The spare car: A vehicle in addition to your daily driver; an exciting motor you can enjoy when the commuter makes you want to slit your wrists. It has always been my policy to have a spare vehicle I can drive on the weekends or at will. You should follow my lead - it has led to a lot less stress and more financial freedom.
Background: I have always had a spare vehicle. All the way back to my 21st year of life I had a newer Nissan Titan and a Z32 300zx as a weekend car. For the last 13 years since, I haven’t gone more than a couple months (mostly searching for the next one) of having another fun weekend car. It has proved to be one of my greatest secrets.
What Is It? The weekend car is a gem. It is the car you’ve always wanted, or something that makes you inclusive to a group, or just makes you feel better about life. We can’t all have a car collection. If we all could, you’d just jump into something that felt right for the day or occasion. You could go buy a fleet of broken down junkers, but I don’t find anything alluring about cars you can’t drive. Each time you wrench on one of the junkers, you’ll either run out of money, or something else will break. This quickly leads to financial ruin.
Why Buy One? I’ve found that having a third car (as a married or dating couple), seldomly driven, has led to less repairs and less headaches. I currently own an E60 M5. Now the stories about hot mess they can be are mostly true. But what if you don’t drive it much? It can’t break [as much] if it isn’t being driven? Exactly.
Now your spare car needs to be something you can afford to buy and repair. Even if those repairs need to be spread out over a couple months if something catastrophic happens. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, I’d try to change that first before buying something that could send you back to Section 8 housing.
How many of you have bought a fun car only to find out you hate driving it everyday or the repairs have soured the relationship to the point of selling? I have several times. Even cars that require a start up procedure such as older diesels, my current M5, or even cars with a failing manual transmission. I hate having to think about what I’m doing in the morning... cram it into gear while still half asleep and keep it between the ditches to work! My M5 needs to be warmed up, but the Toyota not so much.
Focus. Focus. Focus. The spare car is something you can focus on. Fleets of cars require fleet maintenance. The spare car can be mended by one person, and those problems can be solved by focused research. I’ve realized that the more projects I have - the less that I know. By focusing on one vehicle you quickly become an expert. I experienced this with my first and second Z32.
I’ve had good luck finding forums that have saved my bacon several times when something has broken. In my Z32 days, it was TwinTurbo.net - those guys know their stuff. Everything from relocating the knock sensors, to fixing a broken glove box latch with a zip tie, they had it all! If I’d had several cars... even two, I probably wouldn’t have had time to focus on each project. I’d have been spread too thin. Life has many facets, don’t let automotive problems take more energy than they should.
Expertise! My first Z32 was a car that I’d always wanted. I adored it as I drove it through my college days. I was an 18 year old, in college, with a sports car. I was lucky. I was however, not lucky when it came to repairs. Everything on that thing broke. It was a steaming pile of bubble era fodder. All the sensors went bad at some point, injectors, the heater core, and even the timing belt tried to eat it self. I came so close to near ruin it isn’t even funny to think about.
I swore to myself I’d never own another Z32. Flash forward three years and I bought another one. This time, I was an expert. I had memorized parts of the factory manual, and had calluses on top of calluses from removing EGR tube bolts. The second time around was different. The car got driven A LOT less. I didn’t have to depend on it and any repairs could be performed in a timely manner (as opposed to - SH%# I have to get to work in the morning!).
This same philosophy as followed each fun spare car I’ve owned. If I got tired of working on my XJ Cherokee, I’d walk away. Walking away is important. Otherwise things get broken, blood gets drawn, and cars get sold for losses. I have only so much patience. There are always many things in life that drain patience and when you finally get to the project car at hand... things aren’t always fun.
Final Thoughts. All of you need to have a spare car. The fun car you’ve always wanted is most likely going to be a hated daily driver. Your kidneys will be pulverized by the daily commute, and you’re more likely to sell it with a bad taste in your mouth. Instead, buy the car you’ve always wanted and drive it occasionally. I hopped into the M5 the other day and actually got goosebumps - you don’t get those everyday when you daily drive your hero car.
The pairings I had for cars have been unusual at times, but always something fun or a project next to a daily driver that I typically wouldn’t modify too much. The current pairing is my 4Runner/M5 - daily/spare. I’ve previously had G35/Camaro, F250/Camaro, Cummins/Cherokee, WRX/240sx, A4/Cherokee, Titan/300zx, and in the beginning 300zx/Camaro...