Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January Spending Freeze, Day 16: Goal #2 - A new family vehicle

Our second and larger immediate goal is to purchase with cash a hybrid vehicle we can all ride in together.  We are a two-car family.  While we have discussed the logistics of having only one car, it isn't something we want to do in our current situation.  

Our main vehicle is our van, a Hyundai Entourage.  We bought the Hyundai after our well-loved-and-paid-off 2004 Honda Odyssey, Broke Ass Betty, had her transmission go out somewhere between 190,000 and 200,000 miles.  I wanted to have her repaired and carry on driving her for several more years, but a new transmission is expensive.  We worried that we might wipe out our savings having that repaired, only to have another expensive problem pop up, at which point we would be broke AND vanless.  So we went shopping at the dealerships, which I detest.  Nearly all of the salesmen wanted to know "what kind of monthly payment we were looking for," and seemed offended when we insisted on discussing the actual price of the vehicles.  Our refusal to take on a five year financial obligation seemed completely foreign and confusing to them.  We left most of the dealerships within five minutes of arriving.

September 2014.  Goodbye, sweet paid-off Betty.  I will miss you!

I wish we had looked for a van on Craigslist or Facebook from a private seller, and if we'd had more cash saved, we probably would have.  But we did find the Hyundai for a somewhat reasonable price, and then paid it off within a year of taking out the loan.  It did improve our credit score, so it's water under the bridge and I'm satisfied.

...And hello, Miss Honey the Hyundai.

The kids were thrilled when we got the new van.  This is how I want to feel about our next car (because it'll be the right car for us, bought with CASH)!

Our other vehicle is my husband's pickup truck, an older Dodge Dakota.  We found it on Facebook from a private seller and got a good deal.  Having a truck comes in handy occasionally, but there are several issues with our current vehicle situation.

First, the truck and the van use up far more gas than necessary.  Maybe once or twice a year, my husband hauls something in the truck that he couldn't fit in the trunk of a car.  Even that is sometimes a favor for a friend who asked him to do it because he had a truck.  We can fit most bulky things in our van anyway, especially if we lay the seats down.  99% of his truck driving is just back and forth to his work, which is IT/computer related and does not require a truck in the slightest.  As for the van, I often drive only myself 30+ miles round trip in it, for things like play rehearsals.  This is incredibly inefficient!  Even when we are all five going somewhere together, I would love to have the option of using less gas.

Second, the truck is manual transmission, and I can't drive it.  I'd like to learn, but that would require childcare to be arranged, so we haven't gotten around to it yet.  This means that I must drive the van everywhere I go, even if I'm leaving the children home with Jordan, which leaves him stranded due to the third problem...

The kids can't ride in the truck.  Well, one of them can, but that's not much help.  Over the past several years, whenever our vans have had issues and we've waited for them to be fixed, we've had some rather stressful (or at the very least, annoying) times.  One evening this past summer, our van broke down when the girls and I were on the way home from a Wizard of Oz rehearsal.  I found a safe place to pull over and called Jordan.  It was getting dark and we wanted to be picked up ASAP.  However, he couldn't help us.  There was no way he could drive us all home.  I had to call my mom, who also has a van with car seats for the kids, since she spends a lot of time with them.  If she couldn't have helped us, I would have been frantically scrolling through my contacts to find an available friend.  Transferring the car seats in the dark would have been super fun, I'm sure.  But my mom picked us up, and then we had to borrow her van for several days, inconveniencing her while Jordan battled with the dealership to get the benefits we were due from our "bumper-to-bumper warranty."  (Helpful hint:  The warranty is NOT AT ALL what they make it out to be!)

Therefore, what we desire is a small hybrid vehicle that can fit all three kids' car seats across the back.  Now that the girls are in boosters, this should be attainable, and I'm pretty thrilled at the prospect of driving a regular-size car again!  We are thinking perhaps a Prius, but will be open to any good deals that pop up.  With a minivan and a small hybrid, both of which we can all ride in, we will probably save $50/month or more in gas.  It all depends on what we are involved with at any given time and where and how often we must drive.  I was in Sweeney Todd this past fall, and the frequent rehearsals nearly 30 minutes away from home had us filling up the van depressingly often.  A small hybrid would have made so much more sense!

In addition to the gas savings, transportation logistics will be vastly simplified.  We will easily be able to handle breakdowns or having a vehicle in the shop, all on our own.  Best of all, when it's finally time to replace either vehicle, even if it happens suddenly like it did with Broke Ass Betty, we will be able to handle temporarily owning one car without too much hassle.  We would be free to shop for a few weeks until an awesome new-to-us vehicle came along, or even save up more money for a while if necessary.  

In short, getting a hybrid for our family to ride in will put us in a more stable position and will allow us to save money for years to come.  This time we will be starting our vehicle search on Facebook and Craigslist, and will wait until the perfect one comes along!  We should have the money saved and be able to begin our search in late spring or early summer.  I'm excitedly looking forward to it!

Do you have any advice on which hybrids are best, or which ones can fit three car seats in the back?  If so, I'd love to read it!


Beth said...

It feels so good to pay cash and have no car payment! We paid cash for my van 4.5 years ago and she's still going strong. Now we're on the hunt for a new (to us) car for Jeff as his 17 year old Buick needs a new oil pan that will cost as much as the car is worth. Like you we need another car to fit all of us for when mine goes to the shop...yet fuel efficient since he drives Simpsonville to Pendleton everyday! (Ha! Fit 4 kids and fuel efficient)

Oh and check AutoTrader! Easy to filter and look at dealer and private party!