Let’s face it, public transit is often not an option for a myriad of reasons. The added time. Inconvenient routes. All-out system failures. Together these factors can make it impractical and inefficient to use in most parts of the country. You and your partner work different schedules and on opposite sides of town. Kids need to get to practice. The dog needs to go to the vet. You need two cars. But what makes sense?

Payments. Buying a second car is going to come with a new payment. If you’ve already paid off your family car, it could be justifiable to look at newer vehicles. If you already have a payment, look at older vehicles that you can buy for cash or quickly pay off.

Efficiency. A key point for buying a second car should be fuel efficiency. Unless you need a pickup truck for work or a large SUV to haul the whole family, you should look for good fuel economy. Consider a fuel-efficient compact or economy car, especially if your current vehicle can already carry the whole family.

Insurance. You’re going to need to insure your second car. A new or newer vehicle is going to have higher insurance rates. If you just need to get from point A to point B, something older with a bit of rust is going to do as good of a job as a newer model with lower miles. The goal of a second car should always be to save money. A small sacrifice in fuel efficiency with half the insurance bill is a net win.

Service. A cheap car on its last leg isn’t a cheap car. Maintenance costs can add up quickly. Not to mention the downtime and inconvenience of not having your second vehicle. When shopping for a second vehicle, check out maintenance records for that vehicle, compare predicted repair costs, and research average vehicle life.

Vehicle Life. A $200 car is a good deal. A $200 car that you need to replace after a few months because the frame snaps or the engine block cracks is not a good deal. Again, you’ll be out a vehicle and soon spending time trying to find another vehicle.

Work Vehicle. If you need a vehicle specifically for work, a second vehicle just makes sense. It saves on wear and tear on your personal vehicle and is better suited for daily use than most family vehicles. Not to mention, a vehicle that is used for business purposes is tax-deductible. Keeping fuel, mileage, insurance, and maintenance costs separate will make your tax preparation easier.

Another scenario is having to travel for work. If your job requires a lot of regional travel for work, it might benefit you to have a reliable, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive vehicle. You can save money on insurance on your nicer, non-work vehicle by going with pay-as-you-go insurance since it will have limited use.

In the end, your second car doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be a status symbol. Cars are utilitarian things. Buying a second one to help ease family stress or avoid schedule conflicts is a decision that should be made with the lowest cost possible in mind.

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