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med student car dilemma

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  • Avatar oysterblues 
    Participant
    Status: Student
    Posts: 5
    Joined: 08/09/2018

    Hi,

    I’m a third year student in the middle of rotations. My car has a check engine light that requires a repair of $2,500. I have an older car that is probably not worth more than that (’05 corolla). My state automatically fails inspection for cars with CEL. I was originally planning on getting a used car in my first or second year of residency.

    I don’t think the car is worth putting in this work. I have already spent $2,600 in repairs in the last year. It’s a bit of a downer but it’s probably time to move on to a different car. At this point I’m considering a few options.

    1. Lease a car for two years until I can buy a used car. I don’t know much about leasing cars however have read that leasing cars can make sense for people driving it less than three years.

    2. Buy a used car this year. I see some used Honda and Toyota cars in the $8-9,000 range that appear to be good options. I have enough cash (~$13,000) to pay for this right now before the next loan cycle distribution. I would rather pay cash for a car. Any other good used car options? I have been looking at cars.com.

    3. My mom has offered to buy a used car for herself and let me borrow her current car for two years. My mom wasn’t planning on buying a car this year but was thinking of getting one in a couple years. She would sell it used afterwards. This is an okay option but I also dislike relying on my parents so much.

    I’m a bit stuck with making this decision. Any WCI input?

    #156356 Reply
    Avatar Peds 
    Moderator
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 4245
    Joined: 01/08/2016

    1- are you sure? has it been checked by a few mechanics? is it not just a simple new gas cap?

    2- i think buying a used beater is the way to go if you need a new car. however again, going back to #1, are you sure the repairs are necessary and actual? and 2500 is still less than 10K you are planning on spending….

    while youre a med student is the perfect time to rely on your parents.

     

    #156424 Reply
    Avatar BlueCollarMD 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 19
    Joined: 08/20/2018

    I would validate the opinion on the repair.  In terms of value, get a good mechanic’s take on the car and problems you might anticipate over the next few years.

    May be reasonable to buy another one, but in the range you can afford, you could be buying a similar problem.

    Sounds like your mom wants to help.  I could get too personal here, but that’s completely natural.  You are doing your part being a hard working medical student.  Helping your car hassles go away is a small thing in comparison.  I would think about that option.

    #156429 Reply
    Liked by q-school
    Avatar Gamma Knives 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 165
    Joined: 06/25/2017

    I would not recommend spending that much on your current car. Those CEL can be a pain as you can put in the money and it can pop back up. Doesn’t hurt to check with another mechanic. The mom option sounds nice but of course that is personal. Otherwise I would get used car.

    #156439 Reply
    Avatar octopus85 
    Participant
    Status: Resident
    Posts: 222
    Joined: 08/13/2017

    Don’t try to be excessively thrifty, here. You need a reliable car to get to rotations, and your residency program may have you driving long distances between sites in a large city. Buy something comfortable, reliable, and as low maintenance as possible. Your time and tolerance for unexpected life disruption is about to go WAY down, so value those things accordingly.

    #156440 Reply
    Liked by Craigy
    Avatar jhwkr542 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 1288
    Joined: 02/15/2016

    We need a poll.  I vote #2, and it’s not particularly close.

    #156442 Reply
    Liked by ITEngineer
    SerrateAndDominate SerrateAndDominate 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 471
    Joined: 02/01/2018

    I don’t think option 3 is all that bad depending on your mom’s financial situation.  Obviously, that’s a personal convo between the two of you.  If she’s doing well financially and is just gonna get another car anyway, you could borrow it or make payments.

     

    As others have said, I’d at least check on another mechanic’s opinion.  Ask some attendings, nurses, secretaries if they know anyone who is an affordable mechanic.  I’m betting you can find a better deal, but I’d make darn sure nothing else pops up.  I’m no mechanic, but sometimes the CEL comes back on once something else gets uncovered after the first repair.

    Earn everything.

    #156444 Reply
    Liked by SPlum
    ENT Doc ENT Doc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 3458
    Joined: 01/14/2017

    Like all things in medicine, you need to establish a reliable diagnosis first.  A CEL that’s on could signify a host of issues, from a bad gas cap to a significant engine problem.  There are tools you can buy to detect the failure code and that will help identify the problem:

    https://www.amazon.com/Autel-MaxiScan-MS300-Diagnostic-Vehicles/dp/B001LHVOVK

    I imagine the mechanic you took the car to showed you what the problem was?  Or are you saying there’s no code problem but the light will not shut off?  Try taking the leads off the battery and putting them back on to see if that works.  You could theoretically also buy a diagnostic device above and reset the system so the light goes off, take it to the inspector and hope for the best.  Not that I’m recommending that…

    #156450 Reply
    Craigy Craigy 
    Participant
    Status: Spouse
    Posts: 2023
    Joined: 09/16/2016

    It still runs fine?  How long until your next inspection?  And then, how long can you drive it after it fails an inspection?  Usually there is some grace period on this.

    Moral of the story, I wouldn’t rush out and do anything just yet.

    But when you finally have to bite the bullet, just go ahead and lease something for a few years.

    https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/best-car-deals/car-lease-deals

    Trade in your Corolla as the down payment on a Camry lease at $199/mo.  You’ll have a brand new, under warranty, virtually maintenance free car to drive for the next 3 years for super cheap.

    From how you describe your mother’s offer, it sounds like you’d be imposing on your mother.  Don’t do that.  If your rich parents offered to buy you a car though, sure go that route.

    LEVEL 1 WCI FORUM MEMBER.

    #156453 Reply
    Liked by octopus85
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2861
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    The mom option with a twist.
    Make sure you find out what she pays for it and sells it for when your out of her car.
    Pay her back for the net at a minimum. Parents are an excellent source of financing. The key is she probably will buy a big new car with a big chunk of depreciation.
    It’s a smart purchase and smart use of cash.
    Your target should be through residency, not replacing it.

    #156592 Reply
    legobikes legobikes 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 249
    Joined: 05/25/2017

    Buy a 4-5 year old Honda/Toyota sedan for 8k and move on.

     

    But maybe I’m partial to that option because that’s what I did, and here I am still driving my ’05 Accord, 7 years out from the end of med school.

    #156601 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2861
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    Funny thing is battery, struts, tires add up. Those dang Honda’s will hit 300,000 miles. The funny thing is the guy in the golf cart doing parking lot security drives a newer “look at me car”.

    #156605 Reply
    The White Coat Investor The White Coat Investor 
    Keymaster
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 4482
    Joined: 05/13/2011

    Hi,

    I’m a third year student in the middle of rotations. My car has a check engine light that requires a repair of $2,500. I have an older car that is probably not worth more than that (’05 corolla). My state automatically fails inspection for cars with CEL. I was originally planning on getting a used car in my first or second year of residency.

    I don’t think the car is worth putting in this work. I have already spent $2,600 in repairs in the last year. It’s a bit of a downer but it’s probably time to move on to a different car. At this point I’m considering a few options.

    1. Lease a car for two years until I can buy a used car. I don’t know much about leasing cars however have read that leasing cars can make sense for people driving it less than three years.

    2. Buy a used car this year. I see some used Honda and Toyota cars in the $8-9,000 range that appear to be good options. I have enough cash (~$13,000) to pay for this right now before the next loan cycle distribution. I would rather pay cash for a car. Any other good used car options? I have been looking at cars.com.

    3. My mom has offered to buy a used car for herself and let me borrow her current car for two years. My mom wasn’t planning on buying a car this year but was thinking of getting one in a couple years. She would sell it used afterwards. This is an okay option but I also dislike relying on my parents so much.

    I’m a bit stuck with making this decision. Any WCI input?

    Click to expand…

    Car’s dead. Get a new one when the inspection becomes due. If you have to borrow to buy it, keep it cheap (preferably ~$5K, but no more than $10K).

    You have the cash, but it’s really loan money, so I’d still keep it cheap.

    I’d say “Thanks mom” and take her up on it, but have her sell it to you (at a good price if she wants, but most importantly, great terms – i.e. 0% interest and no payments due until you start residency.) Then be a good daughter (?son) and pay it off as soon as you start getting resident paychecks.

    Site/Forum Owner, Emergency Physician, Blogger, and author of The White Coat Investor: A Doctor's Guide to Personal Finance and Investing
    Helping Those Who Wear The White Coat Get A "Fair Shake" on Wall Street since 2011

    #156669 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2861
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    Autozone will run the CEL tool, printout the error codes and the potential causes or the exact cause and quote you the parts.

    Dealerships are the MOST expensive repair you can get.

    Firestone will quote you, but will drop the price.
    If you have the dealer quote, the parts prices you might get as much as $500 off.

    Finding a reliable repair shop will be cheapest but the most risky. If you find one, they greatly appreciate repeat business and can save you a ton.

    #156674 Reply
    CordMcNally CordMcNally 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2699
    Joined: 01/03/2017

    Why exactly are you getting a check engine light? A $2500 dealer repair bill could possibly mean $200 and an afternoon for you.

    “But investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.”
    ― Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

    #156697 Reply

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