I Made Money Upgrading My Car

“I’ve been gone for a minute now I’m back with the jumpoff” – Lil Kim 

We’ve have had so many little wins over the past few weeks, so before I get into the story of how I traded in my car for a better car and made a profit, here are some lil’ victories:

  • I won a scholarship! It was around $2,000, but only took about 20 minutes to complete. Doing that work was the equivalent $8,000 an hour. Pretty cool. I’m applying for another one today. Funding opportunities are very very limited at the doctoral level, some elite schools offer tuition for free, such as Harvard, and although I enjoyed my time at Harvard years ago, I couldn’t see myself moving my family across the country. So, I chose somewhere close, and expensive. Enough about that, the takeaway is it’s always a good idea to shop around before committing to a school, and to seek funding opportunities on a regular basis.
  • My husband and I made $450 in focus groups in 3 days. I participated in a 90 minute interview with one of the largest tech companies in the world (can’t say the name for legal reasons). They are launching products for schools and want school administrator feedback. They told me that any opinions I shared during the interview were their property, so I made sure not to give them my best ideas, but I was candid and gave them lots to work with. That made me $300. My husband and I also participated in a breakfast burrito taste test. We ate 3 different burritos on different days and completed 5 minute surveys after each one. We earned $150 for that. Fun times. The best part is that these opportunities came to us through our emails. I recommend finding local focus group companies in your area and signing up to receive their emails. 
  • I wanted a new look. Call it a new mom identity crisis. I wanted to try short hair, but every time I went to the curly hair specialists’ websites, those prices and limited availability turned me off. Over the past few months I’ve been slowly hacking my hair off. Don’t worry, I received my education at Youtube University, so I’m legit. I’m happy to report that I have a short cut! My hair went from butt length to shoulder length. I’m digging the new look. Also, having a little bit of an identity crisis, my long hair was my distinguishing feature. It’s just hair, moving on.
  • We now have GoogeFi as our cell phone service provider. Although we save money each month compared to Sprint, we were expecting to save a lot more. Needless to say, we are on the lookout for an even cheaper provider. 
  • I got a raise, about $12,000, collective bargaining at its finest. 
  • During contract negotiations, I also asked my association’s president to advocate for a stipend for administrators with a doctorate. This was approved! It brings me joy that now everyone with a doctorate will receive an annual stipend of $3,000. My advice is to look at your contract, see where there is room to advocate for increased compensation or benefits, then ask for it. 
  • I earned a free companion pass from Southwest Airlines! Now, my companion gets to fly free on Southwest until the end of 2022. The free companion pass activates when you earn 125,000 points in one year, which I earned through the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards and Chase Southwest Rapid Reward for Business cards. I booked round trip flights to Chicago for our family for 35,000 points. Had I earned the reward earlier, I could have booked them for less than 20,000 points. Either way, I still got our flights for free. I look forward to booking our round trip flights to Costa Rica, they will also be free.
  • Our hotel stays will also be free for our upcoming trips, we’ll be staying in one of the best rooms at the Hyatt in Chicago, and luxury resorts while in Costa Rica. We also have enough rewards to have our families stay at hotels for free when they visit us. My husband earned these rewards by using Chase IHG Rewards Premier and Marriott Bonvoy cards. He earns the hotels, I earn the flights. DREAM TEAM! 

Back to the car story…

Bye little homie, mama needs a mom car…

Since our baby was born, almost a year ago, I’ve known that my zippy little 2017 Honda Civic was no longer the right fit for us. I’d purchased it brand new (I still regret that decision). At the time, I was celebrating my new job. I was the youngest school principal in the country, and that felt like something to celebrate! I loved the car, kept it in pristine condition, and paid it off in 2 years. I’d planned to keep it for over 10 years, maybe even 20. I never had one issue with the car, and Civics last for decades. They’re hella reliable. That all changed when I realized it couldn’t accommodate a carseat 😦 

I looked at the trade in value of my car, which I’d purchased for $25,000, not including the interest I’d paid on it. 4 years later, my car had 24,000 miles and was in like-new condition. I got instant offers for $17,000. I went to the dealer I purchased it from and they offered me $14,000. I laughed and left.

2 weeks later I looked at the trade-in value again and it went up! My little car was getting more valuable, time to strike while the iron was hot. I traded the car in at Carmax in an hour. I walked out with a check for $18,600.


I knew I didn’t want another car payment. I also knew I had high standards for the new car, although my husband was much more flexible. Here’s what we were looking for:

  • Less than 40,000 miles
  • 2017 or newer
  • SUV that could easily handle off road conditions 
  • Looks good, ya girl gotta stunt
  • Most importantly, it had to cost less than $18,600, including fees
  • Clean title, no accident history 

We looked for a few days to get a lay of the land. My husband knows cars pretty well so he knew which SUVs aren’t really SUVs but are meant solely for highway driving. We eventually settled on Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. We looked high and low and the prices were not too bad but just a few thousand bucks above our budget. We searched for hours each day. We realized that something on our list had to go. 

Eventually, we came across a 2019 Jeep Cherokee that fit all the criteria, except it had a rebuilt title. The rebuilt title means the car was involved in an accident that was deemed too expensive to repair by the insurance company, so they considered it a total loss. Some dealer purchased it, repaired it, and got it certified as rebuilt. We’d heard that rebuilt titles were to be avoided at all costs since they were a crapshoot and insurers wouldn’t cover them. 

Tips for Purchasing Rebuilt Vehicles

  1. Get the Carfax: I requested a detailed car report for the vehicle from the dealer. I saw that it was in one accident, it had hit something with the front side of the bumper, which was damaged and later repaired.
  2. Get an Inspection: I also had the car inspected. I booked a pre-purchase inspection at a highly reviewed business. The dealer dropped the vehicle off, and when the inspection was done (took about 3 hours), the inspector gave me the results. He loved the vehicle and said it was in perfect condition, besides an almost invisible scratch from the site of the accident. This cost $180. Although it would have been wasted if I didn’t end up purchasing the Jeep, it was an investment I was willing to make.
  3. Get Insurance Quotes: I used the VIN to get a quote for coverage on my insurance provider (Progressive). I was shocked to see my rates were cheaper with this car than my last one, even though I’d added my husband as a driver. I later asked an insurance agent why that was, and they said that it’s a myth that rebuilt titles are more expensive to insure. Since this vehicle was newer with less mileage, my rates would go down. 
  4. Read Reviews:I looked at reviews and recalls for that particular year of the make and model, some years have more duds than others. 2019 was a good year for the Cherokee. 
  5. Consider Warranty Needs: Rebuilt vehicles void the manufacturer’s warranty for newer vehicles. Warranties can be purchased at the dealership. We made the decision to forego the warranty, knowing that we have the funds to pay for repair needs that may arise with the whip. We take really good care of our things, and my husband was a mechanic back in the day, so we’re good over here. 

After negotiating $1,000 off the asking price, the deal was on. Altogether, the cost of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee with premium specs was $18,300. Including the cost of the inspection, we spent a total of $18,480. By trading in my little 2017 Honda coupe with 24,000 miles for a 2019 Jeep SUV with 21,000 miles, we netted $120. 
Best of all, when we go on family hikes, my little baby is snugged up comfortably in her carseat while the pup is safely stashed in the hatchback. The heated steering wheel isn’t too shabby either. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: