Saturday, August 27, 2016

Recover From Repo Project, The Thought Process and Reality Check.

In 1991, I bought a 1975 Chevy Nova four door for $75. It had a 262 cubic inch V8, a rear defogger, power steering, manual brakes, a two barrel carburetor, vinyl seats and an automatic transmission. I put in a battery to get it home, an exhaust system when I got it home, plus the tie rods, center link, idler arm, radiator, body mounts, valve cover gaskets, and a used carburetor before the front subframe finally broke in half in front of Lansing City Hall. I was forced to sell this for a ride home. I saved the radiator and the battery and sold these to a family friend. $300 was spent in parts and hours of my time trying to fix this wreck that lasted me six months. The gas tank still leaked and the tailpipe kept falling out of my makeshift exhaust system, threatening to inundate my bloodstream with carbon monoxide. It would be the last car I would have my name on the title for two years, but this is a different story.

Admittedly, $75 was nothing for a car back then. Anything that started and ran was going for a minimum of $500. Even with that, you were going to have major mechanical problems. Back then, you could get by with used parts and save a ton of money if you were so mechanically inclined. Electrical systems, engines, transmissions, fuel systems and the like were fairly simple. Electronic engine, body controls and OBD 2 systems were a nightmare that hadn't arrived yet. Electronic fuel injection and front wheel drive were also on primarily later model cars post 1980.

Today, OBD 2 is 20 years old as of this writing. This means more complexity and a lot more cars with the check engine light on. There is also multiplexing of wiring, as well as electronic controls for every system and subsystem on a vehicle. Body styles, save the 1996 to 2016 GM vans, change nearly every two or three years. This also adds cost, complexity and makes used parts availability a bit tougher. While vehicle quality and reliability have improved significantly since the 1970's (it had nowhere to go but up, believe me), costs and mileage have also gone up significantly. A car that starts and runs is going to be over $1200 and it's going to have rust. It will also need some work mechanically. What's more is that these cars are going to be over 15 years old, and will have over 200,000 miles on the clock with a few exceptions.

The other issue was in 2009, the Cash For Clunkers program took a significant amount of used cars off the road. While it was a great deal for those buying new cars, it also cut down on a lot of then late model used vehicles.  This is keeping prices for models of this vintage stubbornly high. I looked at a 1998 Ford Expedition with 145,000 miles that had been sitting nearly a year for $3300. The tires were nearly bald and the owner admitted the battery was also flat from sitting. The blue book value on this was $1750 from a dealer in good condition. This one had rocker rust and was probably going to need some other work for sitting there. From my experience, brakes are usually the first things to quit when a car or truck sits for more than a few months. I also looked at a 2003 Chevy Astro (van) that the owner posted for $500 and it looked great from Facebook, but the engine was locked up. A look at the dipstick confirmed this as there were flakes of metal in the oil from the Babbitt on the bearings. While I could have freed this, the fact is that I don't have a proper lift and this would be done in a trailer park with no garage. A new engine for this about $1500, plus my time.

Finding a suitable beater is going to be harder than this writer imagined, but giving up is not an option, Maranatha!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recover From Repo Project, Intro.

Let's say, that one morning, you wake up and your ride is gone. You knew that that you were behind, or maybe the insurance lapsed. Whatever the reason; medical bills, furnace or air-conditioner went out, crime, death in the family, whatever. I'm not here to judge. So you go to bank and they tell you that unless you can pay off the entire balance, you are not getting the car. After paying the repossession company to get your stuff back, you're in the unenviable position of having to find another set of wheels. This is going to be difficult with now battered credit.
Even after eight years since the global financial crisis, people are still having difficulties. With the average car payment at $480 a month, it's very easy to get behind and find yourself in a lot of trouble.

I'm not here to school you in consumer education, as you have already learned an inkling of what society is capable of. It may not seem fair that the repo man took your ride, or that the loan officer treated you like a scumbag. However, they have jobs to do, bills to pay and probably a home to maintain too. It gives someone no pleasure to have to carry this stuff out any more than it pleasures me to tell a customer they need to replace an appliance. Repo men are stabbed, shot, and maimed every day doing their job. Loan officers get a fair amount of flak for sure; even if it is from the comfort of their office chair.

This article is going to assume that you are NOT going to try and obtain credit for another ride. Paying time payments on an older vehicle is very risky considering the average vehicle repair is close to $500. Even if you can fix these yourself, you might still find that these coupled with a car payment are going to bust the budget. While paying cash for a car might seem counterproductive, I've had lots of experience in selecting, driving and maintaining cash paid vehicles. You can usually fix these with used parts and you can also be a lot more creative in repairing them, to a point. These alone will save you in the repair department. A vehicle between ten and twenty years old is also going to have a greater availability of aftermarket parts, making this more cost effective as well.

Once you get your stuff back from the repo man, take inventory and put everything that stayed in your vehicle in one place. This is going to save you money buying cell phone chargers, a GPS, and whatnot yet again. A GPS is particularly helpful if your replacement ride has a speedometer or odometer that doesn't work and you won't be able to fix it right away.  Save your license plate as well, especially if this is current unless you live in a state that requires it stay with the car. In my home state, you can transfer the plate to your 'new' wheels for a nominal fee. This is about a tenth of the cost of a new registration and plate, so why pay for this twice.

Saving up for a ride may seem impossible, but it shouldn't be. If you didn't make the payment, and were going to, put that money aside first. I saved $20 to $30 a week as a teenager for a year to get my first car. At that rate I had about $1200 saved up. Since most of us don't have a year, this is going to require saving more. Forego eating out for lunch and bring one. Maybe sell some stuff you don't need or offer to work some overtime. While this might be enough to make you want to go to those buy here, pay here places. I assure you these guys will repossess your even older ride without hesitation. You will pay three times what the ride is worth even if you manage to pay it off.  In the next chapter, I'm going to give you some ideas and try a few myself as this is going to be an active project that I'm participating in. Maranatha!