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  • Writer's pictureKateryna Armenta

Thinking Outside the Box

By Kateryna Armenta

If you have ever lived in Florida, you would know it is impossible to exist here with no car. It is nothing like all the other big cities I used to live in, where you can go anywhere with public transportation.

In 2013 when I had just arrived, it was obvious I needed to start thinking about getting a car to get a job to make money to buy my first car. Did you have to read that again? I had to. How could I buy a car to get a job when I had no money because I didn’t have a job? After six months of living in the U.S., I finally put in enough money to buy a car for cash. But my "friend" suggested I take a loan for a few thousand dollars to build my credit score. A credit score is great, but the piece of garbage that doesn't work and still requires monthly payments hurts you more than no credit score.

How do you feel when you purchase a car? How did you feel when you bought your first car? I know... I felt so accomplished and in love with my first same "friend," who recommended white Saturn. It looked great, almost like new and it worked for exactly two weeks.

Yep. You read it right for two weeks.

And then my escape room experience started. I felt so fooled by this "friend," and I took it back to the dealer who sold it t to me. They wanted to be nice and offered to take it to their repair shop at no charge first. It set there for six weeks, and I had to visit them every week to remind them that my car was still there and they needed to work on it. After six weeks, they finally gave up and said they had no idea what was wrong with it.

I went back to the dealer, asking them to take it to a different mechanic, and to my surprise, they agreed but offered only to pay 50% of the expense. At that point, I didn't care anymore. I needed a car to commute between the three Jobs I had.

So, another shop told me they figured out what was wrong and were able to fix the issue. The dealer came and paid and informed me that there was nothing else they would do if something else were wrong.

I was glad to drive it home that day, but only a few miles into my trip, it started to act as it did with the maximum speed of 10-15 miles per hour.

A long story short, this car visited all mechanic shops I could find, a total of five. The last shop really tried to find an issue and was already replacing one part at a time to see if it would work.

At that time, I was already two and half months with no car and three jobs, and monthly payments for the car I barely drove. Working in TGI Fridays at that time, several same customers would come and spend their evenings there, including car dealers and people from the bank. I talked to people and asked if they would have any solution for this issue and how I could do anything with the car and the payment. I visited the bank, trying to explain my situation, but of course, they didn't care.

After almost 3-month spending an enormous amount of money on a taxi, I pulled out all my savings and went car shopping once again. I would only pay cash this time, so I have a car to make it to all my jobs. I thought I would figure out what to do with that piece of junk later on.

I was able to find a car, but I was short $500. These people listening to my story gave in and sold me a 2004 Pathfinder for what I had on my hands. It wasn't over; I still had an inoperable car in one of the mechanic shops and a $2k loan.

I looked to solve this problem in any way possible. I was ready to accept the loss and just get rid of that car and the headache it gave me. The problem was I could not sell even for parts without a title. I talked to smart and knowledgeable people who dealt with cars and loans, asking them for a solution, and no one could offer me anything. The bank once again squeezed their shoulders to signal me they didn't know how to help me besides they needed to receive a payment from me monthly, so my credit score didn't go to hell from the very beginning.

One morning I woke up with the light bulb shining brightly over my head. I had an idea. I got ready to visit the bank before I had to be at work.

I walked in and asked to talk to my loan manager. I sat down in her office once again. She wasn't excited to see me. She probably thought: "What else does she need?".

"Please hear me out. I think this might work and let me finally sell this car. I bought a new car in cash. I have the title; it is right here. Can you transfer my loan from that car to my new car and release my title so I can finally get rid of it."

She looked at me and then said, " Let me go and ask my manager." The manager returned with her and said sure, we can do this. She explained to the loan agent how to do it, and in 10 minutes, I walked out with one less problem. The title was supposed to arrive in two weeks.

I placed my car on Craigslist for $1000, explaining that whoever is buying this needs to know how to fix it because six mechanics looked at it, and no one could figure it out. I had a buyer very soon, and my headache was sold for $800 and taken to the bank the next day.

Oh, how much easier and deeper I breathed that day and weeks after.

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