I planned my road trip for almost a year before I hit the road. I scouted out campsites, made dates with friends in far away cities, and bought a new camera so I could snap the best photos along the way. I snapped up bargain food deals, and socked away catering leftovers.
Most importantly, I did maintenance on my car. Seven months before I hit the road, I changed my timing belt and got four new tires. Two months before I got my oil changed. Two weeks before I got a new battery and a new crankshaft sensor. And yet I’ve spent the last two and a half weeks with my check engine light on, and have spent $600 more on repairs since being on the road.
Here’s the backstory with my car. I was gifted it by my grandparents when I graduated college. They even paid to get it registered. It was an incredible gift, and one I am forever grateful for.
I’ve taken several great road trips in my car, and I use it to get to and from catering in Austin. I usually drive 2-3 days a week when I’m home. Otherwise, my car just hangs out.
I’ve been to six mechanics so far on this trip. I’ve had my spark plugs changed twice, and two engine coils replaced. I’ve had numerous ‘random engine misfire’ codes come up, but no one can seem to tell me what the exact problem is. And I can’t continue to sink hundreds of dollars into this car while I’m not at peak earning capacity.
This road trip has truly shown me how expensive cars can be. And frankly, this one is becoming more expensive than it’s worth. I think I’ll make $30,000 before taxes this year. I’ve already spent $2,000 on this car this year, and I will have to put more into it when I get back to Austin.
I expect to spend about $4,500 on my car (including gas) this year. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that that’s a huge expense for someone living on $30,000. Even though I use it to get to a job that earns me money, it’s quickly outweighing the earning with expenses. I’ll probably make around $9,500 catering this year. I’m re-investing basically half of those earnings back into my car.
The worst part about this is that it’s impacting the joy of my road trip. Everything has been amazing on this trip- except for my car. I’ve seen friends and some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. FinCon was fantastic. This on-going drama with my car is definitely harshing my road trip vibe!
As a result, I’m cutting my trip four days short. I’m skipping Yellowstone and Jackson Hole because I don’t believe my car can handle the mountains and the weather. I was really looking forward to that portion of the trip, and I’m downright pissed to be missing it.
This is particularly frustrating because I feel like I’ve been a good car owner! I’ve only put about 45,000 miles on it in the five years I’ve owned it. I understand cars require maintenance, but I feel betrayed by my car. I don’t even use you that often- why you mad bro?
So while my trip has been amazing, my car has been a pain in the ass. And now I’ll be returning to Austin sooner than expected and with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I look forward to the day that I can sell my car and not have to depend on it. Unfortunately that’s probably another year away. For now, I’m just caught in the trap of catering to afford my car, and owning my car to get to catering. #viciouscycle
Anyone have a car they love? Or a car horror story to share?
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.
10 Replies to “Road Trip Update: My Car Sucks”
UGH YES I feel this. The anxiety of being trapped in a vicious cycle with your car is the worst, and it makes me feel helpless and stupid and incapable of adulting. Even my new car gives me issues, after having to sell my old car after sinking $2,000 into repairs that essentially didn’t work. You would think a brand new wouldn’t have any repair needs…
Cars are the worst. I can’t wait for self driving cars to take over the world.
That totally sucks! I did get a new(er) car last spring because I often travel alone and wanted to make sure my car was newer and in better shape so I’d never get stranded on the side of the road. Cars are SOO expensive!
I love the convenience of cars and that’s it. Maintenance, upkeep expenses, upfront expenses, parking, traffic…it all stinks!
Sorry to hear that girl! But I know for a fact you’ll return to those places. My husband is all about buying new cars, and to be honest I don’t disagree right now simply because I’m pretty clueless when it comes to cars (I know, bad excuse…)
I would love to catch up and talk post-FinCon sometime! I would love to help keep you accountable and reaching those goals, and to see how you spent that $20 😉
YES! Let’s skype soon. My schedule is hectic through the end of the month, but I’ll email you with early November dates!
I’m fortunate, married to a shadetree mechanic who can fix most of our car issues. But before that, I definitely milked some cars as long as possible, then ultimately bought newer ones and lived with the payments. It’s not great, but there comes a time when the expense of the repairs outweighs the cost of a newer car per year. If you can do the maintenance yourself (or at least, in family) you can increase the break point, but it exists for every car. (and where I live, there’s no convenient public options.)
I definitely don’t drive that much in Austin, but my car is a base level model that’s approaching 8 years. So it’s time to put a little money into it I guess…I just don’t have that much! I’d love to know more about repairs. A skill set to pursue in the future!
Cars are indeed the worst. I did the ‘right’ thing for years – buying them in cash, only what I coudl afford to pay outright. But in every case the repairs started mounting FAST and then by the time the car died or was no longer worth fixing, didn’t have enough money for a better car saved yet, so the cycle continued. (Getting a car loan for the current vehicle – best automotive decision I ever made, aside from paying it off ASAP. It was about 4 years old when we got it, until then we’d had 10-20 year old cars – vehicles are expensive here…)
They’re just such a back and forth luxury to me. Sometimes, so nice to have. Most of the time, expensive and annoying to try and find parking for!