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How the Payment Box Allowed Me to Buy a Car


By Darren Stevens

I thought my story might help some people who find themselves in a similar situation. I was recently able to get a car because of the payment box when I likely wouldn’t have been able to any other way. Getting that car was vitally important because it allowed me to keep my job, which in turn allows me to pay for my apartment and stay off the streets. It’s a rather long and complicated story, but I will give you the concise version to give you a bit of background.

I’ve been in and out of the hospital for some years now due to chronic illness. The illness has also led to me having huge medical bills and even filing for bankruptcy. Due to all of this, my credit isn’t what could be called close to being good. It’s terrible, and that makes it difficult for me to qualify for any credit or loan. That hasn’t been a problem because I went to an all-cash system that had been working well. That was until my employer decided to move locations which meant that I would no longer be able to take public transportation to work.

The only option I had was to get a car or lose my job. I was terrified because I thought there was no way I could qualify with my credit history. Then I remembered an article Tricia wrote about payment boxes when they first came out years ago. Since my choice was to have a job and a roof over my head or not, I immediately went searching to see if I could find something that could help me get a reliable used car that would get me to and from work each day.

For those not familiar, a payment box is a device that lenders place in the car that give them control of whether or not the car starts. , it allows lenders to disable your car so that it won’t run if you don’t make a payment that’s due. While this sounds like a terrible thing for the car owner, for me it was a lifesaver. That’s because the payment box gives the lender some control over getting payments, so they’re willing to give people like me who have terrible credit a loan when otherwise it wouldn’t be worth the risk.

By having control of the car, it mitigates their risk and allows them to easily disable the car. It won’t start if a payment is missed, and to recover the car (the device also has a GPS tracking system) if a missed payment isn’t immediately made. On my side, as long as I make the monthly payments on time, there is no issue, and I have a car that gets me to and from work. With these safeguards, they’re willing to make a loan to someone they might not normally approve. To qualify, I had to show my paycheck stubs to prove that I could make payments.

There are a lot of people who think that payment boxes are a bad idea. I read a survey conducted by Stoneacre that said the public is still evenly divided on whether or not this is a good idea. It said that 35 percent of people thought the payment box is a good idea, 34 percent thought it’s an invasion of privacy, and 31 percent had no specific view on it. My guess is that those who though it was a bad idea or an invasion of privacy have never been in a position where they couldn’t get a car they needed without this option.

I must admit that I would prefer not to have the box in my car. They claim they only use the GPS capabilities if they need to repossess the car, but that doesn’t mean the NSA doesn’t have access to it. I’d rather there not be a possibility of someone knowing where I am at any time. If, however, the choice is that or living on the streets because I can’t get to my job, I’ll gladly accept the conditions.

So you may be wondering why I’m writing this for BAD. I wanted people to know that not all people who have terrible credit are people who just racked up credit card debt and decided not to pay, or people who don’t understand how credit works. Not everyone who gets a bad credit car loan is someone who is lazy and didn’t have what it takes to organize their finances. Until I came down with my illness, I had great credit, and I’d never failed to pay a bill on time. When you get sick, and your choice is getting the medication you need to stay alive or paying a bill that has come due, priorities change pretty fast.

There are some of us who were thrust into the poor credit world because of the genes our parents gave us without ever intending to get anywhere near it. I hear from a lot of people who say that those with bad credit shouldn’t be able to get any credit because they have already shown they aren’t reliable, and they should live with the consequences of their prior choices. The truth is that there isn’t a one-size fits all designation as to why people have credit problems. And if the system didn’t find ways to try to help those who do have bad credit, I would probably be living under a bridge somewhere instead of having a job, paying taxes and being able to contribute to my community.


  • Reply Dellian |

    If you have bad credit, then you should work on making it better before you apply for a car loan. Yes, it’s tough to do, but you got yourself into the situation even if it was medical stuff and you need to work your way out.

    • Reply Darren Stevens |

      Yes, my credit is bad and yes, I got there, but it wasn’t due to reckless spending. It was due to having a medical condition that costs a lot of money and insurance they wouldn’t pay for what I needed done. The thing is, there was no time for me to make my credit better. If I couldn’t get a car to go to work, then I would have lost my job. It’s hard to repair bad credit when you don’t have a job.

    • Reply Maureen |

      Dellian, you are entitled to your opinion but I believe you are being too judgmental. You can NEVER know someone’s situation until you walk in their shoes. I am attorney that often practices in the area of bankruptcy. Yes, some of my clients ran up credit card debt and have never practiced responsible spending. They are repeat fillers that know how to work the system.

      However, many of my clients have done everything right-they had jobs with excellent health insurance, 5-figure savings accounts, healthy retirement accounts and impeccable credit. One major medical disaster can derail all this. Ongoing care, even with insurance, that spans months or years, will drain all these accounts very quickly. Furthermore, if an individual loses their job because they cannot work the health insurance is the first thing to go.

      Who are you to judge people with poor credit that stems from a medical disaster? If they don’t work they go on public subsidy. Then, people like you will criticize them for living off the system. Darren made a choice to KEEP his job and find a way to make it work while mitigating risk to creditors. Darren, hold your head high and disregard the ignorance of Dellian’s comment. In order to rebuild credit you have to establish credit somewhere-whether a high risk auto loan, a secured credit card, or a cosigned loan (although I am not a strong proponent of this method). What makes me qualified to make these comments? I have more than a decade of experience of working with individuals and banks in debt related matters.

      • Reply Darren Stevens |

        I appreciate your understanding that not all people in debt did things wrong to get there. I think it difficult for people to understand unless they have a personal experience of it. I must admit I was probably like Dellian before it actually happened to me, but when you have to go through it, it changes your perspective.

  • Reply Mary |

    Darren, I haven’t been in your position however I certainly can understand it. My son is severely mentally and physically disabled and his prescriptions costs are in excess of $4000 a month. Most generics don’t work so he must use brand name meds. We blow through my son’s HSA (via my ex-husband) pretty quick. We paid $5000 out of pocket last January so it was stressful.

    Medical expenses can cripple the best budgets. You can do everything right but if you are hit by a car or become disabled, life changes pretty quick. For example, my son was born severely disabled and many years ago, I got a divorce. I had a great job, great credit, paid cash for everything, had just financed for a 15 year mortgage then decided to sell my home and move to be closer to my job. Six months later, my employer had massive layoffs (Sept. 11 anyone) and although I was earning a six figure salary, I had a tough time finding a job because I couldn’t find ANY daycare that would take disabled kids so I essentially couldn’t accept any jobs. (At my previous job, I had an ideal work situation and didn’t need daycare.). I couldn’t just hire someone because they didn’t know how to care for him. While I could hire a nursing agency, there is no guarantee that these people would show up every day and it was very risky hoping someone will give your kids their medications and that they would take good care of him. Home care isn’t always so great. My only choice was to put him in a home for the disabled so I could work or take a 95% pay cut and stay home with him. I chose the later because I couldn’t give up my son and I couldn’t put a disabled little boy in a home. I had to piece together jobs while he was at school. Yes, I had savings but after a few years, it was gone. Anyway, I eventually started my own business and did it while he was at school but it was hard too because sometimes he’d be hospitalized and I had to be with him. It’s been many years now and things are definitely better financially and otherwise but I still watch my budget carefully and don’t take anything for granted.

    Hang in there. Sometimes, we have to do what we need to do. Your point about doing everything right is true. Sometimes things happen to people that are beyond our control and until you’ve experienced some life, it’s easy to look at other people’s situations and pass judgment. Some people are really lucky and never seem to have anything go wrong in their lives and that’s great however most of us need to plan for the unexpected and in some cases, it’s a pretty big unexpected. Best of luck to you.

  • Reply Hema |

    I agree with Maureen. Who are we judge anybody’s life situation? I applaud Darren for choosing to keep his job by making a tough choice. Nobody puts themselves in a bad medical situation. It can happen to anybody in the blink of an eye. I wish you luck, Darren and hope your situation will only see an upward swing henceforth!

So, what do you think ?