Tag Archives: driving

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

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

Tales of a DUI: The worst is still to come

If you follow my blog, you know that last month I had three glasses of wine, waited three hours, thought I was ok to drive, drove one block from a parking garage and pulled over realizing I wasn’t ok to drive, and managed to pull over across the street from five cop cars waiting, patiently, to catch anyone leaving the bars that might be remotely intoxicated. I didn’t even get pulled over, the cop knocked on my window after I parked.

You can read my earlier post of the details, but the short of the story is that I made a mistake, and now I have to pay for it. Thank goodness I’m not in debt, that I’m single, and that my financial responsibilities are too myself. Still, the whole procedures of having a giant DUI stamp on your head are, rightfully so, a giant pain. Hopefully you’ll never have to experience this in person, but so far I’ve spent $3,000 on a lawyer, expect to spend $2,000 on a fine, and who knows how much more in car insurance once I’m found guilty or take a plea bargain. Then there’s also the cost of the drunk driving classes, the cost of missing work for court and DMV hearings, and the cost of any interest you need to pay on loans to cover all of those fees.

Beyond the dollars lost, getting a DUI is, I hear, another 10 years of headaches. Again, I take getting a DUI seriously, and have learned my lesson and then some. That doesn’t change how frustrating the whole experience is, once you get in trouble the first time. This is probably true for any criminal occurrences, but I find it odd that you’re arrested, go to jail, let go in a few hours, and then you’re in this waiting period of freedom for a month or more before they have time to hear your case. It wasn’t clear at all how much I should pay for a lawyer, or if a lawyer is really going to make a difference in the result of my case. I was so frustrated by the situation that I didn’t want to “shop around” or negotiate like I normally would. One of my friends had a DUI a few years ago, so I asked her what to do, she recommended this lawyer, and I just said OK. I was incredibly ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want to think about it or talk about it any more than necessary.

After getting a DUI, you have 10 days to request a temporary license from the DMV (at least in California.) Then you have another DMV meeting about a month after that. There’s another hearing, in court, to set the date of your pre-trial arraignment. Apparently the first DMV hearing can be attended by your lawyer, and you don’t have to be there. Same thing goes for the first court hearing. Then you don’t have to go to the second DMV hearing, but you can, and it may help. And you’re required to go to the pre-trial arraignment in court. After that, I think how it works is that you can take a plea bargain. I assume this will come with the big fine, requirement to attend what I like to call “I’m a dumbass” courses, weekender work (free orange vests and sun!), and likely a license suspension for a month plus five months of a limited license that lets me drive only to work and back. Plus, for 10 years I have this on my record, which really isn’t too bad unless you get a second DUI (which I won’t), but it apparently means you can’t travel to Canada and if you ever apply for a job that asks if you have a record, you have to put this on your application, which will probably hold you back from some opportunities. For 10 years. Until I’m 37, I’m fucked.

That is, unless my lawyer can somehow prove that I was unlawfully arrested. There’s a small possibility there — I wasn’t pulled over — the only reason the cop bothered me at all is because someone apparently called 911 on a car leaving the parking garage around the same time I left. I don’t know what detail they have on the car leaving the garage, but from what I overheard while at the jail, the report said the car was a different make and model than the one I drive. As I was parked at the time when the cop walked up to my car, knocked on my door, which I then opened, and he asked me to step out of the car, and things went downhill from there.

There definitely are some laws (albeit minimal ones) to protect people from being unlawfully arrested. I’m not sure exactly what happens if they prove you were breaking the law after you were arrested — the fact of the matter is that I had .11 BAC and I shouldn’t have left the parking garage to begin with. A huge part of me wanted to just plead guilty, but the way the law works you are screwed if you do that, and you’re much better off trying to fight it, even if that means you end up with a plea bargain for wet reckless or a slightly smaller fine. I hate that I can’t just own up to my error and call it a day. Instead, this is a nightmare. And a month after I was arrested, the nightmare is only beginning.

When to Buy a New Car?

I’ll never claim to be a frugal person, but in regards to large purchases, that’s where my frugality shines. And by shines, I mean “has scratches.” My Toyota Solara (1999), which I purchased used off of a man selling it on Craigslist in 2005 with 130k miles on it for $7,000, is showing signs of “time to get rid of me.” I’m trying to figure out exactly when I do get rid of her… which, if it’s up to me, will be the day she stops running and no one can fix her for less than 1/2 her current value.

What’s wrong with her? Let me count the ways.

– front bumper on left side is ripped off (from “no fault” accident (it was his fault))
– air conditioning is broken
– left window won’t  open
– radio is broken
– back tires need to be replaced

She has 190k miles on her, which for a Toyota might not be a death sentence yet, but still influences my decision whether or not to fix her up or sell her for pennies on the dollar, and buy a new (used) car.

This is the first car I’ve ever owned, so I’m unsure when I should make the plunge and start shopping for a new car. In theory, I’ve been able to save $3k per month so buying a new (used) car that is similar in quality and value to my current car (when I bought it) would only eat up 2.5 months of savings. Then again, maybe I’d want to buy a slightly nicer car. I really want a (used) Prius. What do you think?

Need Advice: Car "Collision," Deductibles, Insurance

My car luck is really not doing so great lately. It’s a long story, which I’ll tell below, but the main question I have is — should I go through insurance to get the damages fixed, should I even both getting the damages fixed, and is it too late to decide not to go through insurance?

Here’s the story.

My first day of work I left my car at the public transportation garage. Returned to my car, the back window was smashed (it’s a small window that doesn’t open because it’s a 2 door) and the passenger seat door was busted.

Called insurance to file a claim about the break in. Nothing was stolen but would need to get window fixed and car seat fixed if possible. Have $0 deductible for comprehensive so figured it was worth it.

Fast forward a week. To today. I’m driving out of a parking lot making a right-hand turn. I don’t see anything to my right so I start to turn very slowly. I hear some scraping noise so I immediate stop my car and back up slowly. My passenger side mirror looks fine, it’s not hitting anything, so I figure I will back up and then examine the damage…

Instead — “BOOM” — my large passenger side window shatters. A louder scraping noise is heard. I stop the car, get out, and see that a pipe has cut a huge gash into the door and basically made the door a wall (the handle doesn’t work / it won’t open) and glass is everywhere.

I look at the window in shock, then drive back into the parking lot and promptly call my insurance. Which was maybe a really bad idea. I told them exactly what happened… then they told me that this would be a collision claim and I have a $1,000 collision deductible. I’ve never filed a collision claim and I know I pay a lot in comprehensive so that if damage happens to my car that isn’t an accident I’m covered. I’ve had a few break-ins in the past and they’ve all been covered at 100%. Even hitting a deer and the damage from that was covered entirely. This, however, would have a $1000 deductible.

So I stopped and said, well, I think the front window had a crack in it from the break in. Ok, so it was a stretch. But I figured at that point it was worth trying to get this covered under my comprehensive policy. Even if they would just fix the windows for me under the comprehensive and I could leave the car door as is. The woman on the other line said that she’d add a note about this to the other claim. I am not clear if she opened a collision claim but it sounds like she maybe just tacked on the report to the comprehensive claim. I’m supposed to get an appraisal tomorrow from a place my insurance company referred me to.

Now the questions I have are…

1) Does it make sense to get my car fixed at all through insurance?

2) Should I just get the break-in damage repaired and not get anything repaired through insurance that was caused by this pipe?

3) Should I get everything appraised and wait to hear if they will cover it all under comprehensive (they won’t… not with the giant gash in my car door) and then figure out what to do?

4) Should I just say f’it and buy a new (used) car? I bought my car in 2005 with 130k miles on it for $7k. It’s the first car I ever owned so it has its share of new-driver dings on it, not counting today’s giant gash. It now has 170k miles on it so I can’t imagine it will last that much longer. It’s a Toyota so maybe it will last to 200k, so I could see it lasting another 3-4 years if I’m lucky, or longer if I don’t drive it that much. Blue book trade-in value for the car in “Fair” condition is something like $1500. I am not sure what condition the car is in right now… looks-wise I’d say it’s in pretty “poor” condition but the insides are doing fine. It’s definitely not driving quite as smoothly as it did when I first got it in 2005, but it is a nicer drive than some other cars I’ve been in. Would it make sense to donate my car to charity (or trade it in at a toyota dealership for the pennies they are willing to pay me) and move on with my life? Ignore all the claim filing and just start fresh?

5) Should I get rid of the car (charity or trade-in) and not have a car at all? In reality, this doesn’t make sense right now because I live in the ‘burbs on top of a giant hill and it’s pretty impossible to get around without a car. I’m sure it’s do-able, but it would be very difficult. And my commute to work with a car is already 1 hour.

6) But… should I get rid of my car and move to the city? I really like my current apartment… it’s cheap ($700 a month with utilities about), in a really beautiful area, my roommates are mellow and we get along fairly well, my room, while small, faces greenery and all-in-all my place makes me happy. It feels like a home. Any place I get in the city will be more money, or smaller, or in a worse neighborhood, or all of the above. I could just move closer to a train stop so I could walk to the train… which provides a lot more options… but that still requires moving, and finding a place I like, and finding roommates I can get along with, or living alone, which I’ve decided I don’t really like doing, and costs a lot on the utilities front. But if I move some place near public transit I could get rid of my car and just not have to deal with the hassle of owning one.

7) Or should I just go to a car shop and get everything fixed myself, even if it costs a lot, and just eat the costs of getting the fixes done without going through insurance? — Is it too late to do that … I already reported the claim… but I’m not sure they filed anything under collision yet, or at what point they will in this process. If I don’t decide to get the car fixed, will they still file the claim as collision if it gets appraised and the repair shop reports that the damage was caused by a collision (probably) — I can’t exactly ask the insurance company how this will work.

What do you all think? I really need advice here. Thanks!

Stolen Car Registration Sticker Cost me $40!

First off, I’m really sorry I am so awful at updating this blog. I try to update my tweets more often www.twitter.com/everycentcounts because it’s easier to write 140 words than a blog entry. Still, this blog needs some TLC. And I also am trying to figure out what happened to www.personalfinancereader.com because I paid for the domain through blogger and it isn’t working.

Anyway, the topic of my post today is how ridiculous it is that you are required to pay for a new registration sticker when it gets stolen from your car. Not only that, but if you get a ticket for it you’re required to pay that too. I admit it was my fault that I got two tickets for it (I didn’t have time to go to the DMV for a week and then I got another one) but still… my car was registered, so it’s obvious that I had the sticker.

Finally went to the DMV and that took forever and a day. Had to pay $18 for a new sticker. Lame. Now I have to pay $20 for the two fix-it tickets.

I’ve heard that you should cut your sticker w/ a razor to prevent people from stealing it. So I’ll be doing that soon.

I actually got pulled over for having an expired sticker but the cop was nice about it. I told him my registration sticker was stolen and he said that’s been happening a lot lately with the economy and all. He gave me the same “cut it with a razor” advice, and no ticket from him, but… if it’s happening a lot, then why make people pay for someone else’s crime. Come on.

Well, here’s my charity for the year. I’ve paid the CA government over $500 in various ticket fees, including these, thus far in 2009! I’m a good citizen.

$1k Car Repairs and a Broken Radio

My car started having “issues” a few months ago. In the mornings, sometimes it wouldn’t want to turn on. I’d try a few times, hold my breath, and eventually it would work.

But then the other day it just – kaput – gave out. It was time to get it towed to a repair shop and see what was wrong, and just how much it would cost me.

So my insurance company sent out a tow truck, and the guy jump started my car so I could drive it to the auto repair shop I read about on Yelp that was beyond the “free towing” distance. I drove it there, safely, and found out that the inspection would be $100 just to find out what’s wrong.

I agreed to that (it seems normal) and got a call a few hours later letting me know that… I needed new back breaks ($$), I should get a 150k checkup ($$) and I probably needed a new starter ($$$$) and my battery chords were all messed up so they had to get replaced too ($$). The total price came to $1018 to fix/check out my car.

I can’t help wondering if I got ripped off. I know it costs a lot to repair cars, and my car wasn’t starting, but that’s a lot of money. Still, I think it was worth it for my car. The guy said the engine and battery look good and should last me.

The only thing I’m pissed about is that when I got my car back my radio was broken. So, it was kind of on the fritz before, but it had been working no problem. Now it won’t turn on. I haven’t gone back to ask about that because I’m sure he’ll say that he didn’t even touch the radio – but really, it’s not turning on, at all. I don’t really want to pay to get that fixed too!

5 Ways to Save Money on Car Insurance

Got a car? Then you have car insurance, a requirement for drivers everywhere. That insurance can range in cost vastly depending on your age, the length of time you’ve been driving, the type of car you drive, and a variety of other variables.

While you can’t change the time since you’ve gotten your license or reduce the number of “bad driver” points you have on your record, I’ve recently found out some ways to reduce your yearly payment.

1. Call your auto insurance company twice a year or so and just ask if there’s anyway to lower your rate. Mention you’re shopping around. If they’ve started a new program for discounts, they’ll likely not offer up the information unless you ask.

2. How far are you really driving to work each day? Many car insurance agencies charge you more for the amount you drive per year. But they base this on the miles you drive to and from work. It’s never good to lie, but if you have moved closer to your job, or if you think the miles you noted in past are too high for how much you actually drive (or maybe you work from home a few days a week now), call up and ask to change the yearly mileage noted on your account. You’ll notice that your yearly fee will be reduced.

3. Did you know that the cost of car insurance changes based on your zip code? Out of curiosity, I recently talked to an agent and asked her to plug in some different zip codes within my county, and found out that where I used to live, and where I’m still paying for, costs $50 more a year than most of the other zips in the county. Again, lying here is probably pointless, but if you’re looking to move, it might make sense to call up your insurance agent and find out if your insurance price will go up or down with the move. You can always change your address to a friends if they live in an area that’s cheaper.

4. Check out that auto billing. I thought my pay was on auto billing because I’ve set it up to pay automatically from my bank account, but for some reason I didn’t do it through my insurance company, so they were still charging me $4 a month to send me bills. Not only did those mailed bills go straight to the trash, it turns out that I was wasting $48 a year on them.

5. Every year, take a half-hour or so to shop around to see if you can get a better deal with another company. Look at the small insurance companies and the big ones. Just be careful with ones that offer six month rates, as this means they can change your rate after the first six months.