HomeCarsThe best test out there to tell you if you should buy...

The best test out there to tell you if you should buy a home.

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at Apr 30, 2013, 10.57.57 PM

My hunch is that most first-time homeowners buy their first place with the best of intentions. They imagine spending decades in their future abode, establishing roots, and engaging in their community.

But then life happens.

They have more kids than they originally thought they wanted (or discover they can’t have any kids), they get a job offer somewhere else, a loved one gets sick and needs constant care, or maybe they still love their house but hate their neighbors and decide to move. The statistics don’t lie, most people in their 20’s and 30’s, who buy homes, don’t live in said homes long enough to realize much of a financial benefit.

The average length of homeownership is hovering right around seven years.

Many of these homeowners kiss any potential profit goodbye when they pay nearly 10% in commissions and fees. At the end of the day, these homeowners were nothing more than glorified renters who could paint their walls.

So how can you determine if you’ll be able to make homeownership profitable?

Introducing my patent pending Vehicle Litmus Test.

Unless you live in the heart of a major metropolitan area (San Fran, LA, or NYC), I’m going to assume you own a car. (If you don’t, this whole post is pretty much a waste of your time). If you own a car, you should take the test below. If not, then this entire blog post is irrelevant.

/Begin Test

How long have you owned your current car? And how long did you own your previous car?

/End Test

It seems about 99% of people who buy new, or even new-to-them, cars always say something like “Oh, I’m going to drive this car in to the ground. I’ll have it at least 10 years.”

You probably said, or thought, something similar. Didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU!!!!!

But did you actually follow through with that promise?

How you answer that question says a lot. You bought a car thinking you would drive it in to the ground, but then made a total 180 and justified a change for something more fuel-efficient, more modern, larger, smaller, newer, cheaper, faster.

I get it.

Your priorities and desires changed. This is why the vehicle litmus test is so important.

Are you really going to stay in the house long enough to make buying worth it? You like to think you will, but does your track record say otherwise?

Drop a comment below with your answers to the litmus test. Be honest 🙂

My answers to the vehicle litmus test…

Car 1: Bought my Scion tC in 2006 brand new. Eight years later, still love it and have no plans to sell.

Car 2: Our 2006 Honda Pilot purchased in 2012 with 70k miles on it. Bought with intentions to drive to 150,000 miles.

Previous car: Girl Ninja’s 2005 Corolla she bought in 2006. Sold after six years so we could buy the Pilot. An upgrade that was totally unnecessary.

Previous article
Next article


  1. Bought an brand new Acura CL Type S in July 2000. Currently has 135k running strong (knock on wood). Bought a new Acura RSX in December 2004. Currently has 95k running strong (crossing fingers). Bought a new home in 1999. Paid off in a 2008? Have to check my records, somehow it was a non event… Want a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. Would also like a luxury crossover/suv too. What to do…

  2. I had a Scion xB for 7 years. Before that I had a Jeep Cherokee for 3 years but it got totaled (wasn’t my fault). Bought the xB in 2005, bought my house in 2009. In 2012 I moved to Beijing so I sold the xB but have kept the house as a rental property. In August I’ll be “settling down” in Switzerland where we will rent (houses are quite expensive there). Still keeping my US rental property. 🙂

  3. Always drove company cars till 2010. Bought brand new Nissan Note July 2010, now at 96,000 Km (app.60,000 miles). Hope to drive it till the end of 2018 if not more.

    Additional note: I bought my current residence in April 2004 and have no intention of moving elsewhere unless a major life changing event occurs. No mortgage.

  4. In 2007 I bought a new Honda Fit. It just hit 90k this week, and no intention to sell.
    Before I had a 1998 Nissan Sentra BASE MODEL – stick shift, no power steering, rolly windows, no right side mirror, no AC, etc. I purchased the Sentra while I was a broke college student and drove it under 3 years.

  5. Ok…guess I fit what you’re describing.
    -Got married 2008
    -Bought first house early 2009
    -1st car- 2008 Toyota yaris (paid off in Feb 2012)
    -2nd car-2007 Ford edge (not paid off)
    -Oct 2012- husband loses job, we put house up for sale, move out of state to my parents where husband finds new job (I’m stay at home mom with new baby then)
    -Dec 2012- house sells, but to pay for mold removal, we need $7k we don’t have and since we have lost all equity from the home, we sell the yaris and use the cash to pay for it.
    -March 2013- buy a 2002 dodge pick up truck
    -June 2013- buy new house, realize husband commute is 45 min and the gas on truck is ridiculous. Do math and decide it is cheaper to have a car payment on a fuel efficient car. Use truck as down payment for 2010 Chevy aveo. Same month, Ford edge becomes an absolute lemon. $3.5k in repairs. Mechanic says to get rid of it. We have no savings left. But we use the edge as a down payment for a used dodge grand caravan.

    So…we are back to where we started years ago….mortgage and two car payments. Unforeseen things like husband losing his job threw our plans to live in our first home forever…

  6. I got my first car in 2005. It was a 2000 Ford Taurus. I went to school NC 600 miles from hometown in Jersey. So I had to drive home several times throughout the year. By the time I got the car it was already 5 years old and I kept until I couldn’t keep it anymore. It started to cost major money to fix. 6 years after I purchased the car, it was considered unsafe and it was nearly stop moving when I got to a hill. After shelling out thousands of dollars to try and fix it but coming up short each time, I decided to get a new car. I purchased (financed) a 2010 Mazdaspeed3 in 2011. I would have loved to have kept my Taurus but I just couldn’t fix it. I will say I should have just saved the money I was throwing at the old one to try and fix it for a downpayment on another car. Being that my student loan payments take a whopping 60% of my take home pay saving money for a downpayment was difficult. I don’t feel bad about my purchase though. I love my new car and fully intend to keep it until it won’t move anymore. I did that with my old one essentially it was just 5 years old and pretty run down when I bought it in the first place. I know for a fact though I’m not committing to a mortgage here in Jersey. I’ll be a renter as long as I work here. It doens’t make sense to pay over 200K for a liveable home here and then tage on nearly 8K a year in property taxes! I’ll by a home elsewhere but I don’t see me leaving my job anytime soon as other lower cost of living states won’t pay me enough to make my 1k monthly student loan along with my other living expenses. sigh….it’s a hopeless cycle. I won’t likely be able to save up a downpayment. A decent studio in a decent town will cost nearly $900 per month. So living in one really big room with a kitchenette will cost you nearly a mortgage payment. Don’t move to NJ!!

  7. 2008 Subaru legacy purchased Dec 2007 only car I have ever owned.

    House purchased in Dec 2011. I 6 min commute to work and my mortgage is about the same as rent for an apartment 1/4 of the size of my house. My house is in the best school district in the area, so even if I lost my job I wouldn’t sell unless I got a job that was over 65 miles from my house.

  8. Bought my first car when I moved out on my own in June of 2008. It was a 1999 Toyota Corolla, and I bought it for $4500 cash, from my parents who’d originally bought it used themselves. I still have it. It has just over 205000 km on it now (just over 127k miles), and I AM going to be driving that thing until it sputters and dies.

    Saving diligently for our house downpayment in the meantime.

  9. I was in the habit of leasing cars for a long time. I have wised up and realized in my situation leasing didn’t make sense. I purchased my current car, that I loved, which I had leased. I’ve owned it for over 6 years and plan to continue using it for at least 4 more years.

    The nice thing is up until Sept of last year I was commuting 220 miles a week for work, and now I walk to work and maybe put 220 miles on my car in a month, so I think I may be able to keep the car even longer.

    I see friends’ new cars and love the cool new features, but I love my no car payment situation more.

  10. We bought our first house in 1998 and owned until 2007, when a job offer took us from Texas to North Carolina. Have lived in the house we bought in 2007 since then, with no intentions of moving.

    As for cars, we currently have three. A 2009 Hyundai Sonata with 107k miles, bought used with 18k in 2010. Next is a 2007 Honda Odyssey with 90k, bought used with 40k in 2011. And my baby is a 1994 Mazda Miata with 130k, bought used in 1997 with 45k miles. I only drive that one in nice weather with the top down.

    All are paid for. The Hyundai will go to my daughter when she gets her license in two years, and we will likely by a newer used Hyundai. It has been a great car.

    Prior to the Hyundai and Odyssey, we had a 1996 Nissan Maxima and a 1998 Nissan Quest that we bought used and drove 13 years and 175 thousand miles each.

  11. Bought a 2000 Honda Civic in 2002 for $10k. Drove it until it started nickel-and-dimeing me with repair costs in 2013. My parents are currently letting me borrow their 2001 Toyota Tundra, which only had 50k miles on it. Planning on driving it as long as I need to in order to save up for another used car. Not because I don’t like driving it — because it costs me WAY too much in gas $.

    We did buy our house in 2010 because of the tax credit, knowing that we weren’t going to be here forever. My husband was starting grad school and knew he’d be living here for at least 4-5 years, and it was an inexpensive enough house that we could put a good amount of equity into it at that time.

  12. Very inventive! We have had our current cars for 10 years and 5 years, with no plans to replace them. 🙂

  13. But this post poses another question (or potential test?):

    In general, how long should you own your home for it to be considered a good decision to have purchased it in the first place?

  14. My Current Car: 2006 Mazda 3 purchased in 2009. 163,000 mi on it and plan to keep until the repairs cost too much for what the car is worth.

    My Previous Car: 1993 Dodge Dakota purchased from my father in 2006. Drove it until repairs cost too much for what car was worth. Sold in 2009.

    Husband’s Current Car: 1993 Honda Civic purchased in 2006. 150,000 mi on it and plan to do a trade-in within the year for a 2014 Mazda 3 Hatchback. The Civic has had a great life, but it’s falling apart, literally.

    Husband’s Previous Car: 1990 Honda Accord-was his families car that became his. Purchased Honda Civic when repairs cost too much for worth of car.

    We really are two people who keep our cars until the very end! That being said, we’re in our late 20s/early 30s and have already bought and sold our first house. It took us purchasing a house to realize we wanted to move to another state. Whoops. We owned for 3 years, knowing full well when we bought it that we would be selling within 5 years. The good news is that we were able to sell it and not have to put any money in. We’re now happy renters in Madison, WI and hope to purchase a house in the next 5 years. We’re (happily) in no rush to be homeowners again until we’re sure we’re financially ready for the commitment that is homeownership.

  15. I bought my 2005 Pacifica in the summer of 2005 with 11,000 miles. 99,000 miles later, I’m still driving it.

    We bought a 2009 Chevy Tahoe to be able to fit our family of 5 (plus kids’ friends and pull a horse trailer)in 2012, paid it off in 2013(5 years early) and intend to drive that forever, too.

  16. Car 1- Berretta- drove 2 years until someone ran a red light & totaled it
    Car 2- 1997 Grand am, drove 8 years until everything needed replacing, sold for $500
    Car 3- 2001 Alero Drove 8 years until engine needed to be replaced (would have cost less to replace engine than buy new, but wanted to upgrade to car with more room).
    Current Cars- 2001 Beetle and 2007 Impala. Will keep until die or need three seats in the back (Beetle).
    House 1- Bought in 2007, sold in 2011 when husband went to grad school out of state. Made $40,000.
    House 2: Duplex bought in 2013, no plans of selling anytime soon.

  17. I drive a 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage that I have owned since 2000. It has almost 218k miles and I will continue to drive it until it dies.

    Purchased a home in June 2009 with no plans to move or sell.

    I don’t like change 🙂

  18. Bought my Scion tC in December of 2004 and she’s still going strong. I’m hoping she stays with it for another 10 years! And I KNOW I will not be buying anytime soon… not ready to set up those solid roots yet 🙂

  19. Bought my 2007 Kia Spectra in cash for around $9k Summer 2010 when my 1990 200k miles Volvo Wagon had become to be too expensive to fix. She still purrs like a kitten. My husband’s Hyundai Tiburon was still running okay, but we sold it (for $2250) so he could buy a 2001 Dodge Pickup truck ($2.5k in cash) because my mother’s old truck that we used for all kinds of jobs (plowing, dump runs, bring home free firewood, etc.) finally kicked the bucket. Truck is still running great.

    Purchased first (and hopefully last) home in 2013, no plans to sell – great house, great location, great price.

    Saving slowly for replacement vehicle of either truck or car, whichever falls apart first. My next car will definitely be a hybrid, whatever I can afford in cash at the time. I refuse to have a car payment.

  20. I bought my car used in 2001 (it’s a 2000, so it was gently used). Still own it and only have 112,000 miles on it. Plan to own it until I hit 200,000 miles, at this rate 10 more years (though I will be saving so I can replace sooner in the event of something catastrophic).

    My prior car was my first car, I had it 2 or 3 years. I only replaced it because it got totaled.

  21. Vehicle #1 was bought by my parents for me to share with my sister when I was 21. I drove it for 3 years, and then my sister drove it for another 2 after that (’97 Grand Am, I think it just got to the point where it was too expensive to fix?).

    Vehicle #2 is a 2004 Toyota Corolla that I bought new. I’m still driving it, and I plan to drive it until it’s either too expensive to fix or the seats fall out of it. =)

    (Technically, I have bought a 3rd, which is my husband’s car. That’s been driven for 5 years with no plans to replace it any time soon.)

  22. We bought our first house in 1994 after we got married. He was driving a 1972 cutlass and I had a new 1993 cavalier. The house was an older home and we were able to buy it without a mortgage. Baby #1 was born in 1996 and unfortunately had cerebral palsy due to being a premie and by the time he was 3 it became apparent that our lovely little ranch was not going to be wheelchair friendly further down the road. In 1998 we sold his car and bought a 1994 minivan. We just took that van off the road this past December. The engine was shot so we replaced it with a 2007 PT Cruiser. In 1999 we sold house #1, bought house #2 for 80k more than we sold#1 for, and had baby #2 all in a few weeks of each other. We still live in house #2 and I plan on going to either the funeral home or the nursing home from here in about 35 years if all goes well. We sold my cavalier in 2004 and bought a newish minivan. I am still driving it and will continue to for hopefully another 10 years at least. We have 2 tandem sea kayaks and my son’s wheelchair to lug around so I will always have a van. Baby #2 turns 16 next year and will be learning to drive so the old 1994 minivan (currently in a friend’s barn) may be getting a new engine. She will need a vehicle to get to the nearby university or college in a few years. We do not have any public transportation in our area and it is too far to ride a bike. Buying has been very worthwhile for us. Of course being mortgage free for both houses helped tremendously.

  23. I’ve only ever had one car, which I bought new at the end of 2005. It has about 65,000 miles on it. I planned to drive it at least 10 years, but seeing how little I actually drive, I’ve revised that to at least 15 years.

    I don’t think that has much to do with our housing decisions though. We bought our 2 bedroom house at the very bottom of the housing slump using the federal tax credit, and we expected that we might decide to move once we had a kid who was old enough to take up a good amount of space. So far the house value has appreciated 50% over four years. Of course, many of the other houses in our city have appreciated as much, so the extra value we get will just go into the next house unless we move to a cheaper, less growth intensive area.

    And again, using the NYT housing calculator, buying in our city is cheaper than renting over five years.

  24. First car was a 1996 Dodge Neon, ran it to the ground in 2003 when I became pregnant with my first son. Second car was a 2003 Chevy Cavalier and I ran it to the ground in 2011 when I became pregnant with our second son. Now I have a 2011 Chevy Cruze. All cars where paid off and even though I have a car I only commute by bus/train. We bought our first house last year in the Puget Sound area. It will be our forever home.

  25. Bought first car in 2007. Toyota Tacoma. Still have the car it has 95,000 miles on it. People say now is the time to trade it in. Why would I trade in a car that will run for another 10 years, and is paid for. I do plan to run this thing to the ground. 250,000 here we come.

  26. Got my first car when I started college 1989 Isuzu I-Mark for $900 (still have yet to see another one on the road), and drove it until it died 2 years later, got my next car, 1992 Olds Cutlass Supreme for $2500 which got me through the rest of college and into my first job.
    Then right after I started my first job I bought a brand new car. I had a job why not have a nice car. So I bought my 2003 VW Golf TDI, Spent way more than I should have but I still have it and it is Paid off. Still drive it everyday and have almost 400,000km on it now.
    I plan to drive it until it dies then go from there.

  27. I adore my Honda Pilot! Its a 2008 (looks exactly like yours Ninja). I bought it used in early 2011. It has 130,000-ish Kilometers (81,000 miles?). I love her, but to be honest, I don’t know how much longer I will keep her. I bought an SUV because I have a mitt-full of kids and dogs. Now that the kids are teenagers and would sooner lick a llama than hang out with Mom, I don’t know if it’s making good fuel-consumption-sense for me to keep it.

  28. Well your theory holds true in our case. Bought my first house in 90 – it’s now paid for.
    Driving a 2000 Explorer sport for last 14 years. She’s got 240 K on her so expecting to replace in the next few years.
    Got married and now living in hubby’s house. Hope to have his mortgage finished within a couple of years.
    Meanwhile my first house is rented. It’s smaller than the one we’re in – so we’re planning to downsize back to it as we get older.

  29. […] Debt in the Face blog brings an interesting litmus test regarding home buying. The suggestion is to review your car buying history as a way to gauge whether or not you’re ready to buy a home and will stay in it long enough for the investment to be worth it. While it’s not backed by […]

  30. Very first car was a 1986 Toyota Corolla SR5. Loved the hell out of that car. Drove it from 2003 until 2009 when both the engine and transmission went out at the same time. It was cheaper to buy a new car rather than fix it.

    Second car was a 2006 Chevy Cavalier that was bought in 2009. Owned that car until Thanksgiving 2011 when my wife was driving it and was hit nearly head-on by a driver going the wrong way on the highway at ~70mph.

    While it wasn’t the most responsible decision we’ve ever made (it’s also not a regrettable one) we purchased a brand new 2012 Ford Fusion at the end of 2011. And yes, like you said, we have full intentions of driving this one in to the ground. 250,000 miles is my target goal for this car.

  31. Been married 8 years. In that we’ve purchased one car, a 2006 Pacifica and driven a 2000 Explorer that I had before the marriage. However, we are on our third house. I relocate frequently for work and we don’t pay closing costs or realtor commissions so it makes sense to buy.

    I think your test is a good general rule, but not a great one: too many valid exceptions.

  32. Got my first car – a 2000 Chevy Malibu in 2001 – had that until 2009 when I sold it and moved to NYC.

    Bought (for very cheap) a 2000 Toyota Solara from my Dad (who bought it new) when he moved out of the country in 2012. It’s now 15 years old and only has 70,000 miles on it – so we’ll be keeping it until it dies, which with any luck won’t be any time soon.

    Hubby’s a New Yorker so has never owned a car. Now that we’ve left the city, though, we’ll probably invest in a second (used) car at some point – and drive that into the ground as well!

  33. First car – a used 1983 Delta 88 when I was in high school. I drove it for about 5 years, then sold it for $200 less than what I paid for it. While it was a good starter car, I needed something that got better gas mileage, as I was now commuting for work.

    Second car – a used 1995 Pontiac Grand Am SE that was still on warranty. I drove it for over 13 years. During that time, I moved from a small town with no public transit to a major city. I gave up the car when the repairs started to pile up.

    I now have a bus pass and use a car share service when needed, and cut my annual transportation costs by more than half. I live in an expensive city where buying a home is out of the question, as I’d need to make 6 times what I currently earn.

    I like my apartment, and rent is reasonable. I doubt I will ever be a homeowner.

  34. Car 1: 2014 Corolla brand new, husband enjoys it and wanted something fuel efficient and smaller to drive to work.

    Car 2: 2011 Rav4, bought after it was a lease car for someone for a year. Wanted something that we could haul at least a little bit of stuff in.

    Previous cars: 2002 Monte Carlo, we traded that in for the Rav4, we were pretty sure that the transmission was getting ready to go out on it and it had a bunch of other issues. 1994 Cavalier, we’re going to donate it, the master cylinder has gone out of it and we can’t really fix it where it is parked.

  35. I owned my previous car, a Buick Skyhawk, for 13 years. Bought it brand new because the one used car I’ve owned was a piece of junk. Traded in the Skyhawk (also junk) for a new 2002 Hyundai Accent. Best car I’ve ever owned. My next car will be a Hyundai. So I’ve owned only 2 cars in the past 25 years. Wow! I’d never realized that before now.

Comments are closed.

Related Content

Most Popular