**Post by guest blogger Chris Kingsley**
The Kingsleys became an official family last Thursday evening, a full five and a half weeks after the arrival of baby #2. Yep, we’ve joined the proud ranks for American minivan owning families.
Obviously, this is significant for a number of reasons. The first, which is obvious and disturbing to anyone who has followed my posts, is that approximately 50% of my blogging material (otherwise known as the ’96 Saturn SL1) is in imminent danger. My great hope is that the ’05 Chrysler Town and Country provides zero blogging content and is the most boring vehicle ever. We’ll find out.
There are other implications as well. In replacing a small 4 cylinder car with a 6 cylinder van, we’ll be paying more at the pump. Also, our slush funds are trimmer than they have been in years.
On the positive side, we have a glorious thing called “room.” You may have a faint memory of this phenomena where you put stuff into a space and realize there is actually plenty more space than what you just used. Also, we have a great travelling vehicle (which, ideally would be accompanied by enough money to travel—but, I’ve addressed ideal vs. real in other posts).
I, like any sane person, disdain buying vehicles. Vehicle decisions are big decisions with big implications. Gretchen and I love to have our ducks in a row and to feel like we know exactly what we are getting into. The problem with vehicles is that you can’t know exactly what you are getting into. When we bought an older Camry several years back, we ended up having a $1400 repair within the first month (which isn’t supposed to happen with Camrys).
I hate haggling prices, which is a requisite with vehicle purchases. I hate dealing with salesmen as well, which is why I try and avoid car lots like the plague. This goes back to my non-confrontational roots. I just can’t stand the thought of the salesman having a bad day, which is a really bad thing when buying a vehicle. You’re definitely not out there to make a new best friend.
You can drive yourself nuts when you get online to read reviews or forums on vehicles. These things really are great to have at your fingertips, but it can be easy to lose perspective. The people who will be most prone to review a vehicle are the ones who have had frustrating experiences and need to vent. Plus, you are gathering the experience of a large number of owners, meaning that there will be a lot of issues reported.
After noting everything that I don’t like about vehicle shopping (which is more a reflection of my personality than the vehicle buying process), let me say what I liked about this particular experience.
Several weeks ago I went with several co-workers to a Chicago White Sox game. There were enough of us that we took a co-worker’s van. On the way, he mentioned that he and his wife (empty nesters) were thinking about downsizing. Since we have been thinking of “upsizing” for a while (and generally getting a more reliable vehicle), I suddenly became very attentive to my riding experience (just in case you think you’ve already got this story figured out, no, he did not accept a straight up trade for the SL1, thereby solving everyone’s “sizing” problems). Having a three hour riding experience in a prospective vehicle is not such a bad thing.
Gretchen and I had not necessarily been thinking of getting a replacement vehicle quite yet (although we probably should have been), but all of the sudden, the possibility of cutting the dealers out of the mix and getting a vehicle from someone we trust was presented. The van had been well taken care of and was very reliable. It is from the current century (this is our official welcome to the 21st century and to an in-vehicle CD player). It more than meets our current space needs. The asking price was also very reasonable.
I always preach having liquid funds on hand for both emergency purposes and opportunity purposes. When opportunities present themselves, their windows are often brief and quick, and decisive action can be required. While I am not extremely comfortable with our current level of liquid assets, I am thankful that we had enough to pounce on the opportunity to replace our increasingly unreliable vehicle with a very well cared for vehicle that meets all of what we were looking for, while cutting many of the things that I hate about buying vehicles out of the equation.
I was also thankful to continue adhering to our “no financing” policy for vehicles. As I have shared before, I believe that vehicle loans should be avoided whenever possible, even if it means a sacrifice in amenities/comfort/etc.
In addition to knowing and trusting the previous vehicle owners, I was able to take the vehicle in to my mechanic for a look over. He was able to point out a couple of recommended repairs, while giving an overall two thumbs up on it. While it can never be 100%, we feel like we know what we are getting into about as much as a person could hope for. My hope is that this can be a reliable family vehicle for years to come.
Don’t tell our teenage selves this, but we’re more than thrilled with our “new to us” van!
If you share my general disdain for vehicle purchasing, I highly recommend working on setting aside liquid savings in order to be prepared for a good opportunity, even if you were planning on waiting longer. That opportunity may not be there when you want it.
Have you purchased a vehicle lately? More importantly, is anyone interested in a ’96 Saturn SL1 at a competitive price??