Civic Dreams

If by some miracle you’ve been following my riveting posts avidly for the last few months, you’ll know that I’m a student at the Faculty of Forestry at U of T, working towards my Masters of Forest Conservation. As you might guess, I like trees and I don’t like pollution.

Ironically, the very program that’s teaching me how to use forests sustainably may also be the reason I end up buying a car — the most unsustainable form of transportation possible except for a personal airplane. Woops.

Turns out I might need a vehicle this summer to get to and from my internship in a national park. Needless to say, if I do have to get a car, I’ll be purchasing the most fuel-efficient old workhorse I can find (oxymoron, perhaps?). But first I’ll need to decide how much I’m willing to pay — and I’m not talking about just the initial cost of the car. In other words, I need to find out what it will really cost to own a car.

In my case, I may end up selling it again in the fall depending on my living situation, so I’m more interested in a cheap, used vehicle that can get me around this summer. I don’t want to add a car loan to my debt burden, so I’m looking at paying less than $2,000 for the car. Yes, that means I’ll have a really ugly, old car.

If I was willing to enter into a financing agreement, I could look into taking out a car loan from my bank, or working with the dealer on a financing plan (more info here). Either way, the length of the payment period and the interest rate are the key things to look for – together, they’ll tell you how much you’ll pay each month and how much interest you’ll pay overall.

I also have to think about the cost of gas and car insurance, which in my case will add up to as much as or more than the initial purchase price. Gas prices are looking less-than-stellar these days, but since I’m over 25, a girl and will be driving a practical ’97 Civic four-door (or something equally unsexy) outside the city, insurance shouldn’t be too bad. In fact, using this quote finder for Ontario insurers, it looks like I could pay only around $1,000 a year, or under $100 a month. Sweet.

So, best case scenario, here’s what I might expect to pay for my future car from June to September:

Purchase price: $1900
Registration and plate fees: $75
Insurance: $300 to $400
Gas: $500 to $700

Total: $2800 to $3100

If you’re considering buying a used car, the Ministry of Transportation also has some useful information. I’ll keep you posted on my situation.

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