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Do you need a CAR to succeed at work?

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

"Having a credit card can have its drawbacks, but it was what saved me last week," said an office assistant and mother of two to me recently.

She explained further: "My car needed urgent maintenance but my salary just couldn't cover it. I had to use the card to purchase $30,000 worth of parts, and another $5,000 for labour costs."

"Wouldn't it simply be better to sell the car?" I asked. She replied, "I might have to, but it's convenient. Without the car, I would have to take three buses to get to work."

Her dilemma is shared by many others for whom owning a car is creating unprecedented financial challenges. There are also many persons who are considering whether they should buy a car to help them in their careers or not.

Here's the low-down on whether or not owning a car can help you succeed at work, or whether it will just be a financial dead-weight, drowning you in a sea of debt and financial stress.


For convenience, nothing beats having your own car, especially if your job involves a lot of travelling, or if you have school children who go to after-school activities. The cost for hiring a taxi or even taking the bus can quickly add up. Owning a car can make travelling quick, easy and possibly cost effective. Also, let's not forget the feeling of pride enjoyed and the status conferred by driving a nice car.


Like Terri, you may find that your budget just cannot accommodate major maintenance costs. On a fixed salary, the rising costs of gas, utilities and general living expenses may increasingly leave you with more month at the end of the money. Also, costs for insurance and general vehicle upkeep may force you to charge your credit card, putting you further in debt.

So, what should you do?

You must decide whether you really do need to have a car, or if it would just be something nice to have. Does your job itself depend upon your having a car? Then this suggests you might receive a monthly upkeep, or some other monetary compensation for its use, which could offset whatever costs you incur.

In a situation of stark financial survival, you have to let the numbers decide, rather than wishful thinking and impractical idealism.

The worry and embarrassment caused by financial stress might be too high a price to pay. Also, your work performance and motivation will begin to suffer if you routinely cannot pay your bills, and are constantly fretting about what might happen if the car breaks down, or you fell ill. Ultimately, your financial stability and peace of mind are everything.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement strategist.

If owning a car is merely going to put you further in debt - with monthly loan repayments and other costs - then perhaps delaying the decision to buy, or making the decision to sell, might be a wise one.