From Car Payment To Clunker To Upgrade

A Little History

pontiac vibe


When we started our Total Money Makeover in January of 2008 with just over $25,000 in debt, not including our house, we made some extreme decisions.  I only say extreme because most people looked at me like I was insane.  The truth is that I was.  I was insane to keep driving a car with a payment. We had a very nice 2004 Pontiac Vibe that we absolutely loved.  It was a great car!  The problem was that the car had a monthly price tag of $300 a month plus additional costs such as higher insurance and property taxes.  We sold that car payment and immediately knocked $8,000 off of our debt load.

Luckily, at the time, we were only upside down on the car to the tune of about $280.  I would say that is not usually normal, as most people are thousands of dollars in the hole with their cars.  We were so pleased to have knocked down our debt but as I said, people treated me like I was irrational.  After all, most people will tell you that they will ALWAYS have a car payment.  Not me, not us, and not you if you’re smart! Yeah I said it!  It is smarter to pay cash for your car and have no payments dragging around behind it.

Meet The Vibe’s Replacement A.K.A. “The Clunker”



Our very nice 2004 Pontiac Vibe was replaced with a 1985 Honda CRX.  At first I was reluctant, but it didn’t take me long to warm up to the blue rocket.  The savings made it easier but the truth is that it was a great car right from the beginning.  It was fast, good on gas, and had lots of character, it just wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at.  At first, I wondered what people thought about my clunker but soon realized it didn’t matter what they thought.  We were finally released from the Joneses stranglehold, and we no longer cared what they thought.  It was a very liberating feeling to tell the Joneses to get lost! You should give it a try!

I not only used my cash clunker to get around town in but I also used it to deliver pizzas in.  Talk about wear and tear!  Actually the CRX held up great and I did have to fix a few things along the way but it was to be expected.  The car is 24 years old!  I added over 50,000 miles to the clunker and drove it for a little more than a year and a half.  I would say that I definitely got $500 worth out of it over that time, not to mention I can still sell it for about $300.  The downgrade was worth it in EVERY way!  It saved us money, lowered our debt load, and enabled us to rethink what was important in life.

Needless to say, I had to replace the beloved CRX.  My very first enemy of debt mobile had to retire.  As most of you know we are having another baby in October.  In case you don’t know the CRX is only a two-seater which already caused us problems from time to time, plus the clutch finally started to slip.  It was time for an upgrade.  Bye bye blue rocket…

The Great 14 Year Upgrade

Saturn 1999


So I went from a 1985 to a 1999!!  🙂 Now I would love to tell you that we saved money during the year and a half that I drove the beater in order to replace it, but the truth is we didn’t.  At first we had a $500 fund to be spent on fixing any problems but it didn’t take long to burn through that.  We will be sure to plan for repairs as well as replacement this time around.  Normally this situation would have really stressed us out but not this time.  Why?  Well mostly because we only needed $500-$1000 to replace the beater and we have our debt snowball money to dip into, and if need be, we have our emergency fund.

Lucky for us we didn’t need to use any emergency fund money.  My In-laws are also benefiting from their Total Money Makeover, so they decided to sell us one of their cars for $500.  They were ready for an upgrade themselves and wanted to help us out.  For the record, that is what a Total Money Makeover does for people.  It allows you the opportunity to be more generous.  Most people are already generous but the truth is they aren’t in a situation to give like they want.  A Total Money Makeover puts you in a position to give!Saturn 1999-1

So what am I driving now?  A 1999 Saturn S-Series.  It has about 82,000 miles on it and is in excellent condition.  Meet my new car, but I can hardly call this one a clunker or a beater.  I guess “cash car” will just have to do.  🙂  The new enemy of debt mobile is AWESOME!  I really love it, and the best part is that there is NO DEBT involved.  You don’t have to have a car payment, usually you just choose to because you too are trying to keep up with the Joneses, or you have just bought the myth that says it’s the only way to own a car.  I will NEVER EVER have another car payment for as long as I live.

Do You Have A Car Payment?

The best thing you could ever do is to get rid of it and drive a paid for cash car.  Imagine how much extra money you could have to save, invest or give!  Consider getting rid of that debt load!  Consider a Total Money Makeover!  Your car will drive a lot better without the weight of debt!

Have you secretly wanted to dump your debt infested car OR do you think having a car payment is unavoidable?  Share your thoughts below in the comments section.  I would love to have a healthy discussion about it!

About Brad Chaffee

11 Responses to “From Car Payment To Clunker To Upgrade”

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  1. Chad says:

    Very nice upgrade! So what will this cost you after the sale of the CRX? It looks like $200! That is quite a deal. Enjoy the new ride and congrats on the coming addition to the family.

  2. Money Funk says:

    Congats on your new clunker for family. I loved my Saturn (stupid me got rid of it for a payment car). Which I am $3K of an upside down loan. I figured I have to keep the car until its last payment. If any one can think of another way I would love to hear it!

  3. Brad Chaffee says:

    Chad – That’s right…$200! Pretty awesome huh? Thanks for the congratulations, we are excited about our new arrival come October!

    Money Funk – So far I am totally happy with the Saturn! It’s clean, drives smooth, and doesn’t have a payment. lol I am not surprised that you are upside down $3,000 but the good thing is that you learn your lesson. Buying a used, experienced car saves you lots of money. How much until you pay off the car payment?

  4. Money Funk says:

    See (click link), I was contemplating getting rid of the upside down car loan. Too bad my only option at this time is to suffer through that lesson learned and continue to pay out lots of money.

    Oh, it looks like its $5K over market. Ouch! $400 down the drain on continuous depreciated value. I believe I have 2 or 2 1/2 years left to pay on the sucker. See, not only would I have to snowball the Upside down part, but I have to have the savings to buy a used car, too. So, kind of in a painful bind. :/

  5. Ashley says:

    Good for you Brad on getting rid of the “keeping up” mentality when it came to your vehicle. I’m always amazed at the ridiculous car notes and payment plans some people agree to in order to drive a flashy ride. I bought a used higher end car for a very good price from a private dealer. I have no desire to ever have a new car and after I get my current one paid off (7 months to go) will continue to save those monthly payments until I can afford to buy a new car I like with cash!

  6. Kelsalynn says:

    My car in college was a 1999 Saturn that looked IDENTICAL to yours… same color, everything. Of course, I graduated from college and that wasn’t good enough so I got a nice, pretty car payment until I wised up! Plus, mine never had such a nifty license plate so you win.
    : )

  7. Well done! If you don’t have CASH to pay for your car, don’t bother! If you don’t make at least 10X the purchase price of the car, don’t bother!

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