By on August 25, 2015

09 - 1998 Toyota Corolla Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.

Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.

Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.

And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.

I know what bootstrap Republicans will say: “Take the bus!” But remember, west of the Mississippi River, public transportation is often a time-consuming and inconvenient process. And if you’re making minimum wage, chances are you need more than one job, which means lost time commuting is lost money that’s sorely needed.

Geezers may scoff: “In my day, I worked for a dollar an hour and was thankful for the opportunity!” That’s true. In 1967, the minimum wage was $1 an hour, but a new Camaro also cost $2,466 MSRP — which meant your buck an hour could buy you a Camaro after one year of hard work. Try that today with your $15,080 and the 2016 Camaro starting at more than $26,000.

Budget buyers would say: “Craigslist is full of $500 Corollas! Buy one of those!” But remember that a bad asset is another word for a liability. Cars today are infinitely more complicated for home mechanics, and more expensive to fix at a shop. There’s nothing worse than a money pit, or worse, walking away from something you can’t recoup later. Even the average price for a used car is out-of-reach, the Detroit News reported that an average used car transaction is $18,800.

So what say you B&B? What’s a working man supposed to buy if minimum wage can’t even pay attention?

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238 Comments on “QOTD: What Are You Supposed to Drive Making Minimum Wage?...”


  • avatar
    craiger

    Get a used motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      No. At the start of the season crap bikes that could only be driven Around town were going for 3500. Add in 1500 for insurance plus registration fees and your looking at 6-7 grand.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        what state are you shopping in? In NJ, of all places, you can get liability only coverage on a medium size bike for something like $120 for the year. And plenty of reliable bikes can be had for under 2 grand.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      A bicycle is a great form of affordable transportation. It was my primary vehicle for six years before I got a ‘real’ job.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        A bicycle is a great idea unless you live in a wide open Western state with many people not living within biking distance of employment. Also a bit difficult in places like the Eastern portion of Wyoming where the wind just never stops blowing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It is true that car prices have outpaced wages, and the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation.

    I am not a fan of the minimum wage.

    However, expensive new cars and junky old cars aren’t the answer. There are plenty of decent depreciated mid-range cars in the $5k range that could work. For example, a coworker wants to unload his clean 08 Elantra for $3-4k, since he can only get $2k on trade. That car is a hundred times better than the junk I drove while earning minimum wage.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      This is the correct answer. Well-kept 4-8 year old japanese and korean econoboxes are the sweet spot between price and reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        That sounds right. I’d also put in a plug for late-model Ford Rangers and Toyota Tacomas, also available in the $4-7k rang. Those are ridiculously durable, usually cheaper to fix than a later-model sedan/hatch, and hold their resale value better than just about anything I can think of short of a Porsche 911.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Take the bus.

  • avatar
    jimreed2160

    One of the best used car bargains today is in the Ford panther platform. These cars look old school and do not have much appeal to new buyers–that opens a buying opportunity. A minimum wage worker can pick up a 10-15 year old Mercury Grand Marquis with about 100k miles for less than $5000. It will be reliable transportation that is inexpensive to repair. An added bonus is that it has enough room for extra passengers who can cough up gas money.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I don’t like this recommendation. It’ll be old and tired because of years, even with <100k miles. You won't break 20mpg, and it'll still be pretty unsafe and nickel and dime you with parts.

      Rather have something closer to 10 years old, with 100-150k miles and Japanese, with better fuel economy.

      Like these.
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5188734665.html
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5188276278.html
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5153240526.html
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/ctd/5186037950.html

      This one especially.
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5187504165.html

      Or even w. higher miles.
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5168302317.html
      https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5184841232.html

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’m sorry but you can get newer or lower mile Panthers for the money they are asking for some of those. The Panther is safer than those cars and will cost less to keep on the road with longer lasting lower priced parts. Yeah they will get a little better MPG but gas is cheap. If you want the real deal on a Panther the police car auction is where it is at. $1500 to $2500 if you want an umarked in blue or all black, for a 6-10 year old car that has been religiously maintained and has 100-150K on it. You can also do better than that as the one I bought for my daughter was only $500 with 62K on the clock. It’s problem was that it sat around for too long and they took the complete wiper assembly for another car and it needed tires. All in and on the road with almost new used tires from craigslist I was at $1000. 15k miles later all it has needed was oil changes though it will be getting brakes all around soon and it could be sold for $2500 in a day on craigslist.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yeah, this fails in TCO compared to a $5000 (or even $6000) Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think the Avalon is also an excellent bet. Similar owners to a GC, but better equipped, more powerful, legendary V6, excellent build quality, better MPG, more comfortable, less ghetto.

        And even here in OH, the Avalon (gen 1 included) didn’t rust.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The politicization of TTAC continues…

    I’d go the craigslist beater route. People aren’t as helpless and un-resourceful as your may think Mr. Cole: if they can’t wrench on their ride, there’s a good chance they have an uncle or a friend that can. I see all sorts of car work being done on side streets on the weekends in my neighborhood, and the junkyard is crawling with folks tracking down bits and pieces to keep their beaters running.

    What I hope the minimum wage folks aren’t doing is going the BHPH route and paying $50 a week for years on end to drive that same $1000 beater.

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      Craigslist beaters all the way. I’ve managed to never pay more than a 1000 dollars for a car and that’s kept me going for 3 and a half years now. Drive it until something major breaks and repeat.

      • 0 avatar
        anti121hero

        I’ve been doing the same thing for over 6 years now, working great for me. The past few years I’ve been trading up too, get a car put some work into it and find someone that wants to trade for something more suitable to my lifestyle and in better shape.both jeeps I have now I traded for.

    • 0 avatar
      ant

      “The politicization of TTAC continues…”

      Huh?

      Could you clarify what it is in this post that’s political?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        See: bootstrapping Republican comment

        The whole post reads like a rhetorical question where the only “correct” outcome seems to be to raise the minimum wage.

        • 0 avatar
          ant

          You’re the one who brought up the minimum wage, everyone else is trying to think of solutions that are actually possible.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Re-read my first post, I’m a fan of the beater solution and letting people figure things out with the help of family and friends if need be. I simply don’t understand the general approach of assuming that every poor person is totally inept and helpless. They’re adults, they’ll have to figure something out.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            “I simply don’t understand the general approach of assuming that every poor person is totally inept and helpless. They’re adults, they’ll have to figure something out”

            The postulation of the article is what kind of car should you drive when you make minimum wage not GFYS you lazy, poor basterd because I gots mine and you can figure it out on your own.

            Many on min wage have family and friends, who, like them, are also on min wage. And many do rely on their fam and friends until situations change cause life happens and you’re back to figuring it out.

            Many do not have access to public transportation and even if they do, busses and subway mean added time to make the connections. Many live too far away or in a climate that is either too hot or too cold for a season for a bicycle to be a realistic method of transport. That’s just the employment bit of it. We’re not mentioning grocery shopping, seeing the doctor, et al, that suburbs have made it a must that one drives.

            Just buying a beater isn’t always the solution. Now a person who can’t honestly afford the beater in the first place, has to also find the change for the gas, insurance, regular maintenance and licensing and these things all add up when you’re running min wage. And this is if the car doesn’t break down every three months.

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Cole

      Nah, it’s not political. It’s financial.

      And I don’t think anyone is helpless. I do think that buying a car (especially used) can be intimidating to say the least, and financially disastrous at its worst. I’m just wondering what’s out there for someone who’s really on a tight budget.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “I see all sorts of car work being done on side streets on the weekends in my neighborhood”

      Time to move?!

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yeah I don’t think we’re gonna stick around here once our year long lease is up. The biggest issue is the Kroger, my gf basically can’t go in there alone. We also think the people at the end of the block are dealing. I think we’re about ready to get hitched and buy our own place outside the beltway.

    • 0 avatar
      user1265

      Ditto. I specialise in beater minivans myself. They can do everything for the homestead and are relatively easy to work on due to space around the powertrain. Plus it’s a great sleeping space when traveling on vacation.
      My favourites for years have been the old 4-cylinder Caravans but they really are high maintenance. U have to fix something every goddam weekend.

      1992-95 pushrod V6 models are the best and cheapest to own. Drive it until the 4-speed transaxle fails, then recycle.

      Dustbuster GMs with 3.1L TBI or MPFI (not SEFI!) are OK too, but the bodies fall apart first.

      Mercury Villager Nissan Quest is far more expensive and ridiculously difficult to maintain: timing belt! Accessory belts that are only accessible through the wheelwell! Exhaust gaskets! Ford-spec VG30E literally stinks like a tired old dump truck!

      Old Nissan Axxess with 2.4L 4-cyl (timing chain) are excellent and had dual sliding doors ~10 years before others.

      old Toyotas always leak oil.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Panther. Every part costs $30 and every repair takes half an hour.

    Scion. Toyota quality, but cheaper. The stuff that falls off doesn’t matter anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The panther is definitely ghetto-approved, I see plenty of beaten to death P71s with limo tint plodding down the street here. Scion? Resale is still way too high even on the oldest, highest mileage examples to enter the bottom of the barrel market just yet. Older Mitsubishi Galants are a good choice: zero resale and simple and proven mechanicals. 95-99 Maximas are another good choice, the VQ30 is like a better, more reliable 3800. There I said it.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The problem with a Panther is that by this point, really affordable ones are going to have different $30 parts failing every few weeks.

      Transportation for somebody on minimum wage must, above all else, crank every single morning. A rare $300 repair is vastly preferable to even five $30 repairs, as you can pay for a $300 repair with borrowing from friends, pawn shop trips, even a payday loan if you are really desperate.

      You can’t pay for anything if you lose your job because your finicky Panther keeps having little stupid stuff go wrong with it and you are late for work.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The beauty of a panther is that even with a bunch of failing sub-systems, there’s a good chance it will start and run and drive down the road. Loose a coil (as is bound to happen on a FoMoCo Mod motor)? No problem, there’s still 7 cylinders cranking away. Loose your coolant due to a leaking rad or failed water pump? The overheating engine will alternate among the 8 cylinders, cycling empty charges of air into 4 while still injecting fuel into the other 4 to keep things from failing catastrophically.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          “Loose a coil (as is bound to happen on a FoMoCo Mod motor)? No problem, there’s still 7 cylinders cranking away”

          Yeah, the 5.4 in my SuperDuty *finally* threw a code when half the coils failed*.

          (Who knew that that tiny hesitation from idle stop to movement was actually an engine problem, not just a delay in throttle response and some suspension wear? Not me, obviously.)

          (* Just in time for a $3k repair bill for both cats, all the coils, and breaking half the spark plugs pulling them out, as they were still the two-part ones.

          I am, in retrospect, not surprised that engine failed catastrophically a year later.

          Now there’s a Jasper rebuild in it, and I think it might actually be reliable.

          This kind of thing is why I am completely open to the idea of a Ram or Chevy when it’s time to replace it.)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Panther: Enough parts fail that if you fix them all you run out of half-hours.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        That is pure BS. Take the Panthers in my family.

        2001 GM that is now my son’s and we’ve had it for about 4 1/2 years. In that time and about 70K miles the only things that have been done to it is replace the tires, one coil, one set of spark plugs, brakes, oil/filter changes and one door lock motor. The door lock motor could have been ignored. All cars will eventually need tires, brakes, spark plugs and of course oil changes on a period basis. So the only parts that could be considered failures were the coil and door lock motor and the door lock motor certainly could have been ignored. The only other thing was that one of the speakers occasionally sounded a little rattly and we upgraded them all because my son wanted to and he can afford it. We originally paid $4000 for it. It will need a battery in the next year or so and replacing the shocks wouldn’t hurt. It consistently got between 20-21 mpg when my wife drove it regularly, it returned 19-20 mpg when I drove it and for my son it does 21-22mpg due to the different driving patterns we have.

        2003 P71 now my Daughter’s. That one I picked up at the county auction for $500. I had to install a wiper system since it had been picked for parts and I got the linkages to make the rear doors open from the inside at the wrecking yard and picked up an OE AM/FM CD player to replace the AM/FM only. I also put good tires on it, the ones that came on it were legal but not enough tread to make them really suitable for winter. In the 15K put on it so far it has only needed oil changes. I also put power pedals on it because my Daughter is on the shorter side and she would otherwise sit too close to the air bag. Speaking of air bags it does have the side seat bags. Total cost including the upgrades, tires tax and licensing $1200. She only manages 18ish mpg but she is city heavy on her driving.

        05 P71 that I’m currently driving. I’m into it about $1200 and it came with 5 brand new pursuit rated tires and new brakes all around. All in I’m about $1250 including the parts to make the back doors operate from the inside, mounting kit and wiring harness to put an aftermarket head unit I had in. I’ve put about 7K on it so far and have done nothing but oil changes since the initial prep.

        92 CV that I’ve had for about 15 years. It has seen almost 100K in that time and it has needed spark plugs and wires, tires, brakes, 2 window regulators, water pump and I did the T-stat and belt while in there. TV linkage bushing and a few oil changes and 2 batteries. It does need front shocks, tie rod ends and another set of tires which is why it has been pretty much parked for the last two years.

        So no parts do not fail that frequently at all. They are one of the lowest cost of ownership vehicles out there which is the reason that until gas got to be $4 per gallon that they were the most popular choice for taxi companies. Since they have started buying Prius vehicles the price of the used P71s at auction has dropped to about 1/4~1/3 of what they used to go for.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      Lot of replies knocking the Panther. I bought a ’99 for my son’s first car. It was ugly and running on 6 cylinders, but we only paid $1000. I taught him how to replace the spark plugs and found one of the coils missing the spring. Found one of the injector plugs loose. Cooling fan plug was burned up. Pitman arm was shot. We fixed it all for under $100, put a $200 set of shocks on it, and it runs and drives great. AC works and so do all the power locks and windows.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    “I know what bootstrap Republicans will say: “Take the bus!”

    Who paid to have 700,000 functional used cars destroyed? Why I believe it was every poor persons friend, the Democrats.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      My middle-right sensibilities enjoyed that, but from what I’m seeing, this hasn’t put cars out of reach of the poor.

      Those old cars were traded in for new ones, which are now making their way down the food chain, devaluing the cars below them, and so on…
      There is certainly no lack of good choices here around Chicago. The $800 car is alive and well. They are perhaps even newer by five years than they would have been, which is a good and bad thing (Lack of reliable manual trans cars, more complex).

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      I’m not even a democrat but that is one large logical fallacy. I can only assume that was meant as humor, so thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      No self-respecting Republican would recommend public transit, especially not to a person with a job.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Most of those were 2nd generation Exploders anyway. Panther all the way.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Say what you might about any number of sore spots on 2nd gen explorers (transmissions on 6 cyl models, timing chains on SOHC 4.0L, ball joints, etc), but I still see an enormous amount of them trolling the roads in a dilapidated but still running state. They’re also EVERYWHERE in Mexico, along with ZJ Grand Cherokees. The explorers all have front wheels with an insane amount of negative camber due to totally shot front ends, but they manage to stay attached to the truck and go down the road just fine. The scariest is when the leaf spring perches rust off, and this thing is hurtling down the interstate at 75 mph inches from your door.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In California, the tyrants in Sacramento are still paying $1,500 bounties to crush any car that is registered and can pass SMOG. If that isn’t a plan to make cars less accessible to the poor, then maybe their Cap and Trade program to reduce gasoline availability by 50% over the next few years will price more people out of the job market and freedom of mobility. Wake up people.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Forward!

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Purely a question, how in the world are there any poor left in CA? I’m actually asking. My former employer had an Orange County division, and most of the well paid IT staff had to commute 2 hours in from somewhere.

        If you’re truly at minimum wage, how would it even be possible to make it? I’m not advocating for raising the wage, either (salaries go up, prices then go up, costs go up and rarely come back down). I live in a fairly modest area of flyover, and no used car here under 3000 could ever be trusted, or would be really hard to buy as the good ones go fast (and if you’re poor, how do you find a good one without a predatory loan? Internet? A darned phone is 50 a month…).

        I spent college at minimum, with no insurance, and a bike (it’s warm enough here that its snow-free and ugly enough that no hills exist). But one bad medical bill or apartment fire and I would have been ruined.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Adult kids live with parents, parents who have kids live with their parents and the working poor have rent control. Illegal aliens (spare me any sanctimony over the phrase – you know who I’m talking about when I use it) have multiple families in one home or one garage home.

          I’m not sure how the working poor afford gas to get to work or car repairs for their car. Probably the same way they afford healthcare if they need it – they use credit cards and live hand to mouth.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          There are poor in California because we make more every day. We bankrupt farmers, restaurants, stores and independent contractors with our regulations at a breakneck pace. Companies that don’t fold relocate. Everyone tries to stick it out for a while once their job is gone. We also have an open door policy with Mexico, which keeps the ranks of the poor filled pretty effectively.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    That average used car price figure is nonsense. It is going to include a metric ton of cars that are out of reach for a minimum wager anyway. I am not on minimum wage, but I am in school with a family and still had to buy cheap. It mostly sucks because it takes a great deal of time to find a used car shop worth setting foot in or a craigs car worth your looking at. Still. Decent cars can be found in the 3-5 range, though I wager a lot of them will need some work at some point. So you have to be careful.

    I like the idea someone raised of a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    dwford

    You’re not supposed to be owning a car at minimum wage. There is no way to pay the running expenses for a car on minimum wage, unless you are cost shifting by living at home for free.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Firstly, if you live in an urban setting in this country, and can’t find a minimum wage job within range of your legs or a bike, then there is no hope for you. Otherwise, a used, non-China scooter under $1000, or some other cosmetically damaged motorcycle will work, unless winter weather is a factor.
    If you must get a car, it needs to be simple, because you WILL work on it yourself. Nearly any small Japanese import or American car with a manual transmission under $2000 will work. Learn how to junkyard scrounge. Pick up fares for rides.
    Examples
    -Geo Metro, Ford Festiva
    -S-10, Ford Ranger
    -Sentra
    -Saturns
    -4cyl Hondas
    -Tercel, Corolla, Prism, Nova

    Or you could go the throwaway route, where you purchase for less than $1000, and get most of the money back if you have to junk the car.
    -Minivans
    -Old F-series
    -Panther

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      That’s an excellent list of minimum-wage-friendly vehicles, especially the Saturn S-series, Corolla/Prizm, and 4-cyl Hondas. People sell Saturns because they burn oil and they think “the motor’s about to blow” – which, of course, it never will if you keep sufficient oil in it. And CL is full of rusty but trusty Prizms, Corollas, and Hondas under $1500.

      You CAN pull yourself up by your bootstraps in America. It’s harder than it used to be, but it’s still possible.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        When my family came to the US in 1992 with about $50 to our name, my dad borrowed some money from friends and bought a rusty 1982 Civic Wagon for $750 from a guy at work. Drove it for a few years and upgraded to a slightly less rusty 1985 Civic sedan, which from my recollections had constantly warped rotors (Oh Honda, some things never change) and blew out a CV axle at one point. After that got totaled in a rear end collision we finally bought a ‘decent’ car in 1996, a 1990 Civic Wagon with 60k miles for $6k that we then drove until 2007 and 170k miles (and sold for $1400, talk about low TCO).

        People like to complain about how overpriced they are on the used market, but I can pull up CL right now and find half a dozen decent 94-97 Accords for $2000-2500 that will provide reliable transportation for at least 3 years with minimal repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Harder to find a Civic not rurint by a child than something else, unfortunately.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          After looking at several Hondas myself I’ve found the biggest obstacle to be the shady owners.

          Not ricers, not the cheap interior’s filled with 6-7 blank outs, not the rust, but the sellers that deny any issues that you notice, and are selling because “I’m moving” or “My family doesnt like it”.

          I once test drove a “mechanically owned” ’92 Accord with only 157k on it, the “mechanic” insisted there was no exhaust leak, despite very audible to the contrary. Oh and it’d pass safety despite the windshield being in two pieces. Hondas are decent cars sold by indecent people.

          ’94-’97 Accords are usually a better bet, even though they’re literally just better 4-th gens they’re not as popular for whatever reason, just avoid the 6 cylinder models.

          I’d like to add RWD Volvos to that list provided that you get the right year, and always get the redblock.

          Prizm’s usually go for less than a Corolla, just avoid the 3-speed auto.

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        Listen to Mr Foley he has some good choices

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Around here? Nothing, because cars under $1500 barely exist and cars under $1000 are nonexistent.

    I wouldn’t even have a car if I didn’t have parents to help pay for it, and all my cars have been $1000-$1500 beaters.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I wouldn’t say “nonexistent”. When you have parents that’ll step in and cut a check, then yeah great deals are harder to find.

      One thing I like doing while driving around looking for a cheap ride or beater (for friends/nephews on minimum wage), is drive down the residential ‘side streets’, and if it’s a busy street, you can drive past hundreds of homes per minute.

      They’ll put ‘For Sale’ signs on their unwanted cars, and not bother advertising them. Or if something (not necessarily for sale), you/they like, and looks like it’s been ‘sitting’ a while, you stop and let them knock on the door.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Today I went to look at a 1995 Jeep Cherokee stickered at $1695.

        It only had two opening windows, the hood release didn’t work, I could hear a belt squealing under the hood, the AC didn’t blow cold, the trim outside was all heavily battered, and there was a huge rust hole behind the right rear wheel. And 228,000 miles.

        The seller didn’t seem particularly interested in coming down on the price.

        Used car prices here are literally insane, and I have zero confidence in the cheap garbage in Allentown that probably even the Puerto Ricans won’t touch.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If you are friends with a mechanic that has some experience with auto auctions, have him/her help you buy one. A car with lots of cosmetic body damage due to an accident (like a crumpled fender or door panel or damaged bumper cover) will have really reduced resale value, but for reasons that have nothing to do with getting you from point A to point B, as long as the frame is good.

    But why is this question going to the B&B first? I imagine Steve could give a better answer than any of us could.

  • avatar
    ant

    I heard a suggestion the other day to comb through obituaries when looking for an old car.

    The people I know in this situation usually have had a drunk driving in the past, and so to get a car means paying for classes, monthly fees for an interlock, sr-22 insurance rates, and so on. They can’t get the license without owning a car to install the breathalyzer to begin with. They ride a pedal bike, walk, or bum rides from friends.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    The underclass waterline inexorably rises and washes away such assumed rituals of Old America as first cars, first jobs, wrenching with doting Dads, safe neighborhoods to walk/bus through and the like.

    Next time you get a pizza delivered please realize that the poor, dismal kid in that limping Alero , through no fault of his/her own, represents the BEST of their working class generation and tip accordingly.

    Really, opening my eyes in today’s society is like watching Cub Scouts and Brownies get slaughtered. So I seldom do it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nailed it.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      My coworker delivered pizzas in a campus town while getting his engineering degree. He’s an electrical engineer now with 10 years experience (~$100k/yr?), and says he made more back then delivering pizzas due to the insane tips that he got every day.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      We ordered from Domino’s recently and it was an older guy driving an early 2000s Taurus. Who knows what his story is but my wife felt bad for him and tipped him well. Maybe he drives an old Taurus for sympathy tips.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      ” poor, dismal kid in that limping Alero , through no fault of his/her own, represents the BEST of their working class generation and tip accordingly.”

      Maybe if that kid completed his High School education instead of listening to his Ipod he could get a better job….. Many poor put their self in a no win position because they think it’s better to screw off then get an education…….
      Our Country spends more on education than many Countries yet are near the bottom on test scores

    • 0 avatar
      UncleJunior

      “Wrenching with doting dads”

      I can’t even begin to tell you how badly I needed one of those back when 17-year-old me decided he really needed that $1,225 924S. Borrowing a friend’s dad is not the same!

  • avatar
    Marone

    I’m going to go ahead and be that guy, but when is it an assumption that driving and owning a car is a right?

    I’m not going to go on about what it was like back in the day (I’m not that old), but I got to my first job on a bicycle and then a motorcycle. I took public transportation. Rode a motorcycle through college. My first bike was $1200.

    btw, your “west of the mississippi” comment is outdated.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      From personal experience, public transportation in large cities west of the Mississippi ranges from adequate to good, but between cities is essentially nonexistent.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Few things are more physically hazardous and productive of damaging, dysfunctional stress hormones than repeated exposure to public transit in a major urban area.

        This is especially so for children suffused with a socially conditioned sense of personal guilt regarding the predators, sickos and bums they will encounter on their metro journeys.

        If ya gotta do it, ya do it. But it scars and debilitates and then, if you’re especially assiduous in your efforts, you get to compete in school and work with shininy happy people who have none of that baggage and can’t imagine why you’re so driven and bitter.

        “Aww.. don’t be a hater :-) “

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          C’mon, man, don’t be that guy.

          I take public transit to work every day in a large city, and have been doing so for 20 years except when I’ve been close enough to work to walk. It saves me $500 per month in gas, parking, and tolls — money that I use, ironically, to pay for the expenses of owning my toy car. It’s perfectly safe and I only see weird people occasionally. No scars.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Oh, thank God then, my memories must be false. I’ll delete them ’cause they sucked anyway.

            I’ll replace the with memories of a Nova Scotia childhood where seldom was seen a day over 75⁰ and the light was always painterly.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      People actually do long distance travel using only public transportation as a sport.

      Seattle to the Pacific Coast – 6.5 hours and $7 in fares:

      http://www.epictransitjourneys.com/index.php?title=Seattle_to_Ocean_Shores

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I’ve lived in a variety of different regions/states/cites all ranging from 30k-250k population like the majority of American cities are. Never once has one had a public transportation system that I thought seemed adequate for actual use. Thankfully, I never had need of it myself.

        Point is, for someone to get to work/store/home/school at a reasonable pace and schedule, a car is pretty much the only option in 98% of America. A bike/motorcycle may work in the summer, but it sucks in the rain/snow and can’t carry very much. Not to mention is very impractical for children.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    Public transit/bike/walk until you saved up enough for a $1000 beater. That may be only one tax return away. Then, get a better job. They are out there in construction, housecleaning, hospitality, etc. If there are no such jobs, keep saving money until you can move to larger metro area where such jobs are available.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I drove a old Honda back when stocking groceries was my only job. Granted I was living at home and going to high school so my car was purchased my parents. However I had to make the payments, cover my own insurance and of course gas money. And this was long before Craiglist which features a near endless list of affordable beaters. We had to look for cars on used lots and… via the newspaper which had almost no details, photos or any useful info other then a phone number. Before I got my car I rode my bike or bummed a ride off a coworker.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Your comment reminded me of the time in my late teens when I used to call about cars I found in the Washington Post classifieds. I lived in a crummy little town that had about a dozen cars in the paper at any given time, so the trip to DC for a chance to look at five 320i BMWs with manual transmissions in one day seemed worthwhile. The ads were useless. They basically provided less information than a typical Tweet does today.

      I’d ask the questions I thought were worthwhile only to arrive somewhere to find a car that only shared a general shape with examples I was familiar with. “You didn’t mention it didn’t have an interior.” “Why is there a carburetor where once there was fuel injection?” “What kind of car did this hood come from?” “How does a car get this used up in five years and 60K miles?”

      One thing stays the same though. I sold a car while I was passing through my sewer of a hometown a few years ago. It sold to the first person that looked at it for full ask, which was quite an optimistic ask on my part based on the value guides. He’d looked at a few others and couldn’t believe how nice my old car was. I remember that level of desperation from shopping for used cars there myself.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yeah, cheap used car shopping was REALLY not fun before the internet, even in a big city. There were a couple commercial strips full of shady used car lots, with crappy or somewhat less crappy cars. There were ads in the paper that if you were lucky might lead you to a car of the advertised make and model. Looking for my first car (in 1991) I remember responding to so many ads like “’88 TARUS LG AC all pwr $5200 OBO”. Usually that would get you an ’86 Taurus with a bashed-in front bumper and crank windows.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        In my hometown, there was always a Sunbeam Alpine in the paper for around $500. The only contact information was a phone number. I left many a message on the answering machine through the years, but never got a response. If there’s still a Daily Progress classifieds, I wonder if that Alpine is still in it.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    You have to be resourceful. Waiting for the right opportunity to fall in your lap probably won’t happen. That includes asking everyone you know and don’t know. Scouring the Craigslist etc, and keeping a watchful eye around town.

    The Grand Marquis mentioned above is the obvious ‘go to’. Likely with extremely low miles, as many are elderly driven before their licence and keys get pulled by their adult kids.

    If we’re talking ‘car enthusiast’ on minimum wage, that’ll involve lots of wrenching and some extreme resourcefulness but I’ve seen it done repeatedly. I did it in high school with 2 wrecked, 6 year old, Mustang GTs to make one good one.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    A lot of people talking about the $1,000 beater route. One major variable that gets left out of that equation are safety and emissions inspections. If the catalytic converter is bad, or the tires are bald, or the windshield is cracked, or the CEL is on, then the car is going to fail inspection. No plates for you! Some of those repairs can cost more than the $1,000 you scrimped to buy the car in the first place.

    And for those shopping in that price range because they need to, not because they’re frugal, they probably don’t have the extra cash to pay for a pre-purchase inspection. Or the time, for that matter, to learn how to fix the car themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      No inspections in Indiana: if it has 4 round things resembling wheels with tires and moves under its own power it’s good to go.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Nor Ohio! Except for the three counties which still maintain E-Check. But not many people live in those areas.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Yeah, I was going to say, I think Ohio does emissions by county, but there’s no safety check.

          I live in Maryland now, and both emissions and safety are state-wide. It’s pretty tough too. Failure means you get 30 days to fix it and try again, which is even more time for someone who needs a second job to survive.

          I think there might be exemptions based on age, but most poor people can’t afford to drive/maintain a 20+ year old car either.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yeah, Cuhayoga county up north (always remember that name), near PA. And then a couple other counties in the north on the western side.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        gtemnykh,

        You’re in Indiana and you know ghetto so since all the northern ghettos no longer support life of any kind I’m guessing you’re around Naptown?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Right on, on the East side in a zipcode with the unfortunate distinction of the highest murder rate in the city. That’s not to say our immediate neighborhood is that bad, but as soon as you leave its immediate boundaries things ‘get real’ quick.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I know what you mean about things “getting real.”

            The other day, an old lady drove by in her K-body Sedan DeVille. I specifically noted that I did not agree with her combination of pearl white paint and dark blue landau top.

            I was like “WHAT IS HAPPENING to my neighborhood?!?!”

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        In Wyoming, you won’t get pulled over for almost any muffler issue, and you don’t even need those pesky round wheel things.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well depending what part of the country you are in a motorcycle will not make sense, it gets pretty snowy in most of the us and if you make mim. wage you can not afford a car and a bike. I say look around to who you know first, anyone selling a car, really you do not care about what kind of car just a car you know was taken car of. If nothing shows up there go the train station route and see who has a car for sale in the lot or on the corner or the church and roll the dice. A used minivan would be a good bet, maybe a taurus or a GM small car, Saturn, a semi rusty mazda. You goal is to get to work each day and keep that job. Your not looking for something that will look good. It is not easy but it can be done. As mr Langs says hit them where they ain’t.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I made due a winter in Denver with only a bicycle. (Don’t let others know, but it’s not terribly snowy there.) Yes, the cold was, shall we say, invigorating, and when the snow was too bad, I still had my feet (which were used extensively).

      At the time, I didn’t see it as much of a burden. It was just the way life was. I adapted & got pretty good at it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Good article and argument slightly besmirched by politics. My advice is to rise above the false red/blue paradigm to the simple realization of: its a big club and you ain’t in it. The article draws an interesting comparison between the cost of a 1967 Camaro and a 2015 one vs minimum wage. Gold bugs will point to the 1971 closing of the gold window by Nixon to explain such disparity, and they may be right. However I would also note what the party, because there is only one, has been doing since the mid 1980s: Exporting jobs and paying to manufacture a lower class through welfare. In 1999 I was required to take an economics course as a hs senior. The instructor, who was born during the great depression and vocal about it, showed two socioeconomic charts representing society: one with a diamond and one with a triangle. He said the diamond is what is ideal with the bulk of people in the middle and upper and lower class forming capstones on either end. The triangle with the bulk of people being in the lower class with a sliver of middle and a capstone of upper class, was the society in France shortly before the French revolution. Ask yourself, where is US society today sixteen years on in those charts?

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    If you earn minimum wage, your skill set is ideally suited to McDonalds. I’d venture 95% of the population lives within three miles of a McDonalds, so get a bike.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      McDonald’s is raising their wages well beyond minimum wage (in most states) and I expect that will raise the quality of service in their stores but make it harder to find employment there.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      At the McD’s nearest our house, they’re hiring for $12/hr. $13/hr for janitorial staff. Our minimum wage is $9.50/hr. And the hiring sign has been up for months.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I lived on $12.25 an hour for two years working front office at a hotel (miserable business, BTW). But that was in 2000-2001. At that time, my rent was $450 (with free parking for my constantly-broken ’89 SHO) and my bus pass cost $45. I can’t even imagine trying to live on that wage in Seattle today, where a peak-hour bus pass is $108 and there is no rent under $800 anywhere even for a room.

  • avatar

    FWIW, 12% of people earning minimum wage live in households making over 100k. So they probably drive Mom’s Lexus.

    I’d argue that one of the things that makes vehicles cost-prohibitive for the poor is government regulations. I recently was gifted my parent’s old 1998 Voyager. They live in another state, so I had to get it safety inspected to register it. It ended up needing about $1300 worth of work to pass inspection, despite my parent’s fairly meticulous maintenance. Some of that was legit stuff, like the fact that two of the tires were dry-rotted from age. But one of the things it failed for was rust – a small amount at the bottom of the sliding doors. Which is $450 to fix, plus over a week in the body shop.

    It’s not a huge deal to me, I can afford it and I have 2 other vehicles to use for transportation. But for a poor person who needs it, they would be screwed. And most likely, a decent car would end up getting junked because the repairs to make it legal are about what the car is worth.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Failed inspection for surface rust? Dang, that’s harsh. I thought Maryland was bad. What state were you in?

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, I am in Maryland.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Oh… Good to know then. Guess I have to hope the infamous Mazda tin worm doesn’t bite my cars. Both ’09 models, no rust issues so far.

          You must have taken that van into a shop for the safety inspection, right? It’s hard to believe that door rust is something that would fail everywhere.

          • 0 avatar
            DeeDub

            Maryland only requires a safety inspection on initial registration. After that it’s just emissions testing every two years.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            That’s true. Still, it can make you write off a bunch of otherwise cheap roadworthy cars for what mostly amounts to a cosmetic issue.

            I’ll have to write off any $800 Protege that I see for sale.

          • 0 avatar

            Yup. The guy I talked to at the body shop I took it to said that Maryland will sometimes pull lists of cars that a shop has inspected and go back and look at them, and if the shop passed something the inspector thinks should have failed, they lose their license to do inspections. So they have a pretty strong incentive to err on the side of caution.

            The funny thing is that if the van was a few months older, I could probably register it as historic and not need to get it inspected – it’s 20 years, but 18 if the manufacturer doesn’t exist anymore. I got plates for my LaForza despite the fact that at the time, it lacked working headlights, had two very bald tires, and one with a slow leak – because I got historic tags and thus I didn’t need to get inspected.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            I was understanding that historic tags in Maryland severely limit the use of a vehicle.

            From the MVA website:
            “A vehicle registered as historic cannot be used for general daily transportation, or primarily for the transportation of passengers or property on highways. It can only be used in exhibitions, club activities, parades, tours, occasional transportation and similar uses.”

  • avatar
    omer333

    When was the last time any of you bought a POS beater?

    Here’s the thing POS beaters can run the risk of costing you your minimum wage job because the POS is broke down and you can’t get a ride to your minimum wage job where once you get paid you’ll have to decide if you should buy another part for a car that’s nickle and diming you to death or buy groceries.

    And lets not forget that nine times out of ten, minimum wage jobs are part time, so good luck making that work.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This. It’s really risky and hard to live on minimum wage in a non-public transport area unless either you live within biking distance of your job or you are given a ~$5000 car or the money to buy one at some point. Beaters are rolling job-loss time bombs.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Speaking of horrible ideas and non-public trans areas, check this out. Worst idea – so many reasons.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/08/what-will-become-of-americas-slums/401039/

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’ve owned nothing BUT POS Beaters, if I had a more regular job I wouldn’t have the time I needed to fix any of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      True. I drive a beater now, but in order to get one I could count on it was about 7k. And, very shortly, it will need a timing belt. It’s been great for two years, but let that belt break, and it’s yard art.

      I worked phone support in the mid nineties with a group of folks for 11.38 (evening and weekend bonus incl). Many of them were out in months due to the combination of crappy cars, daycare, and very sparse bus routes/schedules (this was Kansas City MO). At that time, my ride was a 88 Integra with the optional rear fender rust. Pimp. At 126k miles the front left ball joint failed and the wheel jammed up into the fender. Cost me every penny to get it towed, used part installed, and back on the road. That’s with a friends truck dragging me to a different shop as the first one wanted to take advantage as they thought I had no choice. Throw kids into that mix, and I might have lost that gig altogether.

  • avatar

    Minimum wage jobs are for kids living at home with their parents.
    They are not for college grads, adults or senior citizens.
    They are for adolescents.
    Your parents are expected to help you finance your travel – they are already financing your housing.

    The problem is, many of these kids DON’T WANT TO WORK. They are too greedy for “stuff” to spend time working.

    One of my dumb cousins right now was spoiled throughout childhood and is now realizing memmy and daddy can’t hand them money anymore. Now they are forced to work just to afford the things they want. Problem is, the cousin is in their early 20’s now. Had they learned the work ethic when I did – at 17 working the Mobil Mart across the street,from High School, they’d be better at managing money.

    I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was making $7.50 when I was 17 sweeping floors and managing the register.

    Moved on to Circuit City for $10 an hour. Then Best Buy for $8.50 an hour after Circuit City went down. I QUIT BEST BUY. Graduated school and started working mortgages. Went from BBY’s $8.50 an hour to OVER $8000 A MONTH on COMMISSION. I bought my first house at 26 on my own. No help from anybody.

    (If your name is the only one on the title or deed, you never run the risk of some THOT contesting you for it…you hear that ALICIA??? You can’t touch this ..)

    Now I’m at over $11,000 a month – including YouTube earnings (after tax).

    THANK YOU REPUBLICANISM.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Big Truck,
      Please pass what ever your smoking out there, Plenty of people make min wage, esp in greater NYC area, we are not talking about kids, but they take what they can get. And if you make what you make quit bitching about the cost of gas in Queens. Most kids do not work full time so this is for the folks who need a beater car to get to their job so they can put food on the table. I surprised you did not suggest a Hellcat for them.

      Minimum wage jobs are for kids living at home with their parents.
      They are not for college grads, adults or senior citizens.
      They are for adolescents.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “Graduated school and started working mortgages.”

      In other words, you took advantage of the housing and credit bubble. Those don’t come along every day. Good on you for seizing the opportunity, but don’t think everyone has the same opportunity.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “Went from BBY’s $8.50 an hour to OVER $8000 A MONTH on COMMISSION. I bought my first house at 26 on my own. No help from anybody.”

      How did this get through the filter?

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “memmy and daddy”

      Oh, stop with your snooty Eton accent.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Flashback to 1991: At 18 years old, driving a horrid, tan, 1982 Sentra wagon (appropriate for the income level) I catapulted away from my minimum wage funk by taking a sixteen-month leap of faith, and traveling with a refinery construction company. I was away from friends and family, and the work environments were stinky, seasonally hot, wet, or bitter cold. But the money was astonishing to me. Besides packing away more cash than I’d ever earned, I also earned a reputation as a sensible kid, both well-spoken and driven. Some of the earnings went toward a used 1988 Chevy Corsica, which was barely a four-year-old car at the time…and that ride became my trophy as well as my initial college car. Looking back, those sixteen months were hardly a sacrifice, and could have easily turned into a lifelong career path, had college not intervened.

  • avatar
    TW5

    A bootstrapping Republican would never tell you to use public transit.

    A bootstrapping Republican would promise to cut your taxes, but ultimately realize that reducing FICA taxes creates funding issues and perverse incentives in compensation markets. He’d later realize that sharply cutting imputed corporate income taxes and imputed FICA taxes for goods and services is almost impossible. EITC looks like socialism to the average know-nothing, thus, the boostrapping Republican would be content to complain.

    Long story short, if you keep Democratic deatheaters from touching commerce, and you train brain-dead conservatives to understand the difference between refundable tax credits (for low-income households) and socialism, you can probably afford whatever car you want as real wages rise.

    Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “…EITC looks like socialism to the average know-nothing.”

      The EITC is charity at the point of a gun. If we respected the Constitution, it would be illegal, as would every other federal entitlement.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So are you one of these cranks who thinks the Sixteenth Amendment was not properly ratified? It’s part of the Constitution too, ya know.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          It was unconstitutional and that’s why the Constitution was amended.

          History will remember the amendment as one of the most pivotal and disastrous events to happen to this whole world. Without it you have no US participation in WWI and possibly no WWII as a result, no military industrial complex so no Vietnam, Desert Storm, or Iraqi war (Korea is debatable), and no big gov’t nanny state. The central bank made all of this possible.

          @jacob_coulter

          My view of such things at this stage in the game is the old addage every society is three meals from a revolution. They provide the “meals” as it were to prevent upheaval if not straight up insurrection and the only reason they can do it at this point is the federal credit card and the position of the US Dollar on the world stage (which won’t last forever).

          If this just fell out of the sky and happened I might gripe less, but it didn’t as fedgov has been *paying* to create a welfare class that they have to support since LBJ’s “Great Society”. Then they stood by and allowed entire industries to be offshored in the 80s and 90s putting otherwise able-bodied people in the lower rung on society while simultaneously allowing illegal immigration on an unprecedented scale in the past few years adding yet more mouths to feed. Its almost as if they want to run us off the rails…

        • 0 avatar
          Master Baiter

          “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

          You read this to say the Fed is authorized to operate a charity? That’s a stretch. The income tax was instituted to fund WWII; the government decided they liked the money, so it was kept.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No, that language gives the Fed the power to tax income. (I would have argued it was unnecessary and redundant with the original power to tax language, the Supreme Court disagreed).

            The power to refund the taxes if/as Congress sees fit is given through the general welfare clause, as implemented by Congress in its discretion through the authority given Congress in the necessary and proper clause. It’s amazing how many “strict constructionists” forget the general welfare clause is there. It’s quite powerful, and shows that some of the Constitution’s drafters were angling for a federal government very different than you would expect if you only read Jefferson.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The central bank was created to pay for the First World War, not the Second.

            Its in the forward:

            “Under this act $40,000,000,000 of liquid money was created to finance the World War. It financed not only the United States but financed to the extent of billions of dollars Great Britain, France, Italy, and their allies. “That one act won the war,” said John Skelton Williams, the Comptroller of the Currency.”

            https://archive.org/details/NationalEconomyAndTheBankingSystemOfTheUnitedStates

            However the Federal Reserve Act was passed Dec 23 1913, before the First World War even began.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_Act

            Therefore according to Senator Owen’s memoir, the world war was *planned* in advance. Chew on that for a moment.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “The income tax was instituted to fund WWII; the government decided they liked the money, so it was kept.”

            The 16th Amendment was passed in 1913 long before WWII. It was actually passed to allow for prohibition. Prior the income tax, one of the largest (if not the largest) sources of federal revenue was the excise taxes on alcohol. They couldn’t move ahead with prohibition until a new source of revenue was in place.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        EITC is the mandate of an international labor market that refuses to pay a tax premium on lower-middle class American labor. The market doesn’t care what’s written in the Constitution. You’ll have to choose your allegiance, or you’ll have to find a way for EITC and the US Constitution to coexist (e.g. universal refundable tax credit).

        But I have a strange feeling you’d be unwilling to trade a higher marginal rate for a universal credit and flat-tax.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      So since we already have a Earned Income Tax Credit in place, problem solved? Right?
      It’s one of the largest taxpayer expenditures on the poor. Right after MediCaid.

      A bootstrapping Republican would say to hand minimum wage earners an even bigger check from the government so they can buy a nicer car (including already having access to bennies like welfare, food stamps, federal housing, MediCaid, cell phones, etc.) MIGHT be a perverse incentive to NOT better their station in life. It almost seems like a feature, not a bug.

      I know, it’s a crazy ideology.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        The problem is solved if the extent of your economic understanding is merely the existence of the program. EITC doesn’t come close to refunding the tax burden placed on lower-middle class Americans.

        Labor market has declared it will no longer pay a tax premium for unskilled or semi-skilled American labor or the American regulatory environment. We refuse to un-tax the poor. Democrats won’t let go of their horrific attempt at a welfare state, and liberal intelligencia are always skeptical of commerce. They imagine EITC is some sort of conspiracy to thwart the government’s power to tax the lower classes into perpetual poverty. Republicans can’t seem to tell the difference between the labor market’s refusal to pay regulatory-burden (necessitating EITC or similar credit) and a socialistic largesse.

        We’ll know the EITC is working when employment rates for the young and perpetually poor start climbing sharply (with real wages), as they have for senior citizens. Seniors get a massive EITC called Social Security and they get socialized health insurance. Their employment numbers are skyrocketing, an amazing trend when you consider that age motivates them to retire.

        Welcome to America. Grandpa approaches employers with health insurance and a massive income subsidy. Grandson approaches his employers with a bill to pay for Grandpa’s benefits.

        Trying to figure out what car to buy with minimum wage benefits is an irrelevant adaptation to an unsustainable form of economic persecution. The implosion of our social programs is inevitable, maybe that is a feature, if you’re an anarcho-capitalist.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    I’ve wondered about this, too. When I was old enough for my first minimum wage job and through most of my school, I lived in a place without public transportation. This was in the mid 80s when beaters could be bought for less than $500 and, while still terrible, were at least simple enough to work on myself or with my dad. I had a Pinto, a Chevette and a Cutlass Supreme that was constantly breaking, among others. (As an aside, a Pinto was a great choice to learn to drive a manual, because no one tailgated it). And there were no emissions tests.

    But I don’t think people currently making minimum wage have good beater options, especially as few people seem to meticulously maintain a car for over a decade and sell it for a few hundred. And, with the increase of people who have trouble moving up from minimum wage jobs, the number of “predatory lenders” increased, including car lots with questionable business practices. Sure, some regulations have targeted these businesses, but the underlying problem of a significant portion of the populace staying in low income jobs for years remains.

    I think we missed an opportunity in the “cash for clunkers” thing. What if, instead of destroying those cars, the decent ones were repaired and made road worthy while the others were used for parts? Then those cars could have been sold for a modest price to people having trouble. Yes, there would have been abuse, but I think it would been a better option than destroying all those engines.

    Okay so I wrote too much again and haven’t actually answered the question on what someone should do in that situation. All I can think of is to try to find a reasonably well-maintained older car or pickup with a comparatively simple drivetrain, a repair guide and some tools and hope it’s reliable enough for you to keep your job. That’s not much of a solution but that and public transport is all I’ve got.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    I live in a reasonably densely-populated area of the northeast, and it would take around four hours to walk to the nearest bus stop. Biking? During half the year there’s enough snow that it would be physically impossible to bike; during a quarter of the year it’s cold enough that it would be suicidal to walk.

    Of course, if you want to live in town, it’s expensive. So if you’re poor, you live away from town, where it’s too far to walk and there’s no public transport.

    So you buy a beater car, because you can’t get affordable credit and your income doesn’t allow you the luxury of saving your money for a long period. So then you pay less for your beater but more for repairs, which have to be done quickly and super-locally and therefore cost even *more*.

    In the end, poor people end up paying far more than *I do* to lease a brand-new car. And every time it breaks, they run the risk of losing their jobs, and they lose even more income, and they have to SPEND even more to make all the problems go away.

    Then people who have plenty of money sniff at them and tell them they’re irresponsible.

    It’s really expensive to be poor. And unless you’re actually poor, you tend not to realize that – a fact amply and depressingly demonstrated by the callous and clueless ‘best and brightest’ here today.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Perisoft,
      Sad but true not the B&B best day for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Fantastic comment.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      It’s not cluelessness, callous? Perhaps. I personally never understood the obsession with catering and trying to mend every slight and wrong in society, there will always be haves and have nots. Compared to almost any other country in the world the US still offers incredible opportunity and social mobility to people either born here or immigrate here. The only needed ingredients are a willingness and tenacity to do some (a lot of) hard dirty work and some wits to play your cards right. And sure sometimes even that won’t be enough. Before I was of legal age to hold down a legit job I did yard work for $5/hour (this is late 90s early 2000s). Crap pay but as a kid that didn’t get an allowance I was all too grateful for the opportunity. I moved on to working catering for $7.45/hr, work in a corn field for $9, a technician making $10, an internship at a fortune 50 company making $23, and finally a bonafide engineering gig that pays handsomely. My gf’s dad grew up on food stamps in a broken home and started off delivering newspapers at 6 years old, then worked at an Italian restaurant starting from dish washing and ending at line cook while in college for an engineering degree. He made it to upper level management at a big company making the real big bucks. As cliche as it sounds, the American dream is alive and well (IMO), I know because I’m living it, my parents are living it, my gf’s family are living it. Judging by the down-and-out neighborhoods around here being revitalized by Hispanic immigrants, other people are too.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        “The only needed ingredients are a willingness and tenacity to do some (a lot of) hard dirty work and some wits to play your cards right. And sure sometimes even that won’t be enough.”

        Things have changed a bit since 15-20 years ago. There is less upward mobility from low-wage positions like you are describing, and yet the cost of housing has risen dramatically in many places. In the past, there were more local businesses, and they operated more along the model you described. Now, more employment is with national chains or franchises, and there is no interest in promoting anyone beyond “assistant manager” (that is, “same work with more hours and no overtime”) level, because everyone in headquarters is coming straight out of colleges poor people can’t afford anymore.

        America is really no longer the land of social mobility. Most of Europe and parts of Asia do much better than we do. http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/
        Only backward Italy and the aristocratic UK do worse among rich countries.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          In my gf’s dad’s case, this is a smaller town in Ohio, there were only a few restaurants, there are still only a few restaurants there now. I think a hard working dishwasher could still be promoted to a line cook in the same fashion. No one’s talking about fry-cooks heading up to corporate here. it more so just showed that with hard work, he excelled at whatever position he was put in. Likewise he started from a basic entry level engineering gig after college and worked his way up to upper management. Again, this is totally something that still happens at big companies, regularly.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      And yet all those poor folks were better off before LBJ pretended to care about them…

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    The only answer is “Whatever the rental fleets were throwing away 15 years ago.”

    That answer will always be attainable. Look around working class neighborhoods – you see a lot of nearly-used-up workhorse fleet-specials. Chevy Classics and the like.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My first job back in 1995 (which paid minimum wage) I had a 1982 Chevy Celebrity sedan with the Iron Duke, lots of rust, and 100,000 plus miles. It was a passed down family car but according to the local dealers (dad tried to trade it at one point) it was worth about $600 to them.

    So the answer to the question: “Whatever today’s equivalent of a $1000 car is.” perhaps a 1999 Ford Escort… last of the N-body Malibus… Grandma’s Alero…

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If you’re making minimum wage, you should have other priorities besides car ownership.

    The idea that everyone gets a nice, reliable car on minimum wage is the stuff of fantasy. Might as well say everyone gets to ride a unicorn.

    And yes, the bus (and most public transportation in general) is inconvenient, but so is making minimum wage. Yet millions ride the bus everyday and make it work, even West of the Mississippi.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    You drive a mid-2000s Vulcan powered Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I despair at the ride and interior quality. :(
      Y’all gonna need CV joints and headliner glues.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I always found the Vulcan Taurus ride soft but in a good way.

        Someone buying a beater shouldn’t be griping about interior quality…

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I likened the shocks to pillows filled with rubber bands. Someone buying a beater can turn to something else! A Corolla has much better panel fitment and interiorz.

          I will always consider interior quality, even in beater recommendations! I’m a holistic car recommender, as much as I hate that word.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            A Corolla that is the price of a Vulcan Taurus will be very old, very used up, or, most likely, both.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hmm. How much is a Taurus like that supposed to cost, anyway? $3000?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            For one that had 100K miles? $2500-$3500.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Boom!

            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5172096777.html

            Or if you’re okay with the 3.1
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/ctd/5178895761.html

            Holy grail!
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/ctd/5182006444.html

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I was using autotrader, but to craigslist!

            I counter with:

            http://detroit.craigslist.org/search/sss?sort=rel&min_auto_year=2005&max_auto_year=2007&query=ford+taurus

            So much cheap.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Eh I’d still take the beater Corolla, maybe it’s just because I’m more familiar with them. I just don’t trust Ford transaxles, or anything else on them, frankly. A mid 90s Corolla, even with 200k miles, is a pretty solid bet (assuming it hasn’t been completely trashed and neglected).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol good Lord, never-ending sea of green-beige. Gtem talking Corolla gave me a better idea for such an item.

            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5173262246.html

            That’ll get you there cheaply, erryday. PS. There are not that many Taurus options available round here!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            A late-90s 200K Corolla is anything but a solid bet.

            And yes, that was a depressing link. All the 2005-2007 Taurii on Craigslist in the Detroit area is just full of sad.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Chevy Prism > Corolla when buying used.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh and spelling errors are your friend too – Prizm vs. Prism.

            I like that the Vibe is also within range now, and is maybe not considered as often. Corolla + utility!

            https://louisville.craigslist.org/cto/5171583833.html

            Or a tidy xA.
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5171744795.html

            Just got to avoid using the Corolla name, and you can get a Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        It’ll be cheap and run. That is all.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          RE: corolla vs Taurus

          This looks like a solid bet, 200k miles but judging by outward appearance, it’s been cared for:

          http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/5185241893.html

          The only thing to really look out for is monitoring the oil level, those 1.8s tend to burn oil as they age. Besides that these things are brick sh*thouses.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol wha!? My suggestions for Corolla-items all had half those miles! Especially the Prizm.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My nice and tidy 200k mile Corolla is a mere $1250, leaving a fat cushion for some new tires, brakes, a full tune up with plugs/wires/fluids/filters compared to that rougher, rustier looking 139k mile Prizm for $2500. And the Vibe and xA are in a different price bracket entirely IMO, at close to $5k.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hrmm. I dunno how to evaluate the value difference between just a little rust or 70k miles of wear and tear.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Not so much the rust but just the generally worn out look of it, it’s obviously been an apartment dweller’s car for a long time. The 200k Corolla still has shiny paint and looks to be a 1-2 owner vehicle, I could be totally wrong of course. But my gut feeling is that the Corolla has been maintained better.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I suppose you’re right. The paint is very clean. What did you make of that 55k miles SL1?

            I’m liking this manual G20 also. Those were very well made, and IMO aged quite well.

            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5153240526.html

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Put new rear springs at the top of the list as well (they rust in half).

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I’d choose an equal year or bit older 3800 item before a Taurus as well.

          Like one of those Olds/Buick models from old people that nobody wants. An Eighty-Eight or perhaps a Regal.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Listen to Danio. I know he isn’t here as much, but he would school you. Those W-bodies were less reliable than the Vulcan Taurus. The Taurus certainly was lackluster at the end, but you’d be no better with a 3800.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That makes me a sad.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          When we are talking about 8-15 year old cars with 100K+ miles, every manufacturer is going to have some issues. At that point, you are buying the previous owner (or three).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Only in America would this even be a question.

    In all other rich parts of the world, there is public transport accessible to almost everyone. In poor parts of the world, density is such that everything tends to be within walking or pedal-bike distance, or at worst there is super-low-cost unregulated private transport. In most of the world, you don’t need to pay the considerable financial burden for a car unless you can afford it.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I visited my sister in Nairobi and I didn’t feel like it was walkable or had good public transportation. I’d rather be poor in America.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Oh, I totally agree. Just saying that if you were poor in Nairobi there would be no question of needing a car. You’d get around either on foot/bike (yes, dodging motorbikes and mini-trucks everywhere) or by cheap private van transport.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I used Uber a lot in Nairobi. My sister went there thinking she could walk and take public transportation. Two robberies later, big brother made sure to deposit enough money into her bank account so that she can use Uber to and from work.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I definitely wouldn’t want to walk there as a foreigner. Uber, or licensed taxis, sounds like the way to go. If you’re a poor local, you’re not nearly as much of a mark.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I realize sis is working for UN (or something to that effect) but the 28CL solution is: don’t go to Nairobi.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s like Mos Eisley without the fun cantina. As a bonus, because no one knows how to drive, I ended up going through the Somali ghetto on the way to the airport. Thanks Uber.

            And yes, she had a UN internship there. She got back two days ago.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Geez, not even a Cantina Band? Get with the program Kenya.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            At least Al-Shabaab didn’t get me. They may be fragmented now, but they still control parts of Kenya.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            http://i.ytimg.com/vi/1M5xmkqg8IE/hqdefault.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah. South Park gets it right almost all the time. That’s still one of my favorite episodes. Anything with lots of Butters is great.

            “Alright men, remember, do not hit the white ones!”

          • 0 avatar
            Willyam

            Dude! That takes balls of steel. I’m nervous taking cabs in Philly (once had an unmarked cab realize I was waiting and scoop the fare, when my cell rang looking for me, wondered who I was actually riding with). I can’t imagine what it’s like steering into a Somali ghetto in a civilian car in the exact opposite direction of the hotel/airport.

            Coffee spitting comment of the day: It’s like Mos Eisley without the fun cantina.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My sister spent almost 4 months in Nairobi. She is far ballsier than I. After be robbed three times and and dealing with being an unpaid UN intern in a third world country, she still has nothing but nice things about Kenya.

            She’s committed to the cause though…

  • avatar

    Love the gratuitous swipe at Republicans. Tell everyone how you feel! Wear all your prejudices proudly on your sleeve! The old TTAC is dead!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Based on his other posts I really don’t think Mr. Cole is biased against Republicans. (I totally am, but I’m just a commenter.)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Enlighten yourself to the true two face-one party system.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        dal

        There’s not a dimes worth of difference between institutional DC Democrats and Republicans. None of them have the interests of commoners at heart. This is why we’re getting the populism of Sanders and Trump.

        Aaron’s offhand comment implies there are two parties and two sides and that is simply wrong, even if made in a lighthearted vein. I don’t think we’re ready to toss all the bums out of DC yet, but I may live long enough to see a massive turnover.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          “There’s not a dimes worth of difference between institutional DC Democrats and Republicans.”

          Yeah, because Al Gore definitely would have done exactly the same stuff as Bush, and McCain would totally have behaved the same way as Obama.

          I get it if you’re saying neither party truly represents a putative ‘Average American’, but saying they’re *the same* is borderline absurd.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Yeah, this.

            The party establishments largely agree, and disagree with populists, on a couple of issues (immigration reform and trade). On literally everything else, the party establishments are far apart. The “two parties are the same” idea is really laughable for anyone who’s ever spent time in or around either DC, on the one hand, or grassroots party activities, on the other.

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            Also worth noting: “The parties are the same” is the argument that Nader used when he campaigned in 2000. Any bets on whether Gore would have started two wars that ran for a dozen years and eviscerated environmental protections? I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, or whether you think that Bush made the right decisions: Gore definitely would have made *different* ones.

            If you’re on the left and thinking of voting for Sanders, or on the right and thinking of voting for Trump, consider whether the world would be the same or different had a few hundred Nader voters in Florida not decided that a Gore presidency and a Bush presidency would be equivalent.

          • 0 avatar
            hifi

            No. After 911, Gore would have run into the woods, grown a long beard, and had a mental breakdown like he did after the election he lost. Kerry would have cowered in a corner, then request a purple heart. Obama would have attempted to befriend his Muslim terrorist brethren.

            I’m no fan of Bush. But cut the bullshit.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Rich people run them both, and as such the people who run them have similar financial interests for themselves. Do you really think the criminals in the Bush and Clinton families are that much different than each other (even if they did hate each other as rivals)?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I work in a field where I engage semi-frequently with DC policy makers in my subject matter area. My wife used to work for a (GOP) member of Congress. I’m very familiar, from a reasonably inside perspective, with how policy fights play out in DC. I can assure you that, regardless of the support base of each party, areas of agreement are few and far between, and disagreement is vehement at a policy level, not just a personal one.

            I can agree that both parties’ agendas cater more than they should to the concerns of wealthy donors, but they do so in different ways, and with very different outcomes when each is in power.

          • 0 avatar
            chuckrs

            Well, OK, that’s true enough. Heat of the moment, etc, etc. You can always find ways the actors claim to differ, but the results generally seem to be bad for average Americans.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Which party isn’t bought?

            I’ll ask the question a different way: Please list all politicians at the local or national level that aren’t in the back pockets of monied interests.

            In this regard, the most important one, they’re all the same.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          Dan Carlin (podcast Common Sense and Hardcore History) agrees with you.

          In his opinion, Trump is giving everyone the heebie jeebies because he’s off-script.

          The two parties are perfectly happy with there only being two parties.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Minimum wage workers have more disposable income than a lot of the B+B are assuming. Thanks to things like food stamps, welfare, Section 8 Housing, their out of pocket cost of living is relativity low. This is not to say their strapped with cash, but affording a $2-5k used car should not be an issue. Something well taken care of at that price range like a Chevy Impala should last a while and be reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      LOL. Section 8 housing usually features decade-long waiting lists. If you have a minimum wage job, you’re almost never eligible for welfare. Food stamps are helpful but aren’t going to let you save $3000 for a car when you’re probably paying more than half your gross income in rent to start.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m not an expert and I don’t know how it works out your way, but here there are whole generations on various forms of welfare here and some of them do actually have legitimate jobs. The ones that don’t frequently sling dope or engage in other illegal activities.

        Here is a chart which explains the maximum amount of income based on household size (a household can include children and elderly people as well):

        http://www.dhs.state.pa.us/foradults/supplementalnutritionassistanceprogram/snapincomelimits/

        So a household of three (man/woman/baby) can legally make: $2640 or less of taxable monthly income and still qualify for in this case SNAP. Add in an elderly person (mom/dad/aunt whomever) and it jumps to $3300. Add in free housing like Section 8 and you have up to $2640 per month to blow because your food and rent is paid assuming you have some form of legal employment.

        The game is rigged and not in your favor. You paid for it in taxes and inflation.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          1) Section 8 isn’t free, just much cheaper.

          2) Similarly, SNAP doesn’t cover all food costs. Maximum SNAP benefit in PA for a family of 3: $511 (and that’s only at an extremely low income level). For my family of three, $511 covers about half a month of food expenses.

          3) That’s not how almost any household on assistance is organized. Almost always they are single parents.

          Would you really trade places with someone who has Section 8 housing and gets SNAP, but makes minimum wage?

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            For someone middle class and higher their biggest expense is typically by far mortgage. For those of us with paid off homes, the first few months after paying them off felt pretty good. Fair bit of extra cash that felt like a raise. Point is, discounted housing is a big boost. Discounted livin expenses in general. I don’t know how utilities work for the poor, but their overheads are proportionatly lower than much of the middle class.

            Min wage workers, especially those who get tips are not destitute.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This might vary from state to state but according to this link its 30% of adjusted income or 10% of gross. In my limited experience with this its a percentage of the rent which they pay not a percentage of their total income so maybe the site is just hard to understand. No matter what the cost is, it is subsidized to the point where it is nearly free.

            “The amount that the tenant must contribute will be the greater of:

            30 percent of their monthly adjusted income.
            10 percent of their monthly gross income.
            The welfare rent.

            or

            The minimum rent amount set by the PHA.”

            http://landlords.about.com/od/Landlord101/a/How-Much-Will-Section-8-Pay-Landlords.htm

            I wouldn’t trade places with anyone, but I doubt many in that situation want to be in it themselves. Maybe instead of high taxes, socialism, and subsidies society could be restructured to create fewer members of the welfare class.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            If you look only at developed industrial societies, the ones with the highest taxes tend to have the fewest members in the “welfare class.” That’s because things like universal health care and a minimum income, whatever you think of them on a philosophical level, empirically make it far easier to adapt to changes in the workplace and to restart careers. You don’t have people hanging onto dead-end (and economically unproductive) jobs because otherwise they’d lose health insurance, and you don’t have people refusing to go back to school because they’d starve or end up in debt. More effective and less socially stratified education systems also ensure that kids at more income levels have basic job skills.

            The most friendly developed country for new businesses, in terms of regulatory burden and personal risk for entrepreneurs, is also a very highly taxed one: Denmark.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Occasionally, my boss (a Millennial who has a worth ethic opposite the stereotype) shows pictures from his Facebook feed from folks who’ve surreptitiously snapped phone photogs of other folks in line at the local grocery store or Wally World with carts loaded down with whole lobsters, king crab legs, and market-price Angus beef filets..

          ..as they pull out the SNAP card!

          To say that this drives my boss (and me) absolutely out of our minds is one hell of an understatement! (A new hire on our team, who came here from China as an exchange student in high-school, then just graduated from college, feels exactly the same way; she’s recently married and working toward obtaining her green card — and eventual U.S. citizenship — the LEGAL, RIGHT way!! The illegals drive her NUTS, and according to her, everything bad about Chinese goods and infrastructure in China, from escalators where the plates at the top slip and some poor soul drops to their deaths, to shoddy quality of everything else, such as common consumer goods and the like, is 100% factual!)

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Exactly just how out of touch are you that you think public assistance pays everything?

      I make minimum wage. My rent is $725 for a 1-room bachelor apartment(with a dishwasher– I live swank.)in Pompano Beach, Florida.

      My degree is in Art History and I’m a BDC agent at Chrysler while I’m trying to get museum or education work.

      Florida gave me a $56 per month in food assistance whenever I make about $1,300 per month. It’s a life, but not one free of worry and full of lobster and new cars like you’re pretending.

      I drive the PT Cruiser my parents gifted me whenever I was studying. They’re sturdy little poverty cars. Cars one can fit all their most-prized belongings in whenever they’re being evicted because it takes 3 weeks to make rent, and if they decide to eat or buy something fancy– like new underwear… or a rack of ribs… that rent takes most of all 4 pays in any given month.

      The struggle is so effin real, y’all.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Minimum Wage is for teenagers who live with their parents. No one should be making minimum wage for very long. You start working, you get some skills, you get a raise or you move to a job that pays better. If you’re an adult making minimum wage, you’re doing something wrong.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    A car that you can’t afford will land your ass in jail. One of my friends numskull kids has had that happen to him. Miss a toll or two and an insurance payment. His crime was being poor and a little bit stupid. He had someone in his life to bail him out, both literally and figuratively. If Mom and/or Dad were idiots, a semi-productive guy would be languishing in the slammer. The ride sharing stuff can’t get here quick enough if you ask me. Our drunks can get to work safely, our shut in senior citizens can get out and my crazy friend who is afraid to drive on the highway will able to expand her job search.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      I think that is one thing we are all missing here it is not just the car, it is the tires it will need, the brakes and oh yes the INS,small sample size but it seems most people who make very little money think ins is not needed, I have had two people hit me in the last 2 years no ins on either beater ( an old explorer and a civic) my ins covered everything but my deductible of $1,000 but I pay thru the nose for ins.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    For those who think this thread should not be political, this thread is political at its heart. The whole topic of the thread is whether a minimum wage worker can really afford a car – any car.

    The average car on the road today is 11 years old. Cars like the 2002 Nissan Maxima for $4500 either are few & far between or have a got-ya that isn’t obvious from the ad. Even if you could get a completely functional vehicle for $4500 that wouldn’t eat you alive with maintenance, $4,500 is 650 hours work at 7.25. That’s almost a third of a year’s gross wages that you’d have to save before you could get that car if you worked 2000 hours a year – and most minimum wage workers work hours of convenience, meaning the shift ends as soon as the busy period is over. That’s why minimum wage workers generally don’t pay $4,500 for vehicles, rather they pay $1000 down at the buy-here-pay-here and buy the same car for $9,999 at 21% interest. That’s $403/month for 3 years or more likely, $100/week. Then the driver will have to come up with auto insurance. That would likely be at least $100/month for minimum coverage.

    If you are working full time. Your gross wages will be around $1200 per month. This 2002 Maxima is costing you over $500 before you pay any maintenance, repairs or even fuel. Your insurance will likely be at least $100/month even likely costs you more because you are young, have no or poor credit, and live in a high crime area. Being poor is expensive. The bottom line is that your 2002 Nissan Maxima will likely cost you 1/2 of your GROSS pay if you are lucky enough to get full-time hours. That leaves you $600/month to pay for housing, food and everything else including social security taxes.

    We can argue about the policy behind setting a minimum wage. No reasonable person can argue that today’s minimum wage realistically allows for a full time worker to live an independent life that includes housing, basic transportation, food, clothing for even a single individual. That most minimum wage jobs are not guaranteed hour jobs makes life at minimum wage even less practical.

    If you believe that minimum wage should not be designed to pay for the essential expenses of an individual, I think you should propose an a policy supplement the minimum wage to help minimum wage workers survive and have a chance at getting out of poverty. We do that now, through food stamps, the earned income credit and other welfare programs, but people on the right sure do bitch about it. They want to to have no no minimum wage wage and no welfare. Apparently the solution to poverty is letting poor starve to death.

    I personally believe that letting the Walton family maintain their status as the richest billionaires in America while paying their workers so little, that they have to rely on public assistance is the worst kind of welfare, welfare for the rich, and it is much worse than the welfare received by poor people. If we can cut the welfare given to the Waltons and their peers, we might not have to pay as much welfare to poor people. To me, that seems like a win-win. I’m not saying the magic figure for minimum wage is $15.00, but it definitely isn’t $7.25.

    Though studies show that raising the minimum wage does not necessarily raise unemployment. I think we ought to raise the minimum wage even if it DOES raise unemployment. At least then we would have a more honest unemployment rate that we could address with other policy tools.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “That’s why minimum wage workers generally don’t pay $4,500 for vehicles, rather they pay $1000 down at the buy-here-pay-here and buy the same car for $9,999 at 21% interest. That’s $403/month for 3 years or more likely, $100/week.”

      Yep. This. For $400 a month I could be driving a Genesis or a 3-series or an A3. But because poor people are poor, they spend the same money for a car that will cost them even *more* because it’s not under warranty, because it’s old and beat, because it gets worse mileage, because it eats through consumables faster.

      It’s one thing to say that people need to have skill and manage their money. But when you’re forced to spend double or triple the money of a wealthier person just because you’re poor – I don’t care what part of the political spectrum you’re on; surely the absurdity of this should be apparent?

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        ” For $400 a month I could be driving a Genesis or a 3-series or an A3. But because poor people are poor, they spend the same money for a car that will cost them even *more* because it’s not under warranty, because it’s old and beat, because it gets worse mileage, because it eats through consumables faster”

        You’re correct that it would be the same reasonable monthly amount of money; buying/leasing a new car at $400 mth or used car at $400 from the Buy-Here-Pay-Here. The issue becomes when you are poor, you have no assets and most likely a credit score in the toilet. You depend on the Check-n-Go mafia who gleefully gouge you exorbitant interest. You can’t get a loan or a lease for a new Genesis. It simply won’t happen.

        I agree that some of the fault falls squarely upon the individual who made a poor financial decision, but the issue is once it’s made, they can never seem to dig out of it and if anything, make it worse.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Clap!

      It strikes me that this would be a fair policy position: For employers of over ~500 employees, if any employee working half-time or more is eligible for any form of public assistance, the employer is responsible for paying to the government the cost of the maximum level of public assistance for which the employee would be eligible — regardless of whether the employee claims said assistance. That would set an effective minimum wage tied to welfare policy much more elegantly than a simple hourly rate. It would also, I would think, take quite a few working people off the public assistance rolls.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        It would also, I would think, take quite a few working people off the **employment** rolls. Businesses would be very careful how they did that, but you should expect they gradually would change hiring criteria.
        Plus, the cost crossover point for automation vs minimum wage may be closer than you think.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The fundamental issue it’s trying to solve is that allowing employers to pay wages so low that employees qualify for public assistance is really subsidizing the employers directly. Especially with large employers, there’s no reason we need to do that.

          In my mind, the other alternative is just to take the issue of benefits away from employers entirely — universal non-employer-based health care (I prefer a private model like the German one to single-payer) and a guaranteed minimum income. In America, that’s far less likely.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Good post although you left out the elephant in the room which is: jobs. Entire industries were exported twenty years ago and the smaller amount of well paying jobs which allow people to exist at a “middle class” standard are difficult to achieve today vs two decades ago. A shrinking amount of jobs combined with an increasing national population will spell disaster. By raising the minimum wage you simply socialize the cost which will be passed on to the rest of society, this doesn’t address the real problem it just makes everyone’s life more expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        An economy filled with jobs that can’t pay expenses hides the flaws in the labor market. Many economists like Paul Krugman say that raising the minimum wage (to a point) will not raise unemployment because the added spending power of the workers counteracts the marginal job loss, but let’s say it didn’t. The jobs lost would really just be hidden unemployment already present in the system – to say that another way – jobs that pay under a certain wage may be no better for the economy than no job at all. These jobs need to be replaced with different policies, policies that could include infrastructure spending and the government as employer of last resort. For those who are against government as employer – is government as provider of transfer payments better? We still use the quality infrastructure built by the TVA and the WPA in the 1930s.

  • avatar
    Chan

    On a serious note, bicycles still exist. In heavily urbanised areas public transportation is a “normal” way to commute, but this is not always the solution in the US.

    Something in the $5000 area, Japanese econobox with about 50-60% of its usable life remaining. Be prepared to do some basic maintenance yourself, such as oil changes. If you can’t afford that, you need to find a minimum wage job closer to home and ride a bike, because cars cheaper than $4-5k are more likely to have costly problems.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Buy whatever the hell works and gets you from point a to point b, don’t matter what badge is on it.

    Japanese cars demand a premium in subpar shape, but are usually cheap to keep going. Key word being “usually”

    European cars can be cheap if you’re good with a wrench

    American cars ARE cheap in decent shape and parts are usually cheap

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Every time I drive by a trailer park, I am surprised by how nice the vehicles are. Late model Tahoes and Pickups everywhere, those are not cheap either. Clearly, something is amiss.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Nice expensive cars at the trailer park are likely on a repo man’s hot list. They may be making the payments after losing their home, figuring they still need a car, and could live in it, worst case.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Quite true. I tell my teenage kids this a lot. The poor often remain poor due to choices (or lack of education about how money actually works). A car is a giant depreciating asset in most cases.

      “If we divided all the money in the world equally, in a short time the rich would be rich again, and the poor would be poor.” –Robert Anthony

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Also note how many have satellite dishes and how many of those pickups’ beds are full of alcoholic beverage containers.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Old Honda or Toyota is what most of the hispanic lower income wage earners get that I know. I owned them too when I was on low wages. Except when I got a couple of deals on used old BMWs. They were pretty reliable/resiliant. Now I own and Accord with 100k and love it!

  • avatar
    matador

    Here are my thoughts. Some of us have given makes and models, and I can give a few. A 1990s Ford Escort, for example is a sound choice, as is an H-Body LeSabre. If you’re going to buy something for not much money, what you do is you choose the best car that you can afford, regardless of brand. For a 20 year old car, the maintenance and condition matters a lot more than the make or model does.

    What a lot of people will do is finance. You can lease a Dodge Dart for around $100-150 per month, or you can finance a lot of car for that price. You can find a basic car, such as a 2000s Ford Taurus for $3000-4000. Even after the high interest rate, you could survive.

    Either pay cash and buy something really cheap, and make it keep working, or finance something that will work, but isn’t glamorous (Old Taurus, Kia/Hyundai products, Impalas,…). But, you still have options.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Allow me to echo many statements by saying Craigslist is indeed full of >$1500 Honda’s and other decent cars. It takes patience and research to come up with a good one. Might even need to budget for a head gasket replacement or even crazier, tires.

    I’ll put it like this; if all you’ll be able to come up with in the next year is the $1500 for the car itself, you may need to strongly consider how badly you need a car and what life would be like with $1500 tied up in a car that isn’t working.

    We’ve got a ’91 civic on the road for $900, but yes you have to be well connected to do it. It’s been doing service as my cousin’s car for a year, and he’s the car grim reaper. Still runs fine though.

    Only time I ever made minimum wage was when I lived in rural Kansas, $5.15/hr then; you could rent a trailer in that town then for $75/mo, let alone a room in someone’s house. I’m not saying it’s glamorous, but it could be done.

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