The Car – Part Infinity

My battery light came on in my car Sunday when I was driving to the Kansas City airport to drop off my sister’s boyfriend (for the last time before she moves in with him).

It is starting to get to the point with repairs that I really need to sit down add assess the cost of the repairs and my time getting repairs done vs. the cost of a “new car”. I’m getting close to the point where I’m putting money into repairs about every 2-3 months, my mpg has gone down about 12mpg since I got the car, and I don’t trust my car to take long trips (hello rentals!).

I do believe that my car could have a lot more life in it if I’m willing to make constant repairs, but I also am beginning to realize that I’ll need to start saving for a new car while at the same time increasing my contributions towards car maintenance. Currently I save $720/year for my car. However I’m spending between $1,200-$1,500/yr. So I need to bump up my car maintenance fund to at least $100/month.

I’ve decided I need to rearrange my budget (yet again… this is starting to be a reoccurring theme… it will be nice when I have one that just works!)

How will I rearrange my budget? I need to start saving money as if I have a car payment. I need to rearrange my budget so that I am essentially saving $300/month towards my car. $100/month to maintenance and $200/month towards a new car fund.

This is going to be really hard to put into my budget, because essentially I was planning on not worrying about a new car until my debt was payed off. But originally I had also hoped that my debt would be payed off within 3 years (I’m not approaching year 3 and am hardly any closer to debt pay-off). My car could definitely last until my original pay-off date, but now that it has been pushed back another 2-3 years I’m skeptical that my car will last until then and until I can save money every month for the cost of a “new” car.

This whole car thing is simply frustrating to me.

I’ve looked up online the bus routes, and even though I live on the same street as where I work (just 4 miles away), the bus doesn’t go all the way to my school (the bus turns off on another street half-way to my school and goes in the OPPOSITE direction the times I need it, e.g. I need to go south when the bus goes north and I need to go north when the bus goes south).

The bus system in this city is so terrible I can’t even put it in to words. Essentially there are two buses that go by my apartment and neither goes anywhere near my school – and they only have 4 buses running a day. If I could rely on public transportation to take me to work I would just do that and save money, but I can’t.

I could ride a bike to work, but there is nothing worse than how sweaty and gross I get after riding a bike. I do not want to ride to work and then immediately have to teach and interact with students in my smelly grossness. Also, half the year it is too hot, too cold, too rainy, and too snowy to ride a bike (I miss San Diego where I could ride my bike every day).

I also looked up if there was a zipcar option in my area, and sure enough there isn’t. No sort of community cars exist, even though I live in a high density public area (my apartment complex has over 3000 units, I’m near the largest shopping center in our suburb).

Even carpooling isn’t an option because all of the employees at my university (that I know) live the complete opposite direction that I do because housing is cheaper and newer. I chose to live closer to “the action” than the suburban life because of my age and single-ness.

So I feel stuck with the car. And how much money it costs. Even though I’d like to explore other options.


13 Responses to The Car – Part Infinity

  1. LB says:

    I totally understand your pain, and how you feel you are stuck in a car. I live in an area where we started paying a bus tax a few years ago, because there was a plan for a light rail system to come close by my house. Instead of building one near me, they took the money and improved the rail system that is about 40 miles away from me. Nothing was changed by me, and the only bus is a call and ride that goes into the small city near me. Nothing goes anywhere I need to go.

    Riding bike doesn’t work because I live off of two major highways, although I have done the bike ride, it is scary and very sweaty.

    I have also tried carpooling, no one lives in my area, sharing a car, everything, and nothing works. I have just learned to live with my car and deal with the maintenance.

    As for you, I can only suggest to see if the university has a carpool you can sign up for. There might be a Vanpool, essentially where everyone puts in X amount of money per month and rents a van to carpool in. Or maybe you could start one. šŸ™‚

  2. In June I will have been car-free for two years. Posts like this one help me feel good about this decision but I really do miss the convenience of owning one.

  3. Ella says:

    I feel your pain. Unless you live in a big city like New York, it is very hard to get by if you don’t own a car. I was in a similar position, paying for repairs every month and always worrying if the car would cause problems. So I went and bought a brand new car, which was not the right thing to do. But a few years later when Mike was in the same position, we bought a late model car with financing. I think the interest we pay over the period of 3 years is much lesser than the amount of repairs his old car would have cost had we not upgraded.

  4. Serendipity says:

    I feel your pain. I bought my car from a friend for $750 because she was moving away and while I had a great year with it, it started falling apart shortly after. Soon, I was spending 300-500 every other month for car repairs until finally I sat down and decided it was time just for a new to me reliable car. Las Vegas is not public commuter friendly, at all. I only live 10.5 miles away from my job but I would have had to ride a bus for 2 1/12-3 hours there and back. So not worth it! I can think of way better things to do with all that time, even get another part time job if I had to!

    Hopefully, you can squeeze a car payment out of your budget so at least your driving something reliable. Or, your car behaves for awhile. =)

  5. ndchic says:

    I think that if you are spending that much in car repairs, I would get a different car. I would think that you would be able to get a reliable car for under 10K and that would keep your payments pretty low. I had a car that I loved but when I added up what I had spent in the last 6 months on it, I couldn’t justify keeping it.

  6. scn says:

    (I’m in SD! *waves*) That’s a tough one. On one hand, having a car payment is a sizeable expense. On the other hand…what if your current car completely dies on you and you just don’t have the option to fix it anymore? Hmmm I’m curious to see what you decide to do!

  7. S. says:

    Does your school have a commuter program board? Where you could put out an ad for a carpool buddy? Or how about are there options you school may have for you (such as use of a shower) when you arrive to school because you rode your bike and being more green? The cold weather thing would be an obstacle for me though, because bike riding through snow? I don’t know about that.

    • SS4BC says:

      They actually don’t have a commuter program because 90% of our students live on campus. So commuting is a very rare thing.

      There is shower facilities in the gym that I have access to, but um, they are… well… quite disgusting to put it mildly. šŸ˜‰

  8. Kerry says:

    Since you’re just 4 miles away from work, would a used motor scooter work? I live carfree in Phoenix, and that’s my next step to widen my transportation route besides bus, light rail, bike, walking and lifts from family.

    • SS4BC says:

      That is EXACTLY what I have a feeling I will end up doing. Especially for summer/spring/fall. For winter I don’t think a scooter will cut it, but for most of the year it would work just fine and get great milage AND be much cheaper than a car.

  9. Frugal Forties says:

    I sympathize so much. I have been w/out a car for about 16 months in a city that has crappy crappy public transit. I spend 4 hours a day (no joke) commuting too and from work. I get so incredibly fed up with people who tell me that it should be “easy” to go w/out a car, and that I should look into carpooling or look into bike riding or whatever. I have a theory that those people who talk about how easy it is to go w/out a car have never actually done it for any length of time.

    I’m buying a car on Monday (have it lined up, just need to go get it) and I am so happy to finally quit relying on others, on the bus, on renting to get where I need to go and to buy groceries and to live my life.

    I wish I’d been putting aside money before I needed it … so I think what you’re doing is really smart!

  10. I feel your pain. I have absolutely no choice but to drive. The public transit around here are those big yellow buses, and apparently, I’m too old to ride those anymore. Go figure. My car costs eat up a significant chunk of my budget, but I chose to live out in the middle of nowhere, so that’s the trade-off I made. Maybe I should get a horse.

  11. Jerry says:

    It’s so frustrating isn’t it? Don’t you wish there was car repair insurance?? You’re right about increasing your car maintenance budget just in case because it will lead to you not being stressed about having the money when you need it for repairs.

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