Close to a decade ago, I needed to find a car ASAP. I had been dating a loser who did not have a car (among a list of other things wrong with him), and had run the car I had to the ground. So we started looking online for very cheap cars, and came across a $650, 98′ Dodge Neon. I think my first mistake was to even consider a car from Craigslist, but that is besides the point. I did not have any money to spare, and the $650 was going to clear me out of any savings as it was. But the guy I was dating said he “knew” cars and would go with me to test drive it, look under the hood, and it would all be o.k. He arranged the time to check the car out when I was done work, and I asked my mom for the ride to West Philly. I thought I was getting lucky in finding a car so cheap, and told myself it was so cheap because of the area.

I am going to say I followed through with the situation out of desperation, and some trust…a bad combo for trying to make intelligent decisions. We get to the dangerous neighborhood close to dark, and the guy I was with gets out of the car and starts talking to the seller. He says they will be back after doing a “test drive”, which wasn’t even two minutes around one city block. When they get back he pops the hood, touches a couple of things, and tells me the car seems great, so I hand over $600, saying I will bring back the last $50 after I get it home and it seems o.k. The seller hands over the “title”, which I didn’t even inspect beyond it stating the make and model of the car, and I start the 45 min. drive home. I wasn’t even 10 minutes away when the car starts to shake a bit and I see steam coming from under the hood. I pull over, and the guy I was with gets out to look at it. He says we just have to fill the radiator with water to get it home, and then we can get coolant tomorrow. I had to stop two more times after that before we got home.

The next day I grab coolant and try to get the tags and insurance settled. Turned out I needed the past owner to show up in person to transfer the title and start the process for tags. Thank goodness I still owed the seller because he was the only chance I had of getting the owner to show up. I said I wouldn’t pay him the $50 until the title is transferred, so he put me in contact with the owner, who says he can only meet me close to his house which was even farther than where I had bought it. The guy shows up and asks for the full payment of the car. I said “Hold up, I already paid for the car, you need to talk to the seller about getting your money”. He makes a call and comes into the tags place for the transaction. By the time we got that done he said the seller hadn’t called him back yet, so what was up with the money. I said I paid it already, so that is between him and the seller, and I almost ran to the car. Like super speed racer.

The car ride home I had to stop and fill the radiator with coolant again, so I knew something was worse than it seemed. A couple days later I was able to bring it to my mechanic and he just says “Please tell me you didn’t buy this car yet”. I said I did, and he just shakes his head. He proceeds to tell me that not only was the radiator cracked, but the engine was shot, and various other important components would have to be repaired for it to be road worthy. I said there is no way I can pay for all of that, what can possibly be done at this point? He says he would buy it from me for scraps for $150. I said let me get back to you, and looked up other scrap companies to get quotes. I went with the highest bid of $250. In the mean time, the seller had kept trying to call for his $50, and I finally picked up and said unless he wants to give me the entire $600 back, he needed to stop calling me because the car was worthless and I can’t even drive it…he stopped.

The guy I was dating didn’t last a month after finding out I would have no car. We hadn’t been dating long, but I had known him in school, and I guess since I didn’t have a car any more, he had to move on to better prospects. I had been lucky enough to have a co worker be able to give me rides every day, and I was saving all of my extra money, after giving her gas money. Within 3 months I saved up almost $2,000, so I waited to see what was available, and wasn’t going to be a shady transaction. At the time I had no idea that a down payment of that amount was good enough for me to get a reliable used car at a dealership, with low monthly payments, so I was relying on word of mouth for personal car sales. A guy I knew told me his friend, a mechanic at a shop not far from me, was selling a good car and he could bring me over to him. The mechanic was selling it for $2,800, but I couldn’t go above $2,200…because I was a ‘friend” of a friend, he let me have it for that. Title and tags were done that day with no hiccup, and that car lasted me almost 5 years.

When that car kicked the bucket, I had money to place a down payment on a used car from a dealership…which in turn has helped to build my credit. I know now that no matter how desperate I become, I need to stop and think. I need to look at all possible consequences and make sure I don’t pick the option that could possibly land me in a bigger hole. That’s all that I can do. I am no stranger to landing on rock bottom, and every time I just try to keep it moving. I can’t just give up. Once I know better, I have try to do better. We all do. I struggle almost every day with a new worry, but it seems to be the driving force in me taking certain risks for a better life. The goal though, is to not have the worry any more.

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