Car Fever – A Narrow Escape

We don’t do debt.  Everyone who knows us, knows that Brittan and I believe the only tolerable debt is mortgage related.  Even that is only tolerated with reluctance.  We don’t have student loans, we don’t have credit card balances and we don’t have car loans. If we can’t pay for it, we don’t buy it.

We almost fell off the wagon this weekend. Before you panic, I said ALMOST.

Here’s what happened.  All our vehicles are old.  Our two cars are 2000 models.  Our farm truck is a 1997.  It was the truck that nearly did us (me) in.

With vehicle age comes an ever increasing collection of issues. The truck has them. Over the last year, the old GMC has had a few problems. We painted it back in the summer. We put new tires on it and and put in a new master cylinder for the brakes.  Last weekend as I reached over to close the driver’s side door, the arm rest came off in my hand.  That’s not really supposed to happen. Then the water pump started leaking. The timing of that stinks because I have to take a couple of cows to the processor this week. Sigh.

Did I mention that a Livestock Guardian Dog chewed up the seat? It was like a scene out of “Turner and Hooch”. “Not the car! Don’t eat the car!”

As we pondered the situation on Friday, we concluded that a new truck was in order.  The problem with that is, we have used a lot of expendable cash building up our farm and farm business, so the car fund consists pretty much of whatever we can find on the floor under the seats. The only way a new (to us) truck was in the cards included a car payment.

We talked about it at length and I had numerous justifications.  It wouldn’t be much. It would be a short term. I’d pay it off early.  Yada, yada.  For the first time I can remember in my life, I had CAR FEVER. And it was a bad one. Because I’m not a regular sufferer, I hadn’t built up much immunity.  I was in a bad way.

Brittan offered up a weak, “I don’t want any car payments,” but it was easy to see her heart wasn’t in it.  You could see in her eyes that she was imagining driving a shiny new pickup, one that had all it’s parts and all it’s parts worked.

I went online and looked at both private ads and at some dealership offers.  First, I got sticker shock.  Then I got discouraged. Then I started to get practical.

Did I really want to make monthly payments? Did I really want to buy a shiny truck only to fill it with manure from the mule pasture?  Did I really want to violate all the principles I’d been preaching for the last 6 years?  The fever broke.

I filled the radiator with water while Brittan called a mechanic friend.  We drove the truck out to the farm where our friend could work on it.  We went to the auto parts store and bought what we needed. Brittan also picked up a car seat cover to hide the chew work performed earlier.

By mid afternoon, the truck was running fine and our wallets were only a little lighter.  The parts weren’t all that expensive and our friend got a nice day’s pay while we were spared from doing something really stupid. Of course, there’s still no driver’s side arm rest, but stuff happens.

We were in the ‘red zone’ for a while and it was dangerous there.  We’re safe now, but we’ll have to get busy rebuilding the car fund, because eventually we WILL need to replace one of our ancient road warriors. And car payments are unacceptable.  Unacceptable, I say.  Too much money and too much risk.

Folks, it’s always Car Fever Season somewhere. It can be bad, even financially fatal. Take precautions.  Be prepared. Don’t be a victim. Take my advice. I’m a survivor.

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