My 1996 Honda Accord gave up the ghost, so to speak, and left for Honda Heaven earlier this month.
I bought it six years ago after my 2000 Corolla (which I’d bought brand new in 1999) was totaled. I was oh-so-fortunate back then, the proceeds from my crushed and crumpled Corolla just exactly covered the cost of the Accord, so I haven’t had a car payment in about ten years. Now, at a time when I’m both out of work and out of savings, I needed a new car, and I needed a way to finance it.
I should say, I’m actually underemployed, not unemployed. I work part-time and knew I would barely make enough to scrape by with a car payment and the higher insurance cost. Up to this time I’d been modestly comfortable with my limited income in that I haven’t struggled to pay my bills or purchase food. That would change. The loss of my Accord meant more than just losing a vehicle, I was losing a lifestyle, as modest as it was. Finding a new job has been incredibly difficult for me, and I didn’t expect that tide to turn immediately.
I didn’t relish the thought of going back to where I was before I got this job. There were days, weeks even, when I’d be stuck at home because I didn’t have enough money to put gas in my car to go anywhere. I barely had enough to buy essentials such as toilet paper and laundry soap. I gave up cable TV a long time ago, although right now I can afford Netflix — most months. So now, even though I’m working, my expenses would go up radically (given my limited income to start with) and I’d be back where I was a year ago. Scary, depressing.
Looking into what was out there was exhausting and I proved to be a car salesman’s dream customer, someone who just wants to get the deal done and drive off in her new — or used — car. Fortunately, I had a co-signer with a stake in this who put the brakes on and forced me to ask around to make sure I was getting the best deal possible. I hated every second of it and more than once tried to tell him I just wanted to take the deal and get it over with, but he wouldn’t do it.
It isn’t easy when you know one of your inherent characteristics may lead you to be taken advantage of by someone trained to do just that. I had to tell myself, be thankful there’s someone willing to show you how it’s done by taking the time to do it himself. Sit back and relax. Get a good night’s sleep before you make any decisions. Listen to the wisdom of someone who’s been there before you. I had to set aside doubts such as, his information is outdated, they do things differently these days (turns out they don’t). My anxiety was getting the better of me and making me look for the quickest way out. Problem is, that way out can lead to the wrong path.
Remarkably, my co-signer/fairy godmother found an incredible deal that allowed me to drive off in a brand-new Prius at a price I could afford. So today for the first time in years I found myself driving a car I can take outside the county limits, because I don’t need to be within calling distance of friends or family when (not if) it breaks down. The maintenance agreement even covers oil changes for two years. My costs have gone up and gone down at the same time, although on the balance they do remain higher.
The remarkable end to what seemed like an impossible situation — finding a car when I had no credit and a limited income — has given me the courage to search for a job more appropriate to my education and experience. I’ve been held back by legitimate barriers, too complex to describe here, but the time may have come to knock them down. I’ll wait a few months so I can make at least one trip to see my mom, who lives a day’s drive away. Of course saying that almost certainly guarantees a job opportunity too good to pass up will come my way sooner. I can only hope.