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Why owning a car is getting so expensive
Apr 12, 2024
Episode 1138

Why owning a car is getting so expensive

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Shady car loans are partly to blame.

It’s hard to get around without a car these days. But in the last couple of years, owning one has become very expensive. We’ll explain the deceptive practices happening in the auto lending market. And, we’ll explain how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s power in the Democratic Party was demonstrated by a campaign contribution. Plus, we’ll play a round of Half Full/Half Empty and weigh in on “dumbphones” and adult gap years.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love to hear from you. Send your questions and comments to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart April 12, 2024

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal 

There we go. Nick of time, baby. That’s what deadlines are for.

Kimberly Adams 

Hello everyone, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense. It is Friday, April the 12th.

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m Kai Ryssdal. It’s good to be back. I had a week off. College visits. East coast. Thanks for joining us on the podcast, the YouTube live stream, Friday as I said, and as Kimberly said, so we’ll say it one more time. It’s Friday. Weekly happy hour, Economics on Tap is what we do. I’m totally sober, by the way, stone cold sober.

Kimberly Adams 

Well, I mean that leads us to the next point which is because it’s Friday we’re going to do news. We’re going to take a break, play a game, but before that, what are you drinking?

Kai Ryssdal 

You know, it’s funny. I was all set to have a beer this morning. Now, not this morning. But I’m not in the mood now. You know, sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a drink.

Kimberly Adams

Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal

I’m having water. I have a glass of water. You know.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, that’s very good. Very good to pace yourself. I spent like almost an hour making this cocktail today. This is a forage, borage, forage, borage. I don’t know how to actually say it. Borage fizz, which one of the few flowers, plants that is actually flowering at this point in my garden is my white borage. And some of the flowers are white. Some of them are blue. And apparently, you can make a cocktail with it. And so, this has, I use the board’s leaves to make simple syrup as a base and, also the flowers, and then it’s got the borage simple syrup. It’s got white rum. It’s basically like a mojito, but instead of mint, it uses borage leaves and it’s got lime and then these little flowers. I don’t know if you can see the flowers from the borage. They look pretty.

Kai Ryssdal 

I can. What does borage taste like?

Kimberly Adams 

It’s got a kind of cucumber vibe to it. The leaves are really like prickly and so, I haven’t eaten it much. But the pollinators love it, so I keep growing it.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh yeah. Sorry. What’s the weather there? I’m just thinking cucumber to me. Light cucumber drink, cocktails sort of says summer spring. Well, what’s the weather in DC?

Kimberly Adams 

It was pretty warm and sunny today and yeah; this definitely has a very like cucumber minty flavor. It’s quite delicious. I must say.

Kai Ryssdal 

There’s a lot going on in the chat. Barbara Meaghan is having a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa. Let’s see. JP Ronda is having iced cocoa with the Trader Joe’s peppermint wine cocktail. So, you go.

Kimberly Adams

Okay.

Kai Ryssdal

Let’s see Mike Marsh is having a Lost Abbey Judgment Day quadruple.

Kimberly Adams

You said a peppermint wine cocktail?

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, let’s see. Iced cocoa with Trader Joe’s peppermint wine cocktail. Look. Don’t judge. You know.

Kimberly Adams 

Joe’s peppermint wine cocktail. Okay, I need to learn more. That’s okay. Anyway, go ahead.

Kai Ryssdal 

There you go. There was just a lot. Let’s see. White Mirlo. Whatever that is. I guess that’s mirlo grapes with the skins are gone. Paloma with Tequila Ocho for Alejandro Paris Jones. Let’s see. Stone cold sober is a great name for an IPA. Matthew Carroll, yes. That’d be funny.

Kimberly Adams 

For the people in the chat saying that I’m so creative, I am not. I got this recipe off the internet. I was looking. I looked for borage cocktails, and this came up and there’s a link to it in the Make Me Smart newsletter because I did not come up with this cocktail. But over on the Discord, Tyler is having a glass of slightly under carbonated yet still delicious Belgian triple style homebrew.

Kai Ryssdal

Oh, there we go.

Kimberly Adams

And it looks very nice. Rachel’s having a diet soda. Although she had a bubble tea earlier, but she finished it. So, lots of interesting drinks today. Tamara’s drinking cheap Moscato in the back of my pantry. Love it.

Kai Ryssdal 

Nice. Highway Double IPA from Raphael Seward’s. I’m just going to do two more. Wait, there was another one. Oh, Mike having a Heady Topper. That’s a good beer. All right, I’m done now.

Kimberly Adams 

What’s your news?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, so. So, we’re turning into it, while we’re not already in it. And look, I will try not to be too political in the next number of months, but some of it just kind of has to be talked about. But that’s not really what I’m talking about today. But I kind of am. Interesting piece in The New York Times today about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and how she has now for the first time in her almost six years in Congress given money to, the headline is “Ocasio-Cortez Never Steered Money to a Key Arm of Her Party Until Now.” She has given to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the first time ever. She gave him a quarter million, $260,000, which is not nothing. But it’s really a discussion of her feeling now, and look, she’s tremendously influential after going on three terms now in Congress, and it’s her perception of where the party is and what the progressive arm of that party has been able to do policy wise. What it’s been able to do in leadership changes. She very specifically says, you know, we’ve changed the leadership. Pelosi has gone now. Steny Hoyer has moved to, I guess he’s chairing appropriations or something. He’s stepped aside from leadership. So, it’s just an interesting moment on where the progressive arm of the Democratic Party is. And it is feeling its power. I guess where I am. It is feeling its power as demonstrated by money.

Kimberly Adams 

This whole thing about the Congressional Campaign Committee is the amount of time and energy that members of Congress have to spend raising money. And they have like, those people come after them for the money.

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, there are like dues. You have to pay dues to congressional committees. It’s wild.

Kimberly Adams 

And it ties into the kind of like, committee assignments that you can get, It ties into, you know, whether or what the party is going to do for you on the campaign trail when you’re running. And it’s such a, you know, kind of delicate balance of, you know, the work you need to be doing for your constituents, the work you have to do to fundraise in order to keep your job. And then, you’re fundraising not just for yourself, but you’re effectively fundraising for the party, so the party can reallocate some of those resources to other more vulnerable Democrats. That’s basically what it’s for. Because AOC is probably reasonably safe in her seat, most of that money is going to end up going to people in a lot more trouble. It’s such a fascinating process.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, it’s totally wild. Sorry, just to correct a contextual thing here in the chat. Jennifer Flippin Pierre says, “Didn’t she famously talked about how she could not afford an apartment in DC when she was first elected.” That is true. And congresspeople make what? 175-ish. But all this money is for her political action committee, which is not her money, but it’s money that she and her apparatus have raised, right? So, it’s donor money to her.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, so she can’t use it for rent, anyway.

Kai Ryssdal 

Right. She can’t use it for rent is the point. Yeah, just so we’re all clear on that. Yeah. Anyway.

Kimberly Adams 

Okay, I’ve got two. One newsy, one fun. Very interesting story in Vox that Tony Wagner, who’s in the chat, represent the newsletter today was saying he’d noticed as well, but the headline is “The rise of the scammy car loan.” And it’s talking about people paying just unbelievable amounts of money for cars, and people taking loans for $84,000 for a car. And even people with really low credit getting loans for BMWs and Mercedes and these really expensive cars, where they can’t get a loan for a cheaper car, but they can get a loan for these very expensive cars, but they’re ridiculous interests. And there’s no like cap on the interest that you can be charged, and it’s wild. I’m just going to read here. “A 2021 Consumer Reports investigation found that the lack of federal interest rate limit, combined with a complicated patchwork of state laws, leaves consumers vulnerable to being preyed upon by shady lenders. The investigation begins with an anecdote about a man who received disability payments from the Social Security Administration; he received a loan for a Jaguar with an astounding annual percentage rate of 75%. ‘I don’t know APRs, I don’t know nothing about that,’ the man told Consumer Reports. ‘I’m just trying to go in there and get the car.’” And the lender, “the publication found the lenders often lent money to people with poor credits, sometimes at higher rates, with the aim of collecting the high interest and repossessing the vehicle when the people,” obviously inevitably, “default on their loans.” It’s astonishing. The FTC has announced a new rule aimed at cracking down on some of the deceptive auto lending and sales practices, but auto debt has reached a record-high of $1.61 trillion last year. And wow.

Kai Ryssdal 

And wow. And we should note that auto loan defaults are rising, in part because of this, but, you know, in part for a bunch of other stuff, too. Yeah. All right. So, that’s your newsy one.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, David said in the chat, “Who’s issuing the loan? The mafia?” Oh, oh. My fun one is related to the eclipse, which I wish I had seen earlier on eclipse day, but it’s an article in CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company from their show Day 6. It says, “Decades later, Bonnie Tyler still finds new fans for her hit song, every total eclipse.” And it’s about how Bonnie Tyler who sang Total Eclipse of the Heart basically gets a flood of new attention and streams and things every time there’s an eclipse. So, it says, “Every time there’s an eclipse, Bonnie Tyler’s phone rings off the hook. ‘My emails are coming in Fast and Furious every time there’s an eclipse,’ she told the Day 6 host. That’s because the Welsh singer must have the best tune to listen to in the run up to celestial adventures.” I just thought that was fun. Love that song. It’s so great. Yeah. What were you going to say?

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. I was actually going to say. And look, I didn’t go see the eclipse either. I’m a little surprised that you didn’t.

Kimberly Adams 

Didn’t what?

Kai Ryssdal 

Go to see the eclipse, like in totality.

Kimberly Adams 

So, I was in St. Louis in 2017 for that one and got to see and have the whole experience.

Kai Ryssdal 

Okay. Okay. All right, then yes. Good. All right. Just because, you know, I’m an old 40 dude, but you’re, you know, an adventurous person who I could totally see doing that. So, no, it’s very cool that you did. That’s awesome.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, and I got a lot to do. Alrighty then.

Kai Ryssdal 

We’re going to go. Quick break is what we’re going to do, and then Half Full/Half Empty when we come back, which we will do in a second.

Kimberly Adams 

Someone said they would fly to DC to hear me sing a Total Eclipse of the Heart at karaoke.

Kai Ryssdal 

Look, I’m jelly. We got fundraising coming up. I’m just saying. Don’t volunteer yourself too much.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, gosh.

Kai Ryssdal 

I guess you didn’t. I just did. I guess I just did. Haha. Surprise.

Kimberly Adams 

Thanks, I guess. All right, we’re back. And now it’s time to play Half Full/Half Empty, which is hosted by the very musical, Drew Jostad. Take it away, Drew.

Drew Jostad 

All right, are you half full or half empty on employers using psychometric tests in hiring?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, this was a piece that Meghan McCarthy Carino did for the show earlier this week about how AI now is going to play more of a role in the psychometric tests, which are tests of you know, fit and all that jazz. Sort of the intangibles. Honestly, I’m a little troubled by it. So, I’m going to go half empty, I think. I think it just gets a little too squishy. Pardon me.

Kimberly Adams 

Half empty because the technology has the baked in biases of regular people, but is that any worse than a regular person being biased against in an interview?

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, yeah. I don’t know. That’s a good question. That’s a good question. Edward McNally in the chat, “As a psychologist, it really concerns me. Really. “So, you know, that’s the expert.

Kimberly Adams 

All right, what’s next?

Drew Jostad 

Next story comes from The New Yorker where they profiled a couple that run company called Dumbwireless that offers things like light phones and other non-smartphones. Are you half full or half empty on a dumb phone boom?

Kimberly Adams 

Half full.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. I’ll go. Oh, where we go. We had the same thought at the same time. Go ahead.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, half full. I mean, my thumb hurts right now, and it’s been hurting for a week. And I know it is because I use my phone too much. And I have been actively trying to swipe less and use my other hand, and, you know, do my little exercises and things. But it’s too much time on the phone. And I want to spend more time with people. So yes, half full on the dumb phone.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I’m half full as well. Kashmir Hill who writes for The New York Times on technology and humanity, I guess, had a piece about this and what it has done to her life to get a dumb phone. And basically, it has changed her life. And she’s way less, you know, head down with the phone and much more aware so yeah. Although, to be clear, I’m not giving up my smartphone, but I’m pro dumb phone. How about that? Right?

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, Tyler from Madison in Discord says, “I really want to dumb TV but couldn’t find a new one when I needed it a few years ago.” That’s why I haven’t replaced my TV because I don’t want a TV with a camera in it.

Kai Ryssdal 

No, totally smart TVs. No such thing as a dumb TV anymore. You can’t buy one.

Kimberly Adams 

Alright, what’s next?

Drew Jostad 

Okay, a new rule from the Federal Communications Commission requires broadband facts from ISPs to be displayed, like nutrition labels, showing prices, speeds, and installation fees. Are you half full or half empty?

Kimberly Adams 

Half full on the intent. Half empty on the implementation because the ISPs are already trying to find ways around it. So.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, they’re already trying to hide that data that they have to now sort of disclose. Exactly what Kimberly said. Half full on the idea, but the implementation will not really work. Truly.

Kimberly Adams 

All right, what’s next?

Drew Jostad 

Next one. Apparently, the logo for Columbia Sportswear was featured on the lunar lander from Intuitive Machines. Are you half full or half empty on advertising in space?

Kai Ryssdal 

Seriously. I have not heard of that.

Kimberly Adams 

I think it’s inevitable. This is in all the sci-fi movies about ads on spaceships. And I mean, every time SpaceX does something that’s giant branding, Virgin Galactic, I mean, it’s not like we haven’t had it. Let’s see, I’m going to go half full. Let’s fund it however we can.

Kai Ryssdal 

I think that’s fair. Yeah. In Colombia. Okay, sorry, I’m just reading the article that is on our website that that we put up there. “In Colombia’s case, part of Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander was layered with patented material called Omni-Heat, which can be found in their bulkier coats, and was said to be ‘protecting the lander from extreme temperatures in space,’ according to the company’s promotional web campaign.” Whether that’s actually true or not. That’s why they did it. I guess. I guess I’m full. I guess I’m half full. I mean, we got to pay for it. It’s expensive, and we need more of it. So, okay. I think that’s fine.

Kimberly Adams 

I’ll take it. All right. Is this the last one?

Drew Jostad

Correct.

Kimberly Adams

Let us get ready for the poll.

Drew Jostad 

All right. This story comes from the Associated Press, as some people are reevaluating their relationship with work post-pandemic, are you half full or half empty on adult gap years?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, was there news of that this week, Drew?

Drew Jostad 

I don’t think there’s anything newsy. It’s just kind of a profile of a handful of people who have been exploring sabbaticals of different kinds.

Kimberly Adams 

I have heard more and more people doing like, sabbaticals or quasi-sabbaticals, or, you know, kind of taking reset moments. I mean, that’s what fellowships are for in journalism. There’s a lot of people who will take time off to do these fellowships to kind of like, reevaluate their career and do some deep thinking and, you know, course correct or whatever. I also saw an article this week about some cruise line. It may even be Virgin Atlantic. I’m not sure. That said, they’re basically offering month long cruises for remote workers, where if you have remote work optional, you can work from the cruise ship, and travel around while you do it, and it’s like five grand or something like that. Let me find this. Let’s see. But yeah.

Kai Ryssdal 

You look that up. I’ll add this comment from listener Bridget Bodnar in the Slack. She says, “It’s like family leave, but without the newborn,” which is a pretty good way of saying it. Right? Right. I mean, I kind of get that.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, here it is Virgin. Month long cruise for remote workers in the Mediterranean.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, there’s lots of comments on this in the chat. Five months off from practicing law to volunteer at school and travel with family.

Kimberly Adams 

Nice.

Kai Ryssdal

Yeah.

Kimberly Adams

Someone says, “I’m not getting no work done on a cruise. Lol.”

Kai Ryssdal 

Marine says, “I’ve done a full month from work.” So, there’s that. Very interesting. Lots of comments on this one. Lots of comments on this one. Alright, so where are you on this, Kimberly Adams?

Kimberly Adams 

I’m half full. I mean, I would love for everyone to be able to rest and rejuvenate and have the flexibility to do something meaningful for themselves while they kind of take a moment in their career. But I don’t necessarily think that’s going to happen for the vast majority of people. But I will be wistfully half full. What about you?

Kai Ryssdal 

I am half full, with two concerns that are specifically my personal issues. Number one, it’d be tough to go a year without pay. Are we getting paid for this thing? Number one. And number two.

Kimberly Adams

Someone else pointed out health insurance.

Kai Ryssdal

Yeah, right. Totally. Yeah, I mean, totally. Right? All those things that come with your employment, you know, you kind of need them. Paycheck, health insurance, benefits, all that jazz. Number two, I don’t handle idleness well. And so, I would have to like, program myself. You know, a couple of days off here and there doing nothing. And you know, burying my feet in the sand is fine, but I’d have to like do stuff. I’d have to like travel or have a plan or something. And I suspect a lot of people are probably a little bit like that. You know?

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, sort of you fantasize about time off, but then like, get stir crazy. You hear this from a lot of people who retire, and they’re like, oh I can’t wait to retire and then they’re just like, and I have to get out of the house.

Kai Ryssdal 

Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, totally. All right. Well, there you go. So, the poll on adult gap years. Half full 83% of you. Half empty 16%. Not at all surprising. There were a lot of a lot of comment on this in the chat. It’s a great idea. The execution I think would be challenging for me and other people, I think with some specific problems, but what a great idea if we could figure out a way to do that.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, especially if you have kids. Is it really a gap year if you still have to deal with like childcare or eldercare or something like that? All right.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. Alright, so that is it for us on this Friday. Questions, comments or thoughts? Critiques? Take your pick. Just be gentle. You know how to get a hold of us. Voicemail is 508-U-B-SMART. OR email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org.

Kimberly Adams 

Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s episode was engineered by Charlton Thorp. And our intern is Thalia Menchaca.

Kai Ryssdal 

The team behind our Friday game is Emily Macune and Antoinette Brock. Marissa Cabrera is our senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital and On-Demand.

Kimberly Adams 

Enjoy the cherry blossom decorations. They’re coming down this weekend.

Kai Ryssdal

Oh, are they?

Kimberly Adams

The last of the cherry blossoms in DC are falling away, so shall the cherry blossom decorations.

Kai Ryssdal 

And they’ll be back. But you guys get like 250 new trees. I saw that.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes, we are getting new trees. That’s exciting.

Kai Ryssdal 

Right? For the ones hat are being replaced by the construction project. Yeah, so that’ll be alright.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes.

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