Ah, but I was the ignorant one. I'd never needed a car loan, so I didn't know a thing about why they had the cars they did. And now I know. I was the idiot. But it turns out I'm not alone! A LOT of people are ignorant. This is why we are fielding so many shocked questions about our newish Prius.
|OMG Idaho plates! Did we get the wrong car?|
Oh, criminy, do I really have to deal with these questions?! Apparently, yes. So deal with them I will, thoroughly. I'm getting a little defensive now, so I might as well have it all out once and for all.
Frankly, we are educated, I like lattes and we are liberals (turns out I knew, by name, AT LEAST half the people in Spokane's Pride Parade on Saturday! Including the Grand Marshall, the Other Grand Marshall, the entire corporate Sponsor or Marshall or what-evs (our church), half the Planned Parenthood marchers AND the politician entourages AND Blue and Huck who were marching in support of our gay friends (Coyote didn't feel like marching, so we watched, someone has to watch or it's not a parade, right?)- our church is at least 70% lesbian, I believe.). Anyway, everything but the wealthy part is there.
Apparently the Prius has some cache. Who knew? Common Assumptions made by many liberals themselves: we got it just to make a statement, it's new, it's expensive, it's financially irresponsible, and we should have/could have purchased a junker.
So let's deal with this all bit by bit. First: I make myself talk about money and about not having it sometimes for a reason. I'm not complaining, whining, begging for donations or anything else our society assumes about people who worry aloud about money (and sometimes that is true of money kvetchers and sometimes the people who whine the loudest have WAY more than the people who are just trying to grin and bare it). Talking about money is a conscious choice for me. I hate the way our society makes it a big old TABOO and I think this taboo is why so many family finances collapsed during these last few years. Everyone was fronting, pretending to have more than they did, buying things they couldn't afford, just to look good, to fit in, expensive cars, houses way beyond the price range of a sensible loan, crazy loans that people tried to talk us in to too and I was all: And then what happens in five years? The crap-ola hits the fan-oli! We felt like we were the only ones who were broke, a student-family on food stamps (but yes, buying a house too!) with the g-ma car, while all our friends maxed out credit card after credit card and bought brand new cars. It was lonely.
But now, I am happy and comfortable, everyone is owning up to spending limits. Now, lunch with friends might turn in to a walk because someone admits to not being able to afford a meal out that week.. That wasn't happening a few years ago. So that is why I talk about money, I want to be honest. And it only isolates us all to pretend we have more than we do.
I also want to say that we are broke a lot of the time because we did buy a house outside our price range. It was a decision that was fabulous and made perfect sense in every way but financial. I do not regret it. And I take responsibility for it, but I am not going to pretend it's a barrel of monkeys. It is difficult some times. And that is just how it is. I say this precisely because I am not in denial about it and I don't need to you "open my eyes" to the reality. I'm very familiar with it, thank you.
You may think, as some have suggested, that we're just bad at managing money. Au contraire. We may not have a lot, but every penny is managed to the hilt. I should be appointed to run the entire country's finances based on my expertise and my understanding of a dollar. And my credit score is close awesome, and I only bring that up to give you an token of objective analysis that I can point to as evidence that I'm not suffering delusions of money management grandeur and that our heads are not up our financial assets. Not that there have never been snafus or miscommunications between Huck and I resulting in an over draft once or twice!
So, here's the situation I now understand that the trailer park people already knew. (DISCLOSURE: I AM trailer park people. My father used to manage a trailer park. I grew up in a double-wide in Marietta, WA until I was six or so . And I lived in one in Glenallen, Alaska as an independent 18 year-old "adult": a tiny single-wide, half-length, rated for Malibu, rusty, pink trailer with no phone (I didn't have car either but hitch-hiked all over). The pillows froze to the wall every night and you couldn't flush until the blow-driers (which were duct-taped into place on the pipes) had run for at least half an hour in the morning. So there. I'm not as elitist as you think!)
Step one: Do not have enough cash on hand to buy a running clunker when your old one breaks down.
There's a possibility that in the near future it will be important for both of us to have two reliable cars we feel okay about kids riding in, so clunker wasn't going to work, even if we did have $2000 somewhere.
Step two: Go to credit union and get pre-approved for a loan. The credit union has very clearly defined parameters for what they will finance and what they won't: title, mileage, etc.
|I cried and the sky cried with me|
So, as you can see, even buying a clunker requires a certain amount of liquid capitol that we just didn't have which brings us to the surprising revelation that you kind of have to have a lot of cash to buy a clunker. So we tried on a bunch of cars and test drove ourselves insane. It's not like comparing apples to apples or even oranges. It was like comparing kumquats to cheese wizz because each car is a different year, a different make, gets different mpg, and depending on miles will have a different interest rate. We had spread sheets covering the kitchen table and the living room floor. (When I say "we" what I mean is that Huck went to work in the car and I stayed home and over-analyzed the hell out of every available vehicle, through Consumer Reports and internet sites and loan calculators and all our spread sheets.) And just on the off chance, I ran a car through this system, a car that I've envied since they came on the market - the earnest, goody-two-shoes Prius. And this is the surprising thing I found: a used Prius is more than a used Corolla which is more than a used Pontiac (okay that's not so surprising!). But comparing their gas mileage, the Prius turns out having an equal to or lower out-of-pocket monthly expense than any lower priced car that would satisfy the bank's demands. A Prius, with conservative estimates, will save us $70 per month. Given that I drive 20k miles a year, twice as much as those estimates are based on, it will probably save us more. This brings the monthly out-of-pocket for an '05 Prius into the "under $100 range" and NO other car meeting the Credit Union's criteria could do that. Maybe, maybe within $10, but then I'd have an '05 Pontiac with 140,000 miles on it. So put that in your elitist pipe and smoke it, suckers! Maybe that's a little too in-depth a financial analysis for this blog, but hey, if I didn't tell you, you would have made assumptions just like I used to, just like everyone else has.
So, after test driving a few and trying to negotiate a price, I finally found one in Pullman that was worth the drive and the price and boy is she a pretty thing. My new Prius is silver with a dark gray and wine interior. It is in the best condition and was the cheapest price of any that we looked at. But yes, we did have to drive to Pullman, kids and all, 1 1/2 times (dear Pullman friends, I wanted to call you up, but these trips were kind of really late at night). And now it's all done and she belongs to the credit union, but she's parked in my drive way.
But the other thing the "bank" made us do is to get an emissions test. The emissions-tester-ladies were all laughing when I drove in. "What the hell are you doing here?! By law, a Prius doesn't have to be tested! We don't even know HOW to test a Prius!" Listen ladies, I said, my bank is making me do this. And after conferencing for forever, they finally figured it out.
And just in case I was under the delusion that owning a Prius would save the planet and be all good for all god's little critters, fate needed to show me otherwise. I ran over a squirrel with it this morning. I've never hit an animal ever, (except for once this cat jumped out of a bush and hit the side of my car.) But I didn't completely run over the squirrel. I ran over the wrong half. It would have been better if I'd hit its head and killed it instantly. But no, I just ran over its hind legs and watched in the rear-view mirror as it army-crawled into the ditch. This was just the end of the bloody, gory, animal deaths-gone-wrong weekend we've had - and later, I promise, when I feel a little stronger, I'll tell you the worst story ever about putting down a cow. But for now, lets just leave it with the squirrel and my non-elitists Prius.