You’ve heard me get on my soap box in the past about car payments and how they can soak up a lot of your monthly income. I really don’t like car payments, and I don’t think you need one to have a reliable car that serves your transportation purposes. As Americans, we’re obsessed with having nice, new cars. We have been taught from a young age that car payments are inevitable. You buy a car on credit, you pay the payment for five years, then you sell it. Follow that cycle, and you’ll actually never own a car outright. Here is an email that I received from a reader recently.
I am in a dead-end situation..I am paying for student loans,credit cards, and my expenses including a car payment of $636 monthly. Last year, I had 2 part-time jobs and a full-time job making 30K, and then i quit both part-time jobs to study. I can’t deal with living paycheck to paycheck with no emergency. I traded in my Honda Pilot EX-L fully loaded to a Honda Civic Ex-Navigation to reduce costs in gas. On the Honda Pilot I owed 20K and the dealer gave me 15K for it. The Honda Civic cost me 25K plus the upside down of the Pilot and the finance charges left me with a loan of 35K. I took that other loan and now in this recession with a job that only pay $26k a year I see myself living paycheck after paycheck, and I hate it.
First, I am not treat this reader as a spectacle, but their situation is a perfect example of how a car payment can strangle your finances and your life. $636 a month is almost HALF of this reader’s monthly take-home pay, and there is no way that he/she can keep paying this payment and continue to live. The easy answer to this situation is that he/she needs to sell the car as QUICKLY as possible. Obviously, he/she won’t be able to break even on the sale, because there is negative equity from a previous car, and depreciation to factor in from the new car. What you need to do is go to a local community bank or credit union and ask for a personal loan for the difference between what you owe on the original note and the amount you can sell it for. So if you owe $35k and all you can sell it for is $22k, then you’ll be left with an unsecured loan of $13k and a much lower payment. Have 3 or 4 garage sales and scrounge up $1,000 to buy yourself a “beater” car that will get you from point A to point B. The embarassment of driving a $1,000 car will help teach you to never go out and get a $35k car loan when you make $30k.
Car Loan Rule of Thumb: If your car loan is close to half or more of your yearly take-home pay, then you need to sell the car. If it’s less than half, then you should be able to pay it off with aggressive debt payments.