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Car Wars – The Search for a New Ride

Published June 5, 2010 - 0 Comments

You may have heard me grumbling nearly 2 weeks ago that my car wasn’t working..  AGAIN!   I didn’t really get into it, because I didn’t want to tell only one part of the story, and it seemed like it (the story) was moving along nicely.  I figured that when it had unfolded completely that I would sit down and write.  A day or two… maybe three…

Well the ongoing saga shows no signs of being wrapped up any time soon, so I might as well start writing before I forget what I’m even writing about.

I had a nice birthday.  The kids came up to visit.  We had a lot of fun.  I told them after supper that I would take them to the park.  It was code for “Run…run you little monsters…  tire yourselves out… please!”

Well, we climbed into the car, fastened our seatbelts, and away we went.  Only.. we didn’t actually go anywhere!  Yes, the car started.  That wasn’t the problem (this time).  The problem is that when I tried to put the car into reverse, it seemed to get stuck part way!  The gear shift refused to move.  Not down.  Not up.  Left.  Right.  Nothing.  It was completely stuck.  So back into the house the kids went, while Daddy threatened the car with a quick, flaming death if it didn’t fix itself immediately.  Have I mentioned how much I truly hate that car sometimes?  When it works, it’s a great little car.  When it doesn’t work, I want to melt it down and make beer caps out of it!

This is the first time that I’ve had car problems in my own driveway.  Normally I have to tow it from the side of the road, which has been expensive.  But not this time.  This time I was still in my driveway.  But there was a little glitch. It was a long weekend, and I wouldn’t have a chance for it to be looked at for at least a few days.

But I’d had enough anyway.  I’ve been telling myself that I wanted to get another two years out of it, before getting my new Lexus.  Well, that plan would have to be altered.  The first opportunity I had, I was looking at a new car.  The hell with my Kia and its random-strandings.

The first car I test drove was a Hyundai Elantra.  It wasn’t a bad car, and the price was certainly in my range.  I’d have no problems with that payment.  I thanked the salesman and told him that I wanted to check out a few other places.  He was a very nice gentleman.

Then I went to Ford.  It’s been awhile since I’ve owned a Ford, but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about them since the Toyota recall disaster.  I know quite a few people who have bought Fords recently, and thought that I should at least go visit them and see what they had to offer.  I settled on a 2010 Focus.  My friend (Remember “Pauline”?) used to drive a Focus.  It was basically a box with 4 wheels.  Not a single bell, nor whistle.  I’m surprised that the windows even rolled down.  That was the old Focus, not the new Focus.  The new Focus is a thing of beauty… well, except for the one in the showroom.  It’s a god-awful greenish thing… I’m trying to think of SOMETHING that looks that colour.. anything…  I’m still drawing a blank.  I told the saleswoman that the colour was horrid, but I’d gladly drive one if they had something in another shade.

I was quite happy with the Focus.  It drove nicely.  It looked great.  But what really sucked me in was all the extra stuff that it had.. the hands-free package synchs up with an iPhone (probably any phone) to be able to make voice activated calls.  That, in itself, was worth the extra $500.  Then she told me that I could control the iPhone music playlists with my voice too?!  That’s it.  Where do I sign?  It also comes with Sirius satellite radio, but I couldn’t care less about that.  Sure, I might try it out.. but when I can talk to my iPhone and get it to play the music that I want to hear, when I want to hear it.  No thanks, Sirius…  Besides, I still have a bad taste in  my mouth from our stock encounter.

I didn’t want to make my decision quite yet, though.  I wanted to drive at least one other car.  Off to Honda I went.  I had bought a 2004 Civic, that my ex currently still drives.  It’s a nice little car.  Very dependable.  Very comfortable.  Very expensive (in comparison to the Kia Spectra I bought for myself around that time).  The new Civics are sweet looking cars.  I sat in it, and instantly felt a very familiar feeling overcome me.  It felt like the 2004 Civic that I used to drive somewhat, although an obviously updated model.  It didn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as the Ford (no hands free synching) but it was a nice car.  What really bothered me about the whole Honda experience was the pushiness of the salesman and his boss.  In 2004, that salesman was awesome.  He let the car sell itself.  And it did just that.  (Coincidentally, I see that he’s at Kia now… another example of how these guys just seem to migrate from one dealership to the next)  It’s quite possible that I might have decided to go for the Civic again, if it wasn’t for the over-selling on the part of the salesman, and my friend kicking me repeatedly under the table to warn me not to get sucked into the trap!  I was finally able to pull myself away from that uncomfortable setting, and escape.

The next day, I went back to Ford and took the Focus out for another drive.  That sealed it for me right there.  Find me a standard, in dark charcoal, with the hands-free system and throw a bow on it.  Daddy’s got himself a new toy!  Of course, things are never that simple.

“There is only one in Canada that meets your criteria”, she told me.

“Well that’s perfect, because I only want one.  Bring it around front, so I can sign my life away, and drive home.”

“It’s in Nova Scotia.  My manager is going to call them and see if we can have it driven here.  It’ll be here by Friday.”

I was disappointed, but not shocked.  It could have been worse.  It could have been sitting on a lot in Vancouver.  I could wait.

So then I went to see the finance guy, who tried to up-sell me to the latest and greatest.  I stuck to my guns in everything except tire warranty.  I’d run into a problem before with tires, and figured that a little extra peace of mind probably wasn’t a bad idea.  Hell, it gets lumped into the car payment, spread over 6 years at 0% financing.  How bad could it be?

Everything was great.  I signed the papers, and went home.

About 10 minutes before I got home, my cellphone rang.  It was the financial guy.

“Do you have a large outstanding consolidated loan that’s not being paid?” he asked me.

“Umm.. no.  I was on credit counseling for a few years, but I completed that  successfully back in the fall of 2009.  Hell, I’m their Client of the Year!”

“Well, Ford Canada Financing shows that you have a large bill that is not being paid.”

“Well, they’re wrong.  I’m debt free.”

When I got home, I called the people at CCS and left a message about what was going on.  It was my understanding that I wouldn’t run into problems like this after I got out of their debt management program.  Yes, my credit report does show a massive sinkhole that probably will never go away, but it also shows that I completed the program successfully, and gives me an R7 credit rating.  It’s specifically designated as “Debt Settlement”.  It’s not great.  But it’s better than the alternative.

Well that was over a week ago, and CCS is trying to convince Ford Canada Financial that I really do intend to pay my car loan, and not drive away with it.  I’m not sure what the hold-up is other than “It’s only been 6 months since you completed the program.”, but I don’t know what the magic number is for qualifying.  But there’s one thing that I’m pretty damn sure of…

My “Only one in Canada” Focus is no doubt being driven by someone else at this very moment.

Bummer  🙁

The one shining light from this story?  I called CAA to send a tow truck and haul my Kia off to the mechanic.  I wasn’t going with the car.  He could figure out what to do with it when it got there.  It didn’t take him long to fix it.  He called me while I was actually driving the Focus, and told me that he drove it off the back of the tow truck without any problem!  Apparently the bouncing on the back of the truck for an hour was enough to knock it back into gear!  It’s been working fine ever since, but I still don’t trust it.  I’d like to get this mess with the financing over and done with, so I can get rid of the Kia.  I even have someone who will buy it from me as soon as I’m ready to sell it, so that’s just fine with me!

I think I need to buy a horse.