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How Little Do You NEED? (Your Vehicle) | CRANK101

How Little Do You NEED? (Your Vehicle)

This is a mini-series on the topic, “How little do you need?”. This is the 3rd article, about “How little do you NEED? (Your Vehicle).

Having been in Thailand for 17 years I’ve found that I need SO little to be happy. And actually, as I had less and less I realized more and more happiness. I’ll try to explain in this series as I reveal how little I need here in Thailand, but also how you can make changes for yourself wherever you are, the USA? Canada? Europe?

  • If you missed the first in the series you will find it here, “How LITTLE do you Need?”
  • Second was, “How little do you NEED? (Your Home)”
  • Third is this one!
  • Fourth is, “How little do you NEED? (Your Possessions – coming next)

This series, “How little do you NEED?” is all about finding out how little you actually NEED to live an awesome life.

The big conflict comes when you are considering what a NEED is for you. Are you a person that considers yourself in a “higher class” of discriminating taste? Are you completely unable to avoid the scam put forth by advertising companies, your friends and others in society that are telling you what type of vehicle you SHOULD drive? If so you are likely driving one of these makes: Mercedes; Porsche; Lexus; Volvo; Infinity; Cadillac… there are so many more, but living here in Thailand for 3 years and seeing so few luxury cars I’ve forgotten most of them!

Having grown up in a family of moderately low-income I was lucky enough to have cars like an AMC Javelin, Volkswagon hatchback… a Volkswagon Bus (before they were fashionable)… a Plymouth Volare station wagon… and a Buick Skylark… before I finally insisted that we buy a Japanese made car.

My mother came back from a Mitsubishi dealership with a car that she liked. Though I liked it much better than any American made car she could have found I made her take it back. I went to the dealer with her and insisted they take it back immediately. They did, despite having done all the paperwork for her to purchase it when she returned.

I steered mom toward a Honda. Why? I had recently taken a ride in my friend’s Honda Accord 2 door 4 speed. I was amazed at the comfort level of the car. There was such attention to detail… to ergonomics. The shifting was ultra-smooth and the tiny 4 cylinder engine was more powerful than our 6 cylinder Buick. I was floored! I knew mom must get a Honda for not only the reasons I’d mentioned but also because common sense dictated that she must.

She had limited income and couldn’t have the car in the repair shop much without going completely broke. The Honda Civic and Accord had both won “Car and Driver”‘s coveted “Car of the Year” award numerous times. I had friends that owned Hondas and they were all very satisfied.

Why buy a Buick or a Plymouth? I’m all for supporting Americans, but you know what? I’m even more for acting intelligently than I am for acting patriotically. Patriotism is nice but I’m not going to pay extra for it.

I decided in about 1985, while in the United States Air Force even, that I would buy products that were made the best and that I could afford. What that meant was for the next 20 years I owned only Honda, Acura, Toyota, and Lexus vehicles. If Ford started making a vehicle that could compete with any of the cars I bought, I’d have bought it. They didn’t. I didn’t buy their clearly inferior cars.

Couples with children need a car or maybe something bigger, an SUV or a truck. If you don’t have children and are the adventurous type, look into a motorcycle or scooter. There are many on the market now and they’re almost ALL cheaper than a car. They get better gas mileage and they will save you thousands of dollars per year over a car just in gas and regular maintenance expenses.

How Much Vehicle Do You Actually NEED?

I’m going to suggest something…

You only need as much vehicle as will fit you and the members of your family, and a trunk. If you don’t have a trunk then you have a roof rack. What more do you need?

Starting with this basic assumption you can add things on if you need more for special circumstances… for instance, maybe sometimes you have go kayak fishing. I used to have a kayak in Tampa, Florida. And, while I had an apartment on a canal that I could drop the kayak into when I wanted to venture out into Tampa Bay, sometimes I wanted to hit new territory.

Did I buy a truck? Heck no, I bought some foam pieces and strapped that 14-foot kayak on the top of my Honda Prelude 2 door and hit the road. Would a truck have been more convenient to haul my kayak around to different rivers and bays? Yeah, sure. But, how many times per month would make it worth it for me to buy a truck and waste gas ALL the time I drove instead of use the gas-efficient Honda Prelude? Hmmm… it just didn’t add up.

What about the times I needed to carry a lot of stuff… maybe when I moved apartments or had to carry something big like a lawnmower or pieces of furniture? Wouldn’t a truck do that much better than a Honda Prelude? Heck yeah! Did I buy a truck for that? Heck no, I rented a small 5×7 foot trailer from U-Haul for $18 per day to pull behind the Honda.

Let’s see, I need the capacity of a truck about 14 times per year. I can buy a truck that gets 50% of the gas mileage that my Honda gets or I could use the Honda… which makes sense? The car always makes sense. Renting a trailer for $260 per year from U-Haul is so much smarter than buying a truck to waste gas driving the whole year.

If I drive 50 miles per day (and I did) it would cost me about $4.50 per day in gas for the Honda. In a year that’s about $1640 in gas. Using a truck that gets 50% of the gas mileage of the Honda it would have cost me twice as much or, $3280.

If I drove a motorcycle gas and expenses might cost me $3.00 per day. About $1080 per year. I could rent a truck for about $30 per day fourteen times per year… that’s $420. $1080 + 420 = $1500 per year. A little better than a car on expenses, but a whole lot more fun. Insurance would kick in and for the first couple years of motorcycle ownership you’d likely have done better in a car… but, we haven’t looked at the cost of the vehicles to buy.

The motorcycle you buy might be, and probably would be $10,000 cheaper than a car or truck. Hmm, $10,000 over the course of 3 years of payments of principal and interest…. that’s a LOT of extra cash.

Personally, I favor the motorcycle option because I’ve seen a few million motorcycle riders here over the course of 3 years. I’ve seen it work on a mass scale. I even drove through the city of Bangkok on a motorbike… was stuck in traffic for 6 hours and yet I got through it without a mishap. I drove exceptionally defensively. I had to.

Thailand has 65 million people. Maybe 45 million are adults of age to drive. I will bet that 20 million of them own a motorcycle. Not joking. Even if someone has a car or SUV, a truck, they also likely have a motorcycle to use for short trips. It’s just so efficient and easy to get through traffic on one.

Motorcycles ARE more dangerous than cars or trucks if you’re driving one, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen some horrific accidents here of course, but I think the accidents that I saw happen ALL could have been avoided by smart (defensive) driving. Thai people tend to go a little nuts on the road sometimes.

They think that when they die, it was “karma” or fate. It was their time to go – nothing else to it. As a result, sometimes you’ll see someone driving completely insane as they realize all too well that if it’s their time to die they’ll die then. If not, then another time. They’re OK with either result!

If someone drives a motorcycle defensively enough there is no reason that you can go for 40 years driving one without a major accident. I truly believe that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the USA or here in Thailand. Each country has its own nuances when it comes to the way people drive on the roads. Once learned, you can drive very defensively and avoid nearly all accidents. I’m sure of it.

Don’t be afraid of motorcycles. Respect them, yes, absolutely. Learn everything you can about driving one safely and maintaining your own motorcycle – or at least being aware when you need even minor adjustments to it to keep it running as brand new throughout its life.

I’d love to see everyone in the world drop 1-4 levels from the vehicles they are presently driving. It’s such a silly thing to own a vehicle over $20,000 USD. Your HOME should cost close to $20,000, not your vehicle. It’s pure silliness to buy a car brand new. Buy a couple of years old and save the glitz and glam – and a lot of cash.

Still, buy a Honda… an Acura… a Toyota…. Read Car and Driver and other car magazines and buy ONLY the best cars that exist. Why would someone buy ANYTHING but the best on the market? There’s enough of them.

When the Honda Civic was the best-rated car in the USA – do you think there was a shortage of them? Nope. You could find 10 in any Honolulu Advertiser classified section on any Sunday of the year. I know, I was always looking for what was available.

Here are some ways to act intelligently about the vehicle you own:

1. Buy one vehicle and drive it until you need to bury it or it catches fire. Really. Don’t fall for the societal expectation of changing your car all the time! Upgrading! You’re killing yourself on the cash with UPGRADING. You’re upgrading your image in society – but you’re suffering silently as the bills roll in, gradually getting larger as you continue your foolishness.

2. Buy ONLY the best car on the market that fits your family. If you have a family of 6, you might need an SUV or a VAN, by all means find the one that’s the best, keep your payment VERY manageable, and buy one a couple of years old.

3. Please don’t ever spend more than $20,000 on a car. Please. You’re showing you’re a sucker for the ad industry if you do so. You need to SHOW your smarts… you can show them by refusing to listen to the rest of American society who are also under the influence of the advertising industry. Let the yuppies buy the beamers and the Lexus LX’s… buy something that will last and yet isn’t just to make others smile as you drive by. Did you ever smile at someone driving a beamer? Me neither.

4. Downgrade your vehicle. I’m guessing if you are reading this article and are concerned about living life in an AWESOME way that you are already a victim of the advertising industry. I’d guess you are upper income and you have too much vehicle. Downgrade and take control of your life. Stop giving your cash away to slick advertising companies that have played you like a worked and mindless marionette.

5. Can you think of something that applies to you?

6. Can you think of something else?

Best of Life!

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6 thoughts on “How Little Do You NEED? (Your Vehicle)

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  • at 3:08 am

    Hi Vern.

    You’ve written some sound advice about cars. I’ve noticed that here in Thailand there are very few old or ‘vintage’ cars to be seen on the roads – people seem to obsessed with owning the latest model and having a ‘big face’ in the eyes of their neighbors and anyone else that sees them on the road.

    We recently updated our car as the old one was over twenty years old and wasn’t too reliable, especially for long distance trips outside of Ubon (the city we live in in Northeast Thailand). We bought a Toyota Vios, but chose the cheapest model as it had all that we wanted in a car, and the upgraded models seemed to have very little extra for the extra cash we would have paid for either of them.

    When we did have the old car, everyone in Ubon would stare as we drove by, especially if they clocked eyes on me, a Westerner sat in a clapped out old motor! They looked in total disbelief – it was really amusing at times!

    On the point of Thai driving habits, my wife is Thai, but she hates the way her countrymen (and women!) drive on the roads. Having lived in the UK, where people generally abide by the rules of the road, she finds many Thai drivers and motorbike riders to be rude and downright dangerous. I say to her, “Jai yen yen!” (Keep cool), but she often rants at the ignorance of some of the drivers we encounter.

    Another good post, Vern.
    Be well, Gary.

  • at 4:10 am

    Hi Vern

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I really appreciated your letting me know my blog ranks high on life happiness. That was news to me!

    I’m always happy to meet someone who shares my interest in looking at life in a positive way!

    Enjoy your day.

  • Pingback: How LITTLE do you need? (Mini-series)

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  • at 8:22 am

    What if you don’t need a car at all?

    In the US, there’s FlexCar, which allows you to borrow a car on the occasions when you need it for a low fee. You can also take the bus, carpool, or bike. I lived for a year in Portland, OR without a car and barely missed it. I had my groceries delivered, and biked around when I needed to. (I also never touched fast food, for the shame of having a Burger King cup on my bike!)


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