At the beginning of last week, my car's transmission started making the dreaded clunking noise. It wasn't terrible, as long as I could accelerate slowly and gave it ample time to warm up in the morning, but still, it's just one of those sounds that you know is bad news.
Then on Wednesday night, I'm out running errands in The Hubs' car when it won't start. I know it's not the battery because we just had that replaced about a month ago, plus all the lights are on in the car and the radio works. It has to be the starter. (His response when I call him and tell him: "is this a joke?") I call AAA and I wait. And wait. And wait. It's just about the end of their allotted time frame for when they could show up when I tried to start the car again. Miracle of miracles, it worked. I hightailed it out of that parking lot and back home before it could fritz out on me again. Of course, after I got home, the car wouldn't start again.
On Thursday, we both took off work so we could get the car looked at. After a few tries, it started and we were able to take it to our mechanic in Absecon. As suspected, it was the starter. The Hubs was able to borrow my mom's car on Friday to get to work while it got fixed. Another $300 down the drain. I also took my car for an oil change in the hopes that it was just low transmission fluid causing it to turn over so hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't, and the car still has problems switching between first and second gear. I'm taking it in for a full transmission service on the 27th, which will switch out all the old fluid and filter, but there won't be any major repairs done. A new transmission will cost more than the car is worth, so the plan is to just to drive as little as possible until it totally gives out.
In response to all this, the hunt for a new car for The Hubs has been renewed and I'm hoping by the end of next month, we'll have found one that's smaller, more fuel efficient, and, most importantly, more reliable. The Hubs owes more on the car than I thought (about $9,000), but I did an online instant trade-in offer on Auto Trader and got a quote for about $6,500 on the trade-in value. I think that number is a little low, so I'm hopeful we can get between $7,000 - $7,500 for it, especially now that we did so many repairs. I've used a few online calculators to figure out if we get a car between $15,000 - $17,000, his car payments will be approximately the same as they are now for the same amount of time (five years). We're going to my in-laws this weekend, so I'm going to try and push him to go car shopping in the Leigh Valley region either Saturday or Monday.
As for me, it's a bit more complicated (isn't it always?). I haven't had a car payment since 2010, and, as you probably know from reading this blog, my current finances sometimes don't allow for me to go grocery shopping in a pay period, let alone make a car payment. I also have zero money set aside for a down payment and (obviously) my car is worth virtually nothing as a trade-in. The only way I could afford a car payment right now would be to buy another older vehicle, and honestly, what's the point in that? I run the same risk of a different older car breaking down that I do with the one I currently own. I've found one dealership nearby that is offering a $4,500 "cash for clunkers" program and I plan to check them out, but I'm not getting my hopes up. The plan is to buckle down and get a second job (hopefully one close by), so I can sock away some extra money for a heftier down payment. I've also been whispering sweet nothings to the engine and rubbing the dashboard
I know my brother-in-law and his wife recently had a similar circumstance happen to them, but Stephanie is waaaaaay more fiscally responsible than I am, so they were able to weather the storm a bit better than we are.
We did have one sliver of good luck (money-wise) this week - The Hubs won his fantasy football pool at work and came home Monday with $1,100! Football season is one of the only times I'm grateful I married a sports fanatic.