Reliable transportation is something that is taken for granted throughout much of America.
In Middle-class America, many youths have their parents co-sign on a car loan. This provides them with a reliable set of wheels while simultaneously building their credit.
These teenagers learn that paying for a car is simply the price of going to work. They learn to budget for oil changes and the monthly car payment.
Throughout college, these young people continue to invest in their vehicles, often working part-time jobs for the sole purpose of paying for their car.
For those below the poverty line, a car is an unfathomable luxury.
These people often struggle with monthly cash flow (which may, ironically, be due to unreliable transportation), and this low monthly cash flow keeps them from qualifying for an automotive loan.
If they do get a loan, it is generally through a “buy here pay here” type of lot. These lots charge astronomical interest rates on vehicles that have frequent mechanical problems.
On the rare case that someone can afford both the high payments and the weekly repair bills, this might be one way for someone below the poverty line to buy a car.
However, these cars typically don’t last very long, and the cycle continues.
The other option is to purchase an older car for only a few thousand dollars.
If someone can save $2,000 and purchase a high-mileage car, this car will likely have regular repairs required to keep it running.
And, should it fail to start, it could leave the owner stranded and late for work. Sometimes this leads to them losing their job.
Since reliable transportation is vital to escape the poverty cycle, what are some ways that Americans with lower monthly incomes can improve their transportation options?
- Work More Hours. This may not be an option for everyone, but working a second part-time job for several weeks may allow someone to save the money needed to purchase a more reliable vehicle.
- Learn Basic Vehicle Maintenance. Knowing how to check the oil and how often the oil should be changed can help lengthen a car’s lifespan. Every week, the belts, oil, antifreeze, and transmission fluid levels should be checked, and an air compressor should be used to air up the tires.
- Find a Cosigner. Sometimes it is easier to find a cosigner if you can bring a large downpayment to the table. Saving $3,000 by working additional hours can make it easier for someone to agree to co-sign on an $8,000 note.
- Use A Student Loan. A trick that many college students know is that student loans provide for “incidentals.” If you shop frugally for books, there is often enough left over on the loan amount to purchase a car. This can be a way to get an affordable interest rate on your first vehicle.
- Qualify For A Higher Paying Job. Switching social classes is not an easy task. The critical factor of success is in gaining a high-value skill set. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a 2-year trade college. Auto mechanics, nursing, radiation therapist, and software engineer are a few of the high-paying jobs you can get with minimal education.
We should not minimize the challenges that the poverty class in America faces. There are often underlying health problems, crushing medical bills, single parenthood, and drug use that combine to create insurmountable challenges.
In these cases, each challenge should be taken on, one at a time, with the view to improving the multi-generational outlook.
Reversing Poverty can be a decades-long process.
In Minneapolis, several small automotive shops offer support for low-income families.
Some of these shops offer basic oil changes and maintenance, while others offer more in-depth repairs.
By offering low-cost car repairs to low-income families, these charities hope to improve their families’ opportunities to improve their situation.
The Lift Garage is one of the most well-known of these agencies. They offer low-cost car repairs. They will also inspect a car for free before being purchased to protect their community from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous car lots.
The Car Clinic is the other agency that is dedicated to helping families. They mostly specialize in oil changes, although if you buy the parts that your car needs, they can often install them free of charge. Since labor costs are often the greatest drawback to getting a car repaired, this is a huge ministry that helps keep local families on the road.
Dakota County Technical College will sometimes offer repairs, but only on the specific area that their students are studying at that time. It’s always worth a call as they often need vehicles for their students to work on.
Keep in mind that you can also run your car by AutoZone or O’Reilly’s for a free computer diagnostic check.
The other option is to make friends with your local street mechanic. It is possible to find these guys who work out of their houses for cash. They offer an affordable opportunity to get your car fixed, but you won’t have any warranty backing up their work.