The Great Debate – My Wife Wants a New Car

Usually I see bloggers posting questions from their readers about what they should do in certain situations. No one asks me any questions so I thought I would lay my own dilemma out there for you. My wife and I own two cars both of the are paid in full. I love the fact that I have the title to both of these cars and aside from fuel and maintenance they don’t cost me anything. I know a lot of people who wish they didn’t have a car payment and let me tell you I love the hell out of it.

Recently my wife has decided it is time for her to pick up a new car, the old one is just old to her now. Not only does she want a new car but she wants a 2007 or newer Black Chevy Tahoe. I don’t know if you have ever priced out a Tahoe before but a 2007 with decent miles costs at least $10k more than we paid for either one of the cars we own now. I attempted to explain how ludicrous it is to even consider such a thing as buying a new car, “why the hell do you want a new car the one you have is fine, I won’t have it PERIOD.

For those of you married men out there, telling your wife she can’t do something is the equivalent of punching them in the face with a brick in your hand, they don’t like it. I still haven’t completed recovered from this little misstep although she did soften her resolve for a few months. We had discussed the option of a car swap, where I take her car and she takes mine. That way the cars are new, to us anyway. To me this was the best solution to the problem and one I embraced wholly. The only things I need to take care of are some new tires and window tint which I have been dragging on but plan to take care of soon.

Thinking that was the end of it I forgot about the dilemma entirely, until recently. I have caught my wife once again perusing the ranks of CarMax in search of the perfect used Tahoe with the occasional “Oh, look at this one Kyle it is only $36k.” Which usually results in me coughing and choking on my beer.

The way I see it is that I am failing to adequately support my desire for not wanting another car payment, these are the facts I think lean most  towards us not purchasing, with a loan, a new car:

  1. Both Cars are in good working condition
  2. Out of the two of us working I am the only one contributing to a retirement account
  3. With two children we are saving $0 per month for higher education
  4. Student loan has not been paid off
  5. Second mortgage has not been paid off

My wife really wants a new car, and I don’t want her to be unhappy I just don’t think it is the best thing for us financially right now. The fact that this hasn’t been worked out yet is probably 90% my fault for failing to communicate adequately.  What would you do in this situation? What should I do?

No bashing my old lady, she is entitled to her wants just like anyone else, help us out an weigh in on the problem.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brett February 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Don’t do it! You might think she won’t be happy with out the car, but will you be happy will a $500 dollar payment a month? My wife and I are looking to get a car, but not until we are debt free and have an emergency fund. Frankly my wife has the beater car and I drive the nicer one because of my commute. We are able to trade often so she can have a relaxing drive. She really wants a new car but she knows it will happen and has been patient. We will save cash for a new car as well and I KNOW it will be worth it!

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2 Kate Ashford @ HerTwoCents February 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Sorry, I don’t have any insights for you, except that you’re absolutely right–buying a new car and taking on a car payment for no urgent reason doesn’t make financial sense. Is there any way you could put it to your wife in a “financial swap” sense? I.e., given that you aren’t saving any money toward college for your kids, could you calculate what your new car payment would be and give her a choice? (College or car?) That might put it into perspective for her. Good luck!

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3 Aaron @ Clarifinancial February 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

You’re wrong about #2. If it weren’t for her income, you couldn’t contribute to your retirement. It’s like saying a single shot won a basketball game. That makes a great highlight clip, but if any of the other “small” goals didn’t make it earlier, that “big” one at the end wouldn’t help win the game.

The way I might try to handle the bigger problem of wanting another car when it would be sort of silly is trying to figure out what it is about a 2007+ black Tahoe that appeals to her. That’s awfully specific. Really ask her. If it’s an image thing (this is my guess), try to satisfy that image some other way allow her to realize how silly it is on her own. But that might not happen until she verbalizes it. People believe themselves much more than they believe anybody else, even their spouses.

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4 Kyle February 8, 2010 at 11:27 am

“If it weren’t for her income, you couldn’t contribute to your retirement.” I wouldn’t be able to contribute as much to retirement but we also wouldn’t be living the same lifestyle we do now. We will have to work it out, but there is no reason why we aren’t contributing to her Roth IRA.

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5 Matt SF February 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Both my girlfriend and I love new cars, but one thing that both stopped us in our tracks (since we’re both semi-frugal people) is looking at how much we’ll pay our financier if we buy a shiny new car.

When you actually take the time to use an amortization calculator and figure out exactly how much you’ll be paying your bank for using their money, it might give your wife a moment of pause.

I wrote up a simple exercise using mortgage debt amortization here…

http://steadfastfinances.com/blog/2010/02/03/personal-finance-equations-you-should-know-the-amortization-equation/

… but it works for auto loans, credit cards, etc.

FYI – the results are pretty eyeopening when you see the amount of interest paid.

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6 AB February 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I agree. Do the math. Run some numbers. How much would this car cost in interest? How much would that $XX car payment amount be by retirement age if you invested the same in a retirement fund. What does she want more? The Tahoe or a comfortable retirement.

Dave Ramsey would tell her to stop being a princess. LOL :) I feel her pain though. I’m dying for a mini-van with dual sliding power doors, but alas my 2003 Taurus is still going strong…

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7 WellHeeledBlog February 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

[I'm a new reader, here from EOM. Hi!]

This is a tough one. If might help you both see each others’ perspective if you just sat down together and talked about it – you can tell her everything you’re saying in this post, i.e. I love you, I want you to be happy, but here are the reasons A, B, and C why I don’t think a new car is in our best financial interest right now.

Show her what you COULD be doing with the money you’d save if you don’t get a new car – and don’t make it all work (pay off mortgage, retirement savings) and no play. If you forgo the new car, you can start saving for a romantic getaway or a family vacation – and that will be an experience you and your wife and kids can all share.

Also, figure out WHY she wants a new car. Is it because she’s embarrassed by how the car looks? She doesn’t feel safe in the car? It’s too cramped, etc? Sweeten the car-swap offer by setting aside money to get new tires and window tints, like you said, but also put a few hundred dollars in detailing, maybe new paint job, etc.

I think at the end of the day, you guys will spend more than you want to but less than she wants to. And… that sounds like a compromise to me. :)

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8 WellHeeledBlog February 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Oops, I meant, EOD (Enemy of Debt).

Also, just from my personal (unmarried) experience, if my partner told me I COULDN’T do something, especially if I’m earning my own money, that would not make me more inclined to listen to his point of view. Even if I know it’s not a good financial decision. In a marriage a big purchase like a car should be a joint decision with both parties’ input respected, valued, and considered.

Good luck! And I love this blog, btw. Will be back to read more. Feel free to stop by mine if you get a chance.

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9 Kyle February 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

You see I think that is what has set me so far behind in this argument, my brain can’t comprehend why she would want to buy a new car when the once she has works fine. I can’t process it so when I talk about it I probably have an arrogant tone of “why would you even think of this stupid idiotic idea.”

That doesn’t help so lately I have just avoided talking about it, I just can’t seem to win.

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10 Danielle February 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I bought a new car in November (2010 Honda Insight) with a huge down payment (instead of putting that money toward my mountain o’ debt), but I still owe about $10,000. I love my Spaceship with all my tree hugger heart, but I realize it was not a wise financial decision. There is no way I will sell it because we are too deeply in love to be separated at this stage, but should I have done it… Probably not.

Have you talked to her about what is at the root of why she must have the 2007 or newer Tahoe? What is it about that specific car? Can you create a joint set of goals that will allow you to create a realistic timeframe on when a new car could be a foreseeable possibility?

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11 Emily Lauren February 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm

“[T]elling your wife she can’t do something is the equivalent of punching them in the face with a brick in your hand, they don’t like it.”

All I can say is: Wow. Really?

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12 RJ Weiss February 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I would first have her read this post. Tell her how important it is for you and your financial future to delay this one purchase.

Like Matt SF said, show her how much it costs. Then ask her what she will be willing to give up to have this car.

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13 Evan February 4, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I have no real idea about the make up of your home/relationship, but why not lease? I know every PF blogger seems to HATE leasing, but you could make a deal of sorts. Lease this one, and then go back to the old one (that could be garaged kept for the next 24 to 36 months).

In my house, we have one lease and one purchased. Mine is for longer trips and I will own it way past the note (hopefully). I don’t think Chevy leases anymore…but there are a lot of trucks and cross overs out there.

I am sure I’ll get bashed, but I don’t think leasing for someone who doesn’t drive a lot and will bother you every 3 years for a car is a horrible idea

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14 SarahB February 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I would recommend either not getting anything for a while or looking for something much less expensive that you can pay for in cash.

My husband and I were in a similar situation as you and your wife until this fall. For about a year and half we were locked into a debate about buying a car. Both the cars we had were paid for, but one was on the decline and was to the point where repairs were going to be more than the car was worth. The car was still safe to drive, but we weren’t sure for how long. First we started talking about replacing the car we were considering a Honda CR-V. Then, after a few months of thinking about it, but not having time to go look at one on a lot we decided maybe we shouldn’t spend that much on a vehicle. Around that same time my husband decided he wanted to apply to medical school, but had a few pre-req classes that he didn’t take when he earned his engineering degrees. That meant we were going to be needing to put some of our income toward tuition, so less for a car payment and saving money for when we don’t have a lot coming in if/when he goes to med school (we’re currently waiting for acceptance/rejection letters for this fall from med schools). So started looking at used sedans and compact sedans. We found a few that we liked, but didn’t have time to look at them right away and they were sold by the time we had a chance to go the dealership. Then, the company I worked for announced massive layoffs were on the horizon. So, we put all car buying thoughts on hold until after the layoffs were announced. A few months later I was one of the people that got laid off. A few months later, I had a new job and an entirely new career. My new job was 45 minutes away from where we lived and my husband’s job was only 7 miles from my job, but with our schedules we couldn’t carpool. So, the car hunt/debate was back on. We sat down and talked about what we both wanted in a vehicle, when we want to replace the car by, and how much we wanted to spend. The one thing my husband decided he really wanted was a vehicle with a manual transmission as the new vehicle would become his and I would get back our few year old sedan full time as I had been driving the old car 3 days a week and the newer sedan 2 days a week. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting manual since I didn’t know how to drive one, but I finally agreed after a few more months. So I started looking for manual transmission vehicles and also immediately found one that would be satisfactory for both of us. We found a used Subaru Forrester with a manual transmission with all the bells and whistles. It was a top of our price range, but we were able to pay for it in cash and it was a great feeling to be able to pay for it in full.

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15 LeanLifeCoach February 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Kyle – Some say when it comes to the wife “resistance is futile”.

I say be strong brother!

My wife drives a 98 Accord with peeling paint. We’ve owned it free and clear for 9 years. To her… well, you understand. To me, it is beautiful!!! She was on my case for 2 years about a new car. Then we sat down and discussed our total financial picture. In the end, she came to realize that she was being “selfish” (her words!) for wanting (not needing!) a new car when we hadn’t done all that we could to prepare for our long-term financial health and more importantly the kids college funds.

We’ve been preaching to our kids that you should do what you have to do before you get to do what you want to do. Be it homework, chores or finances this rule should always apply.

Make a deal with her… I.E. Pay off the second, fund both retirement accounts and save X dollars towards college fund… then buy a car (though maybe not such an expensive one!)

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16 Len Penzo February 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I feel your pain, Kyle, but this is why I advocate the importance of running your household like a business – which includes having a long-term strategic plan! :-)

The Honeybee and I have a long term strategic plan for our household finances that we discuss and update annually – sometimes more frequently.

Such a plan instantly eliminates these kind of problems. :-)

Our long-term plan currently has no new car in the immediate horizon. So if the Honeybee came to me tomorrow asking for a $36k used Tahoe, I would point to our plan and say – “Nope, that’s not in our the plan that we agreed to.”

Of course, that would force the two of us to reevaluate our plan and try to find a time somewhere in the future (most likely not this year, but maybe one or two years down the road) where we could readjust priorities such that she could get her $36k Tahoe.

Best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

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17 moneyhoneysf February 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm

My husband will be forced to be in the same shoe as you either by the end of this year or next year. You see, I’ve had this car of mine let’s call it Luxmobile for almost 7 years and it’s been paid off for the past 3 years. But I’m having the 7 year itch where I want to buy a new car. I was thinking of giving my Luxmobile to my DH who has a beater car which he thinks works fine since it gets him from Point A to Point B. And he tried to reason with me that a new car is just a waste of money. Deep down inside, I know he is right and won’t admit to it. But I’m still stuck on my decision to buy a new car since his is 16 years old now. I figured if I was to hound him every week about this future plan of mine, he’ll somehow give in. He must since DW always win.

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18 Kyle February 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

I think that is the tactic my wife is trying. She is certain to mention “WHEN she gets her Tahoe” almost everyday. Talking about it like it is a given makes it hard for me to argue the contrary as her mind seems to already be made up.

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19 Four Pillars February 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Don’t buy it – you guys can’t afford it.

A Tahoe? That’s pretty nice…surely there is some sort of compromise ie a smaller, cheaper, older “new” car?

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20 Julie February 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

Tell her she can have her Tahoe WHEN you guys have saved up enough in a “car fund” to pay for it in cash. By the time you accumulate 36K, she may not want to spend that money on the car anymore.

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21 Chris February 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I’m definitely not going to come her and bash your old lady, everyone has something they want. Us guys who have the financial drive for the future tend to see that as the thing we want most. Security, financial freedom, whatever you choose to call it these are the things that we really want. My advice for you, is to keep working with her and showing her your family’s money situation. My wife and I used to really struggle over extra spending but now we are basically on the same page. There may finally be that day where you will have a breakthrough together.

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22 wantsamustang June 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

I feel you pain, my husband works hard and has been putting in alot of overtime and even though he’s earning more than ever we are still swimming upstream financially. My mother has been helping me with legal fees that have accumulated with my ex husband and helps pay for things for the kids 13, 11, 9 and 1 1/2. I want my husband to be happy and he certainly deserves to drive the car of his dreams but just doesn’t make sense and I’m the bad guy for feeling this. He originally wanted a new mustang and now is considering a used one and I’m trying to convince myself that we would just make it work. This is making sick to my stomach because it is a huge cause for tension on our marriage. We didn’t have a honeymoon, we don’t take vacations and I would like to see our kids in more classes and activities which are expensive. Do I have my priorities wrong? We live in a nice home and have alot of living expenses and I’m starting to feel that we should sell the house and downsize so we have more financial freedom which would include being able to tell my husband “sure honey, lets go get your car”

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23 Mark September 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

You should never feel this way. If you truly want something, you will do what it takes to get it; be that a second job, higher paying, back to school etc.

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24 BMW-Less November 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I am going through the same thing! Except, my wife currently has a BMW 3-series on a lease. They jacked her lease rate up because when she was ‘dating’ me, she went over the miles for the previous lease, so they roped her into the latest one. Now, this lease expires in 2 months, and she’s looking at an x-5, and I’m really not enthused. She claims we need the space because we have a growing family. Uh, our son is 1 and she’s not the type to travel with alot of people or things in her car. I even entertained the idea of the Buick SUV, per her recommendation! But, now the BMW folks have her thinking this X5 is the best deal yet. I think it’s a rip-off, and I’m to the point where I want to close our joint account if she gets this vehicle. I am not in support and think that she could get a less expensive vehicle and save some money, but she’s not hearing me. I give up.

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