The Almighty Dollar

Restoring some fiscal sanity in our -- negative savings rate -- lives

3.27.2006

Your clunker is my treasure

In my family, it all comes back to The Car. I've written about it before, but here I go again...

Last week, my brother declared Mom's 5-year-old Volvo a "piece of junk." The culprit this time was the check engine light. Well, it lit up. The mechanic quoted them a few thousand dollars to repair whatever he deemed was wrong with it. When I asked my brother what the exact problem was, he didn't know. But he said the car's suspension system was shot anyway, and that it was time to replace the clunker.

Clunker? Piece of junk? My Honda was 5 years old when I bought it, and I was thrilled to find it still on the lot. It was in good condition and had low mileage. Driving it, I finally felt like an adult. Before that, I had a 15-year-old car that despite its age, drove smoothly. In fact, I killed it by letting the oil run dry.

Since my parents paid off the car only 6 months ago, they were hesitant to take on new payments. This is actually a wise decision, considering how my parents are already overextended financially. My brother's solution was to lease a new car for 3 years and make the payments himself.

Now I suppose he just wants to do something nice for my parents, and that's thoughtful. But I wish he would help them out with something that seems more fiscally responsible. Perhaps pay for the repairs himself or shop for a reasonably-priced used car. By leasing a fancy car they cannot afford to buy just smacks of Keeping up with the Jones'. It's like playing pretend for the next 36 months.