Car financing dilemma

I am annoyed with my car (a 1999 Saab 9-3, for those just tuning in).

For a long time it’s had a wobble in the steering wheel and in the seat,
even through multiple balancings and road-force balancings and lining up
runout with the low spot on the wheel and all that. Could’ve been being
rear-ended a couple years ago, could’ve been from flatting out at 130
km/h, could just be 150000 km on a 4-year-old car, could just be bad
luck, but it’s just not that much fun to drive anymore. I don’t like
using it to get out of town because I don’t trust it; I don’t take the
long curvy way home from work anymore because it’s not fun.

The problem, of course, is that I’m halfway through a loan, which means
I’m almost certainly upside-down, probably by a few thousand dollars,
but best I can figure being upside-down doesn’t actually matter, since
the only thing that’s going to make you not upside-down is your own
money, and then it’s just a question of whether you want to pay now
or later.

So with that out of the way (since it just becomes a question of
whether or not I can afford it), I’m trying to figure out what to do.
I think I could get less car — either something less
fancy or something older — and still enjoy it, although there’s
always the chance that I could end up in the same situation.

Poking through Auto Traders I find myself looking at A4s and Jettas
and GTIs and Accords and Acuras and Legacy GTs. Alternatively I could
get something old enough to have had everything replaced by now (past
the “if it was a lemon it’d have been junked” age) that’s still
interesting and drivable and has parts available and isn’t completely
impractical — 944 or 300ZX or something like that. And there’s always
leasing if I manage to talk myself out of going used again.

It seems to me that keeping around the current car is throwing good
money after bad, and doubly so if it needs more work in future (I’m
beginning to suspect the vibration is drivetrain-related). What I’ve
paid already are sunk costs and it doesn’t seem to make sense to sink
more — I should take my lesson (which in this case is that I’d
probably be better off with slightly less low-mileage car than a fancier
high-mileage) now and start fresh: sell the car and pay off the loan
and then start looking again, basically, with enough overlap to make
it possible to get to work and such.

I wouldn’t roll the loan over to the next car. If I couldn’t afford to
pay it down I’d wait until I did, or I’d just forget the whole thing.
I would need a loan on the next car, but hopefully not as big
of one; I’d just be starting over again and not buying as much car.


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