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Every so often, you spot one. The cheap car. The glorified crapcan, replete with bumper stickers no self-respecting human would choose to display on a vehicle of status and “wash me” engraved in its protective layer of dust. Yet it runs impeccably and just by looking, you know this car’s driver isn’t bothered about the condition of their ride in the least.
That’s because they’ve transcended the awkward concept of a car as a reflection of self. Rather than keep up with the Joneses, they’ve traded the complacency of social norms for complete peace of mind. That and fun. That’s a good trade and one you should make too. Here’s why.
Cheap Cars Can Do Anything
You wouldn’t cram a set of skis into your Lexus subcompact, even if they do fit, because that might damage your interior. The cheap car turns this predicament on its head. Sure, the skis don’t fit great, but a few tears in your interior fabric just give it character anyway.
Feel compelled to go off-roading, but don’t have four-wheel drive? What could be more fun than taking your beater on a rally mission? The guys from Car Throttle certainly endorse it, and they seem to be quite well-versed in how to treat a cheap car properly.
Nothing Is as Fast as a Cheap Car
Speaking of throttle, you might be sore about the inability to fully unleash your new Mustang GT on public roads. Modern performance cars are so fast these days, you need a track to find their limits. That means many hours spent looking for an opening in traffic or a particularly windy on-ramp where you can drop the hammer.
This problem is entirely eliminated with a crapcan. You can flog the living daylights out of your front-drive, four-cylinder junker, and you’ll have a blast doing it, too. Think you need a sports coupe to go drifting? Clearly, you’ve never owned a quality beater pickup truck. I’m pretty sure this is where Rhys Millen got his start.
Steep Discounts on Maintenance
When you own a premium car, you pay for the quality OEM parts required to repair it correctly and spend the money for premium fuel. Not so with a beater.
Repairs are not mandatory with this car. In fact, the decision not to fix your cheap car not only gives it more patina, but it’s also an investment in your future dream car. So go ahead, live without a trim panel or four, it’ll still get you where you’re going.
As for cosmetic damage, there’s no such thing. The bigger the dent, the better the story, so think of it as an opportunity to test your home bodywork skills.
Cheap Cars Only Get Better
It’s amazing how far automotive technology has come in the last decade. Cars perform better and are more reliable now than they ever have been, and they’re only going to get better. That means there are tons of options for cheap, fun-to-drive cars for you to pick from.
Whether you’re looking for a supremely practical small hatchback like the Ford Focus or Honda Civic, a sports utility vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler or even a modestly priced rear-drive coupe-like Scion/Toyota’s FR-S/86, pretty much any high-production model can be had in a cheaper, crappier state that frees you from the stresses of, well, caring about it.
Parking in a beater car takes on a whole new enjoyable tone because you don’t have to be concerned about what happens after you leave. Simply choose the spot that’s most convenient and hope it’s there when you’re back. Put a wheel into the curb? The only lasting effects will be corrected at your next alignment, if you get one.
The Bottom Line
What does this whole dialog reveal about our relationships with cars? It’s important to remember that we own them, not the other way around. If payments for your shiny new ride have got your cash flow looking thin, it might be time to reconsider what you’re driving.
Even if you are able to comfortably enjoy a nice car, why worry about it all the time? Adding a beater to your stable lets you get out and enjoy the world without dragging your car’s drama with you. Bet you drive it more than that Cadillac.