Friday, October 15, 2010

31 for 21: Mom’s Car Exchange

I love cars.  They’ve been a hobby of mine since before I could drive.  Not like I work on them, but I like the pretty ones, I like the powerful ones, and I like to drive GOOD cars.  I really enjoy driving just for the experience when it’s a well-handling machine with spunky engine.

But I’m practical, too.  And especially in the last 2 years, I’m also painfully frugal, out of necessity, mostly.  This creates a problem…

Last year we opted/needed to get out of debt, and the only debt we had besides our house was the cars.  Two nice cars. Cars we loved.  I mean, we REALLY liked our cars. We were thankful for them, liked driving them, knew they were going to start when we turned the key and would get us where we were going in comfort and style.  They were “middle of the road” type cars in reality, but to us, they were perfect and we seriously loved our cars, though we NEVER forgot to be thankful for them every day.

Used to be mine…
fullcar1 interiorpassfrnt
Used to be M’s…
3side 3interiorfrontdriv
In June of 2009, we sold my Altima.  We’d listed both cars, and it sold first.  It returned to Champaign, which was fitting I thought, since that had been it’s home.  We got by with one car for a while, with lots of help from friends who picked M up for work when I didn’t take him.  It worked, and it was fine. 

At the end of August, we were very blessed to be gifted a Toyota Sienna that my parents had just replaced.  It was well used but in good shape, and we were more than happy with it.  I was excited to try out this “minivan life” that so many raved about.  (And yeah, I’m a fan!)  200,000+ miles on it when we got it, and it runs like it’s only half way done.

But the truth was that we still needed to get rid of the other payment.  We couldn’t afford it any longer, and we needed to let the debt go.  We advertised the Mazda for quite a while with no real hits.  Finally in December, we found a buyer, a dad who bought it for his teenage daughter who had wrecked her car the week before.  (That kind of thing STILL amazes me, how parents can just buy kids cars…and spend serious money doing it!)

Once again we returned to being a one-car family for a few months.  M’s job was only a couple miles from home, and the friends were willing to help with the commute to work.  But in May, he changed jobs, and his commute became significantly longer.  So we needed a second car and quickly.

As the cars are my responsibility in our family system, I set out to find one.  And I found a great deal on a really nice car!  So exciting!
Unfortunately, this turned out to be a very expensive lesson.  We spent more on repairs in the first couple of weeks than we paid for the car.  And that was all just to get it to pass inspection!  *sigh*

Important lesson:  If you live in a state that requires vehicle inspection, GET THE INSPECTION BEFORE you purchase a used car from an individual.

Though I still kick myself for that situation and missing clues, the car served us for 3 months and got M to work and back. That was it’s job. That was the need we had. The need was met. So we’re still thankful for that.  In the end, we couldn’t afford to do further work that it needed, so we sold it in September for 25% of what we had in it.  Ouch.  But we were relieved to get anything, quite honestly.  And darn it, it was so pretty.  I fell for the beauty and the “good deal” instead of the reliability.

Even before we sold the Volvo, I had been looking for another car to replace it.  We wanted something very small, very cheap, and a car that passed inspections and needed no repairs.  Cosmetic issues were no concern, but it needed to be mechanically sound.  After several calls, investigating several cars, even going through a few test drives and inspections (which saved us!  The cars did NOT pass. Whew!) we opted for an Astro that was owned by someone in my parents’ church.  It was NOT what we had in mind, but it became the best choice. 

Not a bad looking, almost-16-year-old van. The interior was in phenomenal shape. (But RED!) So clean. Not worn and torn. Pretty amazing.  And a REALLY generous price for us. It drove like a small truck, and M didn’t care for that, so I took over this and M drove the Sienna.  We knew it would be a temporary situation.

The Astro has done it’s job.  It drove me a little nutty with the need to manually lock and unlock all the doors, and I missed my dual sliding doors A LOT!  But the girls and I survived, and it wasn’t that painful.  The hardest part was filling this van, as it was NOT fuel efficient at all. And it was rear wheel drive, so we didn’t want to have to deal with winter weather.

SO….. a week ago today, I test drove a car I didn’t ever think I’d be considering.  I had it inspected and it passed.  The deal was pretty good, the gas mileage was what I wanted, the seller was nice and very patient with my process, so there we were.

M’s “new” car… a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse RS.  It’s been in the garage for a week, waiting for us to sell the van to transfer plates and get the credit on the sales tax. So today, M took his new commuter vehicle to work.

Other than evidence that the previous owner, a young lady, was not well liked by at least one person carved into the driver’s side, it’s not a bad looking car.  It’s not perfect, but it’s great for it’s purpose.  All at way less than $3K.

Once again, we’ve been provided for. Our need has been met.  We were able to do all this with cash and still have some savings left…though not as much as we’d like after all that the Volvo consumed.  

Who knows what the future will hold.  We hope and pray that the Sienna, which just rolled over 220,000, will go for a good long time. It drives really nice, and I’m SO glad to have it back today!  We hope that the Eclipse will do us well for at least a year, if not two.  We will be grateful for what we have every day.  The girls and I thank God for our cars (no matter which ones are “ours” at the time) every night in our prayers. Literally.  I’m thankful for what we have, though many would not consider these to be desirable. I think they are pretty darn great.

But for the record. I am DONE buying and selling cars.  Mom’s Car Exchange is CLOSED. 


  1. that is a lot of car switching in a short amount of time! glad that it all settled on a non-red exterior car tho! :)

    I love our sienna too - it doesn't drive like a larger vehicle in my opinion. We've had ours for 5 years now and have had only minor mechanical issues (and most of them have been cosmetic stuff we can live without!)

  2. Here's hoping the Sienna continues to give good service! (Can you believe it?.. the "password" on this post was carrs!!)


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