Why I Traded My $300 Hoopty for a $13,000 Car and a $20,000 Loan

MirageA few weeks before I got married in late summer 2011, I suddenly wanted to buy a new car.  In fact, I felt I deseeeerved a new car.  Up until that point, I was perfectly fine with my loyal yet atrocious 1998 Mitsubishi Mirage that was gifted to me during my junior year of college.  However, at this point in time, the pressure of an approaching wedding and the excitement of an out-of-town bachelor party made me yearn to become what I thought to be a real adult—a person with a car loan and a credit score.

In my naivety, I searched online for a car and found a “good deal” on a 2010 NISSAN Versa during the 2012 car season.  To be fair, it actually was a good deal if I didn’t also have $25,000+ in student loans around my neck.  Despite this previous debt, I pressed forward towards purchasing my car.

With $3000 as a down payment, I marched down to the dealership to test drive my future auto.  It felt so good to hold the grip of a new steering wheel beneath my fingers, to have air conditioning and automatic locks for the first time ever, to utilize a functioning horn once more, and to hear the music from a working car radio again.  It was a thrill. It was an intoxication.  It was a gateway drug.

As it happens, all gateway drugs eventually lead to death or debt—my experience was no exception.

While my journey to a new car was smiles and rainbows on the dealership lot, it quickly became frowns and thunderstorms once I entered the financing office.  What was once a $13,000 car inflated into total payments of $20,000—and that’s only because I paid the loan off three years early.  These payments included a meager down-payment, bloated interest charges, high tax fees, an unnecessary maintenance pre-payment plan, and a ludicrous invention called gap insurance.

Never has Proverbs 22:3 been so true: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Simple I was. So simple that I thought I pulled one over on the dealership.  Trust me folks, you will never pull one over on a dealership.  Salespeople are professionals, they study you, and they know how to push your buttons.  Please use my experience as words of caution: if you don’t have the money to pay something in full, then you can’t afford it!

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As a bit of fun, I know it will take some digging, but what are some good cars that I can purchase now for $3000 that would be better than buying a new car for thousands more?