Dave Ramsey says: $15,000 buys a quality pre-owned car

Apr 23, 2023, 6:30 AM

(AP Photo/Terry Chea)...

(AP Photo/Terry Chea)

(AP Photo/Terry Chea)

Dear Dave,

I was recently in a car accident that totaled my car. My old car was paid for, and the insurance company is writing it off and giving me $15,000. I’m a physical therapist who does home care treatment, so I need a reliable car for work.

I’m debt-free, and I’m in the process of finishing up my emergency fund, but I can’t seem to find a car like my old 2014 Toyota Camry with all the accessories. My rental car is paid for by insurance until the end of the month, and I’ve looked at used cars at a few dealerships, but the dealers and salespeople are telling me used cars still cost the same as new ones, and that I should just finance a brand-new car.

I’m not sure what to do.

— Valerie

Dear Valerie,

Asking a new car dealer if you need a new car is like asking a dog if it’s hungry. The answer’s always going to be yes.

The smart answer, though, is this: If you’ve got a $15,000 insurance check in your hand, go buy a great, used $15,000 car. You may not be able to find the exact car you had before, right down to all the bells and whistles, but Toyota Camrys aren’t exactly rare, either. That money will get you virtually the same car—one that is very comparable in equipment, reliability, miles and overall quality to the one that was totaled.

I realize this whole thing is a big inconvenience. And you’re probably feeling a little pressure to make a decision. But the line you’re getting about used cars still costing the same as new cars is a load of crap. Used cars do not cost as much as new ones anymore. That was true for about five minutes on the back end of the pandemic, when the Mississippi River ran backwards and used cars went up in value. It was an absolute miracle!

There seems to be something in the human brain that tries to tell us we have to get an upgrade if we total a car. I want you to fight that idea, because you don’t need to wreck your emergency fund over something that’s not an emergency. Go online, and look around there without the pressure that always goes with being on a car lot.

And I’m just going to say this out loud: A $15,000 car today is a much better vehicle than anything I drove for the first 30 years of my life. The quality of used vehicles and the life left in them are so much greater than even a new car back in the day. You know that old saying, “They don’t make ’em like they used to”? Well, thank God for that!

But a $15,000 pre-owned car in today’s world? That’s a nice car!

— Dave

Dave Ramsey is an eight-time national bestselling author, personal finance expert and host of The Ramsey Show. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people take control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for the company Ramsey Solutions.

Dave Ramsey

(Pexels Photo)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: It’s not a joint venture, it’s a marriage

A marriage isn't a business partnership, and it definitely shouldn't feel that way either. Here's how to attack finances together.

18 hours ago

(Pexels Photo)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: When the financial drama queen comes out, relax

Everyone has a financial drama queen living in their head, but the sooner you come to terms with it, the easier dealing with stress will be.

8 days ago

(Pexels Photo)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: Invest wisely, don’t overpay for your home

Unexpected fees can come along with being a homeowner, but always invest wisely and never overpay for something no one won't want to take off your hands.

15 days ago

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: Stand firm, the dollar isn’t going anywhere

While there may be talk about other countries getting together to develop a single currency, the U.S. dollar isn't going anywhere.

22 days ago

(Pexels Photo)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: This is why you should work with multiple banks

There are multiple reasons why you should consider working with various banks, and none of them have to do with what happened at Silicon Valley Bank.

24 days ago

(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Peter G. Peterson Foundation)...

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey says: Don’t stress about national debt, just focus on personal finances

Though the national debt crisis is daunting, Dave Ramsey says focus on yourself, your family and your life. The rest politicians can solve.

29 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Dave Ramsey says: $15,000 buys a quality pre-owned car