The Economics of Purchasing a Beater for a work vehicle

I deliver pizza on Friday and Saturday nights for a little extra $ and I use my 99 Accord which is in great shape, 170k and I plan to keep it until it breaks in half, I maintain it properly too and do a lot of the maintenance myself.

I lament putting 40-50 miles of solid stop and go hell driving, per night, and when I hop in the next day it smells like stale pizza. I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t gross $17-$20 per hour.

I was considering purchasing another vehicle for $500 - $1000 which I will maintain/repair myself.

I’m thinking in terms of expenses:

Depreciation: Negligible
Collision Insurance: $50 a month
Finance expense: N/A
Acquisition: $500-$1000
Fuel: $3.25/gallon @ 22MPG: $0.14 a mile
Wear & tear: $0.12 a mile?

I’m trying to compute the mileage/ hours worked at which I can justify the cost of getting a work vehicle. At the end of my shift I total up my mileage for the night, and immediately transfer some $ to a seperate account for wear & tear.

I’m thinking if I put something like 200 miles a week in delivering, 20 hours a week it would cost me about $65-$70 a week for ins, fuel and wear and tear. So $17 an hour x 20 hrs - $65 = $275 / 20 hours = $13.75 an hour to take home, which isn’t too bad.

Has anybody else faced a smiliar situation, or can provide some insight on personally owning and driving more than one vehicle? Any advice would be great Thanks,


You already have a beater…Buying another one makes no sense…Collision insurance? Why??

At 40c per mile operating cost how much profit can you make?

You can’t operate a car for .40 cents a mile…Sooner or later, the timing belt, tires, transmission, CV joints, those bills all come due…

Sorry, replace collision with liability only i.e. min. coverage, that’s what I meant. I consider a beater one that simply continues to run, has cosmetic defects and requires some type of special instructions to operate. Mine, while 12 years old, isn’t a beater just yet.

It might make sense if you could buy a smaller car that gets better MPG than you’re getting now. Maybe a 92-95 Honda Civic (5th generation), the VX hatchback got the highest MPG.

The price you’ll have to pay to get a vehicle that won’t need a few grand worth of work is likely to be much more than $1000. $1000 in my area gets you only worn out old beaters needing a great deal of work to be reliable and safe.

Are you in a region where a scooter would work? That would be a much less costly addition.

I think it all depends on the 2nd car you find and doing your own maintenance is a big plus. That holds the operating costs down quite a bit.
The tricky part may be finding that cheap car which is still fairly solid and not flirting with a car crusher but it can be done.

My daughter ran across a 95 Mitsubishi Galant some years ago for 500 dollars and this car was used as a daily driver for work while saving her Mustang from the abuse. My youngest son bought a 95 Camry almost 2 years ago for 500 dollars and he’s still driving that one today as a daily beater. The Camry had also just gotten 400 dollars worth of new Kenwood stereo which the owner said he could keep too.
Neither of the above cars could really be considered beaters unless based on age and miles because both are very straight and run well.

The cars are there; you just have to use some footwork and patience and make sure the engine and transmission appear to be solid, You can work around the small stuff.

A four-cylinder stick-shift P/U with a topper…Perfect if you can find one…

Thanks, ok4450, I think you have me pointed in the right direction. Thanks everyone else for the input too.

As soon as something breaks on your “beater” you’ll be likely to wonder “what’s the point”? Tires, brakes, more insurance, oil changes, yadda yadda. Buy an air freshener or put the pizzas in the trunk. There is no such thing as a beater that runs and runs and never breaks, wears out, or needs maintenance.

Hmmm. As in any piece of machinery, your lowest cost will be by putting as much use as possible on the smallest number of machines. The cheapest is to put the additional miles on the unit you already have. The money you are talking about doesn’t leave much of a margin actually. One small repair on a second vehicle like tires, brakes, catalytic converter, etc., can eat your profits up for months. Just stick with what you are already doing and get a can of Lysol spray for the interior.

Owning a second vehicle is all too often an unnecessary expense, although I am guilty of indulging in this particular luxury but do it for different reasons than what you are contemplating. I tend to drive nothing but $500 beaters (purely by choice), and usually drive them to the crusher after putting several years of additional driving on them. Of course, I do all my own repairs (unless it requires a tire machine, alignment machine, or pipe bender) and will not hesitate to put money into something most “normal” people would scrap. I keep two vehicles for two reasons. One, I need a truck, but would rather not have to drive it every day, and two, I like to have a backup vehicle in case one breaks down or needs repairs done and I can’t get to it immediately (this very rarely happens as I tend to be very proactive about preventing any such thing from happening). If this is your line of thought, I can agree as long as the security is worth the additional expense. If you’re just saving your Accord, what are you saving it for? The alternative is to save the money you would otherwise use to own a second vehicle and put it towards your Accord’s replacement. By the time the Accord needs replaced, you may end up with enough saved up to buy a very nice or even new vehicle.

What is the life left in a 99 Accord with 170+ miles on the ODO? I think you just got to use this car for now.

I’m sure you are attached to the Accord but … if you take care of it and drive sensibly you should be able to have this car survive for quite a while. A lot of “beaters” are being sold which should be referred to in the past tense (“beatens”), so you are taking a chance by buying another cheap car. On the other hand, we bought a “beater” after our primary car was stolen in Boston (and we loved Boston too much to stop driving there), and a “worry-free” car was as much fun as any car we’ve ever driven (especially since we didn’t need to worry about somebody being masochistic enough to steal it, even in the high-theft area that Boston was).

You can use some impermeable padding to keep the pizza drippings and crumbs off the car, and driving it around with the windows open for a while should get rid of the smell.

Yes, I’d suggest talking with your insurance company about getting rid of the collision. Good luck and drive safely – not like my brother!

17-20 dollars an hour and you are supplying the car,insurance and gas? That’s a mugs game, you would be better off working for minimum wage someplace you could walk to.
Also. a lot of insurance companies will drop you in a flash if they find out you are using your car for business and you will get thrown in a risk pool.

A part time job at minimum wage close to home would be a much better choice.

Beaters are for students who do not rely on a car for daily transportation. The other role of beaters is as a second car for non-essential, occasional use.

Your neeed is for a reliable vehicle, so maintain and use what you have and use a “car fresh” spray when you have a date.

The problem with your situation is you mention that you’re making $17-$20 GROSS. The net pay is a lot less when you factor in gas at over $3/gallon, maintenance, registration, etc. The govt. is also considering making workers of any tipped jobs work for the server wage that’s less than minimum too, if it hasn’t already taken effect. Back a thousand years or so ago when I delivered pizza, this was a decent slacker job. You could make great money and enjoy your music, being out on the road, and not being bothered. Those were the days of $100-$500 beater cars, gas under $2/gallon, and at least minimum wage for your efforts, plus mileage per delivery. Everything else was cheaper too, including insurance. Not only has there been not much cost of living increase for this, but people that tip seem to have not kept up with inflation either–people seem to tip mostly the same these days as they did a couple of decades ago. And companies haven’t increased their mileage rates to keep reasonable pace with fuel costs either.

So I must agree with Oldtimer and say that you’d be better off with finding a job that doesn’t require you to put hard mileage on your car and pay for your fuel, insurance, etc.

As others have suggested, I would say you should consider the cost of that old car and subtract that from what your job pays.

Does it feel good to you now? Add the bother of maintaining and insuring two cars and I doubt of many people will find that second car worth it.

The only time I would think that it would be a good idea, would be if you had to carry lots of tools or or smelly stuff etc. that would greatly detract from your enjoyment of your primary car.