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farewell pontiac; some of my thoughts on the present state of cars

I just learned recently that as of 2010, Pontiac will be gone, and that's not the only GM brand disappearing. Saturn, Saab and Hummer are getting ditched as well.

I can't honestly say I'm going to miss Pontiac as there is no car from them I'd ever want besides the 1989 Formula (only because it looked cool and the name was cool) and the Solstice.

Growing up I always saw Pontiac as a GM afterthought. All they ever had were rebadged Chevys that were styled different with crappy body cladding everywhere. The only time I ever saw them break the mold was with the Fiero and the recent Solstice. Funny how the only splashes they've made since 1984 were with small cars.

My opinions on cars these days are a whole lot different compared to years ago.

First of all, all new cars right now suck. There is absolutely nothing out there made by anyone, be it car or truck, that makes me say, "I want that." That's sad, because there's usually at least one car I want, even if I can't afford it.

Second, new cars are too expensive. It costs at least 20k (figuring in taxes and delivery) for an average 4-door sedan and there's no way to buy one for less. So not only with new do you get a car you don't want, but you pay too much for it to boot.

Third, where did the utility go? Want to know a vehicle that's difficult to buy new these days? A minivan. Neither Chevy nor Ford has one. You have to buy a Dodge, Kia or Honda - all of which are stratospheric-priced. Want to know another vehicle that's difficult to find? A 3-door hatchback. Honda, arguably the company that made the best 3-door hatch that ever existed (Civic 3-door hatch), doesn't offer one. And lastly, try to find a real true-blue station wagon - from any company that is a CAR and not a "crossover".

My suggestion for anyone shopping for a new car is simple: Don't.

There is no new car worth buying right now, by any company. Save your money and buy used. Just research the car you want at www.carsurvey.org, and if the reviews don't spell it out to be a lemon, go for it.

My current pick of the moment (and if I could afford it I'd buy one in a heartbeat), Ford Freestyle. This car is a total sleeper. It's got utility, usually loaded, low miles and cheap. I've seen these things with less than 15,000 miles on the clock selling for $9000. So what if I can't tow? Who cares? Want to know what else? People who own it love it. There is NOTHING WRONG with this car and it absolutely baffles me why they don't/didn't fly off dealer lots.

menga.net audioblog episode 5!

In this episode:

aggressive bill paying 101

I'm not a genius with finances but if there's one thing I do know, it's that the best approach to bill paying is to be aggressive. And I mean really aggressive.

Example:

The brake work I had done on my truck recently was financed because I didn't have the cash on hand, nor did I feel like putting the charge on debit. I applied for in-store credit, was approved and had the work done.

This particular line of credit allows 90 days with no minimum payment required, but the minimum finance charge after that is a whopping 21% - which sadly is low in today's world. And this can balloon up to 26% as the terms of agreement state. I knew this when I applied for it, but most people wouldn't bother to read fine print like that.

Will I wait the 90 days then make minimum payments? No. It's getting paid off next week - in full. I won't even be taking advantage of the 90-day thing.

This is how I deal with in-store credit. I only acquire it when I don't have the cash on hand and/or intend to go back for further purchases (which I will because I need some more work done later).

I've found that it's the little nagging bills that prove to be annoying compared to the big ones, because what happens is all the smaller ones pile up quickly if you're not careful.

Over the course of the past several years this is exactly what I've been doing. Each time I aggressively pay a bill, yes it hurts the wallet. But the result is that I have more cash in my pocket later. This is short term loss, long term gain.

Most people are the exact opposite where they will do short time gain, long term loss. I find this to be a ridiculous way of handling money because you lose so much when bill-paying that way.

If you have little nagging bills you make payments on right now and have the cash to pay them off, do it. Just remember that each time you do, that bill is gone. Believe me when I say that's a very satisfying feeling.

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