$150 a week.
For some folks, this is a mere pittance. A lunch for four at a fancy restaurant that can be easily charged off to Uncle Sam and his seventeen trillion dollar debit card.
For others, it’s the beginning of a barnacle that will likely outlast their ability to pay it.
They will flex their muscles and run while they can. Then once they trip, due to a lost job or a family emergency, they will pick up an even heavier barnacle, with four wheels on it, and keep running.
It’s a vicious cycle of poverty. Where the poor always stay poor. After witnessing this cycle of automotive indebtitude for years on end, I’ve come to blame one solitary thing.
Our society encourages dependency under the guise of capitalism. Young teenagers and adults are not taught to maintain anything… other than a bank account.
We, as a society, do not promote the idea of saving money by learning how to maintain things. We do it by offering the “rah-rah” cheerleading of self-help psychology. The anointing of so-called money gurus and experts who bring out the extremes of human behavior so that we feel better about ourselves.
The marketplace is about saving money by spending it. The more expensive the good, and the higher the debt, the more economic growth we have as a civilization.
When it comes to cars, appliances and homes, we are sent from schools of higher learning to a treadmill of perpetual ignorance. We are taught to buy it; not fix it. Maintenance and upkeep is meant for the professionals. Your payments create jobs and keep these hamster wheels of human work spinning in motion. Thereby creating a stronger economy.
It’s a fraud of the nastiest of orders. The mass of humanity spends their days performing relatively mindless work to pay off debts and hoping for a small dose of personal freedom once it’s all over. To keep this cycle going, we inflate everything we can at every level.
All debts are inflated these days by third parties that essentially do nothing. Housing values are pushed up by government policies and funny money paid to banks. The two entities most responsible for the economic collapse are now given all the tools to rebuild the cycle of debt.
As for the savers? They get their savings accounts obliterated from a 3% to 5% interest level, to 0%… plus billions more in fees.
The common citizen earns it, but they don’t get to keep it. Cars are now kept under shrouds of plastic and sealed steel so that ‘lifetime fluids’ and the basic steps of maintaining a car are kept well out of reach.
The CVT will save you a couple of miles per gallon. But once it breaks, your cost is likely to outweigh the entire car because you can’t rebuild it. As for those lifetime fluids, once the warranty runs out, it’s your problem.
One of the by-products of spending over 15 years at the wholesale auctions, and developing a long-term reliability study that focuses beyond the scope of Consumer Reports and other first owner focused publications, is that I get to see firsthand what hasn’t worked in the automotive marketplace.
I get to see the Volvo XC90 with the bad transmission. The Saturn VUE with a transmission driven by a cheap belt that is now broken and financially unsalvageable. The Dodge Intrepid with the 2.7 liter engine, that not even the Salvation Army can get to run right for 10 years.
What I don’t get to see is the educated kid who isn’t taught how to maintain their vehicle. I don’t get to see the title pawns that charge their customers 25% a month interest because their customers are working 40, but keeping nothing. Even with my business which is about 50% self-financing, I don’t get the customers who are under the knife of the seven year note.
One lost job, and their equity position returns to zero. What’s worse is that they get to pay even more the next go round.
Everyone has an opinion about how to reduce consumer debt and dependency. Some believe in the free market. Others would legislate their way into a conscripted paradise. As for me, I like excavators, open containers, and easy access when it comes to cars.
As for housing, health care, education and work life, I think the answer is a bit more complicated. So let’s stick to cars for now. What would you recommend to help change the economics of ownership?