We’ve owned our car outright for a little over a year now and it feels great. Most of the time, I only think about it when I’m transferring our money around and remember that I used to have to put part of it toward the car. But there’ve been a couple times this year when the car itself has made me glad that we don’t have a payment.

When you have a car payment, then you have to pay for the car + interest every month and cover repairs. When you own the car, all you have to pay for is repairs.

This Winter/Spring we’ve had more car repairs than normal, though only one of them was an actual car problem. One was actually just routine maintenance (brake stuff) and two were pothole damage.

Normally we don’t drive into potholes, but this Winter we had two huge snowstorms (one in December and the big big one in February) and after both of them, the city was full of potholes. At night on a poorly-lit street, a pothole full of water looks about the same as blacktop. And we bent two tire rims. The potholes were that deep!

The second time I was pretty upset at it happening over again, but both times we were able to pay for it because 1) we put money aside for this kind of thing & 2) we can more easily put the money aside because we don’t have a car payment.

Our Big Breakdown Adventure

Then our car gave us the first BIG trouble in a rather dramatic meltdown on the way to Boston. We were on a major Connecticut highway, minding our own business when suddenly the engine just plum turned off. It didn’t turn off in a sudden transmission-shearing-stop way, but the accelerator no longer responded and the power braking started to go (it seems to last for a little while after power goes, which is a good thing).

Micah glided the car into the shoulder and I tried not to panic as we sat there on a sharp curve in a shoulder that was thinner than our car. A high curb kept us from pulling over into the grass. Actually, we didn’t sit in the car—we got out on the grass and as far away from it as we could. I was terrified that an inattentive driver would total it, but within a minute of us pulling over (we’d just made it out & up by the sheer rock face) a highway safety vehicle pulled in behind us and sat there with its bulk and flashing lights.

The guy was great & got us started again so we could go to the next exit. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it that far but he stayed behind us and helped us call a tow truck. The second place we got stuck was much nicer & had a really wide shoulder (see the picture above). I didn’t mind waiting there with my laptop & enjoying the weather.

It turned out the crank sensor was the problem (it periodically forgot the car had been cranked up) and we were able to get it replaced. There was a lot more drama involving getting to the conference Micah was going to & getting a ride from grandparents who fortunately lived close(ish) and were feeling more charitable than I’d anticipated. I never actually made it to Boston and Micah missed part of the conference.

What there wasn’t was drama about how much it’d cost. The whole thing came to about $300 including the tow and we got three sensors replaced (Nissan only sells them in packs of three related sensors…it made more sense to have him put all three on than to keep two and probably pay more for labor getting the other two replaced).

I am so glad that our car is paid off and that she lived to fight another day. I’m also grateful that she doesn’t usually give us trouble. If we can stay out of potholes, maybe we’ll have another year with just routine maintenance!

Earlier this month J$ at Budgets Are Sexy shared his own relief at not having a car payment. Are you trying to pay down a car faster? Is yours paid off? Has it made a big difference for you, or not?

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Melissa April 21, 2010 at 10:04 am

My car was purchased new in 2004 with cash. Recently, it seems like the allure of picking out a newer car has been nagging just a little bit more. Until, that is, I took my car in because the power steering was making extra noise. $7 later, I left with a new tail-blinker light and freshly topped off power steering fluid. Noise quieted, blinker fixed, desire to buy a new car – gone. How stupid could I be to trade a six year old car that just handed me a $7 repair bill?

Aryn April 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Why do these things always happen while traveling? The slave cylinder on my husband’s car went out a rest stop on a lonely highway. It took me at least 5 minutes just to explain to AAA where we were! Getting it fixed required renting a car, leaving his car there for a week, and then him taking a day off work to pick it up and return the rental.
.-= Aryn´s last blog ..Great Ways to Spend $10 =-.

Grace April 21, 2010 at 3:41 pm

For nearly six glorious years, I had no car payments. Sadly, it (and my 1999 Dodge Caravan, purchased new) came to an end this past December. Even though I lucked into a deal on a fully loaded 2005 Dodge Caravan with all sorts of bells and whistles that I had not had previously, I do not think the $162 a month (at 3.99% interest) hit to my budget is worth it. Although it is wonderful not to panic every time I hear a weird sound from my car!
.-= Grace´s last blog ..The Ups, Downs and Surprises in Obama’s Health Plan =-.

Mrs. Micah April 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm

@Melissa that’s fantastic! $7 for a whole new feeling is well worth it.

@Aryn found myself wishing we had AAA. But we travel very rarely and if we had our druthers we wouldn’t at all, so we don’t. Maybe when we have more $$.

Speaking of traveling, though, my sister & I once pushed our car over the Canadian border. Mom steered. Customs people were nice & helped us get the battery recharged. It was the day after Canada Day & they’d apparently all been in the States so we sat for 3 hours. Poor little car couldn’t take it anymore.

@Grace sounds like you drove it for a good long time anyway! Our goal is to drive this one as long as we can, keep it repaired.

Money Reasons April 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I had problems with potholes last year too! I guess in an economic downturn roads are the last things to get fixed?

That first location that you broke down at sounds a bit dangerous! Glad to hear you got out of that spot quickly!

We also have our cars paid off! Our next cars will be good cheap used cars… (unless the deals on new cars keep getting better and better) 🙂
.-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..MoneyReasons Weekly Cache 2010, April 18 =-.

Mrs. Money April 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I am SO glad you are okay!! That is scary.

It’s funny, our Mustang (which is paid off) is in the shop right now. It will probably cost about $350 to fix it. It stinks, but at least it’s paid off.

We’re working on paying off our other car. We’ve got about $3,000 to go!
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Hemp is Not Marijuana =-.

RainyDaySaver April 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm

We have a car payment — at 0% interest, at least. Hubby wanted a specific car (Ford Escape) and it cost more than what we initially wanted to spend on a vehicle, but he REALLY likes it, and I feel better about having a “newer” car. My car is 6.5 years old, and it’s been paid off for 3 years. Since there’s no interest accruing on the loan (and we got it for just $400 over dealer invoice price), I’m not in any immediate rush to pay it off.
.-= RainyDaySaver´s last blog ..Guest Post at Christian PF =-.

eemusings April 27, 2010 at 5:22 am

It’s a conundrum, isn’t it: a newer, presumably more reliable car with a payment or an older one that might end up costing you more in repairs. But I figure a new car will certainly cost you in payments and interest (and possibly repairs) while you might get lucky and pay hardly anything on your beater.
.-= eemusings´s last blog ..Meme Monday =-.

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