The internet can't believe some finger-twirling Mr. Burns is demanding an employee buy a new car.
There are many benefits to driving a safe and reliable used car, and the average car on the road is older than ever before.
Drive what's right for you—and hopefully not at the wrong end of an HR meeting.
The internet’s heart is racing over a viral tweet where, the poster purports, an employee is asked by HR to buy a new car that’s less of an eyesore.
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Is this letter real? No one knows. The photo looks like a naturally lit shot of a printed letter, but what real worker would come forward to claim it after it went viral?
Either way, the note struck a chord, not just because of the level of inappropriate invasion and judgment in it (suggesting the employee is likely to steal because of their used car!), but because the car in question—supposedly a 2005 Toyota Camry—is, to be frank, not even that old. People pointed out that plenty of famous CEOs have driven infamously humble cars, and many cited personal finance guru Dave Ramsey's advice to never buy a new car if you can help it.
Let’s get into it and crunch some numbers.
Just an Average Car
First and foremost, in 2020, a 2005 vehicle is just a few years older than the average vehicle age of 11.8 years. This is an all time high, USA Today said in 2019. The number began climbing during the recession, which at the time I thought was because people were understandably broke—but USA Today explains that cars are lasting a lot longer and in a lot better condition anyway. And after the large-scale application of both airbags and antilock brakes in the early 2000s, even entry-level cars have the baseline safety stuff for modern driving.
The car from the letter is a 2005 Toyota Camry, so I’ll compare it to a 2020 Toyota Camry to keep things fair. A 2005 is a little too old to look at CPO (Toyota’s site goes back to 2013) or CarMax (closer, 2008) but I found six for sale on eBay today, ranging from $2,250 for a salvage to $7,900 for what I assume must literally be a unicorn. Kelley Blue Book says a 2005 Camry is in about the $2,500 to $4,500 range, depending on condition. In Illinois, buying a car that age from a private seller has a sales tax of just $25.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the 2005 Toyota Camry with a four-liter engine gets 24 miles per gallon (mpg)—or, it did in 2005 when it was tested. Gas mileage decreases over time just like horsepower. A buyer who saves up about $4,000 in cash could “buy it now” on eBay or scan the local classifieds until they find a Camry or similar, then they’d own the car outright. If they insure the car, it will cost less than it costs to insure the new car. If they drive 1,000 miles per month, even if we dock the number to 22 mpg, that’s about 45 gallons of gas a month. At a Chicago-believable $4 a gallon, that’s $180 a month in gas.
A New Competitor Enters the Ring
The 2020 Toyota Camry starts at $24,425. If we keep it exactly that way, the base model with absolutely no extras, we still add nearly $1,000 for the destination fee, bringing the total to $25,380. Using Toyota’s finance calculator with excellent credit, 2.9 percent APR, and our saved up $4,000 in cash, that means 60 months of payments of $393 per month. If you’re a college graduate, they’ll kick in $500 for you, bringing the monthly payment down to $384.
The EPA rates the 2020 base Camry at 34 mpg. Our same driver doing 1,000 miles per month will use about 30 gallons of gas, so just $120 a month in gas—but add $384 for the payment, for an overall cost of $500 plus insurance. (And the insurance will be more.) A new car comes with a warranty, and that reduces the maintenance cost during the life of the warranty. It’s unlikely that even an elderly 2005 vehicle in good condition would require the equivalent of $300 a month in maintenance.
If you want to buy a new car and you can afford to, definitely do it! But the average car in the U.S. is 12 years old and still working fine, and nothing is wrong with that either. Keep your 2005 Camry for long enough and it will, technically, become a classic. Your hypothetical 25-year-old car can qualify for antique plates, opening up a whole new world of sketchy gray areas to save money.
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