You may remember a post from just over two months ago when I wrote about how we were retiring our beloved purple van. I did a full analysis on what the van cost us over the time we had it, then I looked at the cost per month to get an idea of whether a used car is worth it or not. I really enjoyed collecting all the data and doing a case study.
If you recall, the total cost broke down to $166 per month for the 4 years and 3 months that we had it. That sounded pretty nice and reasonable to me. I especially enjoyed reading your comments and reading your varied experiences, perspectives, and opinions.
Well I wasn’t planning on doing another used car analysis for a long time…. Do you see where this is going?! 🙁
If you aren’t interested in the story part of it, you can just scroll down to the numbers. I’m warning you, though, it’s not pretty!
Some Background & An Update
I’ve been wanting to give an update for several weeks now, bu I’ve been waiting for a “resolution” first. It looks like now is as good a time as any.
When we first retired the purple van, we knew it had a transmission issue in the works. It had also started making a suspicious ticking noise. Knowing that its registration date was coming up, we decided to start looking for a new van so we wouldn’t have to register the purple one again (you know, to save money). So we bought the red van and starting trying to figure out what to do with the purple one.
After driving the red van for a few days, an acquaintance asked what had happened to the purple van. After I explained its problems, he asked if we would sell it to him for a good price. He had a friend who could help him fix the transmission. That was a Friday.
On Saturday we tried to call him to offer him the purple van, but I could not find his number anywhere.
On Sunday, we drove the red van to church. As we were returning home, enjoying the air conditioning we had missed in the last few years of our purple van, the red van lost all power and stopped. After a few minutes of rest, it started up again. This happened three times.
With the help of Google, my husband tried trouble-shooting, but to no avail. Then he had the thought to take a deeper look at the purple van. He checked the oil… and it was very low. He filled it up, we took it for a drive, and voila– the ticking stopped. I know what you’re thinking. Go ahead and make fun of us.
So we abandoned the red van, fearing it might stop any time, and went back to our trusty purple van for a few weeks. We were so glad that we hadn’t sold it the day before. What a blessing to have the purple van to drive while we figure out what is wrong with the red one.
In fact, I got to pass a special milestone with the purple van. (see below) How cool is that odometer reading! I watched and waited to capture it.
We were coming up on the purple van’s registration being due, so I went to have it smogged. The nice employee who peeked in my window saw that the check engine light was on. He told me that the smog test will automatically fail if the check engine light is on. I was thankful he told me that before I paid $70 for the test.
I took the purple van to the mechanic to see what code was causing the check engine light (I even had a coupon to do it for free). About seven different codes came back all relating to the transmission. As we had suspected.
I’m not sure how it works in other states, but California is pretty serious about its smog test. You cannot register or transfer title (sell) without passing smog. So we can’t sell the purple van period. I’m still hoping to sell those new tires on it.
So after driving a while with expired registration (trying to avoid going anywhere except down the street to get the kids from school), we got brave enough to start driving the red van again, hoping it wouldn’t randomly die on us again. For the record, my husband won’t drive the van with expired plates. It’s just me breaking the law here.
It seemed fine until one night on my way to go somewhere in the red van, all the dash lights started flashing every warning light and message. When I came out to the van, it wouldn’t start. I had someone jump me, which took an extraordinarily long time. The next day when I got in the car it wouldn’t start, so I resumed driving the unregistered purple van for the weekend, then called the mechanic on Monday.
Yesterday, with some jumper cables and a prayer, I got the purple van going and made it into town. The mechanic said he had no idea how I got it started because the problem with the car not starting had nothing to do with the battery. The ignition fuse was blown. He said jumping the battery wouldn’t have done anything for the fuse.
After the mechanic spent half a day looking at the van and consulting a specialist hotline, he still couldn’t figure out what was blowing the fuse. It would cost $1,500 for the labor to do all the testing which *might* show what was causing the fuse to blow on ignition, and that might be an entirely different issue from the van randomly dying. He said we can keep driving it, we just have to put a new fuse in each time we want it to start. He kindly sent me home with a package of fuses to get me started.
I just left the van running when I went to pick up my daughter after cross country practice. I figure if someone steals the van, then the joke is on them!
So, now we are in the market for yet another van. We’ll also see if the acquaintance is interested in the red van with its special quirk.
2003 Chevy Venture (red van)
- Purchase date: July 2015
- Age of vehicle at purchase: 12 years old
- Mileage at purchase: 162,939 miles
- Purchase Price: $1,900 (private party)
- Retirement date: September 2015
- Mileage at retirement: 165,621 miles
Costs: purchase, maintenance, repair
In my case study for the purple van I didn’t include registration or insurance costs. In California, the tax is wrapped up with the title transfer and registration, so I’m including it below.
|Jul-15||$68||Smog (normally covered by seller, but we paid)|
|Sep-15||$247||Trying to figure out what was going wrong|
Total Cost: $2,488
- Months driven: 3 months (rounding up)
- Miles driven: 2,682 miles
- Total cost (purchase and maintenance): $2,488
Over the 3 months that we drove the red van, it cost us $2,488. That breaks down to $829 per month, or in other words way too much!
If that’s not bad enough, breaking it down to the price per mile makes it sound even worse. It cost $.93 per mile, not including gas! Yowzers! As a comparison, our purple van cost just $.14 per mile over the four years we had it.
You win some. You lose some.
We definitely lost.
After realizing we bought a lemon, the last thing I want to do is go buy another car from a stranger, but that is exactly what I have to do. It was one of those times that I just wanted to curl up on my bed and stop being an adult.
Until then, looks like I need to buy these in bulk!
How About You?
- Does anyone want to share a bad car story?
- Do you love your reliable, comfortable, low-maintenance-cost van? I want to hear about it!
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