Buying a Car
September 10, 2004 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Buying a car filter: Yesterday my car blew up. Now I don’t know what to do. [the unfortunate details inside]

Yesterday my car blew up. Minus all the fire – but still unfixable. (The mechanic won’t even fix my car – I just had the radiator / head gasket / cracked heads / acceleration wiring errors fixed a month and a half ago. He says he feels bad charging me for looking at the car this time around and in lieu of charging me he wants me to buy another car)
a. I have no credit – as my dad was unwilling to pay my medical bills from when I was 14 yrs old… they were transferred to me when I turned 18 and I fought for 2 years to get my credit file cleaned. (I am 20years of age currently) One cannot get credit when one has no credit; I have been applying to department stores and the applications that come in the mail to no avail. Capitol one plays cruel ‘pre approved’ jokes on me constantly. Apartments and mobile phone providers have no problem with me getting either of those though.
b. I have no relatives with clean enough credit who will co-sign with me, nor would they anyway (I have asked for years) nor any who would give me any money for the down payment.
c. My job is unsatisfactory for the bank/dealership. I work at a temp agency as a contractor to a large company whose policy it is not to hire unless you can get ice cubes in hell. I (and my boss backs this up) will not be leaving anytime soon – she just renewed her contract through the temp for me for another year (1 year at this job – new department on the west coast) I just quit my second part time job with an actual company because it left me with no time for my full time schooling at the local community college.
d. I have no money to put down any sort of deposit as every penny I make seems to go into making my previous car run long enough to break down again.

I spoke with a senior loan counselor at my credit-union/bank, who advised me that I would need to have 30% down and a letter stating my permanence at my job, neither of which I can provide (no money, see above, and my temp can only give them a letter saying that I do in fact work, and have been working for them, and that their contract for my job has been renewed, but I am expendable.) I can bring the letter to them on Monday, but my case has been elevated and I have been warned that the superior counselor is more than likely to say no, given all the factors above.

So, the patrons of …. what should I do? I’m plum out of ideas and at the end of my brains ability to think straight.
posted by Lizc to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total)
Is it possible for you to simply live without a car until you can save up for one? Can you carpool to work and school? Or do you live in a place with any form of public transportation?

I didn't get a car until last year, when I was 25, by walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation around Charlottesville, VA. You have to adjust your life to make it work, but it's a huge, huge money saver, not having a car. They'll suck your money dry.
posted by waldo at 3:58 PM on September 10, 2004

Aiee ... and you're in LA, too, which doesn't make things easier. I don't have much to add 'cept "good luck"... and if you're in a major area of LA, wouldn't you have access to public transportation of some sort? How far away is your job?

That being said, one thing about your applications: Your constant applications for credit and their refusals to give you any are driving *down* your credit score. The fact that there are so many applications on your records, over and over again, could be part of the reason anyone who looks at it is iffy.

Also, *don't* let a dealership shop your record around. The process they sometimes go through with difficult cases can hit your record up to 15 times in a day sometimes, and that *will* cause an automatic rejection as the process goes forward.
posted by SpecialK at 3:59 PM on September 10, 2004

This really sucks. One question though: are you trying to figure out how to get credit for a new car? If so, stop right there, because a new car is probably the worst purchase a person on a tight budget can make. I'm speaking from experience here; every night I went to sleep thinking about how that heap was only worth a fraction of what I owed.

Is there's any way for you to tough out a couple months of carlessness while you save up a couple thousand dollars for a decent used car, do that. You don't mention if you live in an area with a usable public transportation system, or whether you live close enough to bike it. If those aren't options, you could offer a coworker gas money + a little extra for rides to work, and go grocery shopping with friends.
posted by Eamon at 4:00 PM on September 10, 2004

Take the bus and/or ride a bike to work, or join someone's carpool or find a ride-sharing program.

It sounds like you're not getting the kind of support from your family that a lot of 20-year-olds take for granted, so you'll have to be a lot more disciplined. Look at your budget and keep close track of what you're spending money on. If you're so financially strapped that you're in danger of not being able to afford to get to work, then you shouldn't be spending money on basically _anything_ unless it's necessary to keep you alive--you shouldn't be eating out pretty much ever, you shouldn't have a cell phone or cable TV, etc. If you don't have a roommate, get one. If you can move somewhere cheaper, or stay with friends or relatives, do so. If you own anything, sell it. See if you can get anything out of your car; maybe you can sell it to a junkyard for $100 for parts or something. Save up for as long as it takes to buy a cheap $1000 car. Then keep saving until you have a few months of living expenses before you spend money on anything that's not a necessity.

It usually seems to be possible to get a credit card even with no credit history when you're in college, so make sure your credit really is clean. Even if it's not, you can build credit history by getting a secured card where you back the limit on the card with money in a savings account.

The good thing is that the fact that you have no credit means you have no debt. It's a lot better to have a net worth of $0 than a net worth of negative $20,000.
posted by mcguirk at 4:02 PM on September 10, 2004

Your going to hate this idea and it ain't going to be cheap, but when my sister was in a similar situation all she could do was a "buy here pay here" kind of deal.

Right past the real car dealers, past the Taco Bell and behind the aluminum can redemption center will be a place called "Friendly Ikes". Ike will gladly extend you credit upon your producing a months worth of pay stubs. Ike will also charge you 138% interest compounded minutely and repo the car if a payment is an hour late (that way he can sell it to the next sucker customer with bad credit, he may sell the same car a half dozen times a year).

The upside is, you'll have a vehicle and if you can survive the loanshark interest rates you will establish a payment history that subsequent creditors may view favorably. The best case scenario is to get a deal without an early payment penalty on an inexpensive vehicle, then pay it off as quickly as possible.

[On preview - structuring your life so you can survive withut a car while you save money is probably a much better idea.]
posted by cedar at 4:04 PM on September 10, 2004

$1,000 gets you a 10 year old Ford Taurus with 90,000-110,000 miles. Maybe you can find a way to get to work until you scrape up enough cash to pay cash for that car?
posted by Kwantsar at 4:12 PM on September 10, 2004

A few hundred dollars gets up a 1970s Toyota Corolla that will probably last you another decade and cost next to nothing to fix.
posted by Jimbob at 4:21 PM on September 10, 2004

$600 + cost of license + $ points and plugs = decent honda motorcycle that gets 60 mpg and can go as long as you are willing to fix it (and you can fix it). Oh, and talk to the community college, they may have attorneys who will sue your dad for not supporting you.
posted by jmgorman at 4:25 PM on September 10, 2004

jmgorman's idea isn't bad, but as an experienced rider ... factor in another $100 for a decent KBC helmet, and another $150 for a textile armored jacket (I reccomend Fieldsheer) made for motorcycling, and another $100 or so for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class, and $100 or so for liability insurance before you even think of commuting on a bike in southern california. The LA area is one of the worst for motorcycle accidents because of the amount of traffic. Do *not* ride without insurance down there, as you will get a metric assload of pain brought down upon your head by the police if you are stopped and cannot provide proof.

On the bright side, you'd get to lane split and you'd get home a lot earlier, and camping on a motorcycle is a great way to get away for a weekend cheaply.
posted by SpecialK at 4:55 PM on September 10, 2004

Oh, and with the motorcycle ... you don't need a mechanic to fix most things, even if you aren't mechanically inclined in the slightest. I've done all of my maintenance for the past 20k miles.
posted by SpecialK at 4:57 PM on September 10, 2004

thanks everyone.

this car that died was one of those cheap 10 year old ones so that I could save up. This is number 3 in a line of cheap cars so I can save up that have lasted me less than a year and blown up sans fire in my face.

I haven't been applying like crazy to anything - the student cards from the bank as well as the department stores turn me down. There aren't any inquires in the last 6 months (I have a friend that works at a title place that can pull my credit without it showing.)

I live in a rural-ish suburb an hour north of LA. (sorry to not mention that.) There are no buses or public transportation. I have weird hours around work and school that would make carpooling only work 20-30% of the time. Biking is out of the question - only road to work is the freeway, up a steep steep steep hill and school is 2 almost 3 towns over.

I don't lead an extravagant life, I moved back to my families farm/ ranch thing for the lower rent, I don't go out to eat or the movies, no cable tv, my cell phone is under 30$ a month (and my only possible phone). Been keeping expenses low while trying to save and then my car blows up and I run out of money again.

gosh - I just don't know. I think I'm going to wait till Monday and try for the bank to give me anything - I wasn't even trying for a new car - just any car.

I'm going to try and see also if I can can con a friend into fixing the bare minimum on my car so I can drive it maybe a month.

on preview - no to the motorcycle - cant afford that and I've had too many friends almost losing their legs/arms/life on them to feel anywhere near safe out here.
posted by alcoholicost at 5:13 PM on September 10, 2004

ack, that last post was from me, lizc, but someone else was signed in. sorry
posted by alcoholicost at 5:14 PM on September 10, 2004

I'm sorry to everyone reading as well - I'm trying not to sound like I'm on a soap box here. Thanks mefi people, I really appreciate reading from all you
posted by Lizc at 5:21 PM on September 10, 2004

Motorcycles end up being about as expensive as cars anyway, and are much less practical and safe. Stick with a beater car, especially in LA.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:01 PM on September 10, 2004

Also, car maintenance and basic repairs are very easy, so it'd be wise to look for a Chilton manual for your next vehicle and/or take a "Women's Mechanics" sort of weekend course, where someone will teach you hands-on what all needs to be done.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on September 10, 2004

mcguirk's idea about a secured credit card can be a good place to start building your credit. There are also scams you should beware of if you think about this, so check this FTC page for some helpful tips.

Hang in there Lizc, and good luck to you.
posted by Zonker at 6:10 PM on September 10, 2004

LizC: it looks like you live near Camarillo from your zip code. If that's true, yeah, I know that hill climb into Thousand Oaks is hard for most cars, let alone bikes. :)
However, the public transport round your parts isn't quite as dismal as you might think. I lived in Ojai for a while just 2 years ago, and used a bike/bus combo to get to Thousand Oaks on a semi-regular basis. Poke around the Cal Transit Site -- especially give TranStar a whirl. Public transport is a big time drain, but it allowed me to do things I couldn't have otherwise done when I was down and out down your way -- chaining together bike-bus-train-bus-bike trips could get me to Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo.

Also: you may want to ask around and see if you can find someone with whom you can carpool. I can ask some friends in the area if they know anyone, if that would help.
posted by weston at 9:11 PM on September 10, 2004

There are also vehicle co-ops. You pay a minimal amount each year to belong to the co-op. You walk/bike/bus most of the time. When you need a car, you book it in advance and have it for the time period you need, paying a cheap rental fee for its use.

Makes it possible to "have a car" when you really need one.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2004

the easiest way to resolve credit problems which worked for me was to have a lawyer (mine, friend and uni affiliate) to get a letter added to your credit report stating the reason for any bad credit comment.
i was ripped off when someone used my ss# to have utilities turned mack on when i left and left a large debt. it was cleared up instantly. my only credit woes have been from others. if yu have a good record and timely bill payment history, you would end up with not only near perfect credit but many good subsidizing offers and discounts with many cards that come from even checking your credit.
also, feel free to email me, as there are many other ways to negotiate leveraging a car (been involved with it myself)
posted by ethylene at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2004

When I was in my early 20's I had these problems. I cheated. I moved to NYC. I suspect you have no ability to move to where a car is not needed. I think today folks in your posistion are supposed to join the military and fight for oil, so those that have cars can drive.

That being said, there may be some legal questions about the legitimacy of a 'temp' job that is lasting this long. In some locations this is deemed ilegal, as it is used only to rob folks like yourself of job security and benefits. Your circumstances prove the legitimacy of questioning this. You may wish to look into it.

When I was 20 and lived in Michigan, I was repeatedly turned down for good jobs simply because I did not own a car. Of course I could collect 'welfare', and the idiotic system, of course, could not help me get a car. How stupid is that? My sympathies.
posted by Goofyy at 11:45 PM on September 12, 2004

Thank you everyone.
I bought a car. Bought my friend's old Volvo (paying in increments)- for the time being while I get everything else situated with moving back out and reclaiming my puppy (my family took him to the pound as a stray out of spite) and paying for the vet (my uncle’s bull mastiff attacked my cat and fractured ribs among other things. Kitty is fine, and the vet is letting me pay off in increments)
Am switching banks this week to WAMU and getting a secured credit card to start building some credit. My credit union back doesn’t return my calls, so it’s their loss.
<3<3<3<3<3<3 for AskMe
posted by Lizc at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2004

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