheap beater Porsche, and that’s not too far off. I converted the non-functional automatic convertible top to a manually-operated top, and I just leave it down all the time. The back window is plastic that has faded to yellow, so it has terrible visibility when the top is up. I spent $50 on new tail lights and a new headlight switch, since those didn’t work when I bought it. Luckily for me, I picked this up for a steal on Craigslist, and bought it the same day it was posted. I loved driving a cheap car that I don’t care about anymore! I kept this about 9 months. I put about $350 into new brakes and rotors. I did them myself, since the dealer quoted $2,700 to do it. When I sold it on eBay, it needed a new water pump, which was about $700 installed. 

I lost about $1,000 to drive this for close to a year, not bad. I sold it to buy my first automatic car, and first non-sports car. I guess this is what growing up is like. 

7. 2005 BMW X5 4.8

Bought: $7,000 / 102,000 miles
Sold: Not yet!
MPG: 14/19, premium gas (ouch)
Insurance: $67/mo for legal minimum
Engine: 4.8L 8-cylinder, 360HP
Oil Changes: None yet
Taxes/Registration: $700

I bought this awesome BMW SUV. It was $72,000 new, and I bought it for 10% of that. It is large inside, has a panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth, and heated seats in the front and back. Perfect for Florida! It came with huge 20″ rims, that are 315 wide in the back. I get lots of compliments on the wheels already. The car is enjoyable to drive, the A/C blows so cold, and it feels like it owns the road. It’s not a sports car, but if I feel like burning some gas, it’ll scoot. 360HP in this SUV is no slouch. It’s got torque to tow as well. The gas mileage is horrific on this car, and it holds 25 gallons of premium. I’m really scared to see what breaks on it, or to buy new tires.


So those are the cars, I’ve owned, and the details on how much they cost to buy and own. Do you have any good stories about cars and how the effected your financial plans? Leave them in the comments!

  • TJ

    I drive an F-150

  • Heath Skelton

    I bought a 2009 CTS-V 4 months out of college. Worst financial decision ever, but best overall decision ever. I got a steal on it so I should be able to sell it for more than what I paid for it when I decide to get something different.

    My car progression has been:

    1999 Pontiac Firebird, bought in 2009 for $4000, sold in 2012 for $3100, made almost $2000 on insurance claims from hail damage, which I didn’t repair

    2003 Ford Mustang GT, bought in 2012 for $5800, sold in 2016 for $4500, made $1800 in insurance claim from being rear ended, which I didn’t repair

    2014 Ford Focus ST, bought in 2016 for $19000, sold in 2016 for $18000 after putting 15k miles on it in 6 months

    2009 Cadillac CTS-V, bought in 2016 for $30k, not sold

    2007 Chevy Trailblazer, bought in 2016 for $3800 as a car to drive in inclement weather, or if I don’t want to worry about someone hitting my car, not sold

    And I paid cash for all of them so I didn’t need to worry about paying interest on anything!

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