Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Using Matrixes to Make Big Decisions

My insurance check finally came in for my stolen car. Since my rental car expires tomorrow, Matt and I went shopping for a new car* last night.

Before we jumped into the shark tank of car dealerships, we attempted to arm ourselves with some research. I narrowed my choice down to four cars: Honda Fit Sport, Prius, Toyota Yaris, and Scion xD.

This process reminded me of wedding planning. Whenever I needed to compare things (like wedding venues), I would create a matrix. I would put the qualities that mattered to me down the left side and my options across the top. In this case, my categories were things like "environmental impact" and "cost", and my four car choices were across the top. Seeing all the information in relation to each other really helps me make a decision.

I rarely find that something is a perfect choice. Instead, I find myself trying to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks of each option and trying to see how it stacks up against the other options. For example, the B&B we ended up choosing for the reception had a lot of drawbacks: it couldn't fit all of our guests overnight, the cabins were really rustic, and it was situated right on a major highway. However, there were amazing benefits that outweighed the drawbacks (e.g., innkeepers who would go out of their way to help us, a very reasonable cost, the freedom to do whatever we wanted with the place, etc.).

P.S. This matrix is still blank because I ended up finding an electronic version of it Edmunds.

P.P.S. I think I'm going to get the Honda Fit Sport. It's not as environmentally friendly as the Prius, but it doesn't cost as much either. Plus, I love how airy and open it is inside, and it's a small car with an amazing capacity for seat reconfiguration, which creates tons of cargo space. The Scion xD surprisingly pumps a lot of pollution into the air, and the Yaris is nice but it kind of seems like a lesser version of the Honda Fit (although I do love Toyotas...).

This whole stolen car fiasco is another reason I am so thankful we didn't go into debt to host a wedding. Luckily we've been building our savings over the past six months and we might be able to pay for the car in cash (since we have the insurance money, as well). The idea of paying lots of money in interest is not very appealing, so I'd like to avoid taking out a loan if possible.

However, we'll have to wait and see how our tax situation works out this year. I rolled all of my retirement into a Roth IRA this year, so I'll have to pay a butt-load of taxes on that. Plus, I'm a self-employed consultant, so almost half my income goes toward taxes. However, we bought a house this year which should help, and we also get an interest free loan from the government (up to $7,500) because we bought a house between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009. So who knows. I don't know if we'll owe a ton of money, get a lot back, or break even.

*CAVEAT: Every financial book I have ever read says you should buy a used car because cars are depreciating assets. Plus, they are way better for the environment because so much energy goes into the production of new cars. However, I want a car that will last me for the next ten years, and it's easier for me to trust that a new car will fit that bill. Also, there are significant improvements to the 2009 that are very appealing.

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Bake-rellaa said...

Environmental benefits should be marked up same as fuel economy (at least in terms of carbon dioxide/climate change)
You should look into some of the VW models for that they are some of the most effiecient!
Good luck!
ps its unbelievable how shocking low efficiency the USA market is compared to the UK market.. see here

Sarah said...

My sister had a very similar decision to make-- the Yaris, Fit Sport, and Scion xD. Hated the Yaris and was surprised at the crappy gas mileage the xD gets. She went with the Fit and loves it. I drove it for a couple hours on a road trip and I loved it, too. (I drive a 2000 Honda Civic.)

That being said, my next car will likely be a Hyundai. I got rear ended and drove one as a rental for a while-- they are consistently cheaper than Hondas and drive/feel very much the same. Consumer Report says they are solid cars, and they feel like it. Just another wrench if you're open to suggestions! :)

-Sarah H.

Nina B. said...

I narrowed my new car choices down to almost the exact same list. I went with the Yaris because of price (and it was my favorite anyway), and I still love it over a year later.

Everyone that rides in it announces that they want it to be their next car.

carboniferous said...

I love matrices. my last job involved creating matrices to weigh the order in which certain projects should be done. My current job kind of involves something similar. Consequently, my dayplanner is full of them, little miniture ones :)

I also love the Yaris.

Jess said...

My mom has a Fit and she loves it! I've driven it a few times and am always suprised at how much fun I have zipping around town in it! I bought a car a few weeks ago but ended up going with another Jetta. VW's just feel so much more "solid" to me than the Hondas I've driven.

Loaf said...

My best friend has the Honda and it is awesome. I've driven it and loved it.

And I think it's best to get a new car than a used because of the fuel economy situation. I just got a new car this summer because of that reason; I drive sooo much and it has cut my fuel bill in half. (I got the Toyota. and I love it.)

Also, I love the rubric for choosing a car. Go teaching tools!


Rachel said...

We have had a Yaris for almost 3 years...and still lvoing it.

You can never go wrong with a Toyota or Honda.

You may want to try renting both - each for 1 day - and see which you like best.

Kristy said...

I own a Prius and I love it. When I found out the 2010 model was going to have the option for solar panels, I got very excited and now I want to trade mine in when those are available. I doubt I will, but the fact that I can probably get another Prius when Lola (yes, I named her Lola) dies that will have solar panels makes me happy.

That said, I also like the Honda Fit. A (very tall) friend of mine bought one, and he loves it. They are surprisingly roomy. It was one of the cars I was considering when I was shopping. The only reason I wasn't more torn between the Fit and the Prius is that there were NO Priuses in Texas for me to test drive at the time, and I didn't want to buy a car I couldn't test drive (and that I'd have to wait 3 months to get).

If you have any questions about the Prius, let me know. I love to talk about my car. =)

angie mae and mike said...

Which one did you end up getting?? :) We have a Fit and we LOVE it :) Gotta keep it really clean though because people are ALWAYS asking about it and wanting to look all in it and what-not--so if its like that over there by you then be prepared! :)

Mrs. Andi said...

I hope you were also able to weigh in the extra costs with maintaining a hybrid or "eco-friendly" car. They may use less gas, but they tend to have very large up-keep costs a few years down the road. & there are always new stories coming out about the environmental waste created by the storage & disposal of the hybrid batteries.

Katie said...

I absolutely LOVE my 2007 Orange Honda Fit (her name is Clementine). She has never had one problem, not even close.

The ONLY thing that I would suggest is to be sure to get a stick shift. I got the stick shift and am so happy I did. The lil cars don't have a lot of power as automatics (and not like I need a ton of power), but I do live at 7,000 feet and climbing hills/mountains is a real issue.

My other concern is that it's very light and as a result doesn't handle the snow very well. I get where I need to go...but...well, nothing sandbags couldn't fix.

That said, I think you live in Houston, which is flat and not even close to snowy, am I right?

Go with the Fit...it's an amazing little car for the money. So dependable, cute, economical (I get 37 mpg hwy)!

Christy said...

I agree with you about buying a brand new car - I went looking for a used car, but for a few thousand more was able to get a brand new Hyundai Accent with an amazing warranty. It's definitley worth the piece of mind that comes with it.

Jami said...

Hi Sara!

FYI- When I bought my car I sent emails to three or four dealers in the area asking for quotes on a specific car. I took the lowest quote and sent that out to each dealer individually to see if they could do better. I did this back and forth until the dealers declined to go any lower. This ended up saving me lots of money.

Happy New Car!


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