Buying a new vehicle should be reserved for those who have better than acceptable credit and can guarantee making those payments for the entire term.
The first time I bought a new car…
Before I tell this story, I must state that it was not the first time I did this stupid of a move on my part. Buying a new vehicle should be reserved for those who have better than acceptable credit and can guarantee making those payments for the entire term.
In my lifetime, I have seen plenty of people buy a vehicle on loans that would bankrupt a hard-working person. Back in June of 1987, I was one of those people. I regret that decision, but I am still here to recall – or, at least attempt to – that dumb move on my part.
The circumstances seemed right for something like this to occur. My family sold our house in Reseda. I decided to move to San Rafael north of San Francisco and live in the house my grandmother lived in. She passed away in 1983, followed by my father in 1986
At the time, I drove a 1979 Mazda 626 coupe that my brother originally bought. I knew this car was not going to survive the move, even if it actually made it across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Instead of saving my money and buy a recently use vehicle, I wanted to get a new car. That was my first mistake.
I knew that I had a limited budget in mind and not-so-great credit to deal with. I angled towards vehicles that were inexpensive, practical, and easy to afford. I wound up with two options: A Hyundai Excel two-door hatchback and a Nissan Hardbody pickup truck.
There’s no need to explain or justify these two vehicles. Yes, Hyundai was in its second year of operation in the USA and the Excel was definitely affordable. I was working with their Culver City dealership to get one with an automatic transmission and a radio. Believe it or not, I was approved for financing through Chrysler’s financing arm.
However, I ended up with the Nissan. Why? I was at the Woodland Hills dealership, and they had the right Hardbody regular cab in a metallic red with an automatic transmission. I ended up having them install a radio in the truck.
Then came the closing of the deal. My finance rate was astronomical. They took in the Mazda for the trade, and I had to come up with a few thousand more for the down payment. I figured if my job transfer worked out, I would be fine.
Still euphoric over my Nissan delivery, I was set to move up north. The bed of the truck was loaded with my worldly goods. I had a pratfall when the cover – a bedspread – started getting loose in the bed. I made across the Golden Gate Bridge and to my new home in San Rafael OK.
Then, everything almost went south.
The job transfer ended up as a long commute from San Rafael to Fairfield. After a couple of weeks, the store I was working at decided to cut my hours. I ended up quitting and got a new job down by San Francisco International Airport instead. I also ended up turning in the Nissan back to the financier because I no longer was able to make payments on it.
The whole debacle was regrettable. It also yielded many lessons for not only myself, but also towards this work some 35 years later.
I only had the truck for almost two months. I put on plenty of miles, because of the commute. Still, the driveline was inadequate, and the vinyl seats were not comfortable in the heat of the summer. I chose necessity over being honest with myself about responsibility and making decisions that impact one’s life.
Would I have done better with the Hyundai? I can’t answer that. Impending quality and performance issues would have also put me in the same situation. The fuel economy would have been much better, however.
Given the next vehicle purchase I made in 1990, not having the knowledge and experience on how financially manage a vehicle purchase would be one that would continue to haunt me for over three decades.
Even in 2009, I thought I was ready to dive into a new vehicle. I planned on leasing a new Honda Civic here in the Twin Cities when my job was made redundant due to the affects from the global financial crisis of that time. I’m not too sure if leasing was the right idea back then, either.
It would be easy for me to say to you to learn from these mistakes. Your finances, credit, and purchasing habits are your own. However, I do highly recommend that you do your homework before you start searching for a vehicle. That also include financing options and finding the right dealership to work with.
I will admit that my first new vehicle purchase ended up as quite the adventure.
All photos by Randy Stern