- Posted July 27, 2009 by
Salt Lake City, Utah
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Cash for clunkers ending
My $9000 pickup.
I am the owner of a 2009 PT Cruiser. I'm still deciding how I feel about this life-changing purchase. The PT Cruiser is not my first, second or probably even 10th pick for a car, but it is what I have. I'll tell you how I got here.
I traded my 1990 Chevy C1500 pickup for this car using the new Car Allowance Rebate System - cars, or more commonly referred to as "Cash for Clunkers." I first heard about the program several months ago when all the news media was hyping Obama's "Stimulus Package." I kept an eye on the news, knowing that it soon time for me to move up from the old farm truck.
About 5 years ago, my vehicle died and I found myself without transportation. A difficult divorce left me with shaky credit and fear of taking on any debt. My mother and stepfather own a barley farm in Montana, and they offered me one of the farm trucks. This was a very large chevy pickup with an extended cab and full bed with a camper. It's a great vehicle for rural Montana, and still was useful even in downtown Salt Lake City, even if it's *very* difficult to park. I purchased the truck from them for $2000 and put about $1500 into new suspension parts. When I got it, the truck had 300,000 miles on it. I thought "well, for this amount of money, I'll drive it until it won't go anymore. Then I'll buy something new(er)."
I did have a few maintenance costs over the past five years, but all in all, it's been reliable transportation, easy to make a quick trip to the landfill after spring cleanup or helping friends move large items. I also do a lot of do-it-yourself projects, so it's hauled quite a bit of heavy loads including cinderblocks, a new shed for the backyard and all the compost needed to build up the soil in our garden this year. Sometimes you need to haul a large item, and it really fit the bill. I've put 50K miles on it over the past 5 years, so it has a hefty odometer reading of 353K miles now.
The truck is not pretty, though. The salt used on winter roads here has caused some body rusting. It's simply a very large vehicle, and the visibility with the camper topper is extremely limited.
It started to have some quirks this year. At first the 'service engine soon' light started coming off and on. This was shortly after I'd replaced the fuel pump for the second time (located inside the rusty fuel tank, so fairly pricey to switch out.) It was diagnosed with a faulty computer. It was too difficult of a task for me to change it out, so I've lived with this for a few months. In the winter it was becoming difficult to start. Just this past month, it was sluggish in shifting and in the past week would slip occasionally going uphill. It was perfect timing for the CARS program for me. The biggest problem I can see is that it required the purchase of a brand new vehicle.
I started looking at the cheapest vehicles I could afford, without sacrificing too much safety. My father died in an auto accident 3 years ago and I have a lot more concern about airbags, and the rear passenger seating that my daughters will be using now. The Honda Fit received great safety reviews, but it was still very small in a accident with Fit vs. say - huge gravel truck or even any pickup, they Fit probably loses. The Nissan Versa has great pricing, but you have a car with very bare-bones features. The Toyota Matrix is cute and I was looking into this when I heard about the Chrysler program.
Chrysler is one of the original 'Big 3' automakers who had to declare bankruptcy this past year. I've heard never to buy a vehicle in a year where an auto maker is having financial problems - say a strike. I think that this year can be considered different, however. They've come out of bankruptcy in record time and ready to compete with their best poker face on. The day before CARS became available, they announced they were matching the rebate program.
After researching my pickup, I knew that I could trade my 15 average MPG truck for an economy car on the higher fuel efficiency range, an SUV that gets an average of 5 or better MPG average than my truck (20 or higher) and receive the full $4500 in rebates. I would have preferred a Jeep, since living in Utah lends itself to wonderful outdoor recreation and 4WD is handy for that and snow driving. I looked at a Patriot, which is a bit smaller than a Grand Cherokee and within the mileage range I wanted, however, Chrysler was only going to rebate $3500 on that vehicle for a total of $8000.
The PT Cruiser is a weird car, though. It actually is classified as an SUV class vehicle. I could get the federal rebate of $4500 and Chrysler is also matching up to $4500 on the PT Cruiser for a total of $9000 for my clunky old truck. Even though my heart is truly wanting such an affordable 4WD vehicle, the difference in price for the base models and the difference in reimbursements came to ~$80/mo higher payment or right around $300. This is my first auto loan, so I was able to get financing for the remaining $10K on my PT Cruiser after the CARS $4500 and Chrysler $4500 rebates. I will be paying $220/mo for the next 5 years. It's not a great percentage rate, but it's about as cheap as I'm going to get with no money down and my old pickup to trade in.
I'm not looking forward to carrying debt so long, so I hope to pay it off before my term of 60 months. The lower payment will allow me to do that. With two small kids in preschool/afterschool care and looking at remodeling our home soon, every dollar will count.
Today I drove the car to work and then to get my children after. While the PT Cruiser doesn't have the highest safety rating in its class, it's still rated well. It's heavier/larger than a Fit or Versa so will be nice for road trips to Grandma's in Montana. I never could have afforded this car without the rebate programs, nor would I have ever likely purchased a brand new auto.
I felt good knowing that I'm contributing less to the inversion and pollution in the valley here, and I received assurance that the dealer is working with salvage companies to remove all useful parts from my pickup before it is destroyed. I have a bit of guilt that I'm sending the great white dragon (our nick name for the beloved beast) off to slaughter before its natural death, however, it was really on the way anyhow. I guess this would be more of an assisted-suicide, metaphorically speaking.
I think the program is a great idea, but it's not going to be around long. The salesman I worked with was keeping me updated with the funding level available through their website. I only have his word to go on, so I'm not sure of how reliable this information is, but he said as of this morning, the money allocated for CARS is already 72% used up. If what he says is true, the CARS program funding will run out before the end of the week. I count myself lucky. The Cruiser is growing on me, too. It's definitely a step up from the white dragon for now.
I have guilt about using the program. It's not lost on me that this program is funded by taxpayers and also the GM bailout had government intervention financially. Does it make me part of the financial problem to use this pot of money? Maybe...that's what I'm uncertain of. If I don't use it, though, somebody will and I would soon be looking for a replacement vehicle regardless of the financial incentives.