We’ve been a one car family for the majority of our marriage, & we’ve sort of lucked out, so far, in the car department.
There was a time when we bought a second, “commuter” car for $1600. We had it for a year, then sold it for $1000. That was a pretty good deal.
Then there was that time I met a lady at the park & she gave me a car. (Seriously.) After talking with her for awhile, she got my number, then called me later, & said, “I know this may be weird, but I’d like to give you a car.” It wasn’t new (in fact, the back bumper was bashed in, but it worked), we had to for a year, then sold it for $1250. That was also a good deal.
Our first car, a ’98 Ford contour, was purchased from my parents shortly before we married, for $3,000. We had that car for 6 1/2 years, then traded that car for my parent’s ’04 Chevy Venture mini-van. We still own this car, & it is our only car.
Some people cannot believe we only have one car. It’s no big deal. Some days I take Joseph to work, if I want the car. Most days, though, he takes the car, & yes, I’m left alone without a car for the day.
But really, it’s not bad.
I walk my kids to school, &/or they take the bus. We can walk to the community pool or park (only takes 5 minutes). My kids aren’t taking piano lessons, or doing sports yet, so it’s rather uncomplicated. And in many ways, I actually really like it.
On the days I take Joseph to work, I get extra time with him. Then when we pick him up, the kids listen to a book on CD & there’s excitement about going to get Joseph. On the ride home the kids get to talk about their day, & we all get more time together.
It’s a no-brainer to not have a second car at this point in our lives. The cost of a second car (maintenance, upkeep, insurance, registration, gas) is far more costly than the small sacrifices we make in only having one vehicle.
Our mini-van has 230K miles.
We’ve spent $1600 to get the transmission replaced (4 months ago). $500 for brand new tires (2 months ago). $500 for a new alternator (that happened last week). The engine sporadically overheats. When the car idles, it’s jumpy. We’re getting to the point in the car’s life span where it’s a money pit. Things keep breaking, & there’s no end to the repairs. In short: it’s on it’s last legs. And we’re not sure what to do about it.
We have this plan to get out of debt. We don’t want a car payment. And really, if we do have a car payment, that’s going to put us back a great deal, from our goal of getting out of debt soon.
We have a good chunk of money coming to us (travel stipend/moving reimbursement for military stuff from last year). We planned on putting it all towards our debt. But, it could be enough to buy a used car.
The thing is, I’m not sure we should buy a used car. At least one that is less than $5K, which is our cash limit. It seems like such a gamble.
What if we buy it & the next month we have to replace the engine, brakes, or any number of things?
(I guess I’m feeling this way, in part, because we’ve recently spent nearly $3,000 in repairs in the past 4 months, so forgive me if I’m wary of used cars.)
It’s funny I’m having all of these reservations about a used car, since we’ve only driven used cars since we were married. But now that we have 4 kids & Joseph has to get work (no option of riding a bike or taking the bus), we have to have reliable transportation.
Our interest rate on the debt we have is 6%. It seems logical to pay off that debt with the money we’re getting & then finance a used car at a better interest rate (we can get something around 2%). Also, buying a newer car means potentially more miles that we will get out of it, less $$ spent on repairs, & more reliability (which is crucial, especially when we only have one car).
I guess I’m writing this because I want you to reassure me that we should buy a used car with cash. (I know, there is power in cash.)
Either way, it’s going to set us back in our goal of getting out of debt, but I fear I’m tempted to get a car payment so we can buy a slightly newer (not new, mind you, just newer than what we could afford for $5K), more reliable car, when my better sense says that we shouldn’t finance a car. After all, I know not having a car payment is one of the best ways to trim expenses, save money, build wealth, etc.
Our other option is to just keep driving this car until it dies. Though not really a solution, it does buy us some more time. Still, we cannot forever put off the inevitable.
We’ve come to the point where we don’t want to put another dime into the dying beast, but who knows? Maybe it will last us 3, 6, or 9 months more?
Trouble is, there’s no way of knowing, & if/when it does completely run it’s course, we have no way of selling it & it’s quite costly to salvage a vehicle. Which is why we’re starting to think of getting a car now, before this one dies for good.
What to do, what to do.
Please advise, dear reader.
(& thank you, in advance, ox)