Downsize the Car: Selling My SUV for Savings

I made an uneducated decision when I was hired on at my first “real” job – I went out and bought an SUV.

This was probably not my worst financial mistake of all time, but it was certainly wasteful and ill conceived (the opinion of a debt-happy, consumption focused girl may or may not have been a part of the decision). I justified the expense of owning the SUV for over 4 years, just as someone in denial would, even though I knew it was ridiculous somewhere in the back of my mind:

  • I needed the 4 wheel drive for the snow
  • I needed the cargo space
  • On average I drive less that most people, so the expense wasn’t that bad
  • I already owned the SUV, and it would certainly be a big hassle to sell it and buy a new car

Earlier this year I finally stopped ripping myself off and denying the true cost of SUV ownership, and I took the time to swap it for a compact car and bike combo.

It took a bit of elbow grease (who knew it was so hard to get dog hair out of upholstery?), persistence, & the vetting of a few Craigslist nut jobs, but I was able to sell the SUV after a few months and a few price reductions.  I also found my used replacement car quickly and easily after searching around online, and I bought a used bike on Craigslist for $25.

My maintenance costs & gas consumption are lower and my miles per gallon are way up; it turns out the benefits of downsizing far outweigh any of my previous unfounded concerns:

SUV Compact Car & Bike
Average MPG: 20 MPG 36 MPG (car)
Exercise: none regular cardio (bike)
Average Monthly Fuel Cost: $150 $70
Monthly Insurance Cost: $80 $50
Average Monthly Maintenance Cost: $70 $50 (estimated *)

Total Estimated Yearly Savings: $1,560

Not only are my monthly expenses reduced, but my carbon footprint isn’t as large, I feel less ridiculous when driving alone, and I recovered more than $3,000 of equity from the SUV after subtracting the cost of purchasing the replacement car.  I am very happy that I now have $3,000 freed up that can be put to much better use in securing my financial independence.

As for cargo space, I bought a hatchback model and attached a tow hitch that facilitates a cargo carrier. It seems crazy, but between the cargo carrier and space available in the hatch area, I believe I now have more hauling room than I did using the SUV.

This tale of downsizing my car isn’t a unique story, but I hope that it serves as a practical example of how easy it is to stop making excuses and lower your transportation costs.  I’m not sure how I fell into the trap of SUV ownership in the first place, but I am very happy to be free; if you drive an SUV or a car with a low MPG, don’t let fear and excuses stop you from fixing an unnecessary and excessive expense in your budget!


* It’s not clear yet what the average maintenance costs will be for the new car, but they will certainly be lower than the SUV because the new car is cheaper to maintain in general & some of my driving has also been replaced by bike commuting.

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