Q: I currently own a 1998 Dodge Neon and still owe a good deal of money on it before it is paid off. I anticipate it taking at least 3 more years to accomplish this. I have an interest rate of 14% due to some credit problems I experienced in the past.

I have had nothing but problems with this car! In didn’t help that I was in an accident a few years ago, but the damage was only minor and it didn’t seem to mess up many of the major components. Anyway, my sunroof and front passenger window just up and broke last year and every time I take it into the shop for repair they don’t fix it and make the problem(s) even worse. This is precious time and money down the drain! My warranty recently expired and these old problems continue to resurface. I have no faith in this company, their products or their services! I took my car in for an oil change recently and they forgot to put the cap back on so I had a steady leak for weeks and didn’t even know it. I had to drive over 30 miles back to the dealership for them to fix this mistake. There is no excuse for being this careless (and seemingly incompetent) when consumers trust these repair shops to fix their car problems!

My mom had said to write to the president or general manager of the company to voice my concerns/complaints, but I guess I got lazy about doing so, as I thought nothing positive would come of my efforts.

I recently had an idea to pay off my current car and purchase a new, more reliable one. I realize this is probably a BAD idea. I know the amount still owed on my current car would be rolled into the price of a new car and I’m sure that would be out of my financial reach. I do like the idea of having a car paid off in 3 years and having no car payment, but I don’t know what to do about getting repairs done without being ripped off and finding yet another set of problems with my vehicle. I hate to put more money into the car if it’s going to just break down a few months later. This car isn’t even 3 years old yet so I’m amazed it’s having so many problems (I do all the required/suggested mileage inspections).

I guess my question is, should I refinance my loan to try and get a lower interest rate and just work towards paying the darnm thing off? What advice can you give me about service and repairs?

A: You should first send a strong letter of complaint detailing the history of this car to the owner of the dealership. Demand that these repairs be completed and that you be refunded the cash for previous poor repair jobs.

Next, call the national manufacturer for your car and complain about the dealership. Ask for help. They are highly motivated to keep you as a long-term customer and may help put pressure on the dealer to help.

Finally, don’t take on more debt because of this car. It’s nearly brand new. If you feel that the car may fall under the lemon laws of the state, you can investigate getting the company to take it back.

Your mom is right. And think about this: It never pays to be lazy about your money.