car limbo

9 November 2009 at 5:22 pm 3 comments

At approximately 8:13am on the morning of October 27, 2009 I turned a corner… and my Kia Rio stopped. There was no brilliant flash of light, no horrible explosion, no smoke exiting the engine in billowing waves… no, just a sudden end, an emptiness, a void where once there had been sound and life. My engine stopped and my car stopped.

Fortunately for me, the street I was on was not a busy one, and I managed to stop right next to an empty lot, so I got out of the car, pushed it off the road and walked back to my parents house, which was a brisk 10 minutes away.

It made me late for work, and was an initial inconvenience that any break down is, but after getting the poor car was towed to the mechanic shop, I was told that the timing belt had gone, and because of the set-up of the car, the engine was toast.

I did some research. These were the numbers I was looking at:

$3,136.50 still owed on the car

$2,521.50 to fix the car

$1,325.00-$2,890.00 Blue Book Value of the car, if fixed.

I determined that I didn’t want to invest any more money into a car that would be worth less than the repair bill once I fixed it. Simple solution, right?


1. Can’t stop making payments, because they repossess the car and it hurts my financial record.

2. Can roll it over to new car loan, but the only cars they will finance me are their “worst on the lot” cars. Not a great option in this economy.

3. Could try and pay off with a signature loan and sell the car for parts, but my father wants to try and “repair it someday”.

So, we come to an agreement: my dad will let me borrow their Ford Aveo until I am able to finish paying off the car I’m not using and can afford a car payment again.

So then comes insurance… I call and discover:

1. I can’t completely get rid of the insurance on the Kia Rio, because the state and the lender require it.

2. I have to transfer the insurance on the Aveo over to my name, which is about the same as my previous payment.


When you find yourself thinking, “Totally wrecking my car in a horrible accident would’ve been so much easier to deal with…” you know you are in car limbo.




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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rebekah  |  9 November 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Good heavens.

  • 2. Michael Critz  |  10 November 2009 at 9:18 am

    My first thought is to go to a more reputable mechanic. Someone with a soul. If you shop around you might get a better deal. While you’re talking with them, ask what parts they need to fix the car. Get specific details. If need be, you can go to a junkyard and buy just the parts you need from there. That should help save on the bill, though it requires a lot of phone calls and legwork for a car you have essentially written off.

    Next, if the car is really “totaled” (in the sense it is a non-functioning vehicle) there should be some legal recourse you can take. Call up your financing company and tell them your vehicle isn’t drivable at all. Ask them specifically what it would take to stop buying insurance for a broken car. Speak to the manager. Make it a conference call with the person you know has the most sturdy voice. Have them describe their presence on the call as “your representative.” That often scares people into behaving nicer than they might not anyway because it sounds like you have legal representation.

    Finally, call the Car Talk radio show (888-227-8255 or 888-CAR-TALK). You story is interesting enough they might just put you on the air. If they do, they’ll probably have some good advice or at least entertain you.

    Good luck!

  • 3. hazelnutmegan  |  12 November 2009 at 1:03 am

    Thanks for the advice, Michael!

    I’ve never heard of the conference call approach — it sounds quite interesting.

    And I love Car Talk! I may just call in!

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