I know what you're going through. My wife and I needed a second car. She wanted to go used (cheaper, blah blah blah). Problem is they AREN'T cheaper! Sure you get it for a few K instead 20-30K, but then there's maintenance. This goes, that goes, it's leaking oil, is it reliable? F-that!! Hell, even used tacoma's were only a few K less than the brand new I bought so she came around finally. Especially when I told her (in no uncertain terms!) I was NOT buying a car I needed to work on!
Now we have old work friends bouncing from 1 $500 car to the next because this one needs $1000 to pass inspection, this one needs 3x the money put into it than it cost, that one just died.... It never ends with them! I gave the wife a ride to work 5 days/week for over a month while they were between cars. My inlaws are in the same boat now. A 94 Pontiac with 100+k on it needing all sorts of work and inspections done by "a friend of a friend", and a 2001 Dodge Ram. The Ram has needed a new speed sensor (speedo and odo didn't work), starter or starter solenoid, and something with the 4wd transfer case (gear, chain, I dunno). In total at least $1500 worth of repairs. She's unemployed, he barely makes minimum wage driving school bus, and their neighbor drags his feet doing repairs he promised to do. So I've been picking up his slack with a mechanic buddy (I'm no mechanic, but can figure crap out).
I've been out of work since October so I've also helped said friend work on 5 different trucks and cars. Needless to say I'm TIRED of fixing shit, and thank god none of them were DD's.
Older cars (especially with places like NY and probably NJ) that salt the roads are a pain in the ASS to work on. Even if you can get the parts cheap, it can be a real bitch replacing them. Stripping threads, snapping bolts, etc. If you don't have a torch, welder, spare bolts, and a full mechanic's set forget about it! (especially since you are trying to save money and probably won't pay someone else to do the work)
I would sit down and figure out how much another car would cost (cost of vehicle, insurance, registration, inspection fees, plus commonly needed parts and gas for the same commute). Then see if it's less than what you pay in gas now.
Personally, I live with the high cost of gas and truck payment knowing a few things.
- This sumbitch WORKS!!! It's starts and runs EVERY time. Don't need no work, don't need to add oil, don't need to wonder what's gonna break next
- I trust it with my wife and kids. I know they'll get where they are going and not have problems (Refer to number 1! )
- It's a truck. If I need to haul something, it's there. I don't need to rent one or find a friend/family member to help me out. (which is anywhere from a pain in the ass to impossible sometimes)
- Again, truck. 4wd. Snow ain't stopping me!
I'd thought about selling the truck too when money was tight and I was spending $500+ per month on gas. Now we have a house and once a month I buy a pallet of pellets to heat the house. That's 50x40lb bags. How would I get that home without a truck? Tractor Supply doesn't deliver, and I have yet to find anyone online selling them with freight delivery. So I need a truck at least once a month now. Not to mention the trips to that buddy's house with half the tools in my barn in the back. Those seem to happen 3-4x per month now. Wife and 3 kids also means I've packed groceries from the tailgate to the cab several times.
Look at where you'll be in a few years.
- Own a house yet? If not, plan on it? Need to move your stuff, buy repair/renovating/building materials? (we did and still do) If not, do you really NEED a truck?
- Can you move closer to work or work closer to home? We did that, and I see you're stuck for the moment, but how long? A couple more years then move or change jobs?
- I know the military does housing compensation. What about gas or use some of the money for gas? Or even mileage reimbursement. That might help some. Especially if they dictate where you must like and work.
- Wife have a shorter commute so you could rotate vehicles to save some gas?
It's a lot to think about, but try to plan for where you'll be in 5 years. I'll shut up now.