Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

My First Car

with 24 comments

Total Black: $85.38
Total Red: $242,876.35

Today I purchased my first car.  At thirty-four years old.  My first automobile.  Not Grandma’s ol’ wheels no longer needed.  Not a hand-me-down from mom or dad, so to speak. Mine.  Granted, of course, that I purchased it with an auto loan and loaned funds from my mother, but it’s still my car.  Title in my name.  And I hugged it before I climbed in.  I was that thankful, happy, relieved, and gracious.

I had been going back and forth all day with my dealer about the car.  I finally came clean, so to speak, and told them that I was stuck without my debit card and without the ability to withdraw cash or charge purchases.  I didn’t mention that the funding hasn’t yet come through.  My mother had to take out a personal loan for $3,000—to be paid back when the line of credit on the house finally comes through.  They had told her 1-to-2 weeks.  It’s been over two already.  We’re both getting nervous.  But thankfully, when I explained all of this, my dealer said she understood and said that wouldn’t stop me from driving away the jeep today.

Next matter: car insurance.  Dealer reached out to someone on St. Croix who came back with a quote of $1,500 for the year.  Co-Clerk suggested another agent.  I ended up getting more coverage for the same amount initially quoted.  Car insurance for the year will cost about $1,500.  And once again, I explained that I didn’t have the cash up front; they don’t take cards.  The car insurance agent told me to chill, basically, and said to get me the money when I can.  I came from with good references—from Co-Clerk.

Really, I’m amazed that all this came together.  And in time for me not to have to renew the rental car.  A law clerk in another chambers picked me up from the side of the road near the airport, with my laundry bad in tow—forgot I had that in the car.  And I’m sure I was a sight: a white guy in a suit with a laundry bag, standing on the side of the road in St. Croix.  He gave me a ride to the car dealership.

One good result: using my debit card to rent the Jeep from Budget, as noted in Fifteen Days, turned out to be a good thing.  Someone—me or someone else—caused a dent to the front bumper in the rental.  Budget required me to take full insurance if I used my debit card.  So I walked out of the rental office with $95 returned to me—overcharge on the card compared to the actual rental costs.

So yeah . . . I know own a new Jeep.  2009 Wrangler.  Not yet used.  It has 127 miles on it.  It’s yellow—only yellow soft-top or blue hard-top were left.  I wanted soft.  Not sure what to name it.  Someone recommended Woodstock—for the bird in Peanuts.  I could call him Woody.

Total red hasn’t been updated to reflect the approximately $26,000 purchase, partly because the exact amount isn’t settled yet and because it’s not that much, especially if I’ve already put down $4,500, which is already included in total red.  I’ll update that amount once I receive my monthly payment book from the auto loan agency.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

June 22, 2010 at 22:15

24 Responses

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  1. Is the Grindr app working on St. Croix there?


    June 23, 2010 at 15:42

  2. Umm . . . yeah. It works. I tried it when I was here apartment hunting. Problem is that the bulk of the guys it pulls in are on Puerto Rico. Or St. Thomas. But either way, any get-together would require a flight. So I’ve not really used it too often since moving here.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 23, 2010 at 19:38

  3. First car cost -$4000. Nice!

    Minnesota Man

    June 24, 2010 at 00:25

  4. Minnesota Man – I think the car actually costs about $26,000 (or $22,000 if you back out the $4,000). Not a bad deal for a car with 127 miles.


    June 24, 2010 at 23:59

  5. Why did you buy such an expensive car? Seems like quite luxury given your current situation. I’m sure there were a number of other, less expensive options (ie, used)?


    June 25, 2010 at 07:42

  6. Definitely would seem that way. But check out this link. Caveat: posted as of June 25, 2010.

    The only viable one on that site is a 1997 Jeep for $4,000. But that’s a 13-year old car. And any owner is going to sing it’s praises so of course it runs well. The car dealership also showed me a 2004 Jeep, but they wanted $8,000 for it—with a cracked fender and torn-up back seats. So the decision was whether to put down $8,000 on a six-year old Jeep, or put $8,000 down on a brand-new Jeep, then make monthly payments. Easier to sell a lightly-used Jeep that’s only been owned once and is 2-years old than with a 14-year old Jeep or a 7-year old Jeep, after I’ve used them for a year.

    Plus warranties, etc., all that come with a new car. And, of course, I didn’t put the $25K down at signing.

    Cars ain’t cheap.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 25, 2010 at 08:05

  7. I think the problem is that you have to look at supply and demand of cars down there. Yes, it might seem as if the used cars are more expensive than they should be, but that is because they are the alternative to new cars and there aren’t many (used) that people are looking to get rid of (because they don’t want to buy the new ones).

    So, when you go to leave, I think you’re going to have a bitch of a time selling your Jeep. Most people down there either A) want the $4000-$8000 cars or B) have enough money that they’re going to get a new car, not buy your 1 year used one for a high price.

    After the fact, but your best bet would have been to buy a nice, cheap, used vehicle in FL and ship it down there. It doesn’t cost much compared to equivalent used cars there, and then YOU would have the advantage of selling in a market where you could demand a premium.

    Too late now though, and I realize you didn’t really have the time to do the buying, shipping, transferring, etc.

    I hope it works out well for you. It just pains me to see another $20k+ added to the red!



    June 25, 2010 at 09:08

  8. I’ve never been to St. Croix, and I’m sure I’m missing something, but it sounds like it’s not a huge island, and it doesn’t sound like you need to go off-road much. I take it you basically need to commute. So I’m curious if you considered getting a motorcycle, a moped, or even a bike for commuting purposes, and counting on friends or even renting or whatever on the occasions when you need to haul stuff. Broadly speaking, that’s my situation–I don’t need a car to commute to work, but do need one every now and then for other stuff, so instead of buying a car I rent one a couple times a month, and it turns out to cost about what I’d pay annually in insurance. I hate to second guess, but like some of the other commentators, I just don’t understand going another 20k further in the hole…


    June 25, 2010 at 13:58

  9. Well, I can at least tell you that biking ain’t gonna work down on the islands! Much is quite mountainous/steep/winding. Plus, people WILL run you over down there.

    I suggested a scooter of some type, as I thought that would work fine, although it could be slow-going up some of the hills. If not, ANY car would do, you don’t need a 4×4 or anything with high clearance for 90% of the places you’d be going.

    I took my little rentals all around and they were just like the Ford Focus type things, and I didn’t do any (much) undercarraige damage!



    June 25, 2010 at 14:35

  10. I thought about a scooter. Perhaps it’s different on St. Thomas. But on St. Croix, no one has them. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve not seen one. Not even parked anywhere. And besides—how would I “scoot” to work everyday in a suit. Especially now, in hurricane season, when it’s not stopped raining for the whole week. Raincoats cover shoulders and head. Not legs.

    A car is necessary. I’ve seen some deep puddles that pooled after the rain, blocking one entire side of the road, requiring me to drive on the right side (i.e., the wrong side) to bypass it. Others I’ve plowed right through in the jeep, only to have a wave of water rush over the car, blinding me for an instant.

    This may be tropical—but don’t think Miami. Check out this link. I live halfway between Divi and Duggan’s—up on that mountain. Not the crazy high mountain on the left. Clearly, since there’s no houses there. But the smaller one on the right. Somewhere nestled in there is my apartment. Hence the view posted in Signed, Sealed, and Delivered. Ain’t no scooter takin’ me up there. A car would. But just yesterday Lady was complaining about having put $1,000 into her Lexus and it’s still not working well. The roads here are rough. And the decision I made to get a 4×4, with high clearance from the ground, and a new one to avoid potential repair expenses—it was a calculated one. Not a frivolous one.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 25, 2010 at 19:25

  11. A “calculated” decision? Give me a break. It’s yet another example of you buying things you WANT rather than things you NEED. There’s no way that you HAD to have a Jeep (and a new one at that). I’m sure you could have gotten a decent used car for 7,000 to 10,000 dollars that would’ve been fine. New cars are one of the worst investments a person can make, since they lose a significant percentage of their value the second you drive them off the lot. It’s difficult to root for someone who is his own worst enemy and refuses to employ common sense.


    June 25, 2010 at 23:38

  12. Ahhhhh! I can’t believe that you spent so much on a car… you could have bought a reliable used Accord in the U.S. and shipped it by boat… would have been cheaper…


    June 26, 2010 at 01:22

  13. LoL,

    As always, it is your money and your loans to do with as you please. I’m not sure this was the best purchase you could have made.

    1. $26,000 is lots of money. Substantially more than most Americans will pay for a car. I realize your commute is on rough roads but did you really need this car?

    2. $500 monthly payments are a HUGE impact on a 50k salary. Trust me I know. It will be a burden because it is unavoidable. 500 * 12 = 6k a year. Over 10% of your clerk income goes to the car. (not including gas, oil changes, other).

    3. Wranglers do have an awesome resale value, but you will be taking a hit because it is going from new to used. And most of your payments will be going to interest during this first year.

    4. Selling the car will be a hassle. You’ll have to take out a loan to pay off the car before you can sell it. This will be a hassle.

    But as I mentioned – your money and loans. I just think buying a new car was a mistake. You could have paid 8k cash for the other car, then used $500 each month to pay off debt.


    June 26, 2010 at 08:27

  14. Decision has already been made, unfortunately 😦

    If I could turn back time, I wish LoL would have let us know sooner that STX was a possible locale, as I have done extensive research on getting a vehicle there (better to buy on mainland and ship, if you have the time) and really could have helped out.

    But…what’s done is done.

    The sad thing is that I believe that as worldly as LoL is, there is still a fair amount of naivete. Believe me, the car salesperson wasn’t doing any favors in jumping through whatever hoops were necessary to “get you in that vehicle TODAY!” (as they like to say). It was a sale…same goes for the insurer. Believe me, the dealership has insurance agents that are sure to find some type of policy to make sure if they have someone on the hook they aren’t going to wiggle their way off due to a problem finding insurance.

    Anyway, Wranglers are fun. My wife had one. However, they are loud as hell, pretty uncomfortable if driving for an extended period, and shit on gas (last two not a big problem on STX).

    Actually, were I to move there I’d probably get one too. Slightly different financial circumstances though.



    June 26, 2010 at 09:55

  15. Oh man. $26k for a car is a lot, especially when you owe so much! What’s done is done, but I think you should have went with a scooter or used car. My mom bought a used car on craigslist for $3000. It looks new because the previous owner paid for a paint job and the engine works great. We’ve had it for more than a year. It’s going to be difficult to sell it when you leave St. Croix too 😦


    June 27, 2010 at 12:55

  16. I’m going to try to get you all some video footage of a portion of my drive, especially the stretch up to my driveway. That might help clear-up some confusion. I couldn’t have done a scooter—for the reasons mentioned above—and because of the heights. And, frankly, because of the roads and way people drive here. I’ve not seen a single person drive anything other than four-wheels. No one does it.

    T-Bag was correct: had I had more time, I could have bought a car and shipped it from Florida. But at roughly $500 a week for a rental car, it just wasn’t feasible to keep renting and then fly to Florida, stay in a hotel, rent a car, drive to a few dealerships, buy the car, wait at least another week or so for it to arrive, then pay the taxes, fees, and other registration costs when it finally arrived. Check out this link if you don’t believe me.

    So how much more would I have spent in: 1) renting a car until my purchased car arrived by boat; 2) registering the car (taxes, fees, inspections, etc.); 3) the flight to Florida, 4) the car rental in Florida (doubt there are many car dealerships within walking distance of an airport); and 4) the hotel in Florida. All that could have cost me another $4,000—at $500 a week for a rental car here—and over a thousand for taxes, fees, etc. The VI weighs your car and assess fees by weight. Daughter paid $3,000 in taxes etc. for their large SUV. A fellow clerk from another chambers paid just over $2,000 to ship his car.

    It’s just not that simple guys. If I had had a year to prepare for this clerkship—as most prospective clerks get—it would have been different. But I had what . . . two months, maybe? And no time to save.

    Sorry to say, but I’m gonna pat myself on the back here for pulling all this off—with my family’s help, of course.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 27, 2010 at 13:06

  17. Hello again.

    Yep, I agree–like I said, with your rental costs and the time it typically would take to line up a mainland purchase/ship/transfer it would have been a poor financial decision.

    I guess the big ? on whether it was best or not, in your case with the time and all, is whether you might have been better served picking up a used for a quarter or less of the price, which, even though old, would still be re-salable (word?) on STX due to the supply issues.

    But screw it…it’s done, so enjoy the Jeep and the peace of mind you have from having a new vehicle that is under warranty!



    June 27, 2010 at 14:25

  18. Um, what exactly did you “pull off?” You owe roughly a quarter of a million dollars – I repeat, a quarter of a million dollars – and rather than showing some discipline for the first time in your life you walked into a dealership and spent another 26 grand on a shiny new toy you didn’t need. And you’re depicting this like it’s some kind of accomplishment on your part? You’re delusional. But keep patting yourself on the back – that’ll make it easier for somebody to throw a straightjacket on you.


    June 28, 2010 at 00:32

  19. Clearly, I wasn’t speaking financially but logistically. I pulled off the move and relocation, while working two jobs, even right up until the day before I started the new job—shooting emails off during the layover in San Juan.

    But thank you for the comment anyway. You’re exactly what I referred to in prior entries: that people in debt should crawl into a cave and die. No rewards, no treats, no successes. Don’t take credit for anything you’ve accomplished because you still have XX amount hanging over your head.

    BTW: have you settled on Blade? Or will you be returning to Zine or Unconcerned? (Unless someone else is posting from your IP address.)

    Why is it people who post negative, nasty comments feel the need to post under multiple handles?

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 28, 2010 at 07:05

  20. Have to agree with Blade/Zine/Unconcerned: nobody deserves a pat on the back for spending a load more than they needed to. And a car is not a reward/treat. I moved across the country for my clerkship without the benefit of a lot of time or money, but I prepared. As a result I didn’t endanger my own financial help, and I certainly didn’t have to turn to the bank of Mommy.


    June 28, 2010 at 08:37

  21. No, no, no . . . the car is not my pat on the back. The “pat” was merely a metaphor. My stream-of-consciousness commenting. I understand that the title of this post is “My First Car” but that doesn’t mean that every comment under it deals with that topic. What I intended was that pulling off this move in such a short period of time, while also working two jobs right up until the end—that because of all that, I patted myself on the back. The car was not that “pat” nor any kind of reward.

    That said, I’m happy that you, Bouard, were in a good position to pick up and move across the country. And without needing to borrow funds. My circumstances were different. No one wants to have to borrow money—at all—from anyone: banks, employers, payday lenders, friends, or family.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 28, 2010 at 10:03

  22. That’s not true at all – if someone weighed 300 pounds and claimed to be serious about losing weight, I wouldn’t expect him to eat nothing but rice cakes until he was down to 160. That would be a joyless existence. But the occasional “treat” needs to be in proportion to the task at hand – a slice of pizza or a single doughnut, rather than the whole pie or the entire dozen. Buying that Jeep was like scarfing down a box of Krispy Kremes.


    June 28, 2010 at 10:15

  23. Again you’re thinking I meant:

    pat-on-the-back = jeep.

    That not what I wrote. Rather what I said was:

    pat-on-the-back = pat-on-the-back.

    Full stop. The basis for my pat-on-the-back was having pretty smoothly transitioned from one island to another with a very short turn-around time, no savings, and two jobs. And that’s reflected above in my 13:06 comment; I wrote “all realized all I had pulled off in a short time and wrote “for pulling all this off.” I didn’t write “for getting this new jeep” or “for getting a deal on a new car” or anything like that.

    Regardless, I’m done with this topic.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 28, 2010 at 10:40

  24. I’d say chances of Woody getting repossessed before LoL’s clerkship is up are pretty strong. No way he keeps up with the payments.


    June 28, 2010 at 13:23

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