Take Your Cash Car from Clunker to Street Legal TODAY for Only $200
When you're starting "with nothing", finding a cheap way to do what needs to be done is key. Most people cut out fun and even skimp on meals to try to make ends meet. But the truth is that with a little bit of research and creativity, you can make your ends meet and have fun while doing it.
That's what inspired me to write this article - to let people know that even big things like getting your car street legal (which changes state-to-state, county-by-county), can be done cheaply. I hope to help alleviate worries that you may have when seemingly expensive emergencies strike.
While freelancing is an amazing, wonderful opportunity that too few people get to experience, it can also put you in a financial bind when things don't work out. And it happens even to the best of us. Clients fall through, emergencies strike, deadlines aren't met, the list goes on. The short version is that life happens whether we're ready for it or not. And when you're freelancing, it can happen a lot harder.
Sometimes life happens when cash is strapped and your car breaks down. If your credit is shot and your funds are low, it's easy to turn to a cash car. But if you've ever had a cash car before, you know it can be really tough to get it street legal.
We were in that situation a little over a year ago. It seemed like every day held a new problem, and we needed to be able to drive.
We decided to get a cash car with the understanding that it would maybe last us a year tops. We found one. The worst part was that it was in great condition. It was beautiful. Spacious. Gas efficient. We bought it for an even $1k - with fees and taxes. The transmission issues that kind of car came with were pretty bad.
Still, my husband took some automotive classes and it was not our first cash car. He made it sound and look amazing, and kept it running long after it should have been dead. (We actually only recently sold it off for parts.) But our problem wasn't whether it was running, it was coming up with the cash to get it street legal once the sellers' tags expired.
That's how we discovered how to get our car street legal for under $200. This advice works whether you're driving a clunker or a brand new car. It's meant to offer temporary solutions that allow you time to save up for the bigger expenses. While it may ultimately cost you more money in the long run, it offers a cheap, same-day fix.
The Right Kind of Cheap Insurance
Going with a cheap insurance place is a great way to start. Due to insurance laws, they have to offer the same insurance as the big guys. You just may not get the best service or as big pay outs if something happens. But if you're here because you have a cash car that you need to get street legal, you probably understand that you wouldn't be cashing in big on car insurance, anyway.
You'll want to go for the legal minimum for car insurance. It won't give you much protection at all, but it is the state minimum which means it gets you driving legally quickly and on the cheap.
If you're lucky enough to have a cheap insurance place right down the road, you may be able to finagle a great price just by talking to the insurance agent. If not, apply online to several cheap places and see who has the lowest rates. While using quote comparison sites can be helpful, they don't incorporate every place. So look around.
Applying online usually gets you an answer immediately and, if you choose to go with that insurance company, most offer a printable proof of insurance. It can be quicker than making a trip in person, and if your insurance is already expired, it's a lot safer than driving to an office.
While insurance rates vary, we've been lucky in never having to pay more than $30 - $50 per month for insurance. It will actually likely be the largest chunk out of your $200. I say this because not every place does month-by-month, most will want to charge you a quarterly or yearly rate.
Getting Your Car to Pass Inspection
I mentioned that we had some experience with clunker cars before. I'll share one of my fondest memories of both a cash car and my husband.
We got the best kind of cash car - a free one. A family member had gotten tired of their early-90's, 3-seater truck and given it to us - title and all. It was awesome and we loved it. But it had problems.
The AC/heater didn't work, the windshield was cracked, the brake light fuses were out, among other things. But our family was just starting and it worked for us.
Inspection time came up and we went to our regular guy. This man had been dealing with my parents for years, and we had used him the year before for a different car. He was willing to overlook the crack - and even gave us the advice that if it got worse to just pop it out and it would pass inspection - but he couldn't pass us with no brake lights.
We were strapped for cash with a brand new baby and unsure of what to do. We went to an auto store to see how much it would cost to entirely replace the brake lights. It was out of our price range.
I was upset, but my husband just said: "Let's look around." He took me to the section for trailer hookups. We found cheap trailer lights that hook up to your car. They did turn signals, brake lights, the whole thing. And they were about half the price if not less than brake lights.
We bought those and some metal epoxy and my husband hooked them up. We went back the same day and the guy seemed pretty impressed. He passed our car and we were able to get out with a cheap fix.
We were lucky to know a guy who was willing to work with us. While there are standards that every inspector has to abide by, workarounds are very subjective. If someone won't pass your car, go to another and another. Find whoever says you have the least to fix, then talk to them about workarounds.
Our guy didn't own an automotive repair shop, but a motorcycle shop. He didn't have anything to sell to us, and so he was a little more willing to talk to us about cheap fixes we could do ourselves.
By contrast, my parents recently went to a car repair shop to have their inspection done, where the guy refused to pass them because they wouldn't buy new tires. He claimed that their tires were too bald - even though they were brand new. My parents took their car to a different inspector and it passed fine.
Join auto groups, because they are full of helpful and insightful people who are more than willing to give you advice.
There may not always be an easy or cheap fix, but it never hurts to see if there's a way around a costly expense. Be sure that all of your car's fluids are at the proper levels, as this will make your car run and sound better.
Registering Your Car for $30
Registering your car isn't usually too expensive. But when you're already dealing with an unexpected financial strain, it can leave too little left over. Even $50 - $100 can be a huge burden to have to pay right away.
That's why we were so happy to discover that we could get a temporary, 30-day registration for just $30. This temporary registration can be done up to 3 times for the same vehicle.
It is typically done when you're trying to fix up or sell a car. Which makes it ideal when you're trying to fix up a clunker and get it road-ready.
This is where things can be more expensive in the long run. If you got the temporary registration 3 times, you've already paid for the full registration but with none of the benefits. I only suggest this method because it's a way to buy you a little extra time to come up with the full fee.
This is also taken from my personal experience for my county in my state. This may not be available in other states, and if it is, it may be more expensive. But now that you know it could be an option, you can ask about it when you go to the registration office.
Getting your car street legal on the cheap requires a lot of research and quite a few nuances. Every inspector is a little different, every registration office has that one employee who is just unhelpful no matter what, and your driving history may mean your insurance isn't cheap no matter where you go. This isn't meant to be a guarantee, but a guide to help inspire you to find the cheapest, safest way to get your cash car street legal quickly.
What are some ways that you've gotten your clunkers to pass inspection? Who's your favorite cheap insurance provider? Let me know in the comments!