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Ask Dave

Big Car Debt, Small Income

Christina's mom is overloaded with debt, especially relative to what she makes.

QUESTION: Christina in Toronto says her mom has $35,000 of debt from a $17,000 car and $18,000 in student loans. Her income is $20,000, and she isn't sure how to get her out of this mess. After a little bit of asking, Dave thinks he has found the problem.

Dave's ANSWER: You don't need to have a car that's worth as much as your income. There is no way to possibly get ahead with that. This car has to be sold, and that will get rid of half the debt. Then get her a $1,000 or $2,000 car that she can pay cash for until she can save up and buy a little better car.

Your rule of thumb is this: Never buy an automobile that is more than half your annual income. Every car that you buy goes down in value like a rock. Don't buy a car that is that high a percentage of your income, and you never buy a car that has debt on it.

The other thing is that she has an income issue. We've got to do something on the short term called a part-time job to get her income up. And in addition to that, do something long-term in terms of her career to where, in five years, she can make $40,000 or $60,000 or $80,000. What track does she need to be on for that, or what classes does she need to take? That will hopefully help her move it forward.