State Farm Survey Evaluates “Neighborliness”

A new poll about being neighborly contains some interesting estimates of just how much Americans can rely on the kindness of strangers, or in this case, those who live next door. An effort by State Farm insurance and Harris Interactive polled households to see how many of them would assist their neighbors during tough times, such as in a scenario where unemployment drains family resources.

In the unemployment scenario, nearly half of all polled said they would “help a neighbor look for a job,” though the announced results don’t specify whether that means driving them to interviews or just sending emails from Craigslist. Hungry? 44% of respondents said they would cook a meal for a neighbor. And, for those struggling with young ones, 32% said they would agree to be babysitters.

But when it comes to lending, only 15% said they would lend a neighbor money. In times when money has become intensely personal, that statistic isn’t so surprising. However, it does have an impact on another big issue for many of America’s working poor: transportation. The costs of owning a vehicle are high for most buyers, and when personal finances get tight, transportation is often the first thing to go, especially when households are overextended with high-interest car financing payments that eat up too much of their paychecks.

The State Farm/Harris poll doesn’t show how many of your neighbors would be willing to drive you around, but for many who are trying to manage high vehicle costs, there’s another solution. Good shopping strategies and common sense borrowing can keep you in the driver’s seat, even if you are one of those many Americans who have been labeled “bad credit car loan” customers. Banks these days are likely to reject individuals for auto loans for nearly any reason, including small judgments that mar a credit report. To get around this, take a comprehensive borrower’s approach to car financing. Keep your credit good, and look for low priced vehicles where your financing amount is as low as possible. Instead of paying 15-20% down on a late model, buy an older reliable vehicle and put 75% or 80% down, leaving yourself with a car payment that’s manageable. It can be the difference between commuting as usual or having to ask your neighbor for a ride when things go south.