Last summer's "Cash For Clunkers" program stipulated that if you drove an old car that got bad gas mileage, you could trade it in for money towards the purchase of a new car.
Robert and I considered the deal: Our car is 12 years old, has over 117,000 miles, and the CD player doesn't work (I think someone put pennies in it years ago). Among various body imperfections and dents it has all three of our boy's name's scratched into the paint. The wimpy 4-cylinder engine totally lags on hills. The shocks are shot, and it currently has a cracked exhaust manifold that will almost cost more to repair than the current value of the car. (Also, the cracked exhaust manifold may or may not also be causing odorless carbon monoxide gas to leak into the cabin of the car, slowly poisoning our entire family. I feel so sleepy.)
Still, I love my clunker and didn't want to give it up then, or now.
I love how our car looks different than lots of other cars on the road. People can see me coming from blocks away. I get lots of waves. And of course with the kids names scratched on the side, it's a piece of cake to identify in a parking lot full of dark blue minivans.
The doors open to a full 90 degrees. You may not think this is something you'd find useful until you actually have the luxury--and a kid who plays trombone in middle school band.
The seating is configured so no one has to touch each other while we are driving. Whether it's a 1000 mile trip to Disneyland or a 2 mile drive to church, it is crucial that no one touches each other.
On long trips, we get 19 mpg, which not too bad. We've taken this car through 7 western states, into 2 national parks and many state parks. We've watched Orcas swim while looking out it's automatically rolled-down windows and it's provided shelter during many rainy baseball games. I even slept in it once while riding the late ferry back to San Juan Island. (The front and middle seat recline flat to create a not-to-painful sleeping surface.)
But most of all, having a reliable, working car is so much better than having a car payment.
You can have your fancy cars with wi-fi and voice activated GPS and video monitors and shiny, unscratched paint and carpets that don't have throw-up spots. I love my clunker.