How I paid off a brand-new car in one year

Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.
~Robert H. Schuller

First, off, I apologize for my rather erratic posting schedule. I had a post that I wanted to write a week ago, but I’ve been busy with the house and it just hasn’t happened. I wanted to post something, though, and this one requires a lot less putting together of thoughts. Hopefully I’ll have some breathing room to write the other this weekend.

One Sunday in October last year, I was cooking pancakes for breakfast when my neighbors from a couple doors down knocked on my door and informed me that the apartment complex had flooded badly the night before and that our cars were among the victims.

Sure enough, the interior of my car was soaked, just up to the bottom of the dash. I ate my breakfast, called my insurance company, called my father, sent out the fox signal to friends, and then started cleaning out my car. I threw away what was ruined or useless to try to salvage, and left the doors open (seriously, who was going to steal a half-drowned car?), and attempted to dry it out.

A couple friends showed up to give advice and to help salvage the engine. We got it running, took it to a car wash, and vacuumed the shit out of the seats, hoping to get as much water out as possible. Then I drove it on the highway, trying to drive as much water out of the exhaust as possible.

Then I drove it to work on Monday, and my bosses helpfully allowed me to use a large fan and space heater to dry it out some more. My insurance agent handling the claim told me to expect someone that day (Columbus Day, actually), to have a look. He came by, examined the car, expressed surprise that I was able to drive it to work, and left, informing me that the car was likely totaled. I blue-booked the car at about $6,500, and figured I’d get a couple grand from the insurance company.

Tuesday I got a call from the insurance company. They totaled the car, and estimated its value at $9,000, due to “low mileage.” I didn’t think it was that low, but I wasn’t going to argue. My deductible was only $500, so I got half the value of a brand-new Nissan Versa in exchange for my six-year-old car.

So I bought a new one. I took three grand out of my emergency fund, went to the dealership, found a Versa without all the bells and whistles (seriously, it doesn’t have power locks or windows, how cool is that?), and in a good color. My old car drowned on Saturday night, I drove a new car to work on Friday.

I financed the full amount of the car, minus my $3,000 down payment. I opted for a three-year note, which made my monthly payment quite high. Financing through Nissan netted me $500 off the purchase price. When I got my insurance check, I threw it at the principal, dropping it like a rock. And here in about two weeks, I will send off the check that will pay the last of it.

Naturally, you can’t plan to have a six-year-old car drown, nor can you plan to have your insurance company offer you half the cost of a new car in return. But take this as a case study. Things can go horribly wrong and there’s nothing you can do. Things will go horribly wrong and there’s nothing you can do. But you can prepare. An emergency fund and living below your means will turn disaster into a story about How Fucking Awesome My Insurance Company Is And How Nissan Versas Hold Their Value Really Well Actually.

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