My Jeep obsession: When to stop being frugal

Here's the thing: I have wanted a Jeep Wrangler since I was 16 years old.

That's when one of my soccer teammates got a new one for her birthday. My experience was different.

When I turned 17, my mom handed me the spare key to her old Dodge Caravan to say I could use it when she wasn't ferrying around my siblings.

Even after I bought a sensible, affordable Honda Civic after college, the idea of a Wrangler has been stuck in my craw.

I've priced them hundreds of times — new ones, used ones, certified preowned ones.

I've scoured Craigslist and car websites, dreaming of driving one down to the Jersey Shore — an area about which I have written two books — wind in my hair as I cruised to the beach in the ultimate beach car.

But I told myself I couldn't buy a Jeep. It's not a sensible car.

My Civic was fine, and when it wasn't fine, I'd just buy another two-door sedan because that's the sensible, financially correct thing to do.

brown jeep wrangler with top down and brown dog in the front seatWell, screw that.

I'm a saver. I put away more than half of my income toward retirement and emergency savings.

I bought a house that costs much less than what I can afford. I even appreciate having a smaller dog because she doesn't eat as much as a big dog would.

But as I looked at my friend's 1999 tan, manual Jeep Wrangler Sport, I realized frugality should not be the rule for every part of our lives.

I have wanted this car since before I could drive.

And here, at the moment my Honda Civic is becoming more expensive to maintain than it's worth, is the exact Jeep I want sitting in a driveway three blocks from my house.

My friend hasn't even listed it for sale yet, but with a baby on the way, he needs to sell it soon. If I want it, it's mine.

This is far from the most frugal car purchase I could make.

Old Jeep Wranglers aren't cheap.

For the asking price of a 14-year-old car, I could buy a nice, used sedan that gets much better gas mileage. I could even put down a healthy down payment on a new Jeep Wrangler.

But the new Wrangler is too slick, too mainstream, too safe looking.

If there is ever a time to splurge, to take a break from always making the right money decision, it's now.

We need to do this every once in a while, or else we become chained to trying to always do the right thing.

I have known for more than a decade that this is something I want to do, and who knows if I'll ever be at the right spot again in my life to do it?

The splurge is right.

Now, I'm not totally throwing my money knowhow out the window. The price tag here matches the Kelley Blue Book value, so I know it's a good deal, and if I sell it in two years, I won't lose much money, because Wranglers hold onto their value.

Average Auto Loan Rates

Term Rate
36-month new car 3.98%
48-month new car 4.04%
60-month new car 4.12%
36-month used car 4.71%

Financing could present a hiccup, too, since most banks will laugh at you if you want an auto loan for a car more than eight years old or with 80,000 miles or more. And even if I did secure one, I'd be paying 6% or 7% since I'm buying from a private seller.

Still, I've reached a compromise with myself.

Since my friend doesn't need to sell it right now, I'm not going to buy immediately. I'm going to wait a few months and put some more money into my savings account so I can pay for the Jeep in cash outright.

I could probably put that money into a car I'll drive for another 10 years, but right now, it's time for a dream to come true.