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120 E Constitution St
Victoria, TX 77901

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I Am Not A Racecar Driver

Ever since I can remember, I have been attracted to things that were “loud and fast.”

This led to a Road & Track subscription at age 10 and memorizing everything possible about the automotive industry.

Once old enough to actually drive and buy cars, my goal was simple: buy the fastest car possible and then attempt land speed records everywhere I went. As you can imagine, this resulted in many speeding tickets and one near-death experience.

I don’t know why this was my approach. Call it immaturity or the false belief of immortality. However, I know it is not unique.

The allure of speed and the beautiful lines of a well-designed car remains intoxicating. As such, I have been in and out of “automotive rehab” on numerous occasions; it’s siren song continues to pull me in. Once an addict, always an addict.

I guess that is why news from the Houston-based super tuner, Hennessey, caught my attention. Their latest creation, the Venom F5, will purportedly have 1,600 horsepower and eclipse the 300 miles per hour mark. Unlike some one-off creation for the Bonneville Salt flats, this is a supposed street car!

As I pondered this monster horsepower-speed combination I wondered where someone drives a street car 300 miles per hour.

Unfortunately, this is the part where either logic or maturity take over and reel me back in.

I have owned three cars capable of surpassing 180 miles an hour. And yet, I have never gotten close to those ludicrous speeds.

As this epiphany settles in, the financial side, with its evil logic, creeps into my thinking.

If I have nowhere to drive a vehicle anywhere close to 180, why spend the money? Why incur the wrath of local law enforcement? Why risk killing myself? So many questions, so few answers.

This has caused me to come to terms with a few of my car-buying demons.

My most frequent drive is from my house to the office. The speed limit is 40. Even when I make a trek to Austin, the fastest I can go, absent an unintentional police escort, is 90.

As such, my first conclusion is that if a car is not as much, or more fun, at low speeds then it has no place in my garage. Many fast cars are so high strung they are zero fun to drive around town. I am not a race car driver and have no plans to become one.

Secondly, if I don’t pay up for the latest model, I can get a great bargain in the used market. This is the fun part for me. I have a dozen different searches on Autotrader that email me each day. Each one highlights a used car that, under the right circumstances, I’d love to own.

Car depreciation is the most expensive cost of owning a new car. Even well-maintained cars decrease in value over time.

According to Bankrate.com, the second you drive a new car off the lot, it loses about 10% of its value. One year later, it depreciates by 25% and after three years it has declined by 40%.  A five-year-old car loses more than 60% of its value. And yet, with the reliability of cars today, we routinely see well-maintained cars clocking 200,000 miles.

The sweet spot for me is a five-year-old car. At this point a good car is barely broken in and someone else has taken a massive depreciation hit. Often, you can find one with less than 60,000 miles that can be driven another ten years. The cost of insurance is less too.

If you’re looking for luxury, consider a one owner Lexus, Mercedes, Audi or Porsche. If you want some domestic muscle, great deals can be had with the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger or Chevy Camaro.

By buying used, surely I give up a few tenths of a second in a race to 60. Maybe I give up some theoretical top end speed. However, the reality is that I’d much rather pay 25 grand for a car that sold new for 75.

I end up with a great vehicle with lots of options while keeping plenty of hard earned cash in my pocket.

Dave Sather is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.