Monday, January 16, 2012

Car repairs and the Housing Blues

My wife and I plan to look for and hopefully purchase a house this year.  Although we are looking now, current inventory is lacking and we feel the week following SuperBowl Sunday, which traditionally kicks off the Spring Real Estate Season, will yield more desirable inventory.  With the market being what it is, we are determined to find a house that we can easily live in for at least a decade if not forever.

In the meantime, we currently have two automobiles that eventually need to be replaced.  We plan to replace them with newer used cars.  The question is do we replace them now or later?

Nightingale's 2002 Trail Blazer is having problems with the transmission and is basically a gas guzzler.  It will eventually have to be replaced but is in better driving condition than my car.  I've been driving it because Nightingale has been able to take public transportation to work for the most part, paying for cab rides home on the late shift.

My 1997 Mustang needs $1200 worth of repairs to make it safe to drive.  This includes brakes (~$400) and new tires (~$400).  To be honest, if my Mustang were a real horse, not only would it be time to take it out back and shoot it, but the Mustang would probably help load the rifle. 

It would be a game of Russian Roulette to continue navigating Chicago Winters (read: snow) with my current set of tires.  You see all those tire shops that are offering great deals on tires.  The catch is that the size and style they use to draw you in, won't work on most sports cars.  I priced replacement tires at a couple of places and the difference between fairly decent tires and cheaper ones isn't worth the difference.  Plus the whole I'm married now and gotta stay alive for my wife's benefit thing. 

 The question is, do we repair the Mustang or use the $1200 toward purchasing a new used vehicle.  As I see it, if we invest the $1200 into the car, we reduce our emergency fund and/or down payment fund.  However, if we take on even a small auto loan, the interest rate we get for our house might be slightly higher than we could get otherwise and over the life of the home loan, even a quarter percent higher equates to ~20K extra interest paid.

The funny thing is I have a few friends who are determined to help me find cheap tires and brakes.
Most guys have an opinion on cars and many have even rebuilt their automobile from scratch.  So when the testosterone is flowing most guys are like "Oh I can find you a guy who has used tires that will get you through the next six months" or "we could buy the brake pads from Auto Zone and do the work in my garage."

The thing is, that offer to help with the brake pads never see the light of day.  The weather becomes lousy or something comes up that prevents a weekend from being Man Cave bonding.  And cheap tires aren't gonna do the trick because my wife and I occasionally switch vehicles.

Because we were blessed with a mild winter, I have been able to drive my Mustang to work, allowing Nightingale to drive to work as well since we secured the parking spot. This temporarily allows us to defer this decision.  Our luck isn't gonna hold out forever though.

I actually ended up putting in $400 in repairs to the clutch cable and a few other things the other day. My mechanic says the engine is in good shape and that I should keep the car and fix the brakes. I wonder if he has a daughter that I'm putting through college or something.

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