Every holiday season, we are treated to news reports of how many cars will be on the road, how many accidents will occur, what the average cost of travel to a destination will be, and so on. Not so surprising, following years of caution due to the pandemic, are Statista’s 2021 reports that more than 240 billion United States drivers were on the road in December last year.
There is a story beneath these statistics that bears considering. Especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck, then time with family isn’t as easy as jumping in the car. There is a lot to consider first, weighing the pros and cons before making your holiday plans.
Let’s think about the cost of gas, and mileage calculations that need to occur (I have enough extra cash this month to get to my sister’s 40 miles away, but can we return home?), timing travel within the limited time off or paid vacation days of low wage jobs (we have to travel on the busiest days, using more gas due to traffic), and the safety of your vehicle (does it really matter if we skipped a few oil changes due to limited income?). These are all considerations that someone with enough income doesn’t even consider.
The struggle to maintain a safe vehicle for long-distance travel is difficult for low-income families. Not to mention the worry and loss of sleep for families traveling with children or the elderly. What seems like a common auto issue can cause weeks of expensive headaches.
We’ve all seen (heard first?) the muffler hanging on by rusty metal scraps. Many states enforce laws protecting against noise and harmful fumes from the illegal exhaust. A quick YouTube search about the topic returns pages of videos highlighting drivers being pulled over in the middle of the night. But when you drive an older car, mufflers break.
Unless you’re into muscle cars, a loud muffler is embarrassing when it drives every dog to bark and announce your arrival to the neighborhood. Trust me, I know from experience. When my husband’s 2000 van had a hole in the muffler two years ago, I was pretty sure my teenagers might burst into flames and disintegrate with embarrassment. Luckily we had the resources to fix it right away. They all survived the embarrassment. Others aren’t so fortunate.
Common car problems, such as a window that only slides halfway up or squeaking brakes, can ruin the budget that was supposed to cover the holiday expenses. Basic exhaust repairs can fall between $500.00 and $1,200.00. In some cases, new brakes will deplete over $1,500.00 from a savings account.
For people living paycheck to paycheck, surprise vehicle costs during the holidays mean a difficult choice: Risk a dangerous drive on the busiest days of the year or miss out on spending time with family. No one deserves to be left home alone with a frozen dinner due to a mad muffler!
Sometimes people struggling financially will lease new cars to avoid the uncertainty of repairs. If your family’s livelihood depends on your driving safely and getting to work, then choices need to be made, and budget lines are sacrificed elsewhere.
Web traffic on www.prosperikey.org shows that members are searching for help with transportation, and those who cannot afford it remain financially held back. In addition, we had families who qualified for our holiday gift program last year requesting vehicle assistance and gas cards for simple things like the opportunity to take their kids to see the holiday lights strung through the neighborhood. A little bit of gas money helped with the quality of life.
Prosperi-Key partners offer our qualified members assistance with auto finances, car repair, gas cards, and more. Here are just a few that are ready to help today:
Lee Myles Auto Care: Providing exceptional customer service, superior quality auto repairs & maintenance, expert transmission services, good value, and honesty.
Jiffy Lube®: Dedicated to helping people keep their vehicles running right by providing vehicle preventive maintenance services at more than 2,000 locations nationwide.
Advance Auto Parts: leading automotive aftermarket parts provider that serves both professional installers and do-it-yourself customers.
We are looking for more partners. If you know a business that can help give families peace of mind for their transportation needs, please reach out.
Safe travels all during this holiday season!