Friday, May 23, 2008

Vehicles: A Necessary Convenience?

I don't do well with cars. My vehicular history has been quite dismal. At least, after the first one. My first car was a 1985 Mazda GLC that I purchased for $750. I put less than $250 in the car for repairs and drove it for 2 years. Then I had a wreck in it that knocked out the passenger headlight and had some cosmetic damage to it. So I decided to go into debt and get a Ford Ranger. I got a Ford Ranger 4x4 Extended Cab. Loved the truck, but after the transmission went south on me twice in less than two years, I decided to go brand new. I could only afford another Ranger, single cab, manual, so that's what I got. Of course, they barely paid off the note on the previous ranger (there may have been up to $500 rollover into the new one), but, at this point, I had a brand new vehicle. Then, a mere 8 months later, I traded for yet another vehicle, going for a brand new Saturn, and rolling over several thousand into that vehicle. Fast forward 3 years and I sold the Saturn for another Ranger, but this time, it wasn't a new Ranger. Of course, after rolling over several debts into this one, my payment was big, and I owed nearly double what the Truck cost me. It was finally, at this point, that I decided that my continuous cycle of vehicular debt was hurting more than helping. I finally sold the Ranger after I was given a company truck, and that kept me out of the vehicle business for another year.

Then time came for me to part ways with the company. I lost the truck, and the income, and ended up buying a $3,500 Honda Accord. I paid cash for the car, but, less than 24 hours after purchasing it, several things went horribly wrong. The clutch went out, along with the master and slave assemblies, the flywheel.... basically everything transmission-related. The alternator and the battery also went out. Every time I turned around, something happened to the car, and needed fixing. By the time all was said and done, less than 2 years later, I had put nearly $8,000 in repairs to the car. I had replaced the axles, the wheels, the tires, the transmission, about half of the electrical system, the brakes, the radiator... the list went on and on. Because of this experience, I decided to buy a brand new car just a couple of months before I got married. In vehicular debt at that point more than I'd ever been before, I was a little concerned, but my job was (and still is) steady and the business is growing, and now, I don't have to worry about the vehicle breaking down, and, if it does, I don't have to worry about getting the shaft due to my lack of knowledge about vehicles.

My wife brought a $400 car to the marriage, and it lasted a year into it. But it finally bit the dust, and the time came to replace it. I didn't go buy a brand new car, partially because I didn't want to spend very much, and partially because I didn't want to be in vehicle debt totaling my yearly income.

So, here we are, just under $27,000 in debt just on our vehicles, and then I read this post over at Get Rich Slowly.

It really got me to thinking about what I've done and where we are. I know what Dave Ramsey would say - he'd tell me to sell at least one of the vehicles, take the hit and get a junker to drive around until we get out of debt. Given my history with vehicles, I'm not sure I'm prepared to make that jump.

So, what would you do? Would you keep both cars, both of which are under warranty (because of the warranty extensions), and continue to pay them down? Or would you sell one (or both)? Why?


  1. You know I finally got the VW paid off and Mrs Snarf was kind enough to drive the old white Pontiac for a while. I actually considered buying new when the VW left me walking on the freeway that day, but then realized that I really liked the fact that we were closing in on our debt.

    So I found the cheapest thing on the lot that I felt would be trustworthy. We did the same thing a few months later when Mrs Snarf's car died. Just so happened that the cheapest, dependable car the day we had to get one for her she really, really liked. Personally, I really hate my car. I really do - you have no idea. It's a stupid 4 door, ultra-low-performance model (0-60 in about 3 weeks) that doesn't even have a cd player that works. But it gets me back and forth to work, is dependable, and the price was right. I pay less every month to pay for my current two cars than I did for just the VW.

    We were able to get both cheap enough that our pay off date was only thrown off by about a year...and once the cards are done and I can throw that money at the cars, it'll be even quicker. My suggestion is that if you think you can do it, go for it. Look for something dependable for Mrs Goliath Debt, and buy yourself a bike for work - you don't really live that far from the office you know. :-p

    But then again that may just be my "get out of debt" exuberance talking.

  2. I don't know your situation exactly, but if you live in the city, aren't too far away from your job and have the option of city transit I would suggest that you sell one of your cars and make due with just one. Also consider that you'll pay less money for auto insurance with an older vehicle. We lived with only one vehicle for many years, until Mr. A started up his business and I live 48 miles from my job, so it's really not an option, at least not at this point in time. We have actually been considering buying another truck, a smaller one as our F150 is such a gas hog only getting about 12mpg. !! Oh, and the other thing - for the car you keep, buy both the Chilton's and the Hayne's car care manuals and I bet you are capable of doing some of the easier repairs (like changing your brake pads, etc.) and save yourself a ton of money. Keep us posted with what you decide to do. Good luck.