Permit me a small sob story
October 13, 2006 9:48 AM Subscribe
How do I get a reliable car for not much money?
posted by mulkey to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Permit me a small sob story that I'd like your advice on.
I'm a graduate student, in my fifth year of a PhD program. As you might guess I'm growing weary of the indentured labor and voluntary poverty. I'm about a year or two away from being done. Praise God.
I own a nice little house with house payments that are actually less than most rents in town, and I had a little car which I liked very much and was almost done paying off.
I HAD a car. This weekend a guy ran a red and smashed into the side of my sweet little car. Thankfully no one was majorly hurt, though I'm still (a week later) sore, achy and getting treatment for it. That will be paid for by the insurance company.
The car was a good, reliable car, but not a valuable one. So my insurance just informed me that it's worth $3100. I've fiddled with numbers and tried to see how I could raise that amount given previous mefi comments, but it's about right. $2600 payable soonish and another $500 once they get the deductable back from the other company. Oh, and I still owe $1500 on it still - though I paid off the bank with a 0% apr credit card.
A few details: I don't use my car a huge amount, but I do sometimes drive to campus and to the store. I also take trips to visit family that are a few hours out of town. And I've used my car to take longer trips to keep my sanity in grad school. I prefer driving when I go out at night (especially recently, I've been too sore to bike). I live about 4 miles from campus and bike there sometimes. But I don't have a contingency plan for rain days - the bus takes twice as long and there's no one else around with a car that I know. I think I probably want to have a car, the idea of biking to the store to get paint etc for home improvement projects/groceries etc doesn't sound appealing. I do have a roommate but she relies on her bike primarily, and so has often relied on my having a car for longer transport.
So what do I do? How do I get myself a car? Anyone have ideas? What can I expect to get if I spend the $3100 on a private party car? I'm guessing the rental car they gave me is going to run out soon. But frankly, the thought of buying a car sounds incredibly tiring to me. I just can't afford to spend more money per month than I already do (which is just the minimum payment on a credit card) without eating only ramen for the rest of my days here and not ever going out for entertainment (which is believe me minimal). So I'm not too keen on going to a dealership and having them try to sweet talk me into a car I honestly can't afford.
I could take more money out in student loans but being as overly educated as I am means that I've taken a lot out already. Plus I tend to use student loan money to take care of house emergencies (such as backed up sewer pipes on the day after a car accident). I've thought about selling the house, but it's not a great market for selling at the moment and I'm not sure I'd be able to find a cheaper place to live if I rented.
If I do buy a car, I don't know how I'll get one that is as reliable and as reasonable to maintain as my smushed up friend in the insurance lot. Do you know how? What do I do? Please tell me!