and then there was 3700 in car repairs

January 4th, 2008

And Then There Was $3700+ in Car Repairs

As readers of the comments to my last post have learned, the car is not in good shape. I’m not exactly sure what happened to it to get it to this point, but to quote from my spouse’s email to me about what the Saturn dealer said:

Ugh, it’s the engine, I mean the whole engine. Something broke inside of it and pushed some crankshaft out so basically we need to rebuild it or buy a “new” engine.

My spouse did call me to tell me the news, but he also emailed what he remembered as far as details. So, the engine – dead. Cost of replacing it? Around $3700. I said $3500 before but that was my brain doing some self-preserving rounding trick on the numbers, I guess. Plus there are any random incidentals like the tow to the shop so the total will be above $3700 if we go this route, but I am going to just use that number right now for simplicity’s sake.

So again, back to the “options”. We could buy a new (to us) car instead of fixing this one. It is something I am sorely tempted to do, but as far as our overall budget and debt load, an option I don’t think I am comfortable with. We still owe ~$3300 on this car, and we’d have to roll that into our next car’s payment. We don’t currently have the money to pay off this car and buy a new car and pay it all in cash. At all. I have to think on this option more. I’m not sure how comfortable I am buying a car that is more than a few years old and having a payment on it still. This car is 7 years old, so I don’t know why my brain thinks like this, but all I can wrap my head around is buying a 3 year old car for $10-12,000, not buying a different ~7 year old car for a lot less. How much less? I have no idea. At this point I’m babbling so I’ll move on to other options. I haven’t discarded this idea but I’m not leaning towards it either right now. Ask me again in three hours and I might feel differently. I do think a $3700 car repair might qualify as “driving the car into the ground”, though.

We’ve done some research on possible other places to take it to get it fixed (we’d have to tow it there of course) and my spouse is currently calling around to see what our options are on that front. I honestly have no idea how that will pan out. I’ll know better later this afternoon.

So, that leaves us looking at – what if the $3700 number is what we are left dealing with? The Saturn dealer offers financing. Yes, the evil of financing. I would generally reject that out of hand, but they do offer 90 days same as cash so if we took advantage of that, it would give me a little time to gather up as much money as I possibly could. My thoughts on that is to pay $1000 immediately and put the other $2700 on the 90 days same as cash plan. Then when my transfers out of the ING subaccounts go through as well as my spouse gets paid again (within the next week and a bit), I pay another $1000. Then I will have about 80 days to come up with the other $1700. I would snowflake anything I get my hands on for the next two months directly to that $1700 and if it doesn’t completely get paid off, I can decide then if I want to pull the remainder from college savings accounts or if I want to balance transfer the remainder to one of my two empty credit cards.

Hello setback.

And that begs the question – what if another emergency happens in the next 90 days? Honestly that’s something that I can’t completely wrap my head around but obviously is a very real possibility. Paying everything possible to this debt before rebuilding the emergency fund leaves us open to another disaster as well. At this point, I genuinely can say I am just trying the best I can to not let this become the beginning to a huge downward spiral. And everything else aside, I am trying the best I can to figure out how to minimize the damage to our finances and maximize our options so that we turn this around as fast as possible. That may necessitate revising the above to rebuilding the $1000 emergency fund before paying off the remaining $1700, if we go that route. I don’t know yet. Still… thinking.

The destruction of my spouse’s student loan will have to wait. The $175.17 left on the 0% credit card will have to wait. We’ll get through this, whatever we decide to do. And whatever that is, for the first time since I started the blog, that debt number is going to up this month instead of down. Sigh. And I will definitely keep you posted. Your thoughts and comments are welcome, my brain, still in shock. ;)

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64 Responses to “And Then There Was $3700+ in Car Repairs”

  1. When I needed a “new to me” car, i put the word out to all of my friends and acquaintances. I ended up paying $1000 for a 1994 Toyota Camry with about 140,000 miles on it. We affectionately call it the Golf Ball because it was in a hail storm and has more dimples than a fat baby. That was 3 years ago and, knock wood, is still running–and it was only about 5 degrees here yesterday. Now I think of it as my million dollar car. Maybe with the money I save on car payments I can really hit the million mark someday. Tell you what though, it’s humbling to drive and you need to not take yourself too seriously. It surely isn’t the American idea of success. Anyway, before I spent 3700 on the Saturn, do some research to see how long they typically last. Maybe even call the Car Talk guys on NPR and see what they think.

  2. So another option that you may not have thought of yet (which sometimes makes people cringe) is that you could get rid of the Saturn.

    Before you automatically say- no way! (as I expect you are doing) ;) know that I had a very similiar decision (and reaction) three years ago.

    I ultimatly sold the car that needed the work (for pennies on the dollar im sure) and started riding a bike to work. I kept the other car for my wife (who still thinks im crazy to ride my bike in weather like we have out here in Oregon)

    You may think my sitation is something special that lets me go without a car- but I am an attorney in a smaller town that is not designed for bicycles. I have to store work clothes at work and sometimes I have to scrounge for a ride- but man oh man I cant imagine ever buying a second car!

    I dont expect this will make much of a difference but maybe consider it for a few moments. ;)

    Good luck.

  3. That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear this. I know that I am living month to month with the risk of an emergency like this destroying all of my debt payoff plans. I can’t imagine how disheartening that must feel.

    Is the Saturn worth $3,700 (if repaired)? For me, I think the car would need to be worth a fair amount more than that before I would spend so much to fix it. I don’t know. There are never easy answers to these problems. Best of luck and try to hang in there.

  4. @D T – I have actually thoroughly considered the idea of only having one car, before this happened, as a way of getting out of debt faster. Right *now* in our situation, it wouldn’t work very well. Yes, it is *possible*, but it would entail me driving my spouse to work every morning and picking him up every afternoon. We live ~20 miles from where he works, so not really bike-able. If it wasn’t for the kids it could work out maybe, but I need the car to shuttle the kids here there and everywhere and for my son’s speech therapy. They are busier than me!

    But again, I am thinking about it. I just don’t think at the moment it’d work out.

    @Pam – I honestly don’t care what the car looks like at this point. I am thinking more and more about abandoning this car altogether… I’m just scared I will pick another lemon and be worse off than we are right now. If I don’t repair the car, I need to use the money to pay it off and then start over getting a different car. I know there are good deals out there to be found, I’m just not sure how to find them.

    @Eden – a week ago i would have said the car is worth well over $3700. At the moment… well, I have no idea. Theoretically it is, but it doesn’t *feel* like it.

    It’ll all work out in some manner. that manner is yet to be determined ;) .

  5. Ah, just read your other post and that the car is worth $9K. I would fix it. But look for other quotes on the repair. There has to be a lower price out there.

    Have you considered a used engine from a scrap yard? It’s sort of the luck of the draw as to what is available, but you can get really high quality parts at times. My father-in-law is in that business and if you find a good place you can get quality stuff. We replaced an engine on a Camry years ago by going that route (not an apples to apples comparison, but it was cheap).

  6. I agree with Eden on fixing the car, but also getting second opinions.

    About other emergencies that could happen, one has to just live with those possibilities. What would be the use of living if there are no setbacks, kind of make the positive things even more positive. You seems to have a good handle on your finances and have come along way in a short time.

  7. Could you check on the dealership web site I know that I got a coupon in the mail last week for 10% off engine maintenance. Also when my last engine died they had after my story of not being able to afford a full new engine & the thought of a rebuilt wasn’t an option to my husband they (saturn found a way to take 15% off the cost of labor & parts which helped a bit) Of course I was in there with my 2 month old crying his eyes out in the dead of winter in chicago but I’d ask about other options. Ie rebuilt vs brand new, if they’ll give you a discount on parts or labour also ask when you need to make a decision. I know they gave me 2-3 weeks to make a decision about fixing it or junking it & by then I was able to check with my auto policy to see how much blue book was worth on it and save up a bit more money.

    Does your auto policy reimburse you for towing? Most do these days they just don’t advertise it. Growing up in Hawaii my parents had 4 of us and only 1 car. My mom drove dad into work each day & picked him up every evening so she could have the car. It was hard but it was do able. Things will get better. hang in there!

  8. Still breathing? :)

    Do you have Craigslist in your area? You might want to look around for car parts there, with the obvious caveats. I’d also start calling around to body shops for other prices (I think you said you planned to).

    You might also want to call Carmax and see what value the car would have in its current state. (Also a good place to get a cheap used car)

    Where did you get this current car from? How long have you had it? Is this sort of problem non-typical? I’m just curious about this, because if it really is a lemon, you might have some protection. Or it could just be dumb luck.

    Oh and I love the idea of contacting a local high school.

    Don’t let this downward spiral. I promise, when you come out of it, it won’t be nearly as bad as it seems right now. We’re hard-wired to imagine the worst case scenario as being worse than it actually is (was actually just about to blog about that).

    Good luck!

  9. You have some good options. The 90 day same as cash plan actually sounds like a winner to me. However, I suspect you can get the repairs cheaper at a non-dealership garage. In that case, how about putting it on the 0% credit card? I know that sucks, but here’s another way to think about it. This was going to happen whether you saved up your $1000 emergency fund and started paying off your debt or not. Because you did that, though, this emergency may be manageable without incurring future debt. Think about how you would have managed before you started all of this. You would have borrowed all the money and increased your total indebtedness by $3700, right? So right now, you are looking at increasing your indebtedness by only $2700 in the short term, and quite probably being back where you started within a few short months. That’s fabulous! How many people could survive a crisis like this so handily? Isn’t it nice to have that $1000 fund to cushion the blow? It’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do.

    I vote you repair the car you have, rather than buying an new-to-you car, especially since you still owe money on the vehicle. But I don’t think anyone would blame you for buying another car. You could buy a very driveable used car for $3700.

    What about another emergency happening in the next 90 days? Remember, you’ll still ride it out better with the money-management skills you’ve built, and with the debt position you’ve worked so hard for. The worst that will happen is that you’ll have some more debt, which is frustrating, but survivable. And the likelihood is that it won’t come to that.

  10. I forgot to leave all of my info with the above comment. I blog over at Wise Bread. You go girl!

  11. We were in a similar situation this past summer. Our van that we had already put over $5000 of work into over the winter needed more work. As in a new transmission. Price $3200! We have 4 kids and have to have a van, it was also only 6 years old with low miles.

    We fixed it. I didn’t want to get a used car because that would mean car payments. We had limited money and used almost all of our EF to fix the van. I could have used the money to buy a new van, but it would have been a clunker. We had at that point replaced just about everything except the engine, so we crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t need more work done and so far it hasn’t.

    About your car. I think your dh should call the place who has it and talk to someone who can give you more details than what was in the email. It isn’t specific enough for me to fork over that much money to fix. Something broke in the engine doesn’t cut it to me. Get more details!

    Good luck with everything!

  12. You qualified for a 0% rate so I bet you will again. I would phone the card w/0 balance and see if they would be willing to extend a 0% rate on purchases or a trasfer fee free cash advance for 6 or 12 mos. If you can’t get it from an existing card, another option would be to open a new card. The good thing about this is you could take the time to rebuild your efund w/o incurring interest costs. The bad thing of course is that you are opening and using new credit. Not sure where you are falling on the philosophy spectrum on that issue. I think it is a reasonable, responsible choice but I’m not Dave Ramsey. :)


  13. Since the car is worth about $9000 in good working order and it will cost about 1/3 of that to fix it, I think the best course of action is to get it fixed. Then you’ll have about $5500 or so in equity, since you owe $3300. At that point I’d go trade it in on something for about $5000 and get rid of the car payments. It’s relatively easy to find quality used cars for $5000.

  14. I had an older, but not ancient, Honda Civic that randomly threw an engine rod about six years ago. I chose to have the thing rebuilt – I don’t remember the exact number, but it was in the 2K range – and I ended up regretting the decision. Shortly thereafter all sorts of other things began to go….and I made a bunch of repairs before ultimately selling it. The resale value totally covered the cost of the engine, but I was putting good money after bad for a bit.

  15. It’s a tough situation all around. Perhaps it would help to think of it like this: If you were given this car knowing it needed $3700 in repairs to fix it, would you do it?


  16. Thank you everyone for your comments. i am still sorting through things in my head. :) A few random quick thoughts –

    Ryan – I don’t know if I’d take the car if i were given it with $3700 in repairs hanging over it, but at the same time, I still owe money on it so it isn’t a free exchange. That is a way to consider it I haven’t thought of yet though.

    Steve – the car’s trade in value isn’t $9000. I don’t have secret sources to look at but it is about $6000 according to KBB. The $9000 is what I’d pay at a dealer to buy it, ~$7900 for a private party sale. Again, all from Kelly Blue Book. I don’t know what else to look at for that kind of stuff.

    Researching “Saturn Engine Problems” on the internet gives you some scary results, btw. Don’t know if this is typical but it isn’t as uncommon as I would have thought…. not really looking to buy a Saturn ever again right now.

    Peg – I think Cap One will give me a 0% balance transfer with a fee, probably 3%. They send me loving mail every other day it seems ;)

    Catherine – thanks for visiting from Wise Bread :) . I do honestly know that we are WAY better off right now than if this happened a year ago. I actually have a post floating around in my brain about that very fact. Who knows when my brain will settle enough to write it though. I know we will get through this. I’m looking forward to the “gotten through” part though. heh.

    My spouse called the first place and um, it was $8800. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. heh. So he’s calling some more, plus the place we bought the car. We had a 100,000 mile, 6 year warranty. This is year 7, by a few days in fact. So um…. yeah. tough luck for us, basically, but he’s going to argue with them anyway. We’re at 87,000 miles btw so under that part but of course it is whichever comes first. Yippee.

    I feel okay. My brain hurts though.

  17. I am soo sorry to hear about this. If it were me I would fix it, but as you mention your options are limited :( Good thoughts coming your way!

  18. Eeks!! Huge (((hugs))) to you!!

    Setbacks happen. It’s a fact of life. You guys will get through this. You’ve done such a fabulous job with your finances over the past several months. Good luck deciding on a plan.

  19. I was actually in this same position about six months ago. My Saturn was dying and it would have cost thousands to fix it. I chose to trade it in and replace it. I’m paying $350 a month for car payments, but I have a much more reliable car and not constantly paying for repairs.

    The way I see it, you have four choices:

    1. Fix car and pay the $3,700.
    2. Save the $3,700, trade in your car for a newer, better model and let the dealership pay off the remaining $3,300 (similar to what I did). Chances are you’re looking at replacing your Saturn sooner or later anyway.
    3. Buy a used engine from a scrap yard and see if a local mechanic class or school will install it for you to give their students some practice. This could be much cheaper, although you still face the possibility of further repairs down the road, so to speak.
    4. Sell off the car get what you can for it, use the money to pay off what you owe and spend some time looking for a good used beater for less than the $3,700 you would have spent on repairs.

    I’m all for trying to make something last as long as possible, but cars aren’t built to last like they were years ago. If your car is anywhere near 200,000 miles, it’s probably time to replace it. It’s very easy to fall into the “car repair money pit”.

    I have a bank account that I throw $25-$50 into every payday. It’s money I use for car maintenance and repairs. If your car is reliable, you won’t use an account like this much, and when you DO have a big repair bill, the money is there.

  20. Ugh, I’m sorry to hear about this too! You may already be familiar with this, but if you end up deciding to get rid of the Saturn and buying a “new to you” car, you may want to refer to the Consumer Reports buying guide (they usually have them at Barnes & Noble or something, and you could just sit there and browse through it:)). Anyway, they have a list of the most reliable used cars in different price ranges (it lists the years & models of the cars). We used this when we bought my husband’s car … good luck with whatever you decide!

  21. Hi,
    I’m new to your site – but I just wanted to sympathize. We also have a Saturn (2001 model). It has given us nothing but trouble this past year. First the security system had a problem and we couldn’t start it – so a trip to Saturn dealer (local mechanic couldn’t fix it) and 450.00 later, we thought it would be okay. Next, came the transmission and clutch $1575.00 Then the power steering pump went out – $200.00. We’re sick of this car! All this in one year – I think we’re going to try to sell it. From what I hear an older Toyota or Honda would give less problems.
    Here’s hoping and praying you’ll be out of this jam soon!

  22. I am very sorry to hear about this set back. Keep your chin up and you WILL get through this. My suggestion would be to go ahead and do the $3700 repair if your car would be worth that money if you sell it immediately after the repair. Else it’s not worth the repair. You would probably be better off selling the car now. With respect to buying another car, I had a good experience buying it directly from the owner. It felt good not to haggle with the dealers. And we got a good price on it too. Good luck with everything.

  23. Ahhh, one of my worst fears until I get my emergency fund and ING “car crap” fund built up. Hang in there! It’s painful but manageable…these things do happen. You are better off facing this now than if you had never started on the quest for financial freedom.

  24. Ugh. I’m sorry it ended up being so bad. I don’t know what I’d do in your situation. But setbacks happen. Don’t beat yourself up. Make the best decision that you can and go from there.

  25. innocent bystander Says:

    January 4th, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Have you looked into a mechanic that will install a good used engine? We had a similar situation with a vehicle and a good used engine was well under half the cost of a new or rebuild.

    If you do go the big money route, you can often save some by asking if there’s *any way* the price could be lower. Often the markup price on parts can be reduced, though they probably won’t discount labor.

    Keep plugging away. It’s just stuff.

  26. Wow, thanks stinks! If I was you, I’d call around every salvage yard I could find and locate a used engine. I would also call some smaller mom and pop car places and see what they can do.

    You could also just try telling the dealership how much you have (cash on hand) and see what they could do with that. I don’t trust dealerships, so get a second opinion.

    I wouldn’t buy another car, not since you owe $3300 still on the Saturn. Your really looking at $3700 (or less to fix it) or $7,000 (3300+3400) to get out of it and be able to sell it.

    90 days same as cash should be your last option though, but if you don’t have cash and you need the car, than I’m not sure if I see any other options.

  27. I’m so sorry this turned out so bad. I was also going to say the same thing Peg already did – that putting it on the 0% apr card could be a possibility.

    Good luck!

  28. These are used engines. Why they are so expensive, I don’t know. But I’ve been searching via the internet to see if ~$2000 for a 2001 Saturn L300 used refurbed engine is reasonable and sadly, it is. Ugh.

  29. Well, no one has suggested this, so I’ll take a leap and hope no one hates me for it. I’d fix the car and empty the kids college funds to do it. Why? Well, your kids will be far better off with you being out of debt sooner rather than later, and you will be able to take all the money you’ve been putting to debt to repay their college funds and then some. The reality is: you need the money now more than they need it in the future. Yes, it doesn’t feel good at the moment, but I have faith that you will pay it back and then some. If it buys you two-three more years with this car, then the 3700 did its job. Remember, as soon as you get this car paid off, you can change your auto insurance, too–raising the deductibles, etc., which will put more money in your pockets. (Oh, and just to add some credibility, I did the same thing with my previous car…$3000 kept it running and, because I kept it looking pretty, it did have resale value of $2000 when I did sell it!) Either way, good luck!

  30. I’m so sorry to hear the bad news. I know you’ll get through it, though, especially with all the support you have here. What a wonderful bunch of comment postings. Good luck.

  31. Ugh. My parents’ car threw a rod (that sounds like what’s happened to you) a few years back. They drive a ’94 Oldsmobile.

    At the time, the car had about 104,000 miles on it. My dad took great care of it, servicing it regularly and making many repairs.

    They chose to rebuild their engine. They went to an auto salvage place, and found a suitable engine that had really low miles on it. They used those parts for it.

    The car now has 240,000 miles on it. Insane. It could go longer.

    Look to see if you can find a used but good engine. That might bring costs down. And, definitely shop around your estimates.

    If you can get another 100,000 miles out of your car by this repair, is it worth it to you? Do other things seem to need attention as well?

  32. M3 – I don’t hate you for suggesting it! In fact, when I was transferring money out of the long term ING account and playstation ING account, I stared long and hard at the college account balances and thought about transfering them.

    but i just couldn’t do it. Not today, at least.

    Kacie – my car has 87,000 on it. Yes it would totally be worth it if it lasts another 100,000 miles, or even another 87,000. Other things don’t seem to need attention, as far as we know at least. It has almost new tires on it too, from earlier this year. We have called around a ton and I have news to report but I am going to put it all into a post.

    We were told several places the labor costs to rebuilding our engine was more than replacing it with a used one. We’re not handy people so we had to trust that I guess. Heh.

  33. It’s hard going through it, but this too shall pass.

    At least you’re thinking of ways to fund this emergency without whipping out the credit card.

    I’ll keep good thoughts for you.

  34. I agree with Catherine-at least you’re thinking about your options and handling this WAY better than you would have a year ago (or whenever you started getting your financials in order).

    Yes, the emergency fund is to be used exactly for something of this caliber. Good luck with your decision, and I know everything will turn out great. :)

  35. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Man that really hurts, no matter what you decide to do, it hurts. I really hope that the repairs to mine don’t cost me that much.

  36. Sorry about the bad luck. I think you should fix the car – it’s not that old and the miles are not that high.

    I’m with M3 – use the college funds! You have a bit of an emergency here.

    This post (if you feel like reading) briefly discusses my thoughts on saving for kids education and how it has to be prioritized BEHIND the family’s financial well being. This is one of those times.

  37. Sorry to hear the damage turned out to be so expensive. You have alot of good comments about what to do so I will just wish you good luck…and don’t let this get you down.

  38. Ouch. I can’t add much to what everyone else has said, so I’ll just repeat: good luck. Cars! That’s what I loved about living in Manhattan – no cars necessary. Now that I live in Jersey I’m constantly worried about this repair, that repair. I sure hope you have a miraculous turnaround on this situation.

  39. Your 0% card is citibank, right? You can probably have them send you a check made out to you for a no fee 0% balance transfer, under your current deal. I’ve done this on a citibank card before, but maybe you have a different deal. It doesn’t hurt to call them.

    It all depends on what works for you psychologically. Can you frame it in your mind as if you’d put an extra $2000 into your emergency fund over the last couple of months, instead of paying down the credit card as much? You’d be in the same place if you’d done that, or if you take a 0% BT now. Which is more important to you, your kids’ college funds, or eliminating your credit card debt? Either way, by the summer (probably), you’ll have no CC debt and money in their college fund, it all depends which path to that goal will make you feel best.

    Since you chose to put the money into their college accounts before paying off the cc’s, I’d guess they’re more important to you, but only you really know.Would it change your answer if you didn’t feel so close to paying off the cc? Just so,ething to think about.

    Remember that this doesn’t put you behind, it just puts you less ahead than you’d hoped for.

    Good luck!

  40. One more thing to consider.

    My dad has a theory that has proved to be right on both of our cars that we’ve gotten over 100,000 miles.

    There comes a point, around where you are at, I think, where a bunch of things break. A bunch. Once you fix them, you’re set for another 100K miles or so. But it’s best to decide to either fix them or not near the beginning of the repair cycle, so that you can either not be surprised or not repair anything.

    We did it with a Ford Ranger, around 90,000 miles, and we got another 90,000 miles before we sold it for pennies, but before the second cycle of repairs hit. We did it around 100,000 miles with my minivan, and we’re coming out of it, and so happy to be coming out of it, but I intend to drive it until the next big repair cycle hits, in another 60,000 miles (that will get me to 200K).

    I currently save $200 a month for repairs on my car, but in the hopes that I won’t use it, it will become my downpayment for the next car, once this one is left in a ditch on the side of the road.

    So, I’m guessing that this may only be the beginning, depending on how automatic it is (my first Saturn had NOTHING power on it AT ALL – so much cheaper that way!). But make your decision and stick with it. There’s nothing worse than giving up on a car when you’ve dumped a bunch of money into it. Unless, of course, you’re the guy buying it.

    Hugs to you, I’m confident that this will only be a tiny bump when you’re on the other side of your debt.

  41. First where did the money for the kid’s college come from? You or people “gifting” the kids. If it’s gifts, I’d say no way should you touch it. It’s a gift from people who wanted it for your kids. If it’s you then it’s fair game.

    Are you still into used cars or have you changed your mind from November?

    I’m thinking about this topic myself and am curious about what you’ll do.

    We also will have about $3k in car repairs coming up on DH’s 2000 Ford focus. It has only 80k miles but is worth only $4k. No loan. We have an opportunity to buy a friends 1998 Subaru Impreza with 125k miles. Not sure what to do?

    Dump money into a car which is a lemon or go with a direct trade?

    I can definitely see your problem. I think I would not fix it and try a $1k beater and pay off the $3300 and let the $1k last even 10 months and you’d be golden. There are lot of $1k cars that just run and you could use for a year until you can save up for more.

  42. A portion of it is gifts to the kids, a portion of it is money we put into it, and a portion is ING referrals. Most of my daughters is money we put into it, and my son’s is about half and half.

    I am still into used cars. My spouse’s car was used, and so was this car. if we got another car it would be a used car.

    My “problem” in my head is not with getting a used car. It is that I don’t feel safe driving my kids around in a $1K beater car. And neither does my spouse. We actually discussed tonight if I should take his car and he get a beater car, but he refused because his car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes and he insists the kids have them.

    I don’t know why I can do to myself something I won’t do to the kids, but there it is. I drove my GEO Tracker literally into the ground (14 years, 200,000+ miles, into the ground) but when I was pregant with my son we got this car instead because we didn’t feel okay driving the kid around in it.

    My brain is odd.

  43. Hello paidtwice.

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now and have been enjoying your writing.

    I am really sorry to hear about the car. I just hate car repairs. You have my very best wishes that this works out ok for you.

    A couple of thoughts.

    By the sounds of it you don’t know a mechanic personally, but ask around with your friends and family. A friend of mine is a mechanic and he usually has a couple of beaters around his place that he lets go cheap.

    I think that picking up a beater cheap $500 – $1000, and driving that while you save for the repair is an option. I understand you’re not comfortable with the kids in a beater. I think using your husband’s car for driving the kids is better than the beater. Anti lock brakes get a mixed bag of responses here;

    You and your husbands piece of mind is the most important part of that decision though.

    Is there a family member or friend you can borrow a car from for a few months?

    While things would be difficult to manage with one car, would that be better than going into debt?

    We have a 1997 Chevy Venture that just rolled over to 275,000 kilometers. Replaced that engine once, mechanic couldn’t give us a reason why the engine seized. A couple of years later the head gasket went. It turns out that GM gaskets break down in contact with oil. Yeah, the part that keeps the oil from leaking out of the engine, dissolves in contact with oil. There’s a class action suit in progress right now. By the sounds of people’s comments there’s a history of problems with Saturns. See if there are any hidden warrantees or recalls. See if there is a class action suit. Might not help right now, but it might get you money back down the road.

    Whatever happens, best of luck. Your family are all healthy, the car didn’t break down in another state, you have friends and family. Things could be worse.

  44. After reading through the comments, I think it might be a good idea to get it fixed. But I did want to throw in my two cents about older cars. Once upon a time husband and I bought a 92 Honda Civic, when we bought it it had 100,000 miles on it and at the time was ten years old. We paid around $3000 for it and when we sold it (we had to because we had no way to move it cross country with us) four years later, we got nearly half that for it. My husband’s current second car is a 91 Toyota Corolla. We bought it for $1500, have had it for a little over a year and it’s been a great car. Hondas and Toyotas will run forever, and I have no concerns about the kids riding in our almost 20 year old car.

  45. Alison – it is the ice we’re afraid of.We live in a place where most of our winter consists of ice. We get some snow, but a LOT of ice. Unknown black ice is very common. My spouse’s car (a ’96 corolla, so yes I agree about toyotas lol) fishtails on ice and he’s spun out more than once since we moved here 4 years ago. And he is seriously the most boring conservative driver I have ever met. My next car will be a toyota or a honda I think. that is what we looked at actually online yesterday – camrys and accords from 2001 or so up. And they retain value so well that we would have had to spend close to or over $10K to get one, at least here. So… well… we didn’t. I was hoping to find something 8 or less years old that was around the same price as the car repoairs, but, no luck for us anyway.I’m still a little torn but we decided the best we could for ourselves at the time. I have no problem with beater cars though. And if this happened in April maybe we would have decided for me to drive my spouse’s car and him get a beater for a bit. I dunno. :)

  46. I feel the pain :( My husband’s car died right after we spent our entire emergency fund fixing it. After the screaming, crying, ranting, and raving, we sat down and thought about it. We’d had 4 used cars die (and by die I mean, stopped running and would require more than $2K in repairs) in under 3 years. The problem is that, around here, used car dealers only take cash/checks. NO financing, no credit cards. That’s why we were always getting beaters in the first place — it was all we could afford! And, technically, we had borrowed the $$ to fix it from my in-laws — couldn’t borrow any more from them, and my parents were in straits of their own, so even if I could bend my neck enough to accept more money, there WAS no more money.We had literally no money saved after fixing it the last time.

    So we got a new car. New-new, and we sucked it up and added to our debt because of it. I got the cheapest car with the best mpg possible and I’ll be paying it off for 4 years (min) or 6 years (max).

    And I LOVE it. The car is beyond reliable, and the deals that come with new cars involve the dealership fixing any problems for the entire 6 years of the loan. I used to worry getting into my used cars. I’ve had cars die on the parkway and literally get me stuck in a middle lane with cars swerving around me doing 70. I had smoke POUR out of my engine suddenly in the middle of a parkway. Now…. I don’t worry anymore. And the emotional freedom is worth the debt to me :)

  47. Have you had it checked out, to make sure that the engine is the only thing wrong? That the transmission and such are still good and going to last? Because if it’s in good shape in every way except for needing a new engine, go for it. You already know all the quirks of this car, and can deal with it.

    There’s also the option I’ve used in the past: junk yard engine. Call around, or find a mechanic willing to do it for you, and find a rear-end wrecked car of the same kind, and get the engine from it. My car cost less than $1700 total, having the engine replaced that way once.

    Sorry I’m all over the place – crazy day.

    Also – I bet if you put up a Paypal button, a bunch of us would jump in and help out. If enough people were to contribute a couple dollars, crisis would be averted. You could pay it forward by directing blog traffic to another out-of-debt-er when they have a crisis… Just a thought!

  48. Car repairs are the worst. Or at least always seem like it at the time. Right up there with car repairs are medical bills. Just what you need when you or someone you love is sick or in the hospital is a stack of incomprehensible medical bills to sift through.

    My wife and I have some friend that just ended up having an engine go bad the day after Christmas and 3 days later in their other car while the first was still in the shop being fixed started over heating. It needed a thermostat to be replaced. If it wasn’t for the kindness of friends they wouldn’t have been able to get to work for a few days.

    I think everyone feels your pain with car repairs. I wish you the best of luck in getting debt free. My wife and I are about 20 month’s ways from paying off all of our credit cards. 26 months from having no car payments. 20 months from getting rid of my student loan. It’s all achievable with proper planning and a passionate pursuit of it as a steady goal in your life. The big screen TV can wait. I can pay cash for it in 3 years.


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