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Car Corner
How to get two cars... by the summer of 2016

June 1, 2014
By Scott Lewis

I have mentioned in the past that I have a 2012 Ford Focus. It is a very competent sedan. I like it. I like it enough I could see getting a Focus ST. But this is not a story about that.

This is a story about how I am going to be able to let my youngest son drive his own car when he turns 18 (in February of 2016), and get myself a nice car in the Summer of 2016 (see Cars Worth Waiting For).

I am making payments on the Focus. I can't afford two car payments. Well, at least not while I am paying child support. Child support ends about 5 month after my son turns 18. If I were to finance another car... I would still have to save enough money to be able to float two payments for those 5-6 months. When child support ends I will be fine, and could quickly pay off the Focus.

But there is not much fun in doing that.

I could save enough to pay off the Focus by February 2016, hand it to my son, and go buy myself another car.

Again, there is not much fun in doing that (assuming I can save that much).

Obviously I have an objective here.

I want to find an affordable car that I can pay cash for in late 2015, or very early 2016 (before my son needs the Focus). How affordable... $6000-$7000 affordable.

What kind of car can I get myself for that money that will make a daily driver... a daily driver that can last long enough until I get a "car worth waiting for."

1997-2001 Lexus ES 300

Where did that come from?

The first car I bought (for cash) for my oldest son... was a 1995 Lexus ES 300. We found an amazing car. It had reasonably low mileage (120k) and it was in almost perfect condition. The interior was spotless, and it only had the tiniest of scuffs on one of the bumpers.

My son totaled that car in an accident. When we went shopping for a replacement we came across a 1999 Lexus ES 300. It drove a lot better than the 95. It was peppier and crisper in the brakes and steering. Not sports car stuff, but all the controls were just more responsive. I know they increased the horsepower slightly from 185 in the 2nd Gen cars to about 200-210 in the 3rd gen. It felt like more than 25 more horsepower to me.

I enjoyed driving the car so much on that test drive that it left a lasting impression. We did not buy that car mainly because its ABS light was on. But there are plenty of these cars on the road.

So I have been looking.

Ideally I want something with the lowest mileage possible. I saw a 1999 model with 48K miles for $10K at the time I was shopping for my Focus. Unfortunately I could not find anyone who would loan me money for a car that old.

So I am on a path to save enough money that I can buy a low mileage 1997-2001 Lexus ES 300 for myself... with cash.

Why not something newer. Simple... I love the styling of the 1992-2001 ES 300. The 2nd & 3rd gen cars look a lot alike. They are different, but they are still similar and are hard to tell apart at quick glance. I think all the ES cars since have been less attractive (until 2014).

If I can make this work... and get a low mileage ES 300 for cash... then I can start saving right after my son graduates high school (and child support stops) to pay off the Focus and get a fun car. I have put the Porsche Boxster on and off my "Car Worth Waiting For" list because the maintenance they require kind of defeats the purpose of an affordable car. But... as a second car... the Boxster makes perfect sense.

I could have an inexpensive ES 300 as a primary car, and a Boxster (or some other equally fun and impractical vehicle) as a fun car. I would probably drive the fun car more than the ES 300, but if the fun car needed to go into the shop, I would not be stranded or forced to fix it immediately.

Win-win!

Conclusion

Depending on how much money I am able to save over the next two years this will be my goal. I am not 100% sure of this though. Money is tight, and trying to save that much cash could be hard with one child in college, and the other going to go into college right after I try to do this.

We will see. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
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