Category Archives: Transportation

Finally Bought a Car… Paid All Cash, Will Not Hit Networth Goal This Year

I made a decision that this year I will not hit my networth goal in order to purchase a quality car. I test drove dozens of vehicles to determine the best make and model for my needs. I determined that I’d like to spend under $15,000 on the car, but $18,000 maximum if I found someone I loved in that price range. My goal was to purchase from a private party, but I felt it would be easier to buy a car from a dealer.

After test driving everything from a 2007 BMW 328i to a Volkswagen Passat, and a brief interlude where I was convinced I wanted to buy the Volvo S40, I settled on the Hyundai Sonata. I didn’t think the car’s 2.4L engine would be enough power for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the power the vehicle had. The Hyundai dealership had two 2011’s in stock to test drive — I decided to try out the one with more mileage (60k) since it was ticketed at $18k vs $20k of the lower milage model. I really didn’t want to spend $18k on a car, so I figured if I could somehow talk the dealership down to $15k I might buy it. I really needed a car and my boyfriend was getting tired of driving me around, so purchasing a car today was my goal… but not overpaying.

I actually went out to test drive a 2007 private party V6 camry and thought it might be the right choice. It was priced at $16.5k, fully loaded, but I figured I could talk the seller down. But as I test drove the Camry, I remembered why I didn’t like the car. It just felt bulky and heavy. The knobs inside the car looked cheap. It was a fine car but not something I wanted to spend over $15,000 on.

So then I test drove the Sonata and fell in love. I figured I had nothing to lose saying I wanted to pay $15k for the $18k car… and expected the sales manager to drop to $16.5k at the lowest. But through my “sophisticated” negotiating powers or sheer luck I got them down to $15.5k. It was still more than I really wanted to spend, but it was a really good deal for the car – which was loaded with many features. With the $15.5k price tag, I couldn’t turn down the deal. I ended up paying an extra $1.7k for a 4 year, 60k mile warranty, which puts me a bit at ease since I’m worried about buying such a pricey used car… though it kind of has me paying the same amount I would have paid without negotiating. At least everything is covered for four years.

It feels good to have a car with all working features! However, it’s sad that I won’t be able to reach my $250k networth goal this year. I guess that’s not such a big deal, I’ll just have to focus on saving a lot next year and for the rest of this year to make up for it. But it will be hard to see my networth drop from $225k to $205k. I might be able to save $225k for the year but not $250k. Oh well. I needed a car and I decided that I’m going on 30, and deserve something nice… and that I can grow into as I potentially have/start a family in the next 3-7 years.

Shopping for a Car: The Unnecessary Saga

*edited to add: the reason I am considering such an old car model is that for the next 2 years I have the remainder of my DUI sentence with increased insurance premiums. I am paying $120 per month right now for very basic, no comprehensive insurance due to the DUI. The punishment was deserved, but I do not see myself buying a nice car which requires comprehensive insurance. My original plan was to keep my old car around until the end of the sentence so I wouldn’t have to worry about comprehensive insurance, but it’s pretty much dead now. So I’m trying to buy a car that will get me through the next 2-3 years that won’t require even more expensive insurance. I forgot to mention this.

There seem to be as many models of cars as there are people in the world. Big ones, small ones, fancy ones, simple ones, Japanese ones, American ones, European ones, new ones, old ones, really old ones with expensive surgery to make them look like younger ones, et al. And today, with my poor, destroyed ’99 Toyota parked silently in a carport space waiting for its end of days, I know it’s time to get a new(er) car. It’s been time for a while. Since, in 2011, when it was hit and had the front bumper ripped off. A year later, the insurance company finally agreed with me that the accident wasn’t my fault and send me the remainder of a $2000 check. But, the car, worth less than this with 200k miles and a leaky engine, wasn’t worth repairing. I started to hunt for a new car. Yes, in 2011.

It’s getting a little (extremely) ridiculous that I haven’t purchased a car yet. The two issues at hand are 1, determining which car to get, and 2, figuring out how to pay for the car.

When I bought my last car, I went about it in my typical anxiety-ridden way. While I was curious about the plethora of choices out there, I quickly limited my  choices but determining I should get a  Toyota or Honda. I didn’t like the Honda logo or body styles (superficial, yes, but I am) so a Toyota was the winner. I didn’t want a Corolla because they were, well, ugly (I had no idea about performance comparisons at that time.) Prior to deciding on a Toyota I nearly bought a used Chevy Aveo or a used Saab hatchback from two different dealers. Those were the only two cars I tested out before deciding on the Solara. Continue reading

Time to Buy a New Car

Ok, if the embarrassment of driving around with a banged up car wasn’t enough to push me to buying a new model, the water(?) leak in my trunk(?) and random loud squeaking noises when the car gets started up, I’ve determined it’s time to make my next purchase. That means I have to do one of my least favorite things in the world: car shopping.

The good news is that even if my car completely breaks down, I’ll be fine. It would be a bit of a pain but I could easily take a bus to a shuttle bus to get to my office and back. Yes, an 8 mile trip would then take about an hour and a half one way, but it would be do able. My plan all along was to wait until my car completely died and then wait for the perfect car to come along while taking public transit.

But my car is dying a very, very slow death. And being the illogical frugalista that I am, I’ve put off buying something newer for a while now. It’s time. Or, it’s time to stop driving this car and just accept public transportation as a way of life. I’m almost tempted to donate it now just to force myself to stop driving it (I really shouldn’t be showing up at my office in the state it’s in.) Continue reading

I Went Car Shopping Today…

I’m not sure which I dislike more – going to the dentist or going car shopping. Today, I decided it was time to take the leap and visit a car dealership to at least test drive a few cars and get a feel for what I’d like to buy. I went in with the plan to spend $14k – $16k on my next (used) car. I left wanting to buy a $26k 2013 Nissan Passat.

It’s not that I’m obsessed with the idea of buying a new car, I just happen to really like the design of cars built in 2012 and 2013. The Passat built before this, for instance, looks awful. Sure, looks aren’t anything, but if I’m spending more than $5k on something I’m going to drive everyday they matter.

But spending $26,000 on a car doesn’t make sense. Neither does spending $20,000. My last car I bought used from a private seller for about $8k after taxes. Granted, that was 7 years ago, but today I should be able to buy a similar car for $12k. So wasting an extra $8k – $15k just doesn’t make sense. I’m writing that a lot because I’m trying to convince myself of that. Continue reading

Car Allowance Calculator

I’m trying to figure out how much car I can afford that still allows me to hit my $200k networth goal this year while also purchasing a decent car. My calculations are below…

5 Months Left in Year
5.5 Months of Paychecks Left

$4286 / Month take-home after 401k contribution * 5.5 ($23573 earnings left)
$12000 ($2400 / month) pre-tax 401k contribution

$2500 monthly spending cap = $23k over $200k networth
$3500 month spending cap = $18k over
$4000 month spending cab =  $15k over

Of course, a lot still depends on how the stock market does, as I could easily be way under or over in January 2013. That said, working out these calculations makes me feel much better about spending $15k to $18k on a car. I’m still tempted to buy something that is $8k, and instead give myself a $10k headstart on my $50k savings goal for next year, but then I’m approaching my 30s and would like a reasonably nice car at this point in my life. Alternately, I can move closer to public transportation, increase my monthly rent $1200 from the $650 it is now, and forget the car purchase altogether (or buy a condo for $3k per month.)  What do you think I should do?

Time for a New (Used) Car…?

In January of 2006, I purchased my then 7-year-old toyota — my first car ever — for around $7500 cash. I hate decisions, especially when there are many options, so I didn’t do a whole lot of shopping around before making a purchase.

I nearly bought a Saab hatchback and a hideous Chevy Aveo from a dealer before deciding on the much more reasonable toyota from an owner. The car looked pretty nice, a bit sporty, drove well (for what I could tell), and was $7500, less than both the saab and the aveo. Six years later, I think I made the right choice — at least among those options.

But along the way I’ve hit quite a few things… a deer… a pipe… two people (well, they hit me) and other random walls and such. I had my now 13-year-old car (with 190k miles on it) checked out and it needs new breaks in the front ($400) and new front tires ($300?) — $700 of work isn’t a lot, but that doesn’t fix the cosmetic damage which is just flat out embarrassing. To  fix that, it’s $2.6k (new bumper, etc.) So I’d be set back $3.3k just to get my car looking and running reasonably. It doesn’t seem to make sense to spend $3.3k on a car that has 190k miles on it and that also has a small engine leak. The guy at the shop says it probably has about  year left in it– but is $3.3k worth it for a year?

Other options:

  • Splurge: I never thought I’d say this, but I really want a nice car. Not a super lux car or anything, but something newer and fancier, like the Altima 3.5 SL or Camry XLE or even a Mazda6 or Infiniti G35 or Volkswagen CC or Mini Cooper. Even used, these cars run anywhere from $15k – $25k! Yikes.
  • Buy something comparable to what I purchased six years ago. I could even by the same exact car from the same exact year — but with less miles and less damage — for $5k – $7k. It wouldn’t last me forever, but it might be smarter to spend $5k on the same car in better condition than $3.3k to fix up the car with 190k miles on it AND a broken window (that won’t go down) and a broken sound system and that small leak…
  • Spend $700 on the breaks and tires, but ignore the giant bumper issue. Drive my busted car with pride until it stops running or is no longer safe to drive. When the time comes to buy a new car, I’ll have saved even more money, and then I can select either of the above two options…
  • or just get rid of the car — sell it (if anyone would buy it) or donate it, and live without a car for a while. This option is not something I’m seriously considering as I just finally got my license back after my year without it for the DUI, and I feel happy again now that I’m free to actually drive places other than work and home. But it IS an option.
  • Super splurge and buy a used luxury car. I wouldn’t do this, but it is tempting. After all, I’ll only be in my early 30s once — why not get a fun, fancy car before I have kids? I’m talking about a $30k dream car. One that I could never justify buying, even if I were a millionaire (ok maybe if I were a billionaire.)

So… what do I do? I think I need to get out and test drive a bunch of cars, but the problem is my current car isn’t safe to drive until it at least has $700 in repairs — but I don’t want to waste $700 if I’m not going to keep driving it. Meanwhile, I’m overwhelmed by all the options. And i don’t want to spend any money!

Then I look at my networth and think I’ve done a good job in saving $170k by 28, and it wouldn’t hurt to treat myself with a decent car — I mean, I’m still paying $650 a month in rent in an area where if I lived by myself or even with one roommate I’d surely be paying $1200 or more. I do spend too much on food and occasionally on clothes, but I’m still aggressively saving. What’s the point of working if you can’t buy yourself something that you love, like a really nice car? Ugh, but cars are such a waste of money — if anything I should just buy a house, at least that retains its value.

Lot of Hate “Mail” / Comments re: My DUI Posts

Wow, I’ve received a lot of hate mail (comments) regarding the blog posts on the consequences of getting a DUI. It seems my post got picked up by The Consumerist, which sent a slew of angry people over to my blog to yell at me. Welcome new readers. 🙂

I wanted to respond, even though it’s clear that people who are angry about anything will never budge in their opinion of you. First things first, I will never, ever have a drink and think about getting near a car again. There was a comment about how I sound like I’m not sorry I drove drunk, I’m sorry I got caught. Here’s the truth — I’m glad I got caught. I’m not glad that I have to deal with everything that goes along with this experience, but clearly what I did was wrong — whether I was caught or not — driving with a .12% BAC. I am embarrassed by this. I did not eat all day, the bartender kept refilling my glass, and the situation somehow got out of control. This doesn’t excuse what happened, I’m just framing the situation — I drink once or twice a year. I am the same person who often grabs keys from friends when they get in cars to drive anywhere after having a few drinks at the bar. I’m the one who is constantly judging coworkers for getting behind the wheel after having a few beers at happy hour, when I just drink water.

This doesn’t excuse that I was stupid, and that I got into a car when I was intoxicated. The real point of the story I want to make is that you stay “drunk” for a long long time after you’ve stopped drinking. I waited three hours after my last beverage, and I wasn’t taking shots either. I had three glasses of wine over the course of the evening, and then I waited three hours. And I thought I was ok to drive. The truth is I did not get pulled over for driving poorly. I pulled over by choice, after I drove a half block, because I realized the three hours wasn’t enough, and a cop walked up to my car because I was seen by another citizen walking to my car and wobbling in my heels. This is not an excuse. This is just what happened. I shouldn’t have even gotten in the car. But, reality is, when you’re more intoxicated than you think you are, your judgement isn’t rational. Continue reading

DUI Don’t — A Tale of Court and Paying for my Sins

Since this post was featured on The Consumerist today, I’ve received a lot of hate mail & comments regarding my DUI. Many of you say that I clearly don’t feel sorry for driving drunk, I only feel sorry for getting caught. The truth of the matter is — I feel stupid for driving drunk. I’m the same girl who got angry in high school drivers ed when 90% of the class was about drunk driving because I didn’t touch alcohol until I was 21, and most of the other kids in my class drank on a regular basis. I never thought that I would end up with a DUI.

I do not think I would have hurt anyone that night given I wasn’t driving erratically any more than other times when I was exhausted or distracted while driving (fact is I wasn’t stopped for driving, I was parked at the time I was approached by the cop) — but I can’t know what the outcome would have been. The reason I’m glad I was arrested that night is because that night or another night, who knows when, I could have been in a worse state and got behind the wheel. I could have hurt someone… I could have killed someone.

I drink maybe once or twice a year, and it’s easy to forget just how intoxicated one gets when you are not used to alcohol or what it does to you. Do I feel upset about being caught? Sure. It sucks to be caught. It sucks to have to spend time in jail, be a criminal, and pay massive fines. But I needed a wake up call, and ultimately I’m thankful to have gotten one.

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Original post:

Don’t ever get a DUI… and don’t ever get a DUI in Santa Clara County, is what I learned this week. Any DUI lawyer will tell you that it’s tough to fight a DUI charge if your BAC was higher than .08%, regardless of whether you were lawfully arrested, but they all get your hopes up a little bit so you hire them to represent you in court.

Just a quick reminder of how I was arrested… someone called 911 on me because i was “wobbling” walking to my car (wearing high heels, mind you). I had about three glasses of wine, and stopped drinking at 9:30pm, and didn’t get into my car until midnight. Apparently I’m one heck of a lightweight. I drove around the corner and pulled over, realizing that I shouldn’t be driving. Just my luck a cop party was happening across the street, waiting to catch people leaving the bars. I was parked, a cop walked up to my car and knocked on my door, asked me to step out, and eventually arrested me for BAC of .12%, which later at the station was .10%, still well over the legal limit. I completely take responsibility for this stupidity and am clearly guilty, yet the reason I was arrested (because some woman decided I seemed drunk because I was wobbling in my high heels) is still bothersome. Granted, I was, so ok, I deserve whatever was coming to me.

When I got my DUI, I wasn’t in the mood to shop around for the best lawyer or one with the best price. I asked my friend who I knew had a DUI before for advice, and she pointed me to the lawyer I ended up with, who was a “friend of her family,” for what that’s worth. He seemed to know what he was talking about, and for $3,000 I could have his full representation in court both for my DUI and also for a traffic ticket that I needed to fight due to the DUI. $3,000 was a lot, but if it meant I might be able to fight the DUI, it was worth it — wasn’t it? Continue reading

Shopping for a Used Prius

Ok, so I’m not personally shopping for a used Prius — my boyfriend is — but given his conflict- and people-adverse nature, I’ve found myself in the middle of a car-buying situation. My boyfriend is 100% sure he wants a Prius, even though I told him it’s kind of dumb to get a Prius because he doesn’t drive enough for the gas savings to make the extra cost worth it. He says (and it just might be true) that used Prius’s aren’t actually more or much more than other non-luxury, non-hybrid cars.

So we’ve driven all around looking for a Prius that has a good track record (ie Carfax) that isn’t in a hideous color (ie isn’t white or red) and seems to be reasonably priced. He’s looking at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 models. For some reason, all the ones that have around 80k to 150k miles are priced at $10,999. That doesn’t seem terrible — I bought my Solara for $7,500 in 2006. Still, I hate the stress of buying a used car and figuring out if it’s a lemon before you put your money down — even if it’s not my car and it’s not my money.

The experience, however, makes me glad that I’m still driving my beat up car, and I’m not yet in the market for a new pair of wheels. Which reminds me — tomorrow is my DUI court hearing. Ugh, not looking forward to that. I still can’t believe that I got myself into this mess in the first place, but so goes life. I may give up driving altogether for a while depending on the outcome of the court and DMV hearings. So, it’s really important my boyfriend gets a car… his is broken now, and if I can’t drive and he doesn’t have a car, we’ll be in a bit of trouble given we live so far from the store.

The DUI & Ticket Saga Continues

If you haven’t been closely following my DUI saga, the basic gist of the story is that after three hours of not drinking I got in my car, drove a block, pulled over because I realized I was still somewhat intoxicated, and next thing I know a cop was knocking my window asking me to step out of the car because someone called 911 on me due to seeing me get into my car in the parking garage.

I take full responsibility for my actions and believe I deserve the fullest punishment to the extent of the law — though in reality everyone tells you to fight the DUI conviction to at least try to get a wet reckless, which is still a misdemeanor, but has a slightly less harsh punishment.

But then there’s a separate DMV case that has to be won or lost irregardless of the result of the criminal trial. The whole thing is a huge headache, which besides the cost of the lawyer and fine, is such a major waste of time. Boys and girls, I highly advise you not to drink, wait three hours, think your sober and drive. If you’re going to be driving, don’t drink at all. Much easier than this mess. Continue reading