Good things come to those who wait. At least that was the case with us and our search for a new van. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was frustrating and disheartening at times.
You know those moments when you want to crawl into bed, cover your head with a pillow, and hope that all your adult responsibilities will disappear? I’ve had quite a few moments like that lately.
Background in a Nutshell
For those who are new to our saga, here’s the Reader’s Digest version.
Our purple van was coming up for registration in August. We could tell that it was starting to have some transmission problems and the air conditioning had been out for a couple of years, so we decided to think ahead and replace it before we were forced to do so. That would save us the cost of re-registering it. (Read our cost analysis of the purple van.)
In July, we bought the red van for $2000. Within a couple of months it started having a freak electrical problem that required a new fuse each time I turned it on. (Read the cost analysis of the red van.)
In the meantime we decided to re-register the purple van since the red van was having problems. Unfortunately, the purple van’s transmission problem kept it from passing its smog check. In California that means that it can’t be registered and the title can’t be transferred. So, no driving it, and no selling it.
I kept driving the red van, feeding it a new fuse each time before I turned the key. Thankfully you can find 5 amp blade fuses in bulk on Amazon.com. Then, one afternoon I was driving on our winding road and the red van lost power. Losing power steering on a twisty road is scary, but thankfully I was close to home.
I had lost all confidence in the red van. I started driving the purple van again, even though its registration was expired, while we looked for a new van replacement.
After being burned with the red van, we were extra cautious in our search for another van. After reading consumer reports, we decided to look for either a Honda Odyssey newer than 2005 (older models were more likely to have transmission issues) or a Toyota Sienna from 2004 or later (there was a redesign that significantly increased cargo space in 2004.) We decided to increase our car buying budget range to around $6K, though we still glanced at vans that were even more expensive.
When we didn’t find what we were looking for, we expanded our pool to include the Chrystler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Plymouth Grand Voyager. We looked at the Carfax report of any cars that we were interested in and made sure that they had already passed smog.
We were really close to buying several vans that we looked at. We have had pre-purchase inspections on multiple vans that we thought might be “the one,” only to be disappointed. Either the inspection turned up serious problems, or we never felt settled. After praying and pondering, we just felt uneasiness and confusion instead of peace with our decision. We didn’t want to purchase a vehicle without a confirmation that it was right.
So we just kept looking.
We saw the same problems in the $5-6K range, and in the $8-10K range, as we had seen in the $2-3K range and decided that a used car is a used car. We are just as likely to run into a car with problems or a dishonest seller at the higher price range as we were at the lower price range. We had saved up $5K in the past few months. If we found a car for less than that, it would be very nice to put a big chunk of the $5K toward our debt repayment.
At the beginning of the month we happened upon (were led to) a van that was the same year, make, and model as our purple van (the one that won’t pass smog and now has expired registration), only instead of 235,000+ miles it had 160,000. I was immediately interested. We really like our purple van and this was the first one I’d seen since I had been scouring Craigslist daily. The asking price was less than half of what we had saved up!
When we went to look at it, we both felt a completely different feeling than we had with any of the other vans we looked at. It was the reassuring peace we had been looking for. Still, we took the van for a pre-purchase inspection, where the mechanic gave it a clean review, aside from a few obvious flaws.
Remember how I was frustrated that we had just put new tires and brakes on our purple van right before it failed smog? Well would you believe that the only problems with the new van were that it needed new tires and brakes? True story!
The day after we bought the van, there was a father/son tire change-a-roo. Having two vans of the same make, model, and year, allowed us to choose the best of each of them and combine it into one. We chose the seats we liked best, took the best wipers, battery, light bulbs, rugs, spare tire, etc.
Vehicle Retirement– The Icing on the Cake
The same day that I found the new van online, I got a letter in the mail saying that our purple van was approved for the state vehicle retirement program. Less than a week after buying the new van, I brought our beloved purple van to the dismantler and walked away with a check for $1,500. (I’ll be sharing more about this program and other ways to get rid of your junk vehicle soon.)
It was bittersweet, but mostly sweet!
Instead of putting that $1500 toward our debt, we decided to earmark those fund for vehicle repair. Even though the new van got a great report from the pre-purchase inspection, I’m sure things will come up, as it is has been on the road since I was in high school!
We feel so blessed with how everything has turned out! The moral of the week is be patient and don’t give up! Wonderful is just around the corner.
Hopefully we’ll have less vehicle talk in the coming months, though we still have to figure out what to do with the red van. I actually have someone who wants to buy it, but without passing smog, we can’t transfer the title. He’s pretty sure that his friend can figure out what’s wrong with it, though we have our doubts. If all else fails, we’ll hold onto it until we’ve had it a year and it should be eligible for retirement.
Liz S says
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (No words to describe how elated I am for you!)
Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife says
What a wonderful ending to your “van issue.” So happy that everything worked out for your family and at such a great price! It is definitely tricky buying used cars, but if you happen to get a “good one” it can save a family a small fortune. Merry Christmas to you and your family! 🙂
[email protected] says
I’m so so glad you found a van! It does have that feeling of peace to know that so many circumstances were right about this particular purchase. It’s also good to hear that you set aside some money for repairs instead of debt. We own our home, and as our tax refund comes up, I know we will have some repairs to make, and feel like we should set aside some for that too.
I’m so glad you found something that works for your family! Our car will be paid off by June! I’m so excited. We had to purchase this car when our van died suddenly. We had no options but to take on a payment (after paying for the van in cash and about a year later it died, I was not happy). So happy when we can start our new vehicle fund this spring. We only have one car and with hopes of our family expanding I would love to get a van again. Plus then we’d have an option if a vehicle had problems. Right now, if our car has to go to the shop, I have to miss work. 🙁
I’m glad you were able to get your vehicle situation straightened out! We were going through a transmission saga for about 2 months with the van we’ve been borrowing from my parents. Fortunately, we were able to get that resolved. I’m hoping we’ve got a couple more years with our current vehicles so we can get things paid off and move on to the next items on our snowball. If we hadn’t had all these curveballs over the past 4 months, we would have had our credit cards paid off.
Our family is in need of a truck and I’ve always been worried about buying cars on Craigslist. I have buyers remorse over buying a chocolate bar so spending even $2000 that might not be worth it really scares me. But on the same token we weren’t going to shell out $30,000 for a brand new truck. I was Leary about buying his parents truck because we didn’t have the money up front but after following your van saga it’s nice to know we know there’s nothing wrong with this truck plus they are selling it to us for half what it kelly blue books.so we know we are getting a great deal. Hopefully this can will be good to you for years to come 🙂
Shopping for a ‘new’ is not fun! We had to do it 2 years ago. I had been saving so we could pay cash, but we couldn’t find anything within our price range that fit 7 passengers plus hockey gear – and goalie gear – yes – we took the gear with us when we shopped! 🙂 We decided to borrow $$ from my hubbies company but then still couldn’t come to an agreement with the salesman. I stood up and walked away. My hubby was a little taken aback – but I too didn’t have peace about it. Then a few days later, my hubby found a suburban listed on Craigslist that we could pay cash for if we put our tax return into it as well. It’s our ‘new’ baby – and it’s been great! I was so thankful we waited and feel we were blessed for our patience 🙂
And I’m SO happy for you that your can saga is over!
Awe, I’m so glad it finally worked out! I have been following your van saga. I know this gives your family the peace of a reliable vehicle.
I am so glad that it worked out for you in the end!
[email protected] says
What a crazy story! I’m so glad you found a safe car that you feel comfortable in now. I would love to hear more about the vehicle retirement program. Is it only in California?