When you are the mortar holding all the bricks of your life together, it’s challenge enough to continue putting one foot in front of the other, let alone try to make huge decisions or follow through with any big life changing plans.
In 2013, my elderly mother (who was practically bedridden) moved in with us, and my husband became disabled. And my oldest son has Down Syndrome. When you are caring for three people, plus working a full time job with a 2-3 hour daily commute and the one solely responsible for everything that goes with running a household, there is not much time or energy for anything other than buying groceries, cooking, eating, working, driving and sleeping.
Finally at the beginning of summer – 9 months after she arrived – my mother started to improve and recover. She was able to resume responsibility for herself as well as taking over some of the household chores. As I was able to let down my guard and relax just a tad, I started to feel like I had the energy to consider something else besides the basics.
One of the first things I had to do was figure out my vehicle situation because I realized the overwhelming feeling of guilt over not being dependent on someone else for my wheels was wearing me down.
I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. I honestly didn’t think I could afford to buy a car, new or used. I was dead set against buying a new car, plus I always thought car insurance for a brand new car was really expensive, like $100 or $200 a month. No way could I afford that.
Well, as it turns out there is apparently an insurance discount for a brand new car? I never knew that either.
I had been budgeting $400 per month for gas. I decided to crunch the numbers to see if it was even remotely possible to afford a car payment, insurance and gasoline for $400. To my surprise, it appeared possible. If I could keep the insurance to $60, gasoline to $100, that would leave me $240 for a car payment.
Along with the financial aspect, I had some other criteria that absolutely had to be met. I need to be able to fit my family of four into the vehicle and I am not comfortable driving a tiny car so I needed a four door sedan.
Another absolute was that the car had to get fantastic gas mileage. I decided 40mpg was the lowest I would accept (estimated highway mileage).
It was important to me that my car had been quantified by professionals as reliable. I signed up with Consumer Reports to research and also bought Lemon-Aid New and Used Cars and Trucks 1990-2015* Amazon Affiliate Link so that I could weed out vehicles with known issues. This book seems to be geared toward Canadians but I found it very useful. There is a very helpful list at the back of recommended vehicles so I began researching sedans for their estimated miles per gallon.
Eventually I had three cars I was considering, and called my insurance agent for price quotes, plus I asked for quotes from local agents to get the best price. At all times I had to keep crunching numbers for insurance, car payment and gasoline.
Originally I was looking for a vehicle costing not more than $12,000 as that would put my payment near my goal of $240.
The last time I successfully bought a good vehicle I went through my credit union’s car broker so I started there. Luckily for me, they had the three cars in stock that I wanted to test drive and I didn’t have to put up with the pressure from salespeople. It was very low key, I just stopped by their car lot one day and drove the cars around the block. I was already leaning toward the Honda Civic, but I also wanted to check out the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Sentra.
After test driving, I was even more confused because I liked all three of the vehicles for different things… I’ll continue my story tomorrow as this post is getting a little long.