Add Some Advice For The 1 Out Of 3 People Who Could Not Afford A $500 To $600 Car Repair Without Going Into Debt


They’re not poor, can afford to spend as much as a SNAP allotment out of their own funds for food.

This is the kind of thing a poor person would say. I stopped at Smith’s, priced ‘Top Ramen’, brown rice, pinto beans:

                     Calories  Protein  Carbs    Fat     Price
  3 Top Ramen            380       10      52      14      0.25
  4 Rice, brown         1600       40     350      15      0.89
  5 Beans, pinto        1170       91     260       0      1.39
  6 Rice+Beans          2770      131     610      15      2.28
  7 25-cents worth       304       14      67       2      0.25

25¢ worth of rice&beans delivers 4g more protein, 15g more carbs, 12g less fat (a nutritional plus), not to mention vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all much better in rice&beans.

Imported makes it cheaper. Produce prices don’t change by season anymore, except for a few items. And produce isn’t necessary to a good diet, at least better than ramen. Eggs are a better buy, so is milk, because they’re loss leaders. Home-baked bread is also a better buy.


In most of the USA, it is impossible to leave poverty without a car. There are charities that take donated vehicles, fix them, and give them to poor people to use. Frequently it is a family that uses it to get to the job, the store, schools, and other things that they need to do. They still have to pay for gas, but the expense of buying the car isn’t theirs.

BTW, this is the type of charity where you can deduct the fair market value of your donated vehicle because it is never sold. I have a couple-a-three cars that I will donate this way.


I don’t see the problem as unique to cars. How many of the people in the survey could afford to repair or replace a furnace, refrigerator, or water heater when it fails? The difference is that the furnace or fridge are stationary items and their failures are contained to affecting their owners. Not so with cars.

Monday morning I arrived to work to find a 1986 Chevy van parked out front, partially blocking one of the 2 entrances to the shop. The van died while driving, was towed in Saturday evening, and the owner being 150 miles from home, slept in the van all weekend until we opened Monday. We informed him of the $98 initial charge to diagnose his problem and began. A short time later I informed him of what the van needed and the total cost would be $380. He fumbled through his pockets, figured he had only $82, said his credit cards were maxed out, and he wouldn’t have any more money until the 20th. He asked what we should do next? So now he’s made his problems my problem.

My first instinct was to push his van out into traffic and wish him well. Instead, I suggested he call some friend or relative to help him out. That didn’t work. He asked if there was any payment plan available. I told him the bank doesn’t fix cars and we don’t loan money. At this point it was clear he wasn’t going to find a solution to his problem, so I was forced to bring the shop owner into it. I explained that we could let him sleep here for a week, take his $82 gas money as down payment to fix his car (in which case he still couldn’t get home), or fix his car and get him out of here and hope he pays later. Some choice, huh? Owner said fix it with the cheapest parts available and get him gone.

And the kicker?? After I get his van running, I have him sign an invoice stating we are going to call him on the 20th and get his card number for payment, and he says “Do I get a AAA discount on this work?”


I am a sucker too often I suppose but would not take offence to the AAA discount question, obviously on hard times and it never hurts to ask, I ran an extension cord to my neighbors house so they could keep the fridge running after the electricity was shut off, good people, hard times, we had a pizza night every friday so we knew once a week at least they got some food, we let their son use our address so he could keep going to the same school, as after being evicted they were living in their car, I still loan him tools for odd jobs he does now and then, they had a storefront church, god will take care, and now have a 5000 sq ft church and school they bought for $4000, from donations, Gotta go help him one of these days I suppose, roof leaked prior to his purchase, was up for raze orders, 25% liveable at this point.

He was a plumbing hvac technician, Hired him while unemployed to help get rid of the galvanized pipe in my 100 year old home, $400 and a bicycle, went from filling a 5 gal bucket from the hose spigot in over 2 minutes to 35 seconds. After a flow test from the water company I was at 14 gpm at 22 psi, so the water service to the main, galvanized is the issue. The horizontal pipes and vertical pipes were not too bad but it was amazing anything even made it through the elbows, as they appeared solid in gunk. Lead service in the street, may be upgraded depending on politics.


Yep! That there is an RV!


Most people I know who live in that situation don’t own a home - they rent. Unless you live in a place with good public transportation (99% of us don’t) then a vehicle is essential…especially if you have a family. People in this situation always rent…never buy. I have a couple tenants who live paycheck to paycheck. Good tenants…over the 10 years I’ve rented to them they were late ONCE. But they don’t have a lot of extra money for disasters.


Just one of my pet peeves to continue this non-car discussion, but I’m a “teach a person to fish” type rather than “give a person a fish”. We have had 50 years of the war on poverty and things have gotten worse because our government focuses on giving people a fish. Nothing wrong with feeding someone first but that’s not the answer. In our little town over 4000 back packs were filled last year for kids that could not afford school supplies and also weekend meals. Something wrong with that. All of the above but the parent(s) need to take responsibility and move if they have to.

The Salvation Army is good for helping stranded motorists in providing emergency lodging, food, gas, etc. but maybe the guy could have cleaned the shop or something as a down payment on the repair.


Are you Serious…I suggest you actually look at what’s going on around you.

People do WANT to work and NOT take any handout…THAT’S A FACT. Sure there are a few that no matter what will always want to be given things…but they are in the minority.

Good paying jobs have shrunk by large margins…and inflation has increased well beyond what the average non-college worker can make. Couples work 2-3 jobs 7 days a week just to meet their rent, food and payments on their 8yo used car.

Go work at a soup kitchen or go to a homeless shelter and actually talk with these people. You do know that many shelters are filled with people who hold down 40hr/week jobs? If not you need to get out more. Many food pantries give out food to families who’s parents work 40+ hours a week. Most people who work in the service industry are part time employees…and a very high percentage of them work 40+ hours a week in multiple jobs…and have a hard time getting by without some help.


That statement completely ignores the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and its effects.

Democrats gave Republicans all the reform they could ask for more than 20 years ago, and still Republicans complain.


Yadda yadda yadda. All of the above apply to some extent. Everyone has their own experiences with folks with no money. I was thinking of the guy though sleeping in his van with maxed out credit cards that couldn’t pay the $380 to get his truck fixed and home again. And at the same time I see a drug and alcohol problem, single parents, school dropouts. While yeah, there are folks working at several entry level jobs, there are also good jobs going begging because either people don’t apply or don’t have the skills needed. We raided vo-tec schools to send everyone to college or for an associate degree where there are no jobs, but try and find a good welder or cnc operator or now even a math teacher.


All you’ve proved is that you’ve seen enough to support an affirmative argument in favor of confirmation bias.

Having recently studied public sector program evaluation, I wonder why the only U.S. Presidents to engage in any efforts to reform public management and administration in the last century were Democrats (FDR, Carter, Clinton, and Obama). You’d think that evaluating programs so we can get rid of the ones that don’t work would be a conservative issue, but the only solutions I see coming from Republicans involve blanket cuts of programs, whether they work or not.

Why do Republicans seem so uninterested in studying reform and fraud in government and welfare programs? For example, it’s estimated that food stamp fraud in Florida is between 4% and 11%. Why isn’t our Republican legislature and our Republican governor interested in finding out the actual rate of fraud? I’ll tell you why: because if they do study the issue, and it becomes public knowledge that the problem is smaller than they estimated, they can’t use rhetoric to demagogue and spread lies about lazy poor people.

If Republicans were really interested in cutting government waste and fraud, they’d do more than talk about it and cut programs indiscriminately, they’d engage in the reforms and program evaluations that only seem to come from Democrats.

But go ahead and cut food stamps based on stereotypes. It will cost taxpayers much more than they save from the cuts, because it will hurt children and the elderly the most.


The same thing that makes McLarens expensive. They’re low-volume production, highly technological, and highly customized to the individual user. A guy who’s a paraplegic might not need the kind of support that a guy who doesn’t have any upper body strength at all needs. By the end, dad couldn’t even lift his arm to brush his own hair. His muscles were shot, so he needed what was basically a racing seat to hold him upright. And this was a racing seat that could recline, tilt, rise up so that he could be at eye level with standing people, leg-elevate, and go completely horizontal.

You can get cheaper chairs, but… Well you can get Yugos too, y’know? The things tend to fall apart, and when you’re relying on it to be your legs…

I would say things get worse because our government focuses on giving assistance to people who are underpaid rather than forcing businesses to pay people properly. Walmart is a great example. They charge very low prices. They can do this because they pay very low wages. They can do that because their employees can afford to work there because the government makes up for their low wages by giving them food/housing/etc assistance. In other words, the tax payers are subsidizing Walmart’s business model. That’s insane. If Walmart were forced to pay a living wage, then government charity would be unnecessary.

Anyway, that’s not really about cars, but it is - because others have talked about how the poor in our country drive cars. Yes, they do, because we’ve set our society up such that subsistence living is very difficult to pull off if not impossible. In other words, we have to work. And because with rare exceptions our public transit system is atrocious, if we want to be able to work, we need a car in order to get to work.

It’s cute and everything to point out that people in third world countries don’t have cars and live in grass huts, but those people also either have a farm out back or are hunter/gatherers, or in extreme cases starve.

We need to get away from the race to the bottom mentality. Pointing at someone in a third world country and saying “our poor are better off than they are and therefore there’s no problem” is not conceptually different from pointing at a $15/hour worker and saying “I don’t’ make that, and neither should he.” The proper thing to say is “He’s making $15 an hour, why the hell aren’t I?” and the proper thing to say with regards to the third world poor is “yes our poor are better off than they are, and that’s how it should be, and we can do even better.”

Want the poor to stop owning cars? Improve public transportation so they can get to work. Otherwise, they have to have them, whether they can afford them or not. End of story.


Why not change society to encourage people to live near their jobs so they would neither have to own a car or rely on public transportation.
I did exactly that for a while. I rented an upstairs apartment down town on the main street of town next door to the place I worked at. Downstairs below my apartment was a pool hall and across the street was the grocery store. I went for weeks without starting my car.
Later on, when I moved to a large city, I still sought out places to live that were walkable to work and I did walk to work most of the time. But then, I didn’t mind walking a few blocks and never understood people who literally had to get in the car to go someplace that was a city block away.


A great many people can’t afford the option of relocating and if they got a pay day loan to enable them to move and their new employer went backrupt the next month they will find themselves in an ever deapening hole with no help… BTW, Citi re-wrote the personal bankruptcy law and now the poor can’t afford to go bankrupt.


And if you really look you’ll find that those people are actually the minority.


I was with you right up until this point. I agree with you 100% about everything else you said, but I often find people don’t take advantage of all the options they have. I suppose what you say is true if you live in the Great White North, but for those of us who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line and rarely see a snowflake, we have other options. It takes me 55 minutes to do my 8.1 mile commute by bicycle. If I drive, it takes me about 20 minutes. It’s taken me a couple weeks to get to where I’m not tired from the ride, but the rides are getting shorter, both in time and perception.

Someone who spends $900 on a high mileage economy car and can’t afford to do the timing belt when it comes due could have spent:

  • $79.99 on a new bicycle (at Walmart)
  • $23.99 on a bicycle rack or basket
  • $30.00 on a bicycle helmet
  • $15.00 on bicycle lights and batteries
  • $12.66 on a portable bicycle pump
  • $7.99 on a a reflective orange construction vest
  • $5.50 on a tire repair kit

…and come out way ahead. I’m just sayin’. Some days I get rained on, but I keep a towel and a dry set of clothes in my locker at work.

I’m a big fan of public transportation, and I agree it should be expanded, but we’ve got other options too. Heck, if I wanted to, I could take my bicycle on a local bus and cut my bicycle ride in half, but I need the exercise.


I agree that in the south such is a possibility. As you said, I live in the Great White North. :wink: Minnesota isn’t a great place to bike to work in February. :wink:

You’ll be hard pressed to find a down town apartment here for less than $1500 a month. Most impoverished people here live in low-income suburbs, and drive to work because the bus system stinks and doesn’t go where/when they need it to.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to do that, it’s great, but especially with the “gig” economy that’s being touted these days, when you change jobs every few months because all the jobs you can get are temporary, it’s pretty hard to always live near work.

We’ve created a society in which cars are a necessity for a lot of people. Failure to acknowledge that makes further discussion difficult.


Now I am not the smartest individual, and my bud who is less smart than me is closing in on a million, So maybe financial training is needed. Now I never had any real training, just spend as little as you can, and save as much as you can. So I am really lucky, wife been out of work or the past 11 years, and we are ok, and can handle the $600 bill. But the fact that $600 is a catastrophe, and the number of people that live paycheck to paycheck, I blame taxes, loss of unions, the fact that situations like Enron can screw the regular guy, Detroit can kill promised pensions, and the income inequality continues to increase.

Now a friend and I were talking about the car jobs in the south, $14 top per hour, I wish the rich financial execs understood you can screw the workers, but then the people who would be able to buy your product are no longer able to do so.


After looking at the article, I think it should be mentioned that 76% of men said they could pay a $5-600 bill but only 62% of women. So it was no problem for 3/4 of the people asked-men at least. If I remember right. I don’t know if I would be horrified at that, in fact seems reasonable that a quarter of the population might choose to put a bill like that on a credit card to spread the payments out.

Credit cards-really these are a pretty recent event. No one ever had general use credit cards until maybe the 70’s. Gas and department store yes but not the destructive Visa and Master Charge.


Until our nation makes a genuine commitment to a really good public transportation infrastructure, cars will be a necessary evil for most folks who live outside of urban centers, and if those folks are poor they will be doing a constant dance of death between financial security and financial ruin in the event of needing expensive repairs to their cars.