Ask Bark: Keep The Xterra Or Have A Fiesta (ST)?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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]

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • StarAZ StarAZ on Aug 10, 2016

    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. Thanks!

  • PwrdbyM PwrdbyM on Aug 11, 2016

    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.

  • Wjtinfwb Job cuts and EV's... is that a winning strategy? You're locked in to substantial labor expense after the UAW agreement signed a few months ago. And EV's ain't exactly flying off the shelves en masse. Get the new Charger out already, it's been teased more than the Bronco and Supra were combined. Get a real Hybrid option out for the RAM trucks and big Jeeps that consumers will buy. Consider bringing back a Gen 3 Hemi with an aluminum block, direct injection and perhaps a Hybrid option to counter the Toyota debacle and get a jump on GM. Dump the Hornet and build Dodge a version of the Jeep Compass they can actually sell. A Dodge with Alfa bones isn't compelling to either brands fans. Fix the Durango's oil cooler problems to avoid alienating police departments nationwide. Do you want every cop in the US driving an Explorer? Freshen up the Pacifica and get Chrysler a cool sedan or wagon that can create a buzz like the 300 did more than a decade ago. And fix your dealers, they are by a large jackasses. Plenty of opportunity for improvement.
  • 3-On-The-Tree True that’s the worst beat down in history.
  • Jalop1991 Tesla has made getting repairs a real headache for some owners, as the automaker hasn’t allowed them to get work done at third-party shops. That policy has led owners to seek  class-action status against the company,So, move next to the airport then complain about the noise.Got it.
  • Jalop1991 One of the most interesting parts of this situation is that Stellantis, and by extension, the Chrysler Group, is increasingly considered a foreign companyNational Lampoon, May 1981.
  • ChristianWimmer This W126 example looks very nicely maintained and very clean inside and out. Definitely owned with love and respect. I can see Bill from Curious Cars selling this thing! My father drove a second hand bare bones facelifted 1985 Mercedes 300SE W126 back in the day until the early 2000s which eventually got passed down to me. The previous owner had only paid extra for a sunroof and automatic transmission. It had black cloth seats, no A/C, manual windows, no cruise control and those ugly plastic hubcaps which were so common on 1980s Mercedes’. I drove the 300SE for about seven years and enjoyed the comfort and pretty low running costs: reliable and also relatively fuel efficient. If you drove it normally you could get it to sip 9 L / 100 km. Motor oil consumption was pretty high as it got older needing a top up with 1 L of oil every 1,500-2,000 km, but this was apparently normal on the 3.0 inline-6. A comfortable long-distance cruiser and it even “handled” pretty nicely when you attempted to drive it in a 50% sporty manner on some backroads. After the free-for-all parking lot it usually parked on got demolished and parking such a huge barge became a problem, I ended up selling it to a local classic car club which still own it to this day and display it at classic car shows. Great memories of that car. 420SE/SEL and the 560SE/SEL are nice but the thirsty motors are something of a turn off.