Friday, March 27, 2015

Thinking about a new (to us) car...

We have a perfectly fine sedan. We bought it four years ago from the previous/only owner, who'd kept it in good shape. It runs well and has given us no problems. We just got new tires for it. When we bought it, we planned to run it into the ground and possibly hand it off to our children, who at that time were purely hypothetical.

And yet.

Every time I get in the car, I curse it. I've got two kids in car seats and neither of them can do anything to help me get in them. Bending over, lifting them in and out, and buckling them in just sucks. When I'm standing six inches higher on the curb thanks to the snowpack, it sucks even more.

I'd mentioned several times to Peanut how much I was hating the car because of this and how I would really love to have something that's higher off the ground so I wouldn't be killing my back every time I go anywhere, but by the time we get a different car I won't be dealing with car seats anymore. And then he boggled my mind by suggesting that, well, we could just get a different car now.

Ha! Don't laugh, guys, but it seriously hadn't occurred to me that it could be a real option. That's just what I do with cars; I'm their last owner. My first car was scrapped, my second car was donated (and probably scrapped). I assumed that the same would happen to this, my third car. But now I'm thinking of the possibilities....I could have a higher car! For reals! Just entertaining the idea makes me feel like a freaking grown-up.

We're still in the mostly dreaming stage at this point. We've tossed around the idea of getting a car loan at a low interest rate and investing the cash we would spend on it in the stock market, but after looking into the math it's obvious why everyone doesn't do this - it doesn't work (or, it might work, but it's too risky to make up for the guaranteed interest payments over a short term). We've also thought about buying a car from a non-snow state (to avoid existing rust damage) and having Peanut just fly down there and drive it back. Or I guess we could trade it into a dealership (another thing I never, ever thought I would do) and pay a small cash difference. My preference is to buy from a private seller and then sell our current car privately as well, but my time is awfully constricted right now, so looking on Craigslist and setting up test drives and all that just seems impossible. (I'm still not able to manage cleaning both my hair and my body in the same day. I take five minute showers when I can and wash my hair in the kitchen sink while one of the kids is napping. Ah, young motherhood.)

At any rate, it seems like in these discussions we're moving from "should we buy a different car now?" to "we should buy a different car now, how should we do it?" It feels really surreal, and exciting in that new (to me) car way, but also weird because it's so against the way I've thought about my life up to this point. Obviously the cheapest car you can own is the one you already own generally speaking, but there are times in your life when it's not just about the fewest dollars out the door and more about realizing, yes, but this is the life I'm living now so let's pony up and do what needs to be done to get a good standard of living for ourselves. I don't think badly of my friends when they get a different car (unless they are really stupid and drive a brand new next-year's model off the lot with no money down), so why is it weird for me to get a different car because the old one isn't meeting my needs as well as it used to?

Lots to think about. What would you do?


  1. I can't remember if you are a one car family or two?

    I haven't gotten around to blogging about it yet but we recently replaced our car and yes, took out a loan. Hard decision but the right one. We are a one car household and T will always need to drive to work so we need a reliable vehicle. We also like you basically drive cars till scrap. Our last one was getting downright dangerous as more and more stuff went wrong. Sold it to a mechanically minded friend for cheap - he got a good deal and we got the satisfaction of knowing it was going to good use. He's fixed it up for a a fraction of what it would cost to get fixed professionally and I'm sure he will continue to do so as more things fall apart on it. For us it made more sense to borrow for a newer and more reliable car than to drain all our savings on trying to fix a really old car that would only continue to deteriorate.

    1. We are what I'd call a 1.5 car family - our other vehicle is a 1980s jeep with no top or doors. It can get an adult around but is not safe for the kids (I'm not even sure the car seats can be attached to the back seat, honestly). Peanut drives it to work in nice weather, and otherwise takes the bus or the sedan if I don't need it that day. So for the purposes of carting the kids around, we're a one car family.

  2. I drove a Toyota Camry til my son was 18 months old. I'm 6 feet tall and bending over to strap him in was killing my back. We upgraded to a bigger car and I don't regret it for an instant. We bought a new one but paid cash for it. Now that I have two kids there is no doubt it was the right decision!

  3. We only have ONE (human) kid and we keep circling the minivan discussion. Honestly, we primarily need something of that size when we all travel as a family, including Seamus, for safety and comfort to see family but not so much for normal commuting.

    I think there's a good amount of utility that can be gotten out of a newer car now that you're a 4 person family, and if your sedan is in decent shape, you should be able to get some decent money out of that. The best pricing for selling is usually Craigslist but given your time constraints, could you consider selling to a dealer like CarMax?


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