Choices for When Something Goes Wrong – Frugal Confessions

Choices for When Something Goes Wrong

Please Note: This was written on Wednesday of last week.

As I type this article, I look down at my left hand and notice a shiny diamond wrapped around a greasy finger with dirt lodged under its nail. The dirt is from my car.

This morning I woke up at 6:00 a.m., got out of bed at 6:15 a.m., and headed out to my car at 6:30 a.m. After starting her up, I immediately shut her down because it sounded like an animal had climbed under the hood and the engine was chopping it up. I ran out and pulled the hood up (this explains the dirty fingers), and lo and behold…there was no animal! It was the car making that noise! I started the engine again, and this time, the noise was slightly less, but there was a new vibration I could feel. Granted, my car is old and has a low-grade churning noise that never ceases. But these noises and rumblings are definitely not the ordinary ones, and I know something is wrong.

Before this morning occurred, I knew that I would most likely have to purchase a car within the next year. We had hoped that it would be after the wedding. But ofcourse, one week after closing on our new home (and thus draining much of our savings), and before spending any money on the wedding (of which is only 8 months away), the car looks like it might die.

If you’ve checked out my other post, you know that this car really owes us nothing. I bought it six years ago at 160,000 miles for $1500 cash. Thus far, nothing major has gone wrong with it. I’ve replaced some tires, a windshield, the brakes, Freon, a few belts, a muffler, and a bearing. Other than insurance, gas, and oil changes, it really has been easy to maintain. But wow it would have been great if the car had made it to 250,000 miles (currently it is at 228,282). That was my goal, and I am definitely coming up shy.

Paul drove to the house from work to picke me up, and we started to discuss our options on the way to my office. Here are a few we came up with:

  • Fix the car (we have not yet determined what is wrong with it, but if it will only cost a few hundred dollars, then this will be well worth it)
  • Buy a new car with a loan (not another loan!!)
  • Pay for a used car from someone with cash (though we must admit, there is not much of that left in the emergency savings fund!)
  • Figure out a bus route to my office (Houston is not necessarily the most public transportation-friendly city)
  • Take a cab (oh the cost!)
  • Live off of one car

Hopefully in the next few days we will know the diagnosis. I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Out of curiosity, which option would you choose for your household if you were in the same situation?

9 comments… add one

  • BluSky

    If it were me, I’d bite it and get a new car. Not really new, just new to me. I was in much the same situation as you until recently. I bought my last Pathfinder for 10k when it had 84k miles on it. I was aiming for 250k as well but a lady did a u-turn right in front of me while I was going 60 mph last Febuary and totaled it. It had 221k on it and had been paid for for several years. I got 5k from her insurance and found me a much nicer Pathfinder for 10k. True, I have a car payment now that I didn’t have before but I was going to have one soon anyway. Plus, I think it’s hilarious that I got half of my money back that I paid for the first one : )

  • Michelle

    We’re lucky enough that the company my husband works for provides him with a vehicle, so we’re a “one-vehicle” family. Also, his fleet gas card provides for a major discount on the purchase of most new vehicles from a particular manufacturer. We used that to buy our new truck in 2002. It has about 130K on it and I’m planning on driving it for at least another year while I save up some more for the down payment.

    Because we’re a one vehicle family, we have decided that buying new is the best option for us. Besides the great deal we get with his discount, we also get a full warranty and piece of mind that I have something reliable to drive. Buying new allows us to easily keep a vehicle for at least 7-10 years vs having to replace a clunker every 3-5 years which always needs repaired. Yes, I know that most new cars rapidly depreciate but considering how long we plan to keep them, it all washes out in the end. Even though our truck is paid off, we still keep full coverage insurance on it since it is our only personal vehicle and with all of the uninsured/underinsured drivers in this town it is worth it to us to pay the little bit extra every year.

    Besides in this town I’d be wary of buying a used car — between the wrecks, street flooding, and smokers there would be very few used cars I’d feel comfortable buying. If you buy used definately do the carfax thing!

    Something else to consider right now is that due to the stupid cash for clunkers program (as usual the gov’t looked at the tree instead of the forest) is that you may have a very hard time finding a deal like you got on your current car as most of those older cars have been taken out of “circulation” and destroyed. You may be able to negotiate a better deal on a new car this time of year as most dealers want to get rid of their 2009 models.

    • FruGal

      Hello Michelle!

      That is wonderful your husband’s company provides him with a car and gas discount. Hurrah! I think I will still be purchasing a used car…although you are right, you certainly are taking your chances more with one (this one has lasted for 6 years, but who knows on the next one?)

      Thanks for your comment, and keep reading!

  • Crystal

    I’m so sorry…I hate car problems. I don’t know how to fix them, so my money is at someone’s mercy. I feel your pain.

    Even if you have your car fixed, it doesn’t have many miles left. That would actually end up wasting money. I would get another car and I would not use much of my emergency fund to do it. A loan stinks, but you may have an emergency that a loan is not available for, so you need at least a little cash for padding.

    My husband and I are 26 years old and bought our home as a foreclosure 2 1/2 years ago. I am soooooooo glad we had a little left after the 20% downpayment for the emergency fund. :) Nothing major broke, but we had a lot of little costs that added up. The previous owners had taken EVERY SINGLE LIGHTBULB (even from the bathrooms). We also decided to add a couple of basic fixtures that were taken, like toilet paper roll holders and cabinet handles. Little stuff adds up and you sleep better with padding in the bank. :)

    Anyway, there are a lot of great deals to be found with cars right now. You can get a brand new Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Cobalt, or a Chevy Aveo for less than $12,000. Or you can find another great used car deal. And with excellent credit, loans give really fantastic rates right now. My new car loan for my Aveo in 2005 was at 6.9%, but our home loan in 2007 was 5.375%, and my husband’s car loan for his used Prius in 2008 was only 4.1%. Plus, you can pay if off quickly and save some financing costs pretty easily…I paid off my car loan in 2 years and saved more than $1000 in financing.

    Good luck! I hope you are happy with whatever decision you make!

    • FruGal

      Hi Crystal!

      Thanks for your support:). Emergency funds after purchasing a home are a God send! I can’t believe the owners took the light bulbs out as well! Wow. Little things definitely do add up; we made our first trip to Home Depot which was very exciting…but couldn’t believe all of the painting supplies, safety stuff (smoke and CO alarms) added up to over $100!!!

      I hope you keep enjoying your home and cars, and thank you for sharing. Keep reading!

  • BluSky

    Your last comment made me laugh outloud Amanda. Something you and Paul will come to find out is that no matter what your project, it’s impossible to walk out of Lowe’s or Home Depot for less than $100.

  • BluSky: Haha! I have heard a nasty spending rumor about Home Depot and am beginning to think it’s true:)

  • BluSky: P.S. Don’t fear; I had a $40 Home Depot gift card, and a $40 American Express Gift Card (both I got for free) that took the price down to a reasonable $53. Would you expect any less from me?

  • BluSky

    But of course not! I wish my trips went like that. I always leave there feeling slightly ill ; )

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