I think we're all agreeing. For clarity, if I had $12k to purchase my Mirage, including taxes, etc. (mine was a skosh more than that all in), I would be better off paying 2.99% interest, and sticking $12k in a (good) investment over 7 years.
Theoretically in 7 years, my $12k would have more than doubled ... but let's just say it doubled to $24k. For that privelege, I paid what, $158 per month and $1,318 in interest. Quite a deal. My point is, some car loans aren't a bad deal, depending. But even if a person is living paycheck-to-paycheck, a 2.99% loan (or less) on a new car isn't not such a bad thing.
If a person does as Mark suggests, and keep their money pit as small as possible, and does like Dspace9 did and think long-term and take care of their small money pitt, in the long-run, you're going to be much better off than your equivalent peer who went and leased a BMW X5 (for example) so he / she could look like a big success. What a turd that vehicle is (different thread).
In my case, there was mitigating reasons I just paid cash. Partly because I have lived the above paragraph a couple / few times over, and now I'm better off than many of my equivalent peers. Got a buddy about my same age. And even though he is doing better here lately, he would FLIP OUT if he knew my monetary station, compared to his. But he doesn't know. I don't tell him and I have little interest in clothes, so I pretty much go around looking like Raggedy Andy, driving a Mirage. So nobody expects anything. The downside being, I'm not living a panty dropper lifestyle. The upside being I don't have to worry about STDs. Besides, the wife doesn't prefer it when I have "relations" with other women. So, I guess I'm doing OK with my lifestyle.
I'm betting Mark and Dspace9 are doing good as well. I've made some mistakes. I bought a friggin Lexus LS 460L (used). While it is a heckuva vehicle, it was/is a big money pit. Oh well, it's the only car mistake I have made. Course now I want an LC 500 (used of course). Will I make that mistake too? Only time will tell.
View my fuel log 2020 Mirage ES 1.2 manual: 42.5 mpg (US) ... 18.1 km/L ... 5.5 L/100 km ... 51.0 mpg (Imp)