by Hans Eisenbeis
It’s that time of the year: The birds are chirping in the trees, the snow is melting in the yard and IRS Form 1040 Schedule A is scrolling up my screen. I look out the window, and there sits my 1993 Dodge Caravan on three flat tires, with a squirrel’s nest under the hood. That old car died last fall, and I’ve been paying insurance on it anyway, which should make me feel pretty stupid — but that’s the car my kids grew up in, lost teeth in, spilled “leak-proof” sippy cups in, cried and fought and slept in. That’s no excuse, of course. I should at least reduce my policy to liability.
Most Americans are less sentimental, more financially responsible or both. In a recent report, analytics firm Quality Planning found that people who drive cars that are 10 years old or older reduced their auto insurance bills during the Great Recession by an average of $229 per year (ConsumerReports.org, 30 March 2011). How’d they do that? By downsizing from collision and comprehensive coverage to liability only. That’s risky, considering that most Americans still view the car as a daily necessity, even as gas prices push $5 per gallon (AdAge.com, 29 March 2011). But consumers are making tough decisions in order to stretch their dollars, and reevaluating the relationship between need and want.
As for me, I’ll commute by bicycle this year while I wonder what price I’d put on my memories. I’m pretty sure it’s less than I could get for donating the van to charity — but the IRS might have something to say about that.