Having bad credit (and I mean really bad credit none of this 500s shit) can send really nice people to pretty smarmy places. Case in point; my recent search for an automobile. With two repos, a barrage of charge offs, judgements, and a tax lien sitting on my credit like raw canker sores I wasn't gonna be headed to Carmax anytime soon.
Nope, I had to get my hands dirty. Reeeaaaallll dirty. With $1500 in hand and a dream that I could buy a car that would withstand at least two years on the open road I set out on my search. First stop: Craig's List, the emerald city of the internet! I figured if one could purchase animals, furniture, and illicit sex acts from this virtual Oz, surely I make my dream come true (for $1500 or less).
Initially, trying to at least be smart about it, I waited around for the trusty (and I use that world very loosely) men in my family to show up and rescue me from the "woman-buying-a-used-car-curse" . This did not happen. So with Google by my side I searched for used car check list that would serve as a guide. After looking over it I found it was pretty thorough which allowed me to let go of some of the anxiety I was feeling around the whole ordeal (I only wished I'd given myself more time to look at it). I spent about a few days looking finding many hits that wound up being misses, but I finally settled on three vehicles.
Vehicle 1: 1989 Nissan Maxima
Alright, so this car had been in existence since I was thirteen, but Nissan's have a fairly decent name for themselves right? Plus, considering some of the vehicles I see on the open road still kicking up dust...literally, I thought it was worth a shot AND I mean geez, he only wanted $900 dollars for it (and had even dropped it to $800 by the time I got there!). That would leave me with more than enough money to buy an iPad after it was all said and done. (GOD I need help.)
Despite my initial optimism, in the back of my mind I knew with the driving I do on average this was a shaky option. It didn't help that I'd spent so much time waiting to be rescued by men folk (hell that's a whole other blog all together). This left me with only 20 minutes to view the car. I had to skip much of my check list, which left me with a pretty unsettled feeling, and I only got to drive the car around the neighborhood because of the time constraints. It didn’t run poorly by any means and it even looked pretty decent cosmetically even with the age of the vehicle. I decided to tell the seller I’d think about it until after I’d seen the other cars that I’d planned to look at that day. Which brings me to the next vehicle...
Vehicle 2: 1998 Volkswage Passat...or maybe it’s a Jetta?
I arrived at Rock Hill auto auction with my game face on. I had a fresh list, and I had PLENTY of time to peruse and examine the vehicle that I’d come to look at. The listing (and actually this one was on autotrader.com) was for a 1998 Volkwagen Passat. The ad sounded really promising and I couldn’t wait to see the car. I caravanned to Rock Hill and ghost road past a car lot that looked like a used vehicle waste land. Determined not to judge a book by it’s outsides I pulled in and asked for the vehicle that had been listed. I got a hem. I got a ha. I got that the vehicle probably didn’t exist. I’m no quitter though, so I laid on the line what I had to pay and let the dealer (we’ll call him “Harold”) know that I was there to play hard ball. (Oh the depths!)
So Harold who is now my bestie because he want’s to “put me in a car” but his boss has “tied his hands” *sigh*, but...but wait! There’s hope! a 1995 VW Jetta sitting all on it’s lonesome on the lot. It’s only $500 more than what I wanted to pay anyway, and if I was just willing to give him the $1500 I did have, I could make up the rest later! (Yes, I saw through this bullshit. Geez people.) I did want to see the vehicle though. I figured I could get ‘im where I wanted ‘im once my handy dandy check list had diminished the value of the car.
You all should have saw me. I was an auto analysis master of the universe! I had magnets and coins. I tested the body and tires. I threw Harold for quite the loop. Even he had to say “Damn girl, you know what you doin’!” It felt good, because I actually did. After careful inspection I found the Jetta was not worth $1500. It probably wasn’t worth 900 (do you attempt to sell a car for $2000 when the accelerator needle doesn’t work and sleep at night?!) I walked away from Rock Hill Auto Auction completely confident in the fact that I’d made a sound decision. It felt quite amazing. So it was on to my last stop Chik-Fila! This is where I would take a look at...
Vehicle 3: 1994 Mazda 626
All the adventure of the day had left me 100% drained. All I wanted was a kids strip meal, and a nap. I had agreed to see one more vehicle, a 1994 Mazda 626. Ironically, or whatever you’d call it, I graduated in 1994 and one of the first cars I ever owned was a Mazda 626 (I did get shot at in that car though =/...again that’s a total other blog). I’d called the young man who owned the car. He’d agreed to meet me and I’d pulled out blank check list number three when my phone ring. It was the calvary. My uncle Grover, he said he was on his way to Rock Hill to look at the car. In he rode on his white horse (disguised as a white Chevy pick up truck.) The young man showed and they talk that special car talk that men talk when they get together that begins to sound like the adults in Peanuts after about 5 minutes in my ears.
What I hate is, I folded. A man showed up, and I forgot about everything. My list. My stubborn determination. I just let him do it. It took him five minutes to decide that the car was worth what the young man was asking $1500 (no iPad for me...wamp wamp waaaaamp). I negotiated the particulars of finishing the purchase and picking up the car with none of the confidence I'd walked away with after my earlier experiences.
The upside is I finally have a vehicle after going $600 in debt in rental car fees (wait, that was my iPad...*bumbed*). The downside is I'm not at all confident in my decision which was ironically made based off the help I initially wanted. The bottom line is that it's done, and I'm glad for it. It was a learning experience. It was a practice in learning to trust myself and a lesson in trusting other people. Ultimately when buying a used car you can NEVER really know how long said vehicle will last, and it's not lasting is not always some diabolical plan of the seller to rip you off. Some times cars, (and people) pass on and we can never know when, where, why or how it's going to happen. We just have to put our best foot forward to avoid unnecessary issues.
If I had to give myself a grade it'd probably be a C+/B-. It's the first major purchasing decision I've made in a long while, and probably one that I've been the most responsible in making since I've been an adult...seriously. The greatest gift is that I can see that this is a new beginning for my financial future. My credit score may be in the shitter, but I'm as determined as I was on the lot of Rock Hill Auto Auction that it won't stay there. Most of all I believe that this number does not diminish who I am as a person.
Well, I have to go and drop off the rental, and thank GOD it's homework time with Zion!...not really.
p.s. I got in the car, drove it for a while and the check engine light came on. It's running fine, I'm taking deep cleansing breaths, and calling my mechanic in the morning.