August 19, 2011

FICO score, shmico score. Adventures in post-bankruptcy car buying .

In a nod to Abbot and Costello, we’re going to play a game of vehicular who’s on first.  I have shit credit, plain and simple.  This hasn’t always been the case.  I was able to buy a brand spanking new Mazda Milenia S without a cosigner when I was 22 years old.  It was my first new car, and I loved it.  At the time, my FICO score was 725, and I was proud of that.  However, between then and now, a few things have changed.  I have since been married and divorced.  I was unemployed most of 2007 and living off credit and optimism.  My ex-husband I and I did some major home upgrades by installing new siding and windows, to the tune of about $20,000 in 2009.  Somewhere in that time, we decided our marriage had run its course, and needed to dissolve the union.   In order to try and afford a divorce, we sought help from Credit Advisors thinking it would be better than bankruptcy.  Oh, how wrong we were. 

During the course of our repayment plan through them, they weren’t able to reduce any of our interest rates (which they said they could do) they made late payments on many of the accounts (which we hadn’t been doing prior to signing up with them) and they got us kicked out of one of the credit card’s debt relief plans for slow payment (Wasn't the point of paying them their fees to avoid this kind of thing?  Their entire business is to make these payments and charge customers for the pleasure.  Why is the a benefit to us if they can’t manage to fulfill that, exactly?).  

In the end, it came down to this; in April of 2010, we filed a joint Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  In May, we went before the court and the garnishments began.  Last year, in 2010, our divorce was finalized.  Once he and his girlfriend moved out of the house (long story) I started work on making that go away using any means possible.  That ended up with my stopping sending mortgage payments to my bank in November of 2010.  (That’s about the only way you can get their attention, sad to say.)  Luckily, between now and then, I’ve managed to get my house 80% sold.  The short version of how that’s supposed to work is as follows:   (If you’re curious, or are thinking about trying for a short sale/deed in lieu, you can follow that train wreck here, here, here, here , here,  here, here, and here .)  I’m waiting on final approval from the bankruptcy court and a closing date on the sale.  The end is in sight with regard to my house.  My car saga, on the other hand, is just beginning.

On November 4th 2008, election day to be exact, I took delivery of Donovan, my Mellow Yellow MINI cooper.  At the time, bankruptcy was still in the future, and I signed a 12k mile a year lease.  My ex had this thing with needing a new car every time he turned around, so long term loans were a problem.  Plus, he used to work for the same dealership when they sold Fords, so he “knew a guy” that could work out a pretty good deal on my little car.  I don’t think you could peel me off the ceiling for months after I signed those papers.  I still love my car.  But, here’s the thing.  My lease is up this year, and my bankruptcy has 3 ½ years before it’s discharged.  Financing anything between now and then is going to be a chore.  Well fuck me sideways and pull my hair.  Here we go again!

First of all, let me tell you about Russ.  He and I have been in touch on and off since I got the car.  He was the finance guy on the original deal, and knows my ex.  I make it a point to stick my nose in his office when I stop in for service on a Saturday just to say hello.  He’s a good guy, and I have nothing but positive things to say about him.  He and I have been chatting occasionally about what my options will be at the end of my lease.  He knows exactly how rough my credit history is and that to get me into either a lease buyout, or a new MINI is going to be a challenge.  And yet, he’s very positive about it, telling me that we’ll make something work.  The willingness to take the stress off my shoulders and work for and with me is reassuring. Not that I can’t make my own rain, so to speak, but being able to share the burden and the silliness of that raindance is nice now and again.  I’m much more peacock feather than eagle when it comes to hair pretties.  

Anecdotes and accessories aside, here’s where we are.  A few weeks ago, I stopped in to have some work done on the car.  I had a indicator on saying I had a light out, and wanted it looked at before the service contract expired.  While I was there, I walked the lot to see what was new.  I hadn’t had a chance to see the new countryman up close much, and I was curious what my options might be for a replacement vehicle.  I popped in to talk to Russ, thinking it would be a 5 minute “don’t forget, I’m going to need a car here soon”.  It turned into a discussion about a green 2011 car they’d taken out of their loaner rotation they were selling for a few grand off.  Since that point, I’ve gotten a credit app from my dad since I’m going to have to have a cosigner, and we’ve talked about at least two other cars.  (The green one wasn’t going to work, sad to say.)

Now, in this mix I’ve worked with a salesman by the name of Sean (pronounced seen) about a deal, and have chatted about all number of things.  The most interesting has to be his own ideas about filing for bankruptcy and the fact that he teaches ballroom dancing in his spare time.  Why hello there sir, need a new student?  *leer*.  Sean has also been a joy to work with.  I know they want to make the sale, but there’s a difference between pushy and being a people person who’s good at your job.  He’s been in contact with me frequently about getting a credit app from my dad, since we both know I’m going to need some help on the finance end.  That’s where the trouble came in.  After my dad got it to the dealership, somewhere along the line another guy by the name of Bill got involved.  I get this call from him saying that until my bankruptcy is discharged, there’s not a bank in the world that will offer financing.  *sigh*  Ok, I get it. My situation is challenging, but that’s just not true.  

I can understand how, since Markel is a luxury brand, they might not handle situations like mine all that frequently.  Thing is though, more and more people are going to be like me, so perhaps it’s a good idea to at least know how it’s done.  Telling someone there’s no way they can work a deal is going to lose them customers.  Maybe not customers they want, but you know me.  Knowledge is power, right?

I’ve since called my bank, other dealerships, and even my ex to ask if they have an option for me.  The good news is it seems like I’ll be able to make something work.  My bank seems to be willing to talk to me with a co-signer as the primary borrower.  My ex’s dealership has said there’s a way they can work the deal.  And I still have Russ working with and for me to make a deal happen.  The real question is where, how much, and what my interest rate is going to be.  Some how, some way, I’ll still have a car at the end of the year.  For now though, the exact means to that end are still up in the air.  I’ll keep you posted.

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