How much does the peace of mind cost?

mazda-mpv.jpgHow far will you go for your safety when choosing your new car? Just several years ago I would not have given it much thought.

My first car was Toyota Corolla which I drove for 5 years before trading in for a bigger Accord. There were two reasons really. One - I am tall and there is simply not enough leg room in small Corolla. Second, and it took me a while to admit this to myself, I felt pretty scary each time standing on a highway in the left turn pocket and feeling how passing by cars shake my Corolla as if it was a small boat in the middle of a storm.

We bought our second family car in 2003 and it was a Mazda minivan. This was also mostly a financial decision - Mazda is smaller than the competitors and has slightly better fuel economy. That minivan was declared a total loss by my auto-insurance earlier this month after my wife got into a multiple car accident involving a drunk driver. You can see the van (or what is left of it) on the photo above which I took right after the accident.

Overall in the past two years we have been in a few accidents, every single time reevaluating our life priorities. All the accidents were due to the other driver fault and we consider our driving habits pretty safe. The only variable we can really control is the kind of the car we drive. So one of our priorities became an intention to drive safer cars than what we currently have.

Being a bargain hunter and an overall proponent of everything ‘green’ I did a seemingly irrational thing last Saturday. I bought an SUV as a replacement to our family van. Of course this is not just an SUV. I have done everything I could to make it a bargain among SUV’s. It is a base model cross-over SUV (no bells and whistles to pay for) but it does have All Wheel Drive (safer winter driving) and has good safety ratings. It is one year old and I did haggle like a crazy. For the curious types, it is 2008 Mazda CX-9 and we paid 22.5K.

Now, tell me please. Am I overreacting? Is the peace of mind (even if imaginary for the most part) worth the money I have paid and will be paying for the extra gas to feed this monster? What would you do if you were in my shoes?

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7 Responses to “How much does the peace of mind cost?”

  1. 1 Scott Aug 21st, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Great car. Great price. CX-9 is a bit heavy on fuel though.

    Then again I am living in Australia where cars are so expensive. CX-9 Classic (the base model) has an RRP of around AUD$50k here ($43k USD). Now reading that you can drive one away for half the price over there, we feel so ripped off…

  2. 2 Mike Allen Aug 21st, 2008 at 9:23 am

    You were wise to protect your family with a larger vehicle. Several years ago we did the same when we couldn’t all fit in our Saturn anymore. We bought an SUV also (kept the Saturn for trips without all the family). I wanted a truck platform since they are sturdier and seem to have fewer problems than most affordable minivans.

    I think one must factor in potential repair costs and longevity estimates when shopping for the best deal. From a frugal and/or “green” point of view it is usually more efficient to drive a full SUV than two small cars. Also, one should consider more than just fuel costs when comparing and should include tires, oil, maintenance, insurance, etc. when calculating the best vehicle deal.

  3. 3 linlu Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:53 am

    You did the right thing. Last April my mother was struck by a drunk idiot on the drivers side door who ran a red light at 2am in the morning. She was on the way to her bakery job. The idiot then tried to get away, but luckily the people who witnessed the accident managed to tackle the guy, he is still in jail.

    She was driving a Chrysler minivan that she had paid extra to get side impact protection at least 10 years before that – which was only available as an expensive option. She said something told her it would be a good investment. Thankfully it saved her life, but now she has two broken ribs that will not heal properly, so she is disabled and can no longer work. The other amazing thing is that the glass was shattered in the sliding door behind her but not on the drivers side door.

    She had already bought a new Honda minivan to replace it and was driving her old van to work. So at least she still had a car to drive, not that she could do much of that up until about six months ago.

    Here’s another reason why a minivan (in my case) is better, it is so much better on visibility. I can take action sooner when stuff happens two or more cars in front of me and I can see more of what is going on, on the road around me. I think that alone has saved my family and I numerous times.

  4. 4 Yan Aug 21st, 2008 at 11:22 am


    A new CX-9 is around $30-35K over here. The bargain price was mostly due to the car being used. It has 14K miles on the odometer. Fuel economy should be around 17 MPG. My old van had 20.


    The sturdiness is also something I noticed when test-driving the CX-9. Although my friends are telling me this is just due to a difference in suspension in SUV and minivans.

    About other costs – I am already feeling them. Insurance coverage costs twice as much for CX-9 than it was for my old MPV. I expect the maintenance will also add up.


    I am sorry about what happened to your mother. My wife and I have been really lucky to have gone through the accidents without any major injuries

  5. 5 Dorkydad Aug 29th, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Peace of mind is priceless.

    Five days after the birth of our first daughter, I was driving the family home after getting her first baby pictures taken when a full-size pickup ran a red light and totaled our full-size BMW sedan. We were all a bit rattled, but fortunately everyone was fine.

    Safety was the priority as we researched vehicles to replace the BMW. A month later we used to purchase a new 2004 Nissan Quest minivan because it represented the best value among vehicles with a 5* safety rating for front and rear occupants (perhaps because of front and rear head/curtain airbags).

  6. 6 Finance Junkie Sep 1st, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Absolutely not. You did the right thing. I recently saw an estimated payback period of 52yrs (forget source) for somebody selling their SUV short (at a loss) and paying a premium for a more economical car.

    People should be doing the counter intuitive thing and taking advantage of the glut of SUVs and Trucks on the market by buying one at a deep discount. The price of Oil is down about $35 a barrel (from $145ish to $110ish) and should go down a bit further.

    Soon people may be seeing prices go down at the pump and will start buying SUVs and Trucks again.

  7. 7 Alex Sep 15th, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Good. I got a brand spanking new Subaru Tribeca for $23000 a few months ago…

    $7000 discount from the dealer finally persuaded me to dump my 7 year old Chevy Prizm ;)

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