We’ve all been there. Stranded on the side of the road, alone or with a car full of kids (not sure which is more hazardous), and unsure of what this little vehicular setback is going to cost you. Aside from anticipating the steep tow truck fees, you start to see repair receipts fall in front of your eyes. Yikes!
I remember the first time I truly broke down in a car. I was driving home from work in congested L.A. traffic. I was driving a champagne gold Oldsmobile Barge (not the official model name, but it should have been). This car only had about 80k miles on it and had for the most part been a reliable commuter vehicle. Except for the fact that it only had a tape player and was larger than a stegosaurus, I didn’t have too many complaints. Well, maybe that it was champagne gold. Years later I still hear about that car: “Man, didn’t you used to drive that huge GOLD grandma car?” Yes. I did. But I have moved on; you should too.
Anyway, there I was driving along and then I lost all power. ALL power. My engine shut off, my radio went off and my power steering went out the window. It was all I could do to put on my hazards and pray that the crazy, tired, annoyed commuters around me would part so I could get to the shoulder safely. Miraculously I did.
I sat there on my cell phone that was almost dead (I couldn’t charge it in my car remember? All power gone.) and tried to call AAA. Once that stopped working I used the dreaded highway phones. They actually work! I was told to stay put in my car with the doors locked because, get this, if a car careened off the highway and hit me, I was safer in the car than out of it. I didn’t tell the officer that I thought I might fare better if I simply ran the opposite direction.
So what was the problem? My
alternator blew because the battery wasn’t powerful enough. It was a
pricey repair. So how do you pay for those repairs? The Automotive-Articles blog has some helpful tips:
1. Be Prepared
The best way to avoid an emergency is to be prepared for an emergency. If you can set aside a little bit of money each month in case of any emergency (be it medical, automotive, or accident), then you will be able to manage any unexpected situations. However, if the time has come and you haven’t planned ahead, there are still some ways that you can get money.
2. Stay Calm
One of the most common mistakes that is made during emergencies is to lose your cool. If you lose your cool, you might forget to use common sense. Use your common sense to shop around. Even if you need a tow right now, consider calling a few places for quotes before having them send someone over. The ten minutes that it takes you to make some comparisons might save you twenty dollars or more. That makes the use of time well worth your money. Remember, you will be late anyway, so take your time in getting there.
When the tow truck driver arrives, be sure that you know where you want to have your car towed. You should also do some comparison shopping for this. You can even call a friend and have them make some of your phone calls for you. If you don’t know what is wrong with your car, have it taken to a mechanic or dealership that you trust. They will tell you what’s wrong, and you then be able to decide how much (it might be all) of the work you want to have done.
3. Review your Options
When you buy a car, you often get a warranty. You might be signed up for AAA or CAA. Your insurance company might cover some of the repairs needed for your car. Before you go about paying for all of the repairs out of pocket, find out what repairs are covered. Then get approval from the institution that will help you pay. It is easier to get them to pay upfront than to get them to reimburse you.
Consider keeping a membership for CAA or AAA. This means that you will have free towing if you are ever in an accident or if you ever have a breakdown. There is an annual fee, so you would have to weigh the pros and cons of membership. I, personally, find that I have gotten a lot back from my membership, including a peace of mind knowing that I am covered while I travel.
4. What NOT to do
If you need to pay for your emergency repairs, do not get a pay day loan. Pay day loans have exorbitant interest rates and will make it hard for you to get back on top of your debt.
5. Get the best interest
Find out where you will be able to get the best interest rates for the money that you will have to spend. If you take out a loan, then you will be able to pay it back in small pieces throughout the year, rather than taking an upfront loss. This also works if you cannot pay for your car.
If you put the car repairs on your credit card, remember that you will probably be paying a higher interest rate than if you got a car repair loan, or if you went to a bank or credit union. Check the interest rates that varying places offer, including at the dealership if you are having your car repaired there.
6. In the meantime
While your car is in the shop, be smart about how you get around. Don’t take taxis everywhere if you can’t afford them! Ask friends for lifts; they will understand if you are in need because of unexpected car repairs for a few days. Take the bus for a few days. Walk or bike, if possible. Set up a temporary carpool with a co-worker (this could even work for you when you get your car back!). Don’t let the expense of car repairs get larger because you don’t have your car.
by Breanne Boyle
Ask Patty Contributing Editor