The Value Buy: Our French Roller Skate

My mother related our new car to her first car when she was a teenager in Glasgow: a Lada.

Yes, it was a value buy.

There is nothing cool about our car.

For the record it is a 2000 Citroen Saxo. I call it the French Roller Skate.

It was a bargain, drives well, was in good shape and only had 23,000 miles on it. The boys car seats just fit in it.

It is neither cool, nor very comfortable but it does the job.

We may laugh at this purchase sometimes, it often makes me feel like I am seventeen again and driving the 1980 VW Rabbit I shared with my sister, but our three year-old thinks the car is awesome.

Preschoolers give great perspective on things.

Our French roller skate doesn’t meet all of our needs.

We can’t transport more than our family and a few bags at once.

It’s not that comfortable so a driving tour of England and Scotland isn’t in the cards with it.

To meet all those needs we would have spent at least four times what we got the roller skate for (about $1100) and that vehicle would have used up a lot more fuel, cost a lot to insure (current insurance: $300 for the year) and been more expensive to maintain and repair.

So instead of getting a car that would fit every possible use in our lives, we got one that worked for 99%.

We all fit in the car and it can get us around the island when needed. Should family visit, as they have, we’ll rent something bigger. Road trips off the island will be in rental cars. Even with those costs we’re still farther ahead financially with our little car.

Buying this car has been a milestone for us. Bittersweet but mostly positive.

We made a pretty big purchase without worrying about what other people will think or buying something to feed our egos.

Four years ago we wouldn’t have bought this car.

In fact, four years ago we rented a car for a weekend and discussed trading in our perfectly fine Nissan sedan for something new.

Not because we needed it or could afford it but because it would be fun and nice.

Please note, I think there is nothing wrong with buying a fun and nice car for yourself if you can afford it. But we definitely couldn’t afford it back then and now we prefer to spend our fun and nice dollars on things like travel.

Chris went to fill the car up for the first time and a teenager driving a BMW pulled up at the pump over from him.

They both entered the store to pay at the same time.

Chris paid cash.

The teenager, car rich and cash poor, asked them to try to take £30 off his card before he started pumping. He said there was £10 available and he had a £20 overdraft.

At least that’s what he hoped he had.

Anyone other reformed over-spenders make a milestone value buy recently?

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  • We just bought our first van, paying cash for a 2003 model from a family member, and sold our little Honda Civic. This enabled us to pay our midwife early, before the birth of our second child (getting us a discount!), and will give us a vehicle that will “fit” our family needs for perhaps another five to ten years. We’re excited! I think some are baffled as to why we wanted to stay a one car family, but we feel great about our purchase.

    • Sounds like a win.
      This also isn’t a ‘forever’ vehicle for our family (not that any car ever is) but it should meet our needs for the next year or two. I know that sounds like a short window but for the cost of the car we would be happy to get that amount of time out of it. At some point we may have three children – car can’t fit three car seats in the back seat – or our oldest will be too big for the back seat (space is tight!). We’ll reevaluate then.
      Congratulations on #2!

  • We have a Saxo too. My husband’s family is in Algeria, so we bought that car for them, and it is reliable, cheap to fix, and my son loves it!

  • My husband drives a 1994 Subaru Legacy Station Wagon and I drive a 2004 Chevy Cavalier. The Subaru was bought in cash with our wedding money back in 2005 and had 100,000 miles on it. That is nothing for a Subaru. The Cavalier was a hand me down from my grandma who was terminally ill w/cancer. Neither car is cool, we fit in it just fine but if we go anywhere like camping, we have to put on a roof top carrier. We are just happy NOT to have a car payment and low insurance payments.

  • My husband and I actually “splurged” and bought a newer vehicle recently. Both of us had drove late 1990s cars – mine is actually still in great shape (it was a ’99 Mercury Sable that belonged to his grandma), so we traded his in and got a Kia Sorrento. While it wasn’t the “minimalist” thing to do – I am happy with our purchase. A) Because we paid cash for the car – what an EXCELLENT feeling that was! B) I work from home and the new vehicle is “mine” – so it basically spends the most of its time in the garage which means we’ll have this vehicle for a VERY long time.

    We don’t want something that’s sexy and flashy (although my Kia is pretty cool). Our intent is to drive everything we own into the ground after a long life that is filled with responsible car ownership. This fits the bill. And gives us plenty of room for the road trips we frequently take to see our extended family members.

  • I have never had a new car and never taken out a loan to buy a car. We are three teenage children, three dogs (including a newfoundland) and two adults so the family car has to be a reasonable size! It used to be an old R reg Galaxy. My kids hated it, it didn’t even have a CD player – horror of horrors! But it was expensive on the mileage and was finally declared dead by the garage last year and was replaced by a 2004 Grand Scenic which I love and oddly enough the girls do too. My husband has an even less reverent approach to cars than I do. His old P reg Subaru was known as the 4×4 wheelie bin. Where we live we have to have 4×4 or we can’t get out in the winter. So now we are the proud possesors of an R reg RAV with 60,000 on the clock and one careful lady owner with a mechanic for a husband. This is the ultimate in horror stories for the girls, well the younger two, the older one is more sanguine. Probably because she is learning to drive and has realised that as long as it had 4 wheels and moves it is doing the job!

    I can’t understand the need to drive a flash car and trade it in every 3 years. But plenty of people seem to think it’s the only way to drive …. weird!

  • We have a Mazda5 that works extremely well for our family of 5. It forces me to pack light for trips and minimize what we cart along for Christmas and other trips where gifts are involved. It is a dream to parallel park- something I do every day on our street. A full-sized minivan would give us more elbow room and make packing for trips easier, but I like having the perfect car for us 90% of the time, and making do the other 10%.

    All that’s to say- you are speaking my language with your car choice:) Congrats!

  • Ha, Rachel. I’m buying my IL’s old Zafira. It’s ugly and makes a funny sound when turning corners (mechanic says it’s fine, lol) and I’m so excited. It’s never going to win a prize but it’ll get me around :)

  • Looks like a great car to me! I still have my 1990 Honda Civic, which was a graduation present when I finished college. It has about 85K miles on it and still runs great and gets fantastic mileage. It doesn’t have any fancy bells & whistles, and at this point I only drive it about 1000 miles per year. I do consider it a luxury item, but one that I’d be loath to give up. It just makes life sooooo much easier, especially where hauling cat food and cat litter are concerned – not to mention trips to the vet!

    I think people get too caught up in using their things or lack thereof to define themselves… for some people it’s defining themselves by owning a nice fancy car, for others it’s defining themselves by not owning a car! At one point I was chatting with another blogger whose self image was very caught up in being “car free.” But, she did use taxis and borrow a car on occasion when needed – and it turned out that she both spent more money on her car trips and drove more miles than I did!

    I guess I just think we’d all be better off if we focused on practical realities instead of worrying about which categories we fit into.

  • Small is relative, I guess, depending on where you are from!
    Agreed, I did have an old Espace and then a Galaxy when my 3 kids were young and it was very practical – I had horse-riding gear, sailing gear and a harp to transport on a regular basis, 2 dogs and we lived out in the countryside. Having said that, I went without a car for a year after the Galaxy and that was fine, too – I shopped once a week with a friend and my husband had his car at home at the weekends if we wanted to go anywhere. Public transport was pretty good, even out in the sticks, and our village had a good infrastructure.
    However, in 2003 I bought a cheap 1995 Renault Twingo – most readers won’t know this little tin box on wheels, 1.2 litre engine (tiny!) – but it is an incredible Tardis and I drove it for 10 years. In addition, it was pink 😉 This car took our family everywhere, including the 1200 km trip to France each summer – at times that was 2 adults, 2 large teenagers, a large dog, a small dog and luggage (I bought a small roof box). It was fine, though people sometimes stared when we all piled in or out of it! It easily traveled at the speed limit of 120kmh/130kmh (depending on country) despite its small size. I also moved house twice with it…
    About 2 mths ago I finally agreed to give it up – 185K on the clock, still going strong at 17 yrs old but the bodywork looking a bit shabby. My only criteria for a new car was it had to be the old Twingo model… so now I have the exact same car, newer model (they only made them till 2006), in purple LOL However, this one feels really luxurious with air conditioning, electric windows, power steering, even airbags… Nowadays I only drive about 10K a year (we have such good public transport) – but hope to have this car for another 10 years :)
    And I can fit two child seats in the back for my grandchildren, no problem. The rear seats fold down separately and altogether, meaning even my daughter’s Great Dane dog can fit in the back if necessary.

    • Another harp mum! The twins play harp and french horn. At least the oldest played the clarinet. End of term (they were choristers so had to board) was a nightmare with all their luggage and their instruments. But we managed :) My best friend had a blue Twingo called Tina!

  • Oh, and it uses about 4.5 litres of petrol/100 km, no idea what that is in gallons (a gallon is about 4 litres, I think). That’s pretty much running on air…!!

  • “Preschoolers give great perspective on things” Rachel, its that they are still simple human beings as we are truly are all meant to be. We ALL truly don’t need that expensive luxury car that its advertised and flushed down our eyes on Tv everyday. Kids know that things work, and function, and thats good enough for them. We ought to be more like them. Toys are a great example of this, give a kid a spatula and pot and they will as happily play as a kid with a toy that costed a lot. Its when they start growing that WE parents show and allow them, to take part of the consumerist world we are in, all to serve the people who actually have way more money than us.

  • Your car doesn’t sound so different from ours. We have a 1991 Toyota Celica for our family of 5. We bought it 2 1/2 years ago for $500 from friends. When we had our third son last summer, we had a fifth seatbelt installed for $17 rather than buying a bigger car for $2000. It can be a pain climbing into the tiny backseat to put the baby in his seat, but it’s a lot less painful to do that than to have a car payment each month. As the weather’s getting nicer, we use the car less and less for all of us anyway; we have stores within easy walking distance and we’re going to be getting a bike trailer from friends (the same ones who sold us the car, funnily enough) to tackle the longer distances on bikes instead of driving. Hubby has to have a car for work, and church is 18 miles away, so we can’t take the plunge to go car-free.

  • That’s a cute little car. It would cause me great anxiety to drive a car that small. Sometimes I have panic attacks with our Saturn Ion, it’s a compact car, so I rarely drive anymore. Today I’m going to the local bike shops to check out bikes. I want to get something so that the two little ones (4 & 2) can safely ride along. Our almost 13 year old can ride his own bike, but would love it if I got a bakfiet so he could ride sometimes. He’ll have to wait though until we can drive to a city where they actually have them at bike shops so we can test drive one first. I’m not spending that much on a bike without test driving a similar one first. It’d be nice if we could get to the library in 15 minutes instead of the 40 that it takes us to walk it. If we ever get to a point in life where I have to drive on a regular basis we’d have to buy a big vehicle that I would feel safe in.

  • I got rid of cable and got a Roku box , which is a device that streams internet content to your TV. In conjunction, I joined Netflix and use Amazon Instant Video from time to time. Result: I stopped spending nearly 100 bucks a month on cable and now spend 8 bucks a month using Netflix. I don’t miss cable a bit. There is so much programming on Netflix, Amazon, plus Hulu and Crunchroll, etc., and much of it is content not available on cable (old vintage TV shows, etc.) Buying the Roku was one of the smartest things I ever did. It only cost me $100, plus I”ve saved so much money. Wish to heck I’d done it sooner.

    Also – I have a pay-as-you-go phone. It costs 10 cents a minute. For someone like me who doesn’t yak on the phone all day or text at all, it’s perfect.

    I do have a car, but it’s paid for. We don’t have mass transit out here and I hate public busses. So it suits me.

  • Sounds about like our car, a robin’s egg blue Opel Corsa. It’s small, but we’re down to just the 2 of us now, and it’s paid for! It’s not real comfortable, but we go all over Italy in it, something which would be impossible for us in a larger car. So we love little Robinia!

  • I’m currently looking for the most reliable, sub £2000 I can find. A year ago I was excited to be able to buy a brand new Fiat 500, but now I have enough money saved for it, I don’t want to give up the knowledge that I could lose my job and still live comfortably for 10 months!

  • Hey – it looks classy next to my car – a 97 Toyota starlet with nearly 200K on the clock.

    I just figure every time I pull up next to a bigger car that I’m literally spending 1/3rd to 1/2 in petrol for every kilometre I drive. Now that, to me, is a real winner :)

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