By on August 9, 2016

2014 Nissan Xterra

John writes:

I guess I have some dumb questions here, but first some context: I’m 22, a recently certified teacher who can’t find a teaching job (thanks Obama and/or Chris Christie?). I have a full-time job as a line cook in the interim that pays Not A Lot but will suffice for the time being.

I currently drive a 2011 Nissan Xterra. It’s OK. It does things in an OK manner. It drives OK. It gets OK gas mileage. It’s just so… OK. It’s boring and I miss driving something even remotely interesting. I bought it after I wrecked my bright douchebag yellow 2006 Mustang GT because I thought I wanted to get into camping and off-roading. Well, best-laid plans of mice and men and all that. I don’t do any of these things and therefore I have a truck that, while competent and thoroughly OK, doesn’t really excite the senses.

I’d like to get into something different and I’ve been test driving a few different things to that end like a Fiesta ST and a Mazdaspeed 3, which I fell particularly hard for.

The issues here are severalfold. The Xterra is worth exactly nothing on trade in. It’s a 2011 with about 130,000 miles, and the bubonic plague to a dealer lot is that it’s a six-speed manual. The Ford dealer offered me $7,000 after a great deal of negotiation while CarMax offered $6,000.

I also have zero credit. Everything I’ve ever bought I paid cash for, including the Mustang and Xterra. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, this has been widely regarded as a bad move as I’m starting from scratch this late in life (If you want to get your letter into Ask Bark, quoting Douglas Adams is a sure thing-B). I was quoted for a loan on the Mazda with a 22.95% APR. Needless to say, I do not currently own a Mazda.

After that obnoxiously long ramble (my sincerest apologies), the questions are:

Is my 2011 Nissan Xterra 6MT worthless?

What’s the best way to build up credit at this point in my life?

And, finally, what kind of car would you recommend? Budget will probably be about $20k-$25k. I’m looking for something fun that I can drive in NJ winters without much issue. Eventually, I’d like to get into AutoX/Track Night in America type of shit too.

Okay, let’s handle one issue at a time.

First of all, unfortunately, the dealers hit your Xterra right on at $7k. That’s right in the middle of KBB “Good” value for an Xterra with standard options and a manual transmission. Private party isn’t going to be a whole lot better, either — maybe $8,500. Based on your previous “I pay cash for all things” statement, I’m assuming that you don’t owe any money on it.

So the good news is your Xterra isn’t worthless — it’s just not worth as much as you want it to be worth. $8,500 is a decent down payment on a car that’s a bit more fun. But we’ll come back to that in a bit.

Building your credit, on the other hand, is a somewhat painful process. Best case scenario is that Moms and Pops are willing to co-sign for you. Toyota Financial, in particular, is nice to co-signers — they just take the higher of the two credit scores and base the loan on that number. If that’s not an option, though, the best thing to do is to go to your closest Walmart and apply for a store credit card. They’ll approve anybody with a pulse. Six months later, you’ll probably be able to qualify for a small Visa card from some Midwestern bank with a 24.9% interest rate. Cut up that card immediately. Charge your cell phone bill to it and pay it off in full every month. Six months after that, you should qualify for some sort of car loan.

Also, getting a teaching job will help immensely. Hyundai, for example, loves to make loans to college grads who are working in their field of study. See if you can start working as a super-sub in the Newark district — and wear a bulletproof vest. That seems to be the quickest path into a real teaching job with benefits nowadays. Alternatively, you can move to Ohio and get a job as a teacher at a charter school. They will literally hire anybody with a certificate. A vest might not be enough there, though — you’d better pack actual heat.

Now, let’s talk about the actual car you should get.

You shouldn’t.

I hate to be the killjoy here, but there is no reason on God’s green earth that you should buy a sportish sort of vehicle right now. You have a paid-off car that gets you to your job. That’s all the luxury you’re really allowed at this point until you get your career started. You have to understand that it’s nearly killing me to tell you this, as there’s nothing I like more than telling young people to go out and live their lives to the fullest. However, in this gig economy, there’s not a single fucking guarantee that your line cook job won’t disappear tomorrow, and now you’ll have no Xterra to drive you to an interview — you’ll have a monthly payment that once seemed reasonable but is now causing you to wake up at night in a cold sweat.

Since you’re young enough to be my son (and if you’re half-Korean, you might be — I knew a girl who danced under the stage name of “Asia” who mysteriously disappeared), I feel obligated to not steer you down a path of destruction here. The Xterra is boring, yes, but it’s kind of a cool, unique truck, the likes of which we may never see again. In other words, you should be getting laid with it. No, you can’t lap it around the track, but nor can you fall sixty days behind on the payments.

So here’s what I’m going to suggest: keep working to find that teaching job. Jobs pop up in the middle of the school year all the time. Once you get it, work your ass off to keep it and get a contract for the following year. Then, write back to me in the fall of 2017 and I’ll give you some more advice at that point — and hopefully it will be of the fun variety.

[Image: Nissan]

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85 Comments on “Ask Bark: Keep The Xterra Or Have A Fiesta (ST)?...”

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Keep the Xterra and come to Texas where there are tons of teaching jobs. The ‘truck’ will help you fit in. Just make sure the AC works.

  • avatar

    Advice with which I can agree! Your paid-off ride is suitable for now while you’re credit-and-job-poor.

    If you’ve got college loans outstanding, that will help with establishing your credit as well. OP didn’t mention whether that was the case.

    “2011 with about 130,000 miles, and the bubonic plague to a dealer lot is that it’s a six-speed manual. The Ford dealer offered me $7,000” This is more generous than I’d have expected. I’m never quite getting how the Xterra has any value at all. Especially as a manual! They’re too expensive to bother with until they’re well-used, at which point they’re always used up. No happy medium with that model.

    Stay the course and give it time!

  • avatar

    Keep the Xterra! I personally found it to be a riot to drive on the street. The 6spd manual really unleashes that torquey VQ40. Sure it kind of rides and handles like crap (rear leaf pack is unforgivably limp and prone to bottoming out), but that’s part of the charm, and the rear end can easily be fixed with an add-a-leaf kit.

    Why aren’t you camping? If there’s one kind of travel/vacation that stands out as low budget, it’s tent camping. Taking a few weekend trips and exploring the back woods might rekindle your appreciation of your very cool rig.

    As an aside, I wish the Xterra was just a bit roomier and Nissan invested in a coil sprung rear axle. Basically take the R51 Pathfinder body and drop it on the Xterra’s solid rear axle chassis (but replace leaf pack with a 5-link rear end), and keep the 6spd manual. Undercut the 4Runner on price a bit and boom you’ve got my money!

    • 0 avatar


      Get out into the outdoors. Use the truck as you intended. It might not be a riot on the streets but is fun on the trails and back country.

      Take some of the money you save from not purchasing the ST and buy a kayak, mountain bike and a used dual sport (something like a WR250).

      Cheap fun and you get to experience the spirit of exploration.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      You know, I can relate. I only camp to explore, so I never really “camp”. You can’t even sit around fire most places, because of fire restrictions. I stopped carrying a tent, because why? I sleep right there in the jeep.

      • 0 avatar

        Or be even lazier and just sleep in the back of the Xterra, no tent needed. I surprised he is getting 7k for the Xterra with that many miles and a stick. With 7k down on a 15k car you’ll get good financing rates, best way to quickly build your credit. Plus you’ll save a ton of money on gas if you get a new “fun” car.

        • 0 avatar

          Being one of the last “real suvs” gives xteras extra value in the offroad and camping markets they are also reasonably cheap to run (parts and repair wise), all the equates to decent resale. Also welcome to the new world of used car prices where anything less then 10 years old is worth way more then it should be.

          • 0 avatar

            Heck I’d love to scoop up a 2011 Xterra 6spd for $7k, I think they got the timing chain guide/tensioner issue under control by then. I test drove on of the last new ’15 Pro-4Xs with the 6spd, dealer wanted a bit over $31k and they knew that they had something special. Kind of funny considering even a few years prior they had to discount them pretty steeply.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve to chime in here as I’ve got both a 2012 Xterra 6-spd and a 2015 FiST. Keep the Xterra! Like many have said before, it’s a dying (or more likely dead) breed.

      While you’re building your credit up, wait for 2014 Fiesta’s to depreciate, then grab one up when it hits the low teens. The combination of both lets you cover any need.

      A trick I picked up years ago when I had a company car was to exclusively use Amex for gas. It’s a reasonable bill every month, but you can’t slide on it. It’s not a lot different than debit, but still helps build the credit.

      But back to the Xterra. The 6-spd does make it very special, you’ve just got to exploit it’s abilities a bit more. My most memorable drive in it were trails to Cataloochee in the Smokys. Windy mountain gravel roads that suits the Xterra perfectly.

      Like everyone else says, get out and use it as it’s intended and you’ll love it. Just as it sits, it’s a lot more off-road capable than you’d expect. Once you’ve tackled a challenging trail, you’ll not look at it as boring again.

      In fact, if I had to choose between the two, the Xterra would win easily. By having the 6-spd, You can drive the Xterra aggressively, albeit slowly, but you can’t off-road the Fiesta.

  • avatar

    8K buys a lot of car. He can possibly do an even trade for a Civic Si or WRX of the same vintage and still retain all the benefits of not having a car note. He will just have to eat a couple hundred or so in transaction fees.

    At least until he considers insurance… mine must have dropped by 2/3 when I turned 25. Even with just liability I was paying $300-400 on an old Honda Accord in NYC. I pay less now for full coverage on 2 newer cars with a much worse driving record (admittedly way out of NYC). Gas is cheap…. he should wait it out IMO and build his credit in the meantime.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The problem is that any Civic Si or WRX for $8K is going to be very much used-up. Those cars are particularly prone to abuse and I really don’t recommend buying them used at all past a certain age, unless they’re very well cared-for. Does he really want to bother with someone else’s toy when he has a five-year-old car that he’s familiar with and has presumably taken care of himself?

      • 0 avatar

        It depends.

        I had an RSX-S which is very similar to the 06-11 Si. It had also seen significant track and autocross time. I sold it at 100k for roughly $9k.

        I owned it for 8 years, it only ever needed consumables, even with the hard use. Mechanically, compression was great and the bushings/ball joints were in surprisingly good shape. It did have an aftermarket rear sway and full coilovers, but I didn’t cheap out on those – I had $2k monotube Buddy Clubs.

        If it passes a PPI and the smell test, I would happily buy an Si of that vintage/price point.

        The WRX on the other hand? Not with a 10 foot pole. They’ve mostly been boosted to kingdom come, and I doubt at 100k you’d be safe on the original engine.

        • 0 avatar

          Good advice from Bark here, and from the rest of the B&B. I agree with Sportyaccordy that there isn’t too much wrong with selling the Xterra and purchasing a comparable vehicle more in line with his lifestyle/desires. Do a private party sale and purchase to get the best bang for your buck. TTAC has an excellent three part series on private party purchases. I think an RSX-S is a great suggestion too.

          Only problem with this approach is it may not be possible for our line cook friend to buy a car before he sells his Xterra. Time and patience are critical with private party sales and purchases.

          I’ve bounced between the truck/utility vehicle and sports car a couple times before. Both have their charms, and the Xterra is a great truck for the right person. But if your desires lean towards something else, no reason to suffer through the bumpy-slow-low-mpg ride.

    • 0 avatar

      This might actually be the case where Miata is the answer? Find some early 2000s MX5 that was the weekend car for some older guy (they basically all start out that way), a reasonable one should be available for 8k. Not much straight line pull, but more fun than an Xterra, and not an entirely awful idea.

  • avatar


    “Hyundai, for example, loves to make loans to college grads who are working in their field of study.”

    Ever manufacturer does that and you don’t need to be working in your field of stud. They offer fantastic terms because they want you to get into the brand. They can start you out in a Corolla, then maybe a Sienna when you have kids and maybe an RX350 when you make principal, etc.

    I’ll never understand why the B&B are unaware of these programs.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Not always. Some of them are just cash discounts on top of the price of the car, and usually only $500. The Ford one seems to have had guaranteed financing in the past, but now it’s just a $500 discount. I believe the same is true at GM. But I was looking at Subaru, and they have guaranteed financing. So does Volkswagen. Even BMW has one, I think.

      I used the Volkswagen College Grad program to get into my ’14 Jetta SportWagen TDI, even though I could have been approved without it.

      You could always finance something from FCA, as they will literally approve anyone (but at high interest).

      • 0 avatar

        I used the VW one as well. In my case I just didn’t have any credit as I didn’t have a credit card in college. They were fine with that. But, I assume if I’d run up $15k freshman year and it had gone to collections, that would be a different story.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice job, Bark! I have a friend in Phoenix — an MD — who just bought one of these, including the manual. He’s quite happy with it. He’s also in his late 60s and his kids are grown (well, one is still in college).

    It’s really a question of priorities. Some folks have a tough time making the transition between when Mom and Dad are paying for the mundane things in life (e.g. food, shelter) and when they are paying for those things. When Mom and Dad have the basic stuff covered, any cash that you can come into may immediately be converted into fun stuff, like a Mustang GT. But when you’re paying for the basic stuff, fun stuff moves at the back of the line — at least for a while.

    At the front of the line are things like getting going in your chosen career, establishing credit and setting yourself up so that you can pay the bills. Also contributing to your credit score is the timeliness of your paying your utility bills and your rent. I would disagree about getting a credit card from Walmart or whatever. Rather, I suggest establishing a relationship with a bank or credit union by opening a checking account and putting some money in it and using it to pay your bills. They will probably issue you a credit card with a low limit, perhaps secured by a minimum balance in the checking account.

    Increasing the size of your monthly “nut” (the recurring bills that must be paid every month) by adding an unnecessary car payment is just not a good idea until there’s a little more permanence to your job.

    The OP is doing well by owning, free and clear, a vehicle that is probably reliable and not that expensive to repair. Because what you need is “transportation.” It’s nice if it’s fun transportation; but not essential.

    Consider a bicycle as an outlet for the hot dog in you — lots of younger guys do and they have a lot of fun. They’re also cheaper to buy and own than cars or trucks.

  • avatar

    Or. perhaps instead of getting a FiST, he just gets a used Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost for cheap. Take maybe a $5k auto loan instead of a $20k auto loan. Build credit with a small loan on a newish car so the payment can be really small. And establish a relationship with a credit union. Get a credit card then an auto loan through them.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Woops, missed this comment at first pass. Yes, this. However, remember that he’s a previous Mustang owner. He might not want to touch the SFE any more than the Toyobaru 86.

  • avatar

    Keep the Xterra until you have a full time job with benefits as a teacher. Buying the car you want now not only means a monthly payment you don’t currently have weighing you down – it also means you’re playing Russian Roulette with when your line cook job might go away.

    Here’s some good news. Your Xterra is depreciated pretty far down the curve. The additional miles you’re putting on now won’t hurt much of the value remaining. Good place to be, even if you have to fix some things on the truck. Save a few bucks now if you can without having a car payment.

    Oh, and take Bark’s suggestion on the credit card asap. Build that credit up.

  • avatar

    I agree with pretty much everyone else here.

    Keep and care for the Nissan, get the better job, build some credit, save some cash, and buy something awesome in 3-5 years.

  • avatar

    Another way to start on credit is to buy something offered at “6 months same as cash” where you can easily afford to pay it off in the interest-free period.

  • avatar

    I agree keep what you have for now or if you must get out set your sights at something not much more expensive than what you get for your existing ride.

    Concerning getting a credit history set up a banking account at a local credit union and build up a bit of a balance in your savings. Have your paycheck direct deposited. Then apply for their Visa card. You won’t have to have a 24.9% interest rate that way. Yeah they will probably give you a real low limit but it is a start. *Do not pay it in full every month*. Buy that new TV you want and take 6 months to pay it off even if you have the cash to pay it off. Banks want to give you a credit card to earn money from the interest. So carrying a balance that is 50% or less of you limit is a good thing. Once you do that you’ll start getting credit offers from lots of banks. That is what my son did and they started him out with a $500 limit with 12.9% interest rate (at age 20) and now he is up to a $1500 limit and gets lots of offers in the mail which he promptly shreds.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. My first stab at credit, granted nearly 40 years ago, was to get a Macy’s credit card. Then buy something and pay it off…and simply do that a few times and you’ve established some credit.
      And it seems department stores are forever giving away credit, offering a discount if you “open an account today”!

      I purchased an Xterra in 2010 at 50 years old. Driving home from the dealer prompted thoughts of “what have I done?” Kept it for a year. Would have kept it longer but the seats were so darn uncomfortable. Love that grunting VQ though.

      • 0 avatar

        My first card was a Sears card. I didn’t really want it but at the time the local store in the college town I lived in had an incentive to fill out a credit application. You had your choice of $5 or some trinket. It didn’t take long until my friends and I found out about that. They limited you to filling out one application per month. So once a month we would all pile in a car head to Sears and collect our $5 which was nothing to sneeze at at the time. Problem was after doing this for a long time they actually gave me a person with a part time job a card. I did go right down and pick up a nice floor jack that was on sale so that with tax it was just under my whopping $100 limit. I paid it off $20 per month. Next thing I knew Discover was giving me a card and Texaco too. And yes many other stores would do the $ off if you open an account today and having that Discover, Sears, and other cards meant instant approval.

    • 0 avatar

      Carrying a balance doesn’t help your credit score. Yes, you want to use the credit card so that you can show that you can be trusted with credit, but using it and paying it in full each month is just as good at doing that as carrying a balance, and doesn’t require you to pay interest.

      • 0 avatar

        Carrying a balance for a while is not to help your credit score it is to make you attractive to other credit providers since they earn a lot of their money from interest.

        Also carrying a balance on a card or two, if it is with in reason for your income, assets and card limit doesn’t hurt your credit score if you still pay on time.

        Also note I don’t mean that he should carry a balance on the last ditch 29.99% credit card. But say putting a $500 TV on your 12.9% card and then paying it down $50-100 a month is worth it because it will entice other card issuers to start sending you pre approval and possibly balance transfer letters.

        That gets you to the point where you have 2 or 3 cards that you do frequently pay in full and thus a substantial credit history for when you want to get a car loan. Which you really want to talk to the credit union that gave you that first credit card. If nothing else to have a pre approval letter at an interest rate that is based on your credit score. So when you go to the F&I guy you can go straight to the my credit union is x.x% can you beat it? Instead of him trying to take you for xx.x% because you look young and inexperienced.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve heard different opinions on this. Online advice seems to conflict too. I asked a former co worker once who was briefly in charge of credit cards at the local bank. He said paying the balance every month my be reported as underutilized credit (they make no money on you). He said you had to let it hit once in a while. He said for them the reported a 0 balance if you paid it every month unless you paid on the date due. In which case it would show actual use of credit. But if you paid it off when your statement came each month then it would never show you using the credit (because of the way the bank reported it to the credit bureaus). I basically charge what I’m going to pay off and leave 5 bucks for the next month a few times a year and that seems to work.

        • 0 avatar

          No one likes what I am about to write: Credit scores are as much a function of how much money banks can expect to make off of you as they are your ability to pay off the debt.

          I personally have only an average credit score, because, with the exception of my mortgage, I haven’t borrowed money in 15 years. Banks don’t really like people who pay off their cards in full every month.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t really buy that. I’ve never had a car payment or borrowed money and my only credit before I bought my house was a check writing history and Cards that I’d paid off every month for the last 11 years My credit score was still above 700 (I’d guess 750 but I don’t remember exactly). I had never had a late payment or carried a balance.

            I’m sure there’s all sorts of financial trickery involved but I don’t think paying on time hurts

          • 0 avatar

            @ everybodyhatesscott, I don’t’ think anyone is saying that you shouldn’t pay on time. When you are trying to create a credit history more items that are positive helps. So being someone who is a potential profit drives other creditors to want your business. That allows you to get more than one credit card. Having 3 credit cards means that you have 3 chances at good marks on your record every month instead of just the 1. Put a little on this, a little on that, pay off 2 of the 3 in full each month and use the one with the lowest interest rate to make a moderate purchase that you take a little time to pay off.

            The other thing is you want to show that you can actively manage something other than recurring expenses. It is one thing to put all your gas on a credit card and pay it off every month and another to make a big purchase and manage to pay it down on a regular basis.

            Look at it this way paying your all your cards in full each month shows that you are responsible in managing your monthly budget. That is not a bad thing in any way. Making a purchase that takes time to pay off, and you do pay it off over time shows you are responsible with your monthly budget and the use of credit.

            So when you are establishing credit from scratch it does help to carry a balance on occasion to help make you look both responsible and profitable.

          • 0 avatar

            If you’ve got a $12K credit-line on a Visa, MC or Disco and keep the average balance around $1K, it shows you’re very responsible with the bank’s money. Do that with 3 or more cards, and occasionally swipe/carry/payback $10K on each card, and you’re on your way to a perfect 850 FICO.

            Yeah it’s a waste if you can pay the cards off at the end of the month, but to play the game, you have to constantly keep asking for lowered interest rates and raised limits.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Gotta disagree. I’m 48 and I got my first credit card at 18 years old. I have never once carried a balance, even for a month, on any credit card. That’s right, 30 years of paying my balance in full. Last time I checked, my credit score was 840, but it always seems to fluctuate somewhere between 820 and 845. FWIW, I’ve paid cash for my last 6 cars, which goes back to 2004. My only debt is a $300k mortgage on a $700k house.

          • 0 avatar

            @ Whiteshadow, Yes paying in full on time for 30 years will get you that 840 score. However when you are young with no history and you want to build a good one in less than 30 years you want more than one card. So once you get that first you want to look attractive to other companies so that they will offer you their card, and often try to undercut your current card’s rate or give you a special low low balance transfer or cash advance rate.

            Once you get 2 or 3 decent cards then go back to paying it off every month in preparation for that car and home loan.

        • 0 avatar

          My credit card providers report that I have a balance each month even if I pay in full because they report the balance on the credit card closing date. Therefore, there is no benefit to carrying a balance and paying exorbitant interest payments.

          • 0 avatar

            The “benefit” is getting cash or products/service you gotta have, but don’t have the funds or time to save it. For me, it was starting up a business from scratch, penniless, no assets, but with OK credit, an OK job and a Sears card.

            With constant Pre Approved credit cards showing up, I jumped at the chance. I collected 8 Visa cards, ran them up to over $90K in 40 months and as the business thrived, systematically paid them down to just a few hundred dollars on each, within a year.

            I ended up with a FICO in the 840s with credit cards alone. Not that there’s not other ways to get a near perfect score, and it wasn’t my intention anyway. It is possible though, and likely with a lot less capital involved.

        • 0 avatar

          There are a lot of “tricks” around how to pay off your credit card and time it right so the balance hits. You can find them on other, financial-oriented web sites. But I agree with what everyone else is saying about establishing credit.

          Get a credit card and make sure it has no annual fee. This is important because you never want to cancel that first credit card, in order to build up your Average Age Of Accounts (credit history length). That’s a huge contributor to your credit score.

          Keep your utilization under 30%. Even better, shoot for under 10%.

          Look up elsewhere on how to avoid paying interest charges, while still ensuring that the credit bureaus see actual balances reported. This is all about how you time your actual payments with respect to when they’re due.

          For what it’s worth, I moved to the U.S. at the end of the 90s and had to buy a car immediately as I was starting a consulting job and had to drive to clients. With no credit history that counted in the U.S., I was still able to get a brand new Camry. (I’m sure someone with a credit history had to co-sign.)

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve never had to pay an “annual fee”, but I’ve had credit cards cancel me for lack of activity, usually a year. That dinged my credit, so you have to keep them lubricated. Keep them open for their “available credit”. Having a good “debt to credit” ratio enhances your credit rating.

    • 0 avatar

      I never carry a balance on a credit card and last I checked, FICO was in the low 800s. Even if it did matter, I wouldn’t pay ridiculous interest for the sake of a few points.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    It’s good advice from Bark. I’m amazed the question had to even be asked.

    I’m struggling to start my career
    I work as a line cook in the interim
    I have no credit
    My car is paid off and doesn’t give me trouble
    Should I go into debt for a depreciating asset because I’m bored with it?

    Reward your survival of the first year of teaching with a new car. Until then, rock the Xterra and be grateful you have a ride that isn’t giving you trouble during this uncertain time in your career.

  • avatar

    After college, and even after I had found an entry-level position in my field, I stuck with driving an old-me-down Nissan Stanza until the repair costs got so high that I had to buy another car. And after that, it was a used 1994 Nissan truck for $7,000.

    Even now – “successful” and middle-aged, I still don’t like spending over $10k. Car nut that I am, I still like to spend my money on other hobbies.

    • 0 avatar

      I resemble this remark. I have a toy car, that was my daily driver for a while. Paid cash for it (previous car sold with cash on top), $14k total for it.

      Now I daily my wife’s old car while she has the new kid hauler. I’ll buy a car with a payment, on 10 year cycles so I only have only one car payment at a time. And never on a toy, only for a commuter or family hauler.

      There are multiple benefits to this. First, I only have to carry liability on the S2k; it literally only costs me gas, insurance, oil, and tires. Second, the family has a million airbags. Third, I don’t mind driving an inexpensive compact for commuting, so I save with a lower payment and a newer more efficient engine.

      It leaves way more money left over for fun at the end of the day, like track days, dinners out, or vacations.

  • avatar

    Here’s some advice from an old geezer: own your life. You’re 22, single, with no debt, and a college degree. Stop whining about Obama and Christie. You sound like a 14 year old. You are at the ideal time and stage of life to move to an area where there are better opportunities. No politician is going to hand you your dream job on a silver platter. Time to grow up.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with your post but I am guessing his teaching certificate ran him $100K. Because: Amerikan Freedumb.

    • 0 avatar

      During my brief and unsuccessful attempt at internet dating, I went on a couple dates with women who were teachers. Almost all of them had moved here (Baltimore) from some other place for a teaching job. Some had been actively recruited by multiple school districts.

      Pretty much every place is going to need teachers, so if someone is willing to relocate, there has to be an opportunity somewhere.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah my kids at a charter school (in a suburban town not urban). They pay the teachers a little less and I imagine the benefits are lower but they are constantly hiring young teachers. Most stay about 6-7 years then move on. Some stay longer because they like that the school is controlled by a small board of directors instead of the board of ED. Honestly My son’s only had one teacher we didn’t really like. Most of them are still very optimistic instead of the older depressing teachers I remember from grade school.

  • avatar

    Keep. The. Xterra. My son graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2013 and even though he could easily afford something snazzier (as many, many of his fellow pilot-buddies did…never have I seen so many Mustangs, Camaros and three-year old Corvettes in one place as I did when I’d go visit him at his first duty station), he waited almost three years before buying a very used F150 to augment the 1997 Toyota Tercel (now with 240k+ on it) that he refuses to part with. I made the mistake of running out and buying a one-year old car back in 1992 when I graduated from college (a 1992 Sentra SE-R) and financing it before I had even started my first day on the job (came home after accepting an entry-level engineering slot and on the way to the house from the company stopped in the local Nissan dealer and got rid of my paid-for vehicle to assume a car loan. Stupid).
    The Xterra may not light your soul on fire, but it is assumed to be paid for and it currently runs. Both are MAJOR positives. Stick it out and you won’t get butt-hurt by ridiculously high interest rates (assuming you can even get a loan in your current situation right now) down the road. “Fun” is being able to live your life without assuming a financial burden that you’re in no shape to take on. Not saying that a person should never have a car payment…just saying a person should be able to afford the payment AND be able to eat.
    Besides, as has been mentioned, the Xterra does have a certain cool factor to it. Embrace it.

  • avatar

    Now that I’m at retirement age, I wish I hadn’t blown money on stuff that I didn’t need, most of which were cars. Only when your Xterra stops getting you to work and it costs as much to maintain as monthly payments should you even consider getting a new car. Invest in a IRA. in 50 years you will be glad you did.

    Now I know you ain’t going to take my advice, so save your money and buy a Scion TC, it’s fun to drive and more reliable than a Fiesta. You just can’t join forums and talk about your FiST and be cool.

  • avatar

    You’re 22. You have a degree that you can’t use for your chosen vocation. You’re working as a cook and just getting by to paraphrase.

    You want to buy a new to you car exactly why?

    • 0 avatar

      He needs to be more positive. John, why not say that you are a chef rather than just a cook? Also, what subject do you teach? I would think telling a credit company that you are a chef and teach advanced physics might get you more credit.

      • 0 avatar

        “I would think telling a credit company that you are a chef and teach advanced physics might get you more credit.”

        That’s not how credit works. This isn’t a general store. Numbers!

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah. Fair Isaacs and the other credit raters are very numbers based. Some things to tell them that can really help:
          – how often you walk your dog daily
          – number of ties you own and wear in a given month (no counting holiday ties)
          – average number of your last 3 girlfriends on the 1-10 beauty scale (be honest – they will check!)
          – level of play on Call of Duty

  • avatar

    And on the other hand, “starting from scratch this late in life” at 22 – ?

    Jesus – give yourself a chance, already…

  • avatar

    This should be fun.

    “I’m 22”

    So you’re adult but lets be honest you still don’t really know sh*t about sh*t.

    “recently certified teacher who can’t find a teaching job”

    So degreed and certified by the State of NJ? Kudos, seriously. But remember your career hasn’t technically started yet and professional and personal growth will begin in earnest.

    “I have a full-time job as a line cook in the interim that pays Not A Lot but will suffice for the time being.”

    Congrats for not being on a direct form of welfare. These type of jobs generally require 100% scheduled attendance which we need to bear in mind.

    “I currently drive a 2011 Nissan Xterra. It’s OK. It does things in an OK manner. It drives OK. It gets OK gas mileage. It’s just so… OK. It’s boring and I miss driving something even remotely interesting. I bought it after I wrecked my bright d*uchebag yellow 2006 Mustang GT because I thought I wanted to get into camping and off-roading. Well, best-laid plans of mice and men and all that. ”

    “I also have zero credit. Everything I’ve ever bought I paid cash for, including the Mustang and Xterra.”

    “I was quoted for a loan on the Mazda with a 22.95% APR. Needless to say, I do not currently own a Mazda.”

    OK. In this little diatribe I didn’t happen to notice any commentary on the Xterra’s maintenance history or on how it treats you from a reliability standpoint. This is key, because being OK at everything else is irrelevant for the vehicle’s mission at this point in your life. You need wheels that are OK in getting you to your cook job because you aren’t yet working in your salaried field and you will get fired if you start showing up late for your shifts. Read: you can’t afford interesting right now. Period. (Oh and no Mazda is worth 23 points on a loan, why this isn’t charged as loansharking I’ll never know).

    So to the questions:

    “Is my 2011 Nissan Xterra 6MT worthless?”

    You don’t give a trim package however here are the MY11 Xterras (all autos):


    07/29/16 Manheim Pennsylvania Regular $13,100 90,439 Avg BLACK 6G A Yes
    07/27/16 Manheim Milwaukee Regular $13,000 91,151 Avg BLACK 6G A Yes
    07/20/16 Manheim Dallas Regular $20,600 35,060 Above GRAY 6G A Yes
    07/08/16 Manheim Pennsylvania Regular $19,750 21,293 Above BLACK 6G A Yes
    06/21/16 Manheim Arena Illinois Regular $8,200 196,328 Below BLACK 6G A Yes
    06/07/16 Manheim Orlando Regular $12,800 101,375 Avg SILVER 6G A Yes


    08/05/16 Manheim Pennsylvania Regular $16,700 67,165 Above GREEN 6G A No
    07/27/16 Manheim New Jersey Regular $13,100 69,513 Above GRAY 6G A Yes
    07/14/16 Manheim Tampa Regular $13,100 75,652 Above BLACK 6G A Yes
    08/02/16 Manheim Ny Metro Skyline Regular $9,700 94,268 Avg WHITE 6G A Yes
    07/15/16 Manheim Pennsylvania Regular $8,800 136,929 Avg GREY 6G A Yes
    07/12/16 Manheim Baltimore-Washington Regular $6,900 165,562 Below SILVER 6G A Yes


    07/06/16 Manheim Seattle Lease $12,200 58,861 Above RED 6G A Yes
    06/28/16 Manheim Ohio Regular $12,700 87,554 Above WHITE 6G A Yes
    07/05/16 Manheim Statesville Lease $10,600 103,646 Avg GRAY 6G A Yes
    06/21/16 Manheim Statesville Regular $10,600 106,279 Avg SILVER 6G A Yes
    06/21/16 Manheim Ny Metro Skyline Lease $7,200 117,877 Below SILVER 6G A No
    07/05/16 Manheim Ny Metro Skyline Regular $9,500 117,882 Below SILVER 6G A Yes
    08/04/16 Manheim Fredericksburg Regular $10,500 123,169 Avg SILVER 6G Yes

    You don’t mention the condition your example is currently in, so if it looks like crap or has a myriad of issues I might low ball you too. However assuming yours is in average condition, and even with a lot poison manual transmission, I’d say its worth about +/- $10K (esp it being an MY11 which is only 5.5-6yo at this time). Those dealers probably didn’t want it either because of condition, miles, or transmission and thus wanted to make you pay 30% or so in penalties. Whenever you do sell this, and assuming it stays in average condition, find someone into Xterras, or failing that, BOF in general. You have a rare bird, take advantage of those who would appreciate it since John Q. Public will not. Oh and on general principle: f*ck Carmax.

    “What’s the best way to build up credit at this point in my life?”

    Get a real job, get a real credit card (pay the fee, don’t do Capital One etc), pay it off every month, and every year either get another or request your credit line get upped on the ones you have. This will take about three years, I started in 2010 with Discover Miles or whatever it was called. Now I’ve got an Amex Platinum, a Chase Southwest Visa, and a Chase Ink Business card (they will give you business cards when you have good credit, just pretend you have a side gig).

    “And, finally, what kind of car would you recommend? Budget will probably be about $20k-$25k. I’m looking for something fun that I can drive in NJ winters without much issue. Eventually, I’d like to get into AutoX/Track Night in America type of shit too.”

    Subaru Impreza, lease or buy new. Do NOT buy used and skip the WRX until after you turn 25 and your insurance rates improve.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I would not even reach for FiST. An SFE would be plenty for me. It’s not made anymore, but it’s only to the best: they can be gotten cheap. Flogging that 1.0t is best instance of “driving a slow car fast” and it’s quite fun. Well, not to someone who’s poisoned by the power of a blown Coyote, but nonetheless. Bark is right though, a ‘Terra is better to pick girls up than any trim of Fiesta. Although, you only need one. And she better know what ST is.

  • avatar

    1. Is it really hard to get a credit card these days? I’m a little older than this guy but I applied for my first entry level credit card with like $1000 limit. Bought everything on the card and paid it off every month. Call them in 6 months and ask to raise your limit. Keep putting everything on the card and keep paying it off.

    2. Buy a motorcycle (I’m gonna get yelled at for this one) 3-4 k cash can get you a very decent used bike and bikes are fun


    3. Buy my Mazdaspeed3. It’s old and the suspension is crap but it runs fine.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s harder now. I got my first one at 18 with an under the table job (seriously) in 1999 ($150 limit). By the time I was 24 I had like a 35,000 combined limit on 2-3 cards. About 7 years ago I stopped using them all and started paying them off and cancelled them all. A couple years ago I decided to get one again as an emergency backup. I had some other credit hits as well. The first one I could get was a 500 limit 23% interest and $19 a year fee. And that took some looking to get. I have another one now and the interest rates are better and no fee. But I keep the 19$ a year open as my age of credit looks like crap now and drags down the score.

      • 0 avatar

        You make a good point, keep the oldest credit card you have active if possible and reasonable. Having an old, long term account that is active, even if it is just putting a few dollars on it every couple of months, looks much better to other creditors than having only young accounts.

  • avatar

    If you have student loans consider programs that might offer to repay your student loans.
    You may have to move to the middle of nowhere but the Cost of living is lower and at 22,
    you need to see the other side any way.

  • avatar

    Here are your next steps, in order:

    1) Get a high interest credit card, use it for gas and snacks, and pay it off every month.
    2) Find a professional job in your field with benefits.
    3) Buy A FiST.

    In the meantime enjoy your new-ish reliable vehicle that most of the population of the US would be ecstatic to own, and find some fun stuff to do that’s not vehicle dependent.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Pretty sure this dude needs a Corvette.

  • avatar

    Dang, what in the heck does Obama have to do with teaching jobs in I presume New Jersey? There are teaching jobs going empty all over the US. In fact, in WA state math/science teachers at the middle school or high school level are going begging.

    I am a veteran teacher. Once you get into the profession and get past the first couple years of probation, you are in an excellent career field. Get that credit established, and you can buy any car you can afford. But, for now, I wouldn’t dream of going into debt until you have a couple years of professional employment under your belt.

    Bark, what the hxxx are you talking about needing bullet proof vests and packing heat to teach? That’s just hyperbole and lends nothing to what is otherwise fine advice to this young man.

    • 0 avatar

      I cannot imagine why a 22 year old line chef would think a politician owes him a job or the world owes him a new car.

      • 0 avatar


        Plus, many states will subsidize repayment of your student loans if you work in a high needs school in a hard to fill position.

        That Xterra can live up to its name and haul you away from Jersey to land all kinds of teaching positions.

        • 0 avatar

          Stay in Jerz if you want. It’s home. And demographically it has an educated, wealthy population with good schools and evidently a lot of people who want to teach. Keep at it, you’ll get there.

          On the other hand, your 20’s is the time to move around the country…you can always go home.

          • 0 avatar

            My point exactly: moving around the country in your 20s is such an opportunity.

            New Jersey is well known for having more newly minted teachers than there are jobs available. A little research will easily unveil which states are experiencing shortages.

            And, I would imagine New Jersey isn’t going anywhere anytime soon if a homecoming is in order.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree!

            As a guy in my 20’s who moved away from home its an interesting experience. It only gets harder to move as time goes on.

    • 0 avatar

      Except it isn’t.

      -Bark, Music Education major, married to college professor

  • avatar

    I was given two hand me down cars which I drove from age 19 to 33. I bought a ten year old car with 13,000 miles (from the estate of a little old lady) which I drove until I was 42. At age 46 my wife bought our first new car for cash. My first new car was at age 48!

    Four new cars later I have plenty of money invested, no mortgage and with some help of family no loans. Likewise my two children owe zero. My daughter, at age 28, who attended a state college could buy a house for cash if she lived in most parts of the US. (She teaches at a charter school in NYC.). My son has a bit less. He chose an expensive college.

    Spending what you don’t have only makes sense in certain business settings and for real property that will hold its value or appreciate. For more than 99% of the cars sold it is foolish for the buyer and smart for the seller. If you can control yourself when you are young you will have no money problems when you reach middle age.

    Life throws enough curve balls. If money doesn’t own you, you can deal with the important stuff.

  • avatar

    Join the Army.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Another way to improve your credit history: Apply for a credit card from one of the major oil companies… put all of your gasoline purchases on it… and pay it off each month.

  • avatar

    WTF? We may as well just read the Zen and Maintenance trope as read these letters. What are you going to position yourself as an expert of next week?I cannot believe a 22 year old college grad hasn’t a clue how to solve these dilemmas by himself. A pox on both your houses, milquetoast.

  • avatar

    As someone who started with no credit a couple years ago as well for similar reasons. I payed cash for everything, own a couple cars all bought in cash. Paid for college out of my own pocket. I think I was 20-21 at the time I started. 24 now and Just bought a house and have fantastically good credit. Its also the only thing I owe money on at this point.

    Get yourself a secured credit card. You put $75 and they will give you a card with a stupidly low limit. Don’t worry about that part. Stick the card on auto pay, stick your car insurance, or cell phone on it auto pay as well. Something you pay every month anyway. Then you just play the waiting game. It really doesn’t take too long.

    You can then get some better card latter. Amex for example will triple your credit limit after a certain period no questions asked. The higher the limit you have the better. You want to have low utilization, helps your score.

    But, don’t be stupid. Live below your means.

  • avatar

    don’t be in a rush… you’re young… there’s plenty of time left for fun… you just have to lock down the essentials (i.e. a full-time, permanent position) first. I put myself through college… graduated with a fair amount of student loan debt, and spent 6 months after graduation job hunting (whilst working full-time to pay the bills). My first job paid lousy, but it was good work experience. I got lots of credit card offers in college… and took them all… gas stations, department stores, etc. At one point, I had 22 credit cards. But I managed them all responsibly. I was 33 before I bought my first new car… always drove beaters, as that’s all I could afford. As for credit… I did a lot of the “90 days same as cash” when I was in college… usually for stereo equipment. And I paid off my student loans a few years early. I recently purchased a 2016 Ram 2500 4×4… my credit score (according to them) was 881. I got financing below 2%, but even then, I put over 50% cash down on it. I could have paid cash, but with money that cheap, I decided to put (some) of my money to work elsewhere. It’s important to have (and maintain) credit… just do it responsibly. I’d love a Fiesta ST too… I just can’t justify it right now… maybe in a year or two. Hang in there… and be patient!

  • avatar

    I saw that you have a maybe $7000 trade in and no credit and up to a $25k budget. I said to myself “that guy’s budget is $0 right now”.

    I had no credit history in the U.S. when I arrived in 2000. I got added on to my wife’s existing cards and 16 years later after responsible use of credit, my score is in the 820 range. Credit reports still say things like “insufficient length of credit history”

    Best advice is to get some small balance cards, and charge things to them you can afford to buy cash. Then pay the cards off. Keep doing that for a while and you’ll soon have a positive credit history.

  • avatar

    Hi Bark,

    I’m new to this site. How can I send you my question? I can’t seem to find your email address or any contact information anywhere.

  • avatar

    Maybe years in the military made me numb to relocation, but really why not pick a new city with available teaching jobs and move? I know it’s hard for people to leave their “home”, but don’t be afraid. Trust me it will be one hell of an adventure.

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