My Fir$t Car

This credit union member was finally spending her own money to purchase a car, thanks to her father’s foresight and the women at her local credit union.


Fair warning, reader – I’m one of those people who name their automobiles.

I had driven my parents’ 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier through two years of high school, five years of matriculation at West Virginia University, and the tailgate of a Ford F-150. The Grey Ghost (I warned you) and I had explored a fair chunk of the East Coast, and we settled outside of Washington, DC. Despite my regular maintenance and my brother's and father's skilled mechanical repairs and replacements, it was clear by the summer of 1999 that I needed to step up and be responsible. I was living five hours from my childhood home and working in the nation’s capital. It was time to buy my own car.

Grey Ghost In Her Prime. | Source:

The late summer and early autumn of 1999 was a fun time. My friends and I spent weekend after weekend test driving vehicles. There was an Isuzu Amigo that cried out to come home with me. I test drove a Jeep Wrangler in Morgantown, WV, that really appealed to my adventurous side, but I couldn’t handle the poor gas mileage. My brother successfully talked me out of the Mercury Cougar, despite that car’s sleek lines and sporty handling. He unsuccessfully tried to talk me into a Toyota Solara.

The Cars That Could Have Been

Isuzu Amigo | Source: Car and Driver

Jeep Wrangler | Source: 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Mercury Cougar | Source: Google Images

Toyota Solara | Source:

Over the Christmas holiday, my father prodded me to finally make a decision because he was concerned the Grey Ghost wasn't reliable enough to make it back to DC. I stopped at the same Chevrolet dealership where Mom and Dad bought the Grey Ghost back in 1990. Popping out of the drifts of white snow was a shiny black Chevrolet Cavalier – my car’s younger, hipper brother. My practical nature kicked in, and familiarity, comfort, GM quality, and solid gas mileage made the test drive perfunctory.

I knew that was the car I wanted. Now I had to figure out how to pay for it.

Thanks to my parents’ sound financial planning and my good grades, I had managed to avoid any kind of serious debt up to this point. I had no student loans or mortgages. My college experiments with credit card debt had cured me of the desire to carry around a wallet full of plastic. Another function of that sound parental financial planning – I had an account at Burger Federal Credit Union ($3.9M, Bellaire, OH) from the time my father got hired at the local power plant.

I had agonized for months about the kind of car I wanted, but the loan process took less than half of a day. While I was breathing into a paper-bag about my first foray into serious adult debt, my father took the dealer paperwork and the dealer's financing terms to the plant with him the next morning. He dropped it off with Wendy and Suzie at the credit union and asked them to help me out. Wendy called to tell me the credit union could offer me a much better rate and payment plan. I treated Dad to lunch at the plant that day, and I filled out my Loanliner application at the credit union office. Wendy faxed the paperwork to the dealer, and my Dad pulled into driveway that evening behind the black-and-black Cavalier I had already named Bram.

My First Car (With My Name On The Title)


Six years after getting my license, I was finally driving my own car and paying for it with my own money. But I couldn’t have done it without my Dad’s help, and his foresight to make sure I was a member of the local credit union.


March 5, 2012



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