OK. so I decide to work the system a bit and take my 2003 Kia Sorrento SUV into a Kia dealer in Tucson for a promised free diagnostic test and free "360 inspection", an overall check of the car. The Kia is my only transportation, I bought new in 2003 and it has 108k miles on it. The "check engine light" (CEL) has been on since July. I belong to a couple online forums for Kias, very helpful for free advice on maintenance and repair problems. I learned from those forums that when the CEL comes on, take the car into an Autozone car parts store and they'll take a reading and tell you what the error code is, at no charge. So, I take my Sorento in and they tell me the error is "faulty fuel temperature input sensor". I mention my gas mileage has decreased from 22-23mpg to only 17-18 mpg, and the Autozone guy tells me yeah, if the car's "computer" doesn't know what the fuel temperature is it can't adjust the fuel/air mixture correctly, so my car is burning too rich a fuel mixture. So, I post that on a forum asking if I should just buy a new sensor, which I found online for around $100. A very helpful Kia mechanic tells me that error code could mean just a bad connection on the sensor or "computer", or bad wiring in between, and that if I take it into a dealer they'll confirm what the exact problem is, for free. So, that's how I came to take it to a dealer. But instead of sitting in the waiting room being tortured by having to watch CNN, I decide to check out their used cars, I've been looking for an economical 2nd car to use for driving to work and reduce my use of the SUV, and it would be great to have a 2nd car as a backup. I live in rural SE Arizona, and if you don't have your own reliable transportation, you're screwed. Bear with me below the orange squiggle as I explain what the Sales Manager thought of my financial situation.
I'd looked over their web site which list their inventory of used cars (excuse me, "previously owned"), and spotted a 2004 Kia Rio with only 54k miles on it. You can click on a free Carfax report and I see it has only one owner, and they took it in to this dealership for all regular maintenance. It sounds like the proverbial used car driven only by a little old lady to church on Sundays. They want $6k for it. So, my financial situation: I turn 62 in December and will start collecting Social Security. I figure I should wait until then to have a better chance at financing, as I only work part time, the only work I have been able to find. I only make around $10k per year, but I actually manage to get by reasonably well on that - the only debt I have is a small mortgage on my 10 acre property. I have a well and septic, so the only utility expense I have is electricity, and a propane tank I have filled once a year. I have had to withdraw from my modest IRA savings to cover unexpected expenses the past few years, once I hit 59 1/2 there was no penalty for withdrawals. The last of my IRA savings is in a CD that matures next week, and don't want to withdraw more than a few thousand because, well, that's the last of it. So, I was hoping to put a max $3k down on the car and get financing for the other $3k. One more thing: my income level qualifies me for several government assistance programs. I get $200 per month in food stamps - for now, until the %#@#! Republicans start taking that 'unnecessary luxury' away. More important to me, as a nearly 62 year old man currently in good health is my AHCCCS (pronounced "access")- Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System, our excellent state Medicaid program. My primary telephone service is the Republican much hated "Obamaphone", the free cell phone program actually implemented under George Dubya Bush, I also have VOIP internet phone service I use to avoid going over the 120 minutes per month my "Obamaphone" provides.
So, I wander through their lot and find the Kia Rio. It's an ugly blue, but actually in remarkably good shape. A salesman comes up to me and asks me if I'm interest in that "old Rio", and I admit that I am. We take a test drive and I'm impressed at how smooth everything is. We get back and the sales guy asks what it would take to "get me into that car today". I tell him nothing would "get me into that car" today - my Sorento is in for service, I live out in Cochise county and would have to come back with a friend to drive one of the cars home for me, and that I wanted to put $2-3k down and finance the rest, but I wouldn't have the down payment until next week when my CD matures. And I tell him I'm not going to be easy to finance. He dismisses that last comment with a "nonsense, we can finance anyone". So. I go into his office and fill out a credit app, listing my income and expenses. He looks it over and looks up at me skeptically. "You're kidding" he says, "you only have ten thousand in income?" I assure him that's it, that I only have part time employment. He tells me no bank is going to finance anyone with that little income, so I tell him maybe I should come back after I start receiving Social Security in December. He shakes his head and tells me that he has to submit every credit app to the sales manager, and takes off, telling me he'll be back in a few minutes. He's back in like 30 seconds with a smug looking guy in a suit, who looks to be around 25. He starts off by assuring me no bank would loan me a dollar on my income. He points out that my housing cost - mortgage, property taxes, home insurance & utilities - is around two-thirds of my income, and that with other living expenses - food, health insurance, etc. - that I must have a negative income. I shake my head and assure him that I manage to get by just fine, and he demands to know "how?". This is the good part:
I tell him that my income level qualifies me for food stamps, and that along with a local food bank covers my grocery expense, and that I have AHCCCS. He gets a really annoyed look on his face and says "So, you think a bank is going to loan you money just because you manage to mooch off the government?" I reply with: "Well, the banks sure didn't mind pushing mortgages onto folks who couldn't afford them, in their feeding frenzy for more and more profits. But, now that we've bailed them out I guess they're pretending to be a little more careful now. But, excuse me: 'my mooching off the government'?"
"Well, what would you call it" he asks me with a smug look.
"Well" I begin, "I'd call it I worked and paid taxes for about twice as long as you've been alive. And now that I got laid off after the banks screwed our economy and I can only find part time work because no one want to hire a sixty-plus year old fart because so many younger people are begging for a job, I'm getting some of that tax money back I paid in for over forty years, so that I don't have to sell my home and live under an overpass. So you can save your 'mooching off the government' for some tea party rally or, better yet, shove it up your ass".
He tells the sales guy to escort me off the property. I tell him that isn't going to happen, I'm waiting on my car which is being serviced in their service department. He tells me to go back to the service department and "stay the hell" off his lot, and storms off in a huff. The sales guy has a big smile on his face, and whispers "that was pretty good". So, I ask him for his business card, and ask him if he can do better than $6k for the car in an all cash deal. Still whispering, he tells me I can "probably" get that car for $5k for cash or certified check, drive away that day. I tell him I may be back next week. That's more $$$ than I really want to withdraw from the last of my retirement savings, but I do like that car, and it will save me a ton on gas, and help the planet with a bit less carbon emissions. I don't want to get rid of my SUV, it's been a great car, and I need it to pull a utility trailer I use in odd jobs I get now and then. And while it won't influence my decision, it would be great to see the look on that sales manager's face when this "government moocher" drives away, paying cash.
And, oh yeah, the sales department confirmed it is the fuel sensor that's bad, with an estimate of $350 to replace it, along with $1k in other service they claimed my SUV "needs" I thanked them, and told them I'd call back for an appointment. I've already ordered the part for under $100, and have a great mechanic who will charge me $50 to install it. Doing things that way is how I mange to get by. And yes, you do have fellow kossacks who live on the edge. It's a damn good reason to be a part of the DK community.