Ripping Off the Lexus Bandaid

If this post is incoherent, it’s because I am. I couldn’t fall asleep because my back was screaming. Even with a lot of drugs, I didn’t pass out until around 2 a.m. Then the roofers rang the doorbell at 6:45 a.m.

6:45 A.M.!

The coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, but my irritability gene has. I might have dropped an f bomb this morning. And by an I mean three. But not in front of the kids, I promise.

The Lexus

Our Simple Year goal is to, obviously, simplify. And part of simplifying means finding out what we really need. And that includes cars.

Last Friday I sold this:

Lexus ES350

Lexus ES350

Ironically, while I tell people I don’t really care about cars, the truth is I care about my car. Or more to the point, what my car says. I didn’t think I did, but this last week has proved to me that I’m a snob and I do care.

In my area, we’re surrounded by fleets of Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW. And huge SUVs. The car is a status symbol and, if I’m being brutally, horribly honest, I wanted mine. I asked myself why that was. I guess to scream to the world that I’m successful? Really getting to the bottom of it would involve way more psychobabble than I’m qualified to dish out, but let’s just say it hurt to sell it.

Also, this was the first car I was able to buy for myself, with money I earned, and in the form of cash. No financing, no payments. I wrote a check and I wore that as a badge of honor.

After I sold it, I was admittedly in a funk.  I can’t believe I just sold my car! What have I done?

The Reality

Since I got hurt, that car has mostly resided in my driveway (because there’s no room in the garage for it). I’ve realized two things:

  • It’s really stupid to have a garage used to protect a boatload of crap from the elements, but not a car which cost more than all of that crap in the garage did.
  • I drive that car a couple of times a week when the kids aren’t in school and only to school once a day (Stephen picks them up). It makes no sense to have all of that money locked up in a depreciating asset that just freaking sits there.

So I sold it.

The Reactions

The initial reactions from my friends and family were, quite honestly, more difficult to deal with than the loss of the car.

My dad wanted to know if we were in financial trouble.

Um, no.

When I explained my rationale to him and the fact that we were going to replace it with a less expensive car at some point before school started in the fall, he got it. I put it in money terms he would understand. And he did. Honestly, I skipped the whole simplicity experiment part of the deal in my conversation with him. He sort of would get it, but he talks the language of cash better.

One of my best friends simply said, “I have no words.” So I explained how little I used the car, like maybe 25 miles per week during the school year, even less in the summer, and the fact that I’ll be replacing it before school starts and she very tentatively said, “Okay.”

I’m not sure who I was trying to convince, her or me. Probably both.

Then she picked me up and we went to dinner. And I drank. Alcohol.

One Car Family

It’s now been a week since we’ve been a one-car family. It hasn’t been that bad. Stephen and I are forced to communicate about the car.  When I have a day where I have to go to physical therapy or a doctor’s appointment, we all drop him off at work and pick him up later in the day. We have a summer nanny, who really is an extended part of our family, who takes care of the kids while I work. She takes them to their activities. If I needed to, though, we’d drop Stephen off at work and use the car. It’s an annoyance to do that, but nothing more than that.

Our remaining car is a very old, battered Lexus SUV (the small one) that we bought in 2003. It’s worth very little, but *knock on wood* works just fine. It’s not shiny or pretty anymore, but it is well loved and has served us well.

Green Chic

I’m researching what kind of car I’ll eventually get, and I’m leaning towards a used Toyota Prius. I’m calling it green chic. I won’t spend a lot on it and it will be used to get me from Point A to Point B. That’s it. That’s all I need. I’m going to spend more time researching this purchase than I’ve ever spent researching a car. And that’s not a bad thing.

In asking myself what do I need, I decided that the answer is safe, reliable transportation. Preferably fuel efficient. I don’t need a designer label. I don’t need a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW to be a loving mother, thoughtful friend or a happy wife. I don’t need a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW to be successful.

I am all of those things regardless of the car I do or don’t drive.

45 Responses to Ripping Off the Lexus Bandaid

    • What a well written truly honest post.really enjoyed reading this.I told someone I fancied owning a skoda-they told me to think about What image I wouLd portray as it matters!in my opinion the truly wealthy drive any beat up cars because they can.they don’t need to portray an image of wealth as they know they are in the bank give security which is far more useful for having a great life experience than a heap of metal on the drive xxx

  1. Though I’d call a Prius still a “cool,” car in all income groups. Now, go down to a Dodge or Hyundai (though this is not to offend anyone, just looking at price point) in your neighborhood, that would be the designer/not designer label test 😀

    • We have a Prius and I wouldn’t call it cool. It was affordable to buy and I believe it will last a long time. That makes it a cost-effective purchase – kind of like leather shoes vs. vinyl. I wouldn’t go with a Dodge or other inexpensive car. In the long run you don’t save money.

      • I disagree with you on both counts, Deb. In Wisconsin, the Prius is a cool/hip car. Also, I don’t agree about inexpensive cars. My brother has a 19-year-old Ford that’s still going strong, and had a BMW that was only 4 years old that he sold a few months ago because it was always in the shop for expensive repairs. My husband and I own a Saab and Dodge, and the Saab definitely costs more to repair (and needs more repairs) than the Dodge.

        • My step-dad drives a Mercedes. My mom, my sister, my step-brother, and I all have Hyundais. We get oil changes, new tires, the usual. The Mercedes? Well this one time, Mercedes got hit with a class-action lawsuit after massive engine failures, and my step-dad had to replace his engine. And then there was the awful one-blade windshield wiper that was always streaky. And the friction-detector that meant if you tried to pull out of a snowy driveway onto a 40mph major road, you were going to be rear-ended, because the car refused to go over 15mph til it had had good friction for a significant distance…and they keep making the backseats smaller and smaller. He’s on his fourth Mercedes, and he’s not actually happy with them, but they keep giving him deep discounts to stick around, so he does.

      • Priuses are definitely fancy eco-chic cars. They’ve got a price tag way out of the range of most folks, even with financing (the monthly payments would be ridiculous) if you get it new. Yes, you save a lot long-term if you drive a lot, but even being able to play the long game (having the cash up front to do so) takes a fair bit of economic privilege.

        Which isn’t to say I’m not wondering… any of the plug-in electrics in the running for the new car? Nissan Leaf? I’m sure my next car will be a plug-in, but seeing as my Hyundai compact is only 2 years old, that’s pretty much a given. I’m doubtful they’ll still be making small cars that use gasoline in a decade.

        • I’m looking at 2004 or 2005 Priuses. The ones I’ve seen on CraigsList come in around $7-8k, which is still more than we want to pay. We’ll wait until we find one that we will purchase with cash.

  2. Thanks for this post and well done on your tough decision.
    This post is such a marvelous look at how different, but no less meaningful and difficult, the Simple Year project is between year one and year two.

  3. I enjoy reading your posts, the last 2 paragraphs are powerful, I applaud you for the steps you are taking towards a simple life.

  4. I agree with Lisa. Take a look at the Hyundai Santa Fe and/or Tucson. They are really cheap (I got my Tucson *NEW* for about $20K). They are super reliable and have a 100,000 mile warranty.

    And for the snob in you, my Tucson is nearly identical to the Lexus compact SUV. I mean, when I park in the Junior League parking lot, I sometimes can’t identify which is MY car. I’ve actually walked straight to a black Lexus and tried to put my key in the lock.

    • $20K is “really cheap”? O_O My Hyundai Accent was listed at $11K, though after extended warranty (to get bumper-to-bumper 100,000mi, not just transmission) and suchlikes, it was more like $14K. It’s a compact, 36mpg, so not too bad on gas, and even with being a compact I can go for a week long camping trip that includes an 8′ tall 10×10 canvas tent and several pieces of (break-down) wooden furniture.

      I admit I find “going from two cars to one, woo simplifying” a little weird, as someone who only just went from zero cars to one a couple years ago when I got a job in the next county over, where there are no reverse-commute buses (ie, all buses assume people live out there and work in town…I live in town and work out there…no buses go that direction). And now I bought a house in the suburbs (itsy bitsy cottage on a quarter acre…lots of room for agriculture), and I just find it so weird not having an elevator from my home to the grocery store.

  5. I just had a moment of silence for your car loss. I completely understand. I drove a Mazda RX7 in my younger days…that was my favorite car. Later, in 1999, I bought a white four-cylinder Toyota Camry. That thing just won’t quit…it has over 225k miles and it just plugs along…white, boring, but reliable.

    I saved for years to replace that car because I vowed I’d never buy another car on credit. The money saved and sat there. As the miles clicked off, I started looking for a replacement vehicle. Because of the things I love to do (rock hounding, camping, etc.) and the need to tow, I was eyeing the Toyota 4Runner. But after several test drives it turned out there were too many things I just didn’t like.

    Then, I spied a used Range Rover….***I WAS STAR STRUCK!***

    While it wasn’t the one I ended up buying, I did buy a six-yr old Range Rover Sport with cash and bought an after-market warranty (which I’ve used already). I know…it sounds stupid. But, I love the darned thing, it does what I wanted my next vehicle to do and it didn’t jeopardize my financial security.

    So, I guess I’m saying that if you have the cash, and making a luxury purchase won’t derail you financially, why not have what you want? I believe in being financial responsible, heck, I blog about that, but you also want to enjoy your life in whatever way that makes sense for you.

    I’m not trying to say you made a bad choice. And, you can always get another Lexus if you change your mind. I just wanted to point out that driving a nice car can be okay if the stars are in alignment and that’s what you want.

    Sure hope your back gets better!

  6. Great post, I really appreciate your honesty! Yay, for you. I think it is great that you got rid of the car, especially since you admitted that you do care about what your car say’s about you, and not so much about the actual car. I just purchased a Mazda 5 which is a cheap,reliable, family car; also a total mom car that I NEVER thought I would drive! But I don’t regret it, it makes sense for us. Keep up the good work! We are also in the process of downsizing and it is inspiring to read about what other people are doing.

  7. I think it’s awesome you ditched the status car though am laughing a little that you are considering a Prius as your beater car. We bought a used Chevy Cobalt as our second car on an amazing deal. It would be very very difficult for us to get by on one car with where our work places are, but our second car really just needs to drive and it works great.

  8. Good for you! I’ve had some very nice cars but I’m currently driving an elderly car that I inherited. its over 10 years old and is worth very little in $ terms, but is reliable. It gets me from A to B, doesn’t make me any less of a person, and leaves me with money in the bank.

  9. Brave decision and you will be happy you did it! If you really drive that little I wouldn’t get a Prius or other higher priced, high mileage car unless you are trading cars with you husband and he drives a lot. Overall the difference in gasoline costs won’t make up for the higher price of the car if your mileage is low. Or maybe you will enjoy the one car family experience and associated savings so much you won’t get one at all.

  10. I love your honesty here. We used to live in an “affluent” neighborhood in Texas and the pressure was on, let me tell you! And I drove a minivan. Yep, about as dull as you can get. But it was paid for and that made me happy. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. We have been a one family car (it is just me and hubby) for about 3 years now and I have to tell you it isn’t all bad sometimes its a pain in the butt. I don’t work outside of the home in the town we are in now they don’t really have anything that I can do or I would have to drive about 45 mins each way and I don’t drive well at night. Some people think we are crazy for only having one car but it has worked. We are talking about getting one next year but I want to find something we can just pay cash for and not have to have a payment or if we have a payment it is a very very small one.

    If it works for you that is all that matters is doesn’t matter what others thinks or say.

    Good luck to you!!

  12. I smiled when you explained how you “sold” your dad on the idea of selling your car. I would approach my dad the same way – facts and figures all the way.

  13. Ah yes, the reactions. You should have heard the reactions to getting rid of our TV or our land-line phone or our DVD player. When I begin to feel pressure like that, I just say eff ’em. Seriously, it’s our stuff or lack of stuff and no one has a say in it unless they’ve paid for it, which is never the case.

  14. maybe you will not want a second car.
    communication and public transportation makes it possible for us to live with just one. it is just hubbie and i. we count in ‘cruise’ units. if it is over $500, we could go on a cruise. and we would much rather be able to do that, then drive anytime, anywhere.
    also insurance and repairs and gas, it really adds up

  15. We bought a Volvo station wagon for $700, and we haven’t looked back! Once you make it very clear that you don’t care about image, you’ll find that other people are more comfortable around you, since they no longer have to worry about image either.

  16. We bought my Dad’s newish Honda Prelude a few years back – he didn’t need the market value money and we needed a second car at that point, so we bought it from him with the intention (at his suggestion too) of selling it within the year, when we were back in suburbia.

    So we moved house, into a nice new street, shiny cars everywhere, with our shiny sports car and the decidedly-not-shiny Mitsubishi stationwagon. Sold the Honda not long after, made a nice profit (thanks Dad!) and absolutely horrified the neighbours when they realised that we were keeping just the stationwagon. It had 225,000km on it at that point…

    It’s really interesting ‘watching’ someone go through the simplifying – I love the ideas and clarity from established bloggers but can relate so much to what you’re doing.

    • We’re living in quite an affluent area (company paid rental while on relocation), and my 11 year old car is rather looked down on by the neighbours. Their problem, not ours!

  17. We have four children and we only have one car. We downsized to one car when my husband got a job within 3miles from home. That was five years ago. Since then he has moved to a job that is 9 miles away. We live in a climate where it can get to -40 in the winter and +100 in the summer. He bikes to work in the summer and carpool in the winters. Here the public transport system is really non existent.

    We find we can make it work. It is a bit of a scheduling on weekends for errands and kids activities, but we just make do. Now we can’t justify going back to two cars. What holds us back is not even the price for another car. It’s the on going cost, extra $1600 insurance yearly plus maintenance plus depreciation.

    • That’s awesome that you all have made it work long term. I’m going to wait as long as possible. The return to school is really more of a driving force than anything. And even then we could make it work, it would just be more inconvenient and add extra miles on the car. I’m not sure how far away Stephen works from home, but I could measure it. If he had access to a shower at or near his office, he’d ride his bicycle to work.

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  22. Kandice, I just found your blog and your honesty about discovering that the image and status your Lexus conveyed mattered to you, even though you thought it didn’t until you had to sell it. Thanks so much for admitting that. I am on the journey of simplifying and getting rid of stuff and trying to extricate myself from the expectations of others and find your voice refreshing and inspiring.

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  25. We are a two-car/three-driver family and I’ve discovered that I can get by just fine for now. That may change when son has classes more that two days a week but we’ll come up with something. I’m loving the honesty and the work.

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