My Daddy Took My T-Bird Away
Tips to Saving on Transportation
January 11, 1998
Phone call. Friend in need. "Why don’t you come stay with us?" I hear myself saying. No problem. Add two more adults, a child, and a dog to our home. I only hope Dannie the wonder dog (Jennifer’s fragrant pal) gets along with Maggie, the golden retriever puppy.
We’ll put the family of three on the hide-a-bed in the living room and on the love seat. They are really a nice family, upset at being displaced from their home. Diane, Jaime, and Katie are their names, and I’m just happy we have the room to offer them. I could tell it was very difficult for them to accept our hospitality. As a matter of fact, Jaime was going to sleep in the unheated house (while it’s twenty below zero outside) and just bring his wife and child over to our house. He’s the kind of guy who thinks about his family before he thinks about himself. He wanted them warm—and he didn’t want to impose.
We finally convinced them to stay a couple of days. Diane cried on the phone when she accepted our offer. We have so much and we’re offering so little.
Bob is still working around the clock. I’m exhausted. I’m
so glad Jennifer is staying here. If it weren’t for her, around
8:30 this evening, I would have called 9-1-1 and asked them to come bathe Joshua. Thankfully, Jennifer did it.
P.S. At least the lice are gone—we hope. (Maybe they froze to death?)
Living through that ice storm made me long for the days when I didn’t have the responsibility of a large family. While the weather was a frozen wasteland outside and the Kay Circus was on parade inside, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my teenage years, when life was carefree.
Back then I drove a Datsun B210 I bought for $950 in 1978. When I said I paid for it—that’s exactly what I mean. I saved my paycheck from a part-time job, baby-sitting, and industry money (see chapter 17). It ran well, and my girlfriends and I had lots of fun in it.
From the time I was sixteen, I also paid for my gas, insurance, and maintenance on my car. My dad was an excellent mechanic, and this fact helped this little girl out a lot! I learned from an early age that buying used is oftentimes buying best when it comes to cars—and many other goods. Let’s see what little tips will help save big bucks on transportation.
Tips to Saving on Transportation
One of the first things we need to ask ourselves before we buy any car is—why? Are you tired of your present car? Can the car you have be repaired without major expense? How many miles do you have left on your present car? If you have a loan, how much do you still owe the bank on it? Do you really need a new car? Or is it just a big want? The new-car bug is a contagious disease in our country today, and when it bites you, it’ll seem like your old car is falling apart. The same questions apply to the genuine need for a second car.
The least expensive car you can own is usually the "paid for" car you’re driving right now.
Used Doesn’t Mean Abused
The average depreciation of a new car during the first year can be up to 31 percent of the price you paid for it. Incredible! With most new cars, you lose $5,000 as soon as you drive it off the showroom floor. Let someone else own it for that expensive year! Consider the purchase of a late model, low-mileage, mechanically sound, and well-maintained used car.
If at all possible, try to talk to the previous owner of the used car before you buy it—most of these folks will be honest. Be leery of repainted portions of the car—it usually indicates an accident. Look carefully under the car for rust. Once a car starts to rust, there’s no turning back. Avoid buying a car from anyone who smokes. Cigarette smoke damages seals, glue, and upholstery. You may be willing to accept minor, not major, repairs on a vehicle if it will substantially reduce the price. Be prepared to pay for these repairs, and add them to the cost of the car.
Negotiate for a 100 percent short-term guarantee if possible from the seller (at least one week). This guarantee should apply to dealers and individuals. When you drive the car for the first week, you’ll find 90 percent of the problems you bought.
Make a Mechanic Your Friend
Take the car to a reliable and trustworthy mechanic—and pay him to look it over. By the way, the best time to find a mechanic is before you need one. Ask your friends, neighbors, or co-workers for a reference. A mechanic’s reputation—either good or bad—usually follows him closely.
You’ll need a friendly mechanic as your advisor and to service your present car. It’s always a good idea to be nice to your tool guy. Bake him some snickerdoodle cookies, and don’t forget the milk.
Since I was fifteen years old, I’ve been around the automobile industry. My neighbor, Mr. Bailey, owned a Lincoln/Mercury dealership, and they needed a file clerk/receptionist. I worked every summer, weekends, and after school.
Being around the car lot showed me that those stories you’ve heard about used-car salesmen can be true. Oh sure, there were nice guys in the business—like Mr. Bailey. These exceptions are the guys we’ve purchased cars from. One of our favorite dealerships is Berry Chrysler/Plymouth in Corsicana, Texas. They’ve garnered numerous customer service awards. Their business is spotless and has a wonderful play area for the munchkins. Folks come from as far away as Houston and Dallas to buy their cars in this small town.
I’ve been around enough dealerships throughout the years to know that once you find an honest salesman—theirs is a friendship worth having!
A trustworthy resource found in most car dealerships is the handy-dandy blue book. This is the book your bank officer also keeps handy. It lists the wholesale and retail value of a used car. The price is affected by mileage, wear and tear on the vehicle, and mechanical reliability—among other factors. You can also check the blue book value on the Internet at www.edmonds.com.
It’s better to secure a loan from your personal bank—negotiating and shopping for the best price. Know the blue book value of the vehicle and negotiate with the dealership as if you were a cash buyer—you won’t be using their banks anyway. Try to never pay more than $100 over the wholesale value.
Try to sell your current car privately and don’t trade it in. Detail it yourself—washing and waxing it to a glorious shine. As you clean and scrub, think of all the extra money you’ll make by this minimum effort—it’s surprising! Put an ad in your local paper, and another one up on the bulletin board at work, and tell your friends you’re selling your car.
If you trade in your vehicle to a car dealership, you’ll get significantly less for it. It doesn’t matter how much the salesman "says" he’s giving you on the trade. They’ll often inflate the value of the trade, then figure the inflated amount in the negotiated price on the vehicle you purchase. It’s not illegal, it’s just a card shuffle—to make you buy the vehicle.
For example, let’s say the sticker price on the new car is $21,500. The blue book value on your used car is $7,000. The dealership says they’ll give you $7,500 on your trade. You’re ecstatic. Then you negotiate on the sticker price of the car and end up paying $21,000 less your trade, for a total of $13,500.
If you got the normal trade-in value on the car of around $5,500—you could still pay around $13,500 for the car. The sales manager would allow more bargaining room on the sticker price if they had less cash invested in your trade. The difference is—you’d get a $500 discount with a $7,500 trade, and a $3,000 discount with a $5,500 trade. You’re better off selling your car on your own and negotiating on the $21,500 sticker price as a cash buyer with no trade. The only exception would be to negotiate the value of the new car separately from the value of the trade-in.
When You Need New
Let’s say your old, rich Uncle Harry died and left you as his heir. The only stipulation is you must buy a new car in order to collect the millions waiting in the bank. This is about the only reason that you’d need to buy a new car. Most people just desperately want a new car.
If you must buy new, then try to avoid buying the newest, latest, greatest model—as soon as it comes out. Instead, buy an end-of-the-year clearance model, a demonstrator model, or a rental car. December and January are the best times to get these bargains because that’s when dealerships experience their lowest annual sales. Buy a cheaper model of the same vehicle, rather than the luxury model. Buy the smallest car that will still fit your needs.
Leasing a Car
The only way to spend more on a car than buying it new is to lease a vehicle. Leasing a car is the most expensive means of driving a vehicle. The only exception is if you use it for business, anticipate extremely high mileage, and there’s a substantial tax savings offered.
If the only way you can drive the car you want is to lease it, then pass on it. There’s a less expensive car for you that will still meet your needs.
Since transportation is the moving of goods or persons from one place to another, consider alternative forms of transportation. Some towns we’ve been assigned to are very small. How small are they? I’m glad you asked. They are so small that we can get by with one car. In these past assignments, Bob got rides to work or rode his bike. Yes, it was inconvenient at times—but it fit our budget and eliminated the financial stress of another vehicle.
Car pools, buses, and public transportation facilities are all ways to get your person from one place to another. Even if your alternative transportation is only seasonal, it may help to reassess your genuine need for a vehicle.
Some friends of ours in California, the Rodgers, recently bought an alternate form of transportation, a motorcycle. He’s a paramedic fireman and she’s a Christian school teacher—not your typical bikers. While leather is not normally Jeanette’s "thing," she says it’s opened doors to ministry and brought many new friends into her life. It also gives her an excuse for bad-hair days.
Bonus Tip—Saving on Daily Car Expenses
Gas Mileage. To save on gas, try these tips:
• Remove unnecessary weight from the trunk.
• Avoid quick starts—leave these to teenage boys. Drive smoothly and steadily.
• Check the air in your tires regularly; the wrong amount of air wastes fuel and accelerates tire wear.
• Make sure your wheels are properly aligned and balanced.
• You lose four miles per gallon (mpg) by running the air conditioner, and the same amount by having the windows open on the highway (due to wind drag).
• Lose that fifteen pounds you’ve been putting off losing—you’ll save five mpg per month!
• Buy lower-octane-level gas—premium gas is only recommended for 10 percent of the cars manufactured today. The rest of us have vehicles that don’t need this expensive gas. Also, 10 percent of the pumps marked high octane, or premium, do not actually contain the higher-quality gas. Some states have random testing of octane levels and others do not—so you may not get what you’re paying for!
• Get a tune-up, change your oil, and you’ll save 15 percent a year on gas mileage.
• Combine errands—instead of running errands several days a week, combine and run all of them on the same day.
• Ride with others in car pools to work, parties, school, errands, the gym, the library, or wherever you and a friend want to go together.
• Buy gasoline at a discount service station and pump your own.
• Walk whenever possible; the best way to save gas is to not use it at all.
• Drive within the speed limit.
• Splurge on quality motor oil; it extends the life of the motor and increases mpg.