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Financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Caravan survived the New York City hurricane. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Caravan survived the New York City hurricane. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Gail Vaz-Oxlade

For this financial guru, a Caravan purchase made dollars and sense Add to ...

Gail Vaz-Oxlade

  • Profession: Financial expert, author and TV host
  • Age: 53
  • Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica
  • The vehicle: 2006 Dodge Caravan

Notable achievements

  • Author of the bestselling book, Debt-Free Forever, as well as Easy Money, Never Too Late, Money-Smart Kids and It’s Your Money
  • Hosted two Gemini-award-winning series on Slice, Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess

Upcoming

More Related to this Story

  • Money Moron with Gail Vaz-Oxlade premieres with back-to-back episodes April 19 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Slice; special sneak peek April 18 at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on Slice
  • Book tour for her latest book, Money Rules
  • The Monday Night Late Shift on NewsTalk1010 in Toronto
  • Blogs on website gailvazoxlade.com, and for moneysense.ca

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When it comes to money matters, Gail Vaz-Oxlade is known for her no-nonsense approach and whipping people into shape.

Vaz-Oxlade doesn’t sugarcoat her financial advice – she dishes it out in print, radio, and on TV. As the host of two Gemini-award winning TV series, Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess, she has a hectic schedule juggling a new show, called Money Moron, which debuts on Slice TV April 19 and a book tour for Money Rules. To get to work, she drives a 2006 Dodge Caravan with 205,000 km on it.

Why did you buy a Caravan?

I was driving a Town & Country and I had driven it down into the ground.

I went and looked at the Toyota [Sienna] and Honda [Odyssey]. I didn’t like the way the front end of the Honda dropped away from me; I couldn’t see the front end properly. And the Toyota had the cruise control on the wand, which wasn’t the least bit comfortable.

And Chrysler had a huge friggin’ sale on the Caravan that year. So I walked onto the lot and got $10,000 off the car – all those things conspired to put me into a Dodge Caravan.

It’s a beat-up Dodge Caravan. Do you remember the hurricane that hit New York City? I was parked outside News 1010 that night. We were doing the broadcast all night. At midnight when I walked out, my car was sitting in the driveway and the windshield was shattered, the front driver’s mirror was knocked off and hanging limp like a noodle, the back tail-light was blown out and the car was more dimpled than my ass! All I could think to myself was, ‘Thank God it’s not a BMW!’

Part of the reason I like the Dodge Caravan is because it feels like I’m sitting in my living room chair. I can put on my cruise control and drive with both of my feet flat on the ground in front of me. And there’s a lot of space inside. I can make myself a cup of tea and put on an audible story. My car is so old I can’t hook up an iPod to it. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to in a new car.

Stuff is starting to go on it now. The electrics are starting to go. It’s only a matter of time before I have to get another car. The day I roll my window down and it won’t roll back up again, it’s done. I’m going to break up over that.

Did you finance the Caravan?

I leased it because I have my own business and then I bought out the lease.

Do you recommend leasing over buying?

No. It depends on what it is you’re trying to do.

If you’re going to keep your car over the short term as a business owner – this does not apply to regular folk – then leasing it creates a better write-off than the depreciation. But if you’re going to keep your car long term, you might as well buy your car outright. …

Cars are not an investment. Cars don’t appreciate in value. You can’t get an investment if it has no potential to retain its value. People will say to me, ‘I bought this handbag; it’s a great investment. It’ll last me 10 years.’ It’s not an investment. It can’t appreciate in value so it’s not an investment.

Do you prefer driving a domestic car?

There are a lot of people who say they don’t like driving domestic cars – foreign car snobs – but I really like the fact I can take my Dodge Caravan anywhere and it can be serviced. And they’re not going to charge me for the rags. They’re not going to wash my car down with silk rags and charge me 150 bucks!

What was your first car?

A Sunfire. What a mess! It was second-hand. There was always something wrong with it. That car taught me second-hand is not always the best deal going.

But many people argue second-hand always pays financially – do you agree with that?

People always say to me it’s fiscally responsible to buy second-hand. I don’t think that’s true anymore.

If you go out and finance a second-hand car through a bank and you’re paying 8 per cent on it, there’s no way you’re better off than buying a new car at 0.75 per cent.

Not only that, when you acquire the second-hand car, you acquire all the problems that come with owning a second-hand car, of which I’ve had plenty of experience. You don’t know how the driver drove it. You don’t know whether the maintenance schedule was maintained. You don’t know anything about the car and they can tell you anything!

What was your favourite car?

My favourite car in the whole wide world was the Toyota Supra. It was really low to the ground and had big fat tires on it. I made it from Toronto to London in an hour and 30 minutes.

The cops caught me going back to Toronto and wrote me down to 130 (km/h). I decided I would never have that type of car again. But I got it out of my blood.

This is the part I don’t get – people go out and buy Porsches to drive around in traffic. Are you serious? You’re paying for a car that can go 300 km/h to drive it at 60.

What don’t you like about cars nowadays?

I don’t like that they make cars out of tin nowadays. I don’t like the fact that all you have to do is lean against it and you get dents.

Back when my dad was buying fin-tailed Chevrolets, you practically had to take a sledge hammer to it to do any damage. Now all you have to do is breathe on it. I don’t see anybody making a big strong car and, certainly if they are, they’re charging so much money for it that it’s just not worth it anyway.

When it comes to buying a car what’s the biggest financial mistake people make?

They don’t add up what the car is going to cost them when they buy it.

They go into the car dealership and the dealership says this will cost you $264 every two weeks and they go, ‘I can swing that.’ But they never add up what the car is actually going to cost. You have to take what the car is going to cost in terms of financing and add that to the purchase price to know if this is what you actually want to do or not.

What will you buy when you dump the Caravan?

Dodge has me … because I’ve had two really positive experiences with this brand of car. If they want to give me a car for $10,000 less than the competition, I’m perfectly happy to take it.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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