(Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
A relative of mine (no names!) is married with two small children. Both adults work full-time, and kids need to be shuttled to daycare or school, so they really do need two reliable vehicles. They own three – yes, three cars – so they should be fine, right? One is an older foreign model, the other two are older domestic ones. I will refrain from specifying the make and model of each car, and merely refer to them by their color.
The silver car had gone into the shop for some repair, and they left it there because they still had two other cars to use. They bought it used about a year ago, but it’s been in the shop 3 or 4 times already.
The navy blue car was bought from a co-worker less than a year ago. Almost from day one, the blue car was trouble. It has had a number of problems, the worst of which is its propensity to not start. More than one repair shop has worked on it, and all the obvious parts have been replaced, to no avail. It’s been in the shop at least six times! It is the blue car that the mom and kids hopped into this morning about 6:00 am, only to find that it wouldn’t start. So mom, dad and kids all shifted over to their last hope, the red car.
The red car was bought by the dad only slightly used (3 years old) before they got married, and really was a gem for many years. But now the body is badly corroded, and barely hanging together. They close the doors gently so that not too much rust falls off. Today the dad drops the kids off at daycare and mom at work, then gets to work late. After work he stops at the grocery-store to get a few food items. When he gets back out to the car, old faithful refuses to start! So he has to call a relative to come jump start his little red car. The car still refuses to start, so they push it over to the repair shop next door.
A lot of websites and blogs recommend buying used cars to save money. If you happen to be a mechanic, and can fix things yourself, that’s probably a good alternative to buying a new car and having payments every month for years. But a used car that keeps breaking down is no bargain. There’s the cost of towing or getting someone to rescue you, the cost of labor and parts at the shop, the lost work time and possible write-ups by your boss for being late too often, and the stress of wondering if your transportation will work today.
Sometimes you have no choice – the money just isn’t there to buy a new, or even a 2-or-3-year-old car. Then you do research online or at the public library to see what used cars are most reliable, try to get someone knowledgeable about cars to look at used cars with you, and pray for wisdom to pick a good car that’s affordable. Your car doesn’t have to be new or flashy, but it definitely needs to get you and your household from point A to point B without a problem. Sometimes “cheap” is not really cheap in the end.