Buy Your Next Car Without Bank Approval—But Don’t Miss Your Payment!

I came upon an interesting term the other day. It’s called a starter interrupt, and it’s a device that disables your car if you don’t make your payment. “Buy Here Pay Here” used-car dealers have used these to cut down on deadbeats, defaulters and “skippers”—and the repossessions that really drive them nuts. Some even use a GPS system to track you down if you skip.

Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) means a dealership for those who are “credit challenged,” another clever term in the trade. Those who can’t get credit elsewhere make weekly or biweekly payments at the dealership. Of course, the financing costs you more, but if you need a car, you need a car.

The reputation of BHPH, a service which has grown greatly in these bad economic times, is both killer-dreadful and life-saving. You probably won’t need a credit check. For the good side and the testimonials, see this site.

Many of these dealers employ the starter interrupt, which they sometimes call “asset protection,” and sometimes it is even welcomed by consumers. There are some good arguments for its use, among them:

  • Different payment options, including a debit-card deduction, increase the incentive to pay.
  • It conditions people to pay, making payment a priority.
  • The systems are legal.

And, of course, the dealers are dealing with fewer losses and hassles with owners.

Here’s a description of how it works:

Sales staff program the first due date into the Smart Box [the device], and the system keeps track from there. As time runs out, tiny lights on the keypad shift from green to red, and a chirping noise provides an audible nudge. Codes, once keyed in, reset the box for another two weeks. There is a four-day grace period. After that, the unit kicks in and voila: no vroom.

Some dealers have come to rely on the devices to stay in business. There are several stories here, and you have got to be sympathetic to the problems these guys run into, even while the other side of your brain wonders how people put up with this ultimate Big Brother device.

Thank goodness you don’t have to. Your credit is good, and you can always find the car you want at the right price on DealFinder.

If you needed a car and had bad credit, would you go to a Buy Here Pay Here dealer?


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  1. The bottom feeders have been using starter interrupts for years around here. Just another example of business predators who feed on poor people.

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