Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Singing the No Vehicle Blues

Remember when I paid (OK, charged!) $500+ to put in a new water pump and timing belt in my 1999 Dodge Caravan a couple of weeks ago?

Well, shortly thereafter, the van started to make weird squealing noises. I took it back to Firestone to see if they had done something wrong but they told me it sounded like a transmission problem and suggested I take it to a shop that specialized in transmissions.

So, after a week and a half without a vehicle (I was afraid to drive it), I took it into a neighborhood transmission shop yesterday. Apparently, it will either be something easy to fix or it will need a rebuilt transmission, which will run $1400. No way am I going to have the latter--my whole vehicle is only worth $1600 according to Kelly Blue Book. I'm awaiting a phone call from the shop as I type.


Not only will I have wasted the $500 (which it looks like I will be able to pay off before incurring any interest), but I will have to get another vehicle about a year earlier than I intended to.

More debt.

More monthly payments.

And a budget that can stand neither.

Grace is NOT a happy camper!

And here's the kicker! I checked out the eligibility guidelines for the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Apparently a 1999 Dodge Caravan got 19 mpg in city and highway driving when new, which puts it one mile OVER the guidelines. So no help there when it comes to purchasing a new (to me) vehicle.

Honestly, I feel like crying. I know this will all work itself out, but the thought of having to shop for another car and to incur even more debt puts me in a very whiney mood.

I do know that this time around I want a small, high-mileage car, preferably under $12,000. Beyond that? Who knows?


Anonymous said...

Your car is 10 years old. What was your original plan? Surely you knew it couldn't last forever?

Most cars should last 10 years. Buy another car, with a low cost loan, pay it off in 3-5 years and then spend the remaining part of the 10 years depositing the car payments into a 'car savings account' for your next vehicle.

Cars are a part of life. It did it's best and so did you.

Thanks to that cash for clunkers, a lot of good, used cars are gone.

Things will work out. They always do. And you'll be happy once again.

DogAteMyFinances said...

You should check out ebay. Lots of dealers sell their used stock on ebay. Just follow the completed listings or the blue book to see what's a good deal. Just watch until you see a deal!

Just be sure to buy from a dealer and not an individual, in case there are problems.

Anonymous said...


Tell everyone and everybody that you are in need of a newer, low milage car. Somebody, somewhere knows someone who has that type of car - a grandma that just went into a nursing home, someone about to move overseas, etc. Just don't be too picky on what kind of car.

Last December, I got a 2003 Caravan w/40,000 miles for $3000. Runs and looks great and it's a keeper - and I'm the last person who would have considered a mini van - or so I thought! Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Grace -

About 5 years ago, my car cost me more to repair than the blue book value, so I decided to replace it before I had planned. (The plan was to keep it 3 more years till the mortgage was paid off.) I ended up with a late-model Hyundai - who'da thunk I'd buy a Korean car? But it all worked out, and I paid off the car loan early to boot.

Keep an open mind, and good luck.

Sharon said...

That's a bummer. Hopefully, you'll be able to find a great car for under 10,000. Do you have a credit union? Ours is offering really low car loans (i.e. 3.99%) so that might help ease the pain...a bit...

Anonymous said...

Hi Grace, I've recently started reading your blog and enjoy it very much. I am sorry about your car. Last year my old SUV was falling apart and it was time for me to get a new car. It was 10 years old and I was taking good care of it. My problem is that I am on a fixed income of only $1400 a month and can't find a job. I bought a used Honda for $17,000. I ended up taking a home equity loan at 5 1/4 for 10 years to keep the payment low. If I had been able to wait a few months I probably would have gotten a better deal on the price of the car.

Good luck,


CT Mom said...

Ugh - that stinks. And nothing more frustrating that having already spent money and finding out you have to spend more!

I was in the same place as you, except I was still paying on the car and underwater in my loan. My car was only 5 years old when I got rid of it - we were tired of paying thousands in repairs for a car that was barely worth $7k. That was 3 years ago - I bought a much more dependable and affordable vehicle and it looks like I will pay off my loan early.

Your van has served you well. I hope you can find a reliable car that you will enjoy and that fits within your budget.

Good luck!

Another Reader said...

Suggest you consider an inexpensive new car and get a very low interest loan from your credit union if you have one. Pentagon Federal CU offers 3.99 percent right now if you qualify for membership and have good credit.

The least expensive alternative will probably be the Toyota Yaris or Corolla. These are Toyora's bread and butter products. The Yaris comes in 2 and 4 door hatchback models for better cargo space. If you can swing it, get a Honda Fit for the mileage and the cargo space.

These cars will likely last well over 100k miles and give you low maintenance costs and fuel economy equal to or better than the EPA estimates. Fuel and maintenance costs can have a bigger impact on your wallet than the payments over time. Assume gas will be at least $4.00 a gallon over your estimated ownership when you figure the cost of ownership.

I agree with Morrison. Budget your car payment and deposit the payment amount in a savings account after the loan is paid off.

Florence said...

Oh Grace, I am so sorry!! No advice, just much sympathy!! Let us know what you decide to do.

Carol said...

Hi, I'm starting to think about these issues, too, because my Toyota is 5 years old now (all paid off, thank goodness) and has 244,000 miles (not a typo) on it....currently hearing some squesling from it, too, and hoping it's "just" the alternator, but don't really have the money to worry with....yikes....I know how you feel!

Shevy said...

I hope the problem turns out to be the quick and easy to solve one, but either way, it's a wake up call to get ready to replace the darn thing.

Run the numbers on a late model used car at the best interest rate you can negotiate vs. a 0% deal on a new one. You never know, it might surprise you and then you'd be sure that there wouldn't be any more "oops, this needs to be done right now" moments for several years.

And, if you buy used, make sure you have it inspected beforehand.

Living Almost Large said...

Nissan Versa, Scions are pretty cheap cars around $10k.