“Then the baby came, and it became evident that our barely-four-seater small car just wouldn’t cut it.”
This is part of a seven-post mini-series that will explore our journey in selling and buying a used car. As more posts go live this week, I’ll link to the entire series at the bottom of each post.
I’m going to do a bit of storytelling today. The gist of the whole situation goes something like this: Our car needed extensive repairs; we experimented with one car for three months; we finally sold our car on Craigslist; we bought a former rental car. But as good stories often go, the devil’s in the details. Over the next few days, I’ll look at how and why we finally decided to ditch our ride and get something new.
Today, it’s all about the old car and how we played with the one-car-family thing for much longer than we thought we would last.
What We Were Driving
Since 2005, I’ve been driving a 2001 Dodge Intrepid around town. It’s a roomy, comfortable car with a smooth ride. Unfortunately (sorry, Dodge), it has a horrible reliability rating (Source: Consumer Reports). And I’ve lived that reliability first-hand for the last five years.
In just under five years, I’ve managed to put over $5,000 worth of maintenance into the car, including: a new A/C system, new engine sensors, fans, brakes, oil system, and a slew of recent problems that never materialized (the rest of the story is coming below!).
Most people could not live with that price tag, but I was more than willing to accept the hits. The overall expense was still fairly low compared to buying a new car, and the practicality and size of the car was awesome.
The One-Car Decision
The last set of sudden repairs really pushed us over the edge. Between a new suspension, an oil leak, and worn/rotted tires, we were staring down the barrel of well over $2,000 of repairs that needed to be done before any further safe driving could take place.
That was November. With the baby only weeks away, I wasn’t about to make any large-scale decisions that would affect our finances for years. We decided that the best option was simply waiting it out.
With my wife out of work, becoming a one-car family didn’t have the impact it would have otherwise. We had done it before for weeks at a time with relative success, and with my wife’s mobility impaired more and more by the day, I would be doing most of the driving anyway. We realized that once the baby arrived on the scene, we would be able to re-evaluate the situation with more clarity. So we waited…
The One-Car Experience
And for a while, everything went fairly well. We sacrificed a bit of time every day by having to drive everywhere together (my wife was staying with her family during the day because of her pregnancy), and we used about the same amount of gas as we did between two cars prior to the change. But we got away without having to face the repair bills or having to make a rushed purchase decision.
The change also had the surprising effect of giving us 30 minutes each morning and afternoon to just talk with one another about anything and everything–something that might have gotten lost otherwise in the daily rush to get out of the house, or to “cool off” after work.
Then the baby came, and it became evident that our barely-four-seater small car just wouldn’t cut it. We were also spending even more time driving around town, and it was starting to take a toll on our personal time, housekeeping time, and most importantly…sleep time.
As my wife became more independent, and could move around and drive on her own, those effects were amplified.
We were still careful not to get into a decision frenzy, but we were also confident that three months of thinking about the problem would help us out in evaluating our final options.
At this point, we narrowed down our choices to a few ideas:
- Sell our older car and do nothing (which would obviously not resolve our current transportation problem, but would save us thousands…).
- Repair our car, spending about $2,000, with the hopes that the car would last another 12-24 months with minimal repairs.
- Sell our older car, producing a small chunk of income, and using the cash flow to purchase a new car.
Well, I guess I spoiled the surprise at the start of this post, but we eventually elected to go with the third option, selling the car privately on Craigslist, and purchasing a very inexpensive 2-year-old family car from a rental company. I’ll talk about both experiences in detail later this week…
The decision ultimately came down to cash flow and looking at the situation from a long-term perspective. Let me explain:
- We knew we were planning to buy a new, family car in the near future. We weren’t happy to spend over $2,000 just to replace the car next year anyway.
- We were looking for a car that could accommodate and expanding family (possibly up to 3 kids in the next 5-6 years!), and all the “stuff” that gets lugged around as we travel from place to place.
- Instead of spending $2,000, we gained $2,000 from the sale of our old car, with a net effect of $4,000 positive cash flow into our finances. That not only covered our very small down payment on the new car, but also nearly a year of car loan payments on the new vehicle.
- We are now the owners of a car that is 7 years younger than the car we got rid of.
- The expected reliability of our new car is “Excellent” according to Consumer Reports, compared to our old car’s reliability of “Average” to “Very Poor” in certain areas. It bodes well for repair bills and the life span of our newest vehicle.
Taking those major points into consideration (and the rave reviews from Consumer Reports for our new car), we decided to ditch the old ride and upgrade. But there are more details to this story! Stick around all week to find out.
What do You Think?
Have you ever had to make a similar choice? I’m walking in the footsteps of many before me, so I’m curious to hear what you would have done in the same situation. Everyone’s circumstances are unique, but we can certainly learn from one another in some way!
This is part of a seven-part series on our new car journey. Below are links to posts that have already been published as part of this series:
- This post
- How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist
- Using Consumer Reports to Select a Car
- Would You Buy a Rental Car?
- Should You Buy a New or Used Car?
- Is an Extended Car Warranty Worth It?
- Review of Hertz Rent2Buy
Photo by Mulad