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Of Car-Buying Ideas (IS300 Advice)

As a new dad, I’ve started taking a bit of a harder look at my family’s budget. We aren’t close to being tight or anything, but at the same time increased monthly consumables costs coupled with daycare costs and reduced income by way of health insurance for the baby and a dependent care savings account are making plans a little less rosy than they otherwise could be.

The most likely candidate for casualty is my S3. To preface, I love the car, it’s been perfectly reliable and I’d have no issue keeping it indefinitely. That said, the note on it is about $500/mo and still owe a little less than $19k on it. We also have a payment on my wife’s car, since we had to replace it late 2017 when hers was totaled by an inattentive driver on the interstate. Her car is cheap, practical and has a 100k warranty. Mine is… uh, practical. She also has a really long commute and has a much greater need for reliable transportation than me.

Wholesale on my car is $21k (Edmunds), $22k (KBB), $25k (NADA), so we’ll just call an expected value on it of $22.5k, which gives about $3.5k in equity. My goal is to eliminate a car payment, and something that fits in the similar space as the S3 is an old IS300, one of which has just popped locally in great shape and with the rare 5-speed as a private sale. High miles at over 150k, but it’s the vaunted 2JZ-GE, with basic maintenance it’ll run longer than I will. It’ll need some of that maintenance right off the bat – timing belt and water pump, probably plugs and it’s still on the stock clutch. All told, I estimate that to be about $2k in work, $1k of which (timing belt/water pump/plugs) needs to be done basically upon delivery. It’s also been a southern car, so it has the sticky dash, which I’d want to try and resolve in a DIY manner if at all possible.

I think the seller will want about $8k out of it, and I’d agree if it didn’t need the maintenance I’ve called out. I think my top dollar on it would be about $7k, which would put me in it for $8k after the immediate maintenance is sorted out. The good news then would be I’d only owe my savings account about $4k back and then no longer have a car payment, so I could repurpose that money going forward to either paying my wife’s car off quickly (no car payment life just sounds amazing) or into savings for more rainy day funds, funnel more towards retirement or something like a fun car fund down the road.

In the meantime, it’s not like the IS300 is a penalty box – it’s a damn nice car, just older. The one I’m considering is in great shape cosmetically, has been well-maintained, just has a few things coming due in the short term, which I think should get the price where I’d want it to be. The other bonus with the IS300 is that I don’t see it depreciating any further. A well-equipped 5-speed car, even if (even) higher mileage should still have a decent return if well-maintained and loved.

Thoughts, Oppos? Should I just keep the Audi and make do with my existing budget, or take the plunge on an older car and theoretically save a bunch of money? Those of you who have IS300’s, have they been as reliable as you have hoped? Any major issues I need to be aware of that I haven’t called out above?

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