Shit happens...everyone has that mortifying story that they'd rather keep under wraps, right? Feel free to share yours in the comments (anonymously if you prefer) and make us all feel a little better about ourselves. Anyways, last month I was in a minor car accident and not only is that bad enough, but my accident involved me running into a parked car. You might be thinking, how does that even happen? Very good question, but unfortunately I don't have a good answer. I'm not actually a horrible driver, but that doesn't mean I wasn't still (at least partially) to blame. Up here in freezing cold Edmonton, we can find ourselves dealing with some pretty treacherous winter driving conditions, and this was one of those days...
I am a five-minute drive from work, practically nothing, and that fine morning I woke up to a dump of snow and the roads were complete crap (there was something like 180+ accidents just that day in Edmonton). I decided to avoid what I could of the main roads and drive through our neighbourhood, thinking it would be better with less traffic. Oh, how wrong I was! Only a couple of blocks from my house, I was in a single lane going in between parked cars on either side, my car hit a patch of ice and went sideways right into one of those parked cars. I was shocked and felt completely helpless, I've never been in a car that has just lost control like that. Luckily I was going really slow (like 20km/h...seriously!) but it's amazing how much damage can be caused even in a small accident like that. My front bumper had a chunk taken out of it, and the SUV that I hit had a cracked back bumper. It was also a Mercedes (of course) so that wracked up the bill higher than it likely would have been (i.e., my car looked way worse and yet cost less than half to fix). I promise you, there is nothing worse than having to knock on someone's door at 8:30 in the morning and telling them you just ran into their car. Thank goodness the lady was way more understanding than I likely would have been and didn't make me feel any more horrible than I already did.
Now, time for a confession; I didn't have winter tires. I know, I know...who lives in Edmonton with our awful winters and doesn't have winter tires. This girl. In all my 15 years of driving, I have never had them and stubbornly refused to bite the bullet on the expense because I drive so little. The bf has a much better-equipped Jeep, and when the weather is bad, we use that almost exclusively. The only exception is my short drive to work. You are right, though, no excuses.
I promise, I've learnt my lesson though and have already bought winter rims (yay for Kijiji deals) and will 100% have winter tires before the snow flies in the Fall. Any recommendations? Costco seems to be the way to go, but I've heard horror stories about trying to get in to get them put on or taken off. We are also in the early stages of becoming a one-vehicle family, and it would be the winter-hardy Jeep that got the boot. That would mean my car would need to be decked out as it would get significantly more use. More on that in a later post :)
Back to my accident, I knew I didn't want to cover the cost of the accident out of pocket and my auto insurance included accident forgiveness so putting through a claim would not raise my rates. I had made it this long without having to put in an insurance claim so here's hoping I can make it another 15 years with no issues! I did, however, have a $1,000 deductible on my coverage, so I had to come up with that money. Here's where my 'Shit Happens' (aka emergency fund) came into play. Not having to reach for my credit card (ok I did, but only for the points) to cover the cost of the accident was a huge relief and made a terrible situation a little less stressful. Going through insurance also made things easier from a logistical perspective. After just one quick phone call to them, they had me booked into a body shop to get the repair dealt with and set-up with a rental car, so I wasn't left car-less. It took a couple of weeks to get my car back, that's what 180+ accidents in a city will do, but I didn't have to worry about not having wheels.
I can't even imagine how much more stressed out I would have been if I didn't have easy access to that $1,000. Even having to run that balance on my credit card for a few months would have meant additional costs to cover the interest charges. It is shocking to me how many people are in this situation, though. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently released the results of a study they completed in February and the most startling stat to me was that 32.8% of Americans couldn't come up with $2,000 if an unexpected expense arose. I realise this is based on data from the US, but I doubt Canadians are doing that much better. Consumer debt is extremely high on both sides of the border, and this is a big reason why people aren't able to save and prepare for the worst. It also explains my constant need to nag you about paying off debt and building your emergency fund ;)