Christian Financial Advice and Biblical Stewardship

Is Your Car Payment Holding You Back?

  • Matt Bell Author, Money, Purpose, Joy
  • Updated Apr 21, 2010
Is Your Car Payment Holding You Back?


The road to financial freedom is driven in a paid-for vehicle.

While developing a set of detailed recommended spending plans for various size households at various incomes, it became clear to me that in order to live in financial freedom it's essential to avoid financing vehicles.

MSN recently pointed out that most of today's vehicles should be able to make it to 250,000 miles if you simply keep up with their manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedules. profiled 10 high-mileage vehicles that are still going strong, including one with over 1 million miles.

It isn't even the mileage that's so important; it's how long you keep your vehicle.  For someone who doesn't drive very much, keeping their vehicles for 10 years should be easy; keeping them for 15 or even 20 years should be well within reason.  And the longer you keep your vehicles, the less you will pay for vehicles over your lifetime.

If you currently have a vehicle loan, in order to break the financing cycle commit today to keeping that car or truck at least 10 years.  Once it's paid off, keep making the payments.  Just send them to a savings account instead of your finance company.  Five years after paying off your current vehicle, you should have plenty of money to buy your next vehicle with cash.

When you're ready to buy, check Consumer Reports for its recommendations on the most reliable vehicles (you can get their picks for best used cars under $20,000 without subscribing).  Also use the True Cost to Own tool at to compare some of the vehicles you're considering based on their insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other costs.

As much as I've tried, I have never owned a car that made it to 200,000 miles, but I have kept the last two vehicles for over 10 years.  A Honda Accord I once owned made it to 190,000 miles, but then developed too many cost-prohibitive repair problems.  The Toyota Camry my wife brought into our marriage made it to 165,000 miles, at which point a front spring broke, which caused too much other damage to make it worth repairing.

It's worth noting that a mechanic told me if I had been on the highway when the Camry's spring broke, instead of a parking lot where it actually happened, I would have lost control of the car.  So, everyone with a high mileage car should be especially vigilant about asking their mechanic to check for safety issues.

If you have a high mileage car or truck, what is it and what have you done to keep it running so long?

April 21, 2010

*The "Money, Purpose, Joy Personal Workbook" includes the spending plans I developed for one-, two-, three-, and four-person households with incomes ranging from  $30,000 to $150,000. Check out Amazon to purchase.

Matt Bell is the author of two personal finance books published by NavPress: "Money, Purpose, Joy" (September 2008) and "Money Strategies for Tough Times" (April 2009).  He speaks at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country.  To learn more about his work, visit his web site at