Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thrifty Thursday ~ Buying a Used Minivan

This may seem like a strange post for Thrifty Thursday, since I am going to talk about spending lots of money. Sometimes you need to spend money to add security and save money down the road. Our former minivan cost us several thousand dollars in the last year. It had high mileage and was obviously nearing the end of its life. We probably held on to it for too long. When the transmission began to go a few weeks ago, we knew it was at its end. We had invested enough money into a car that was pushing 200,000 miles, was 13 years old and had potentially expired air bags (they are only guaranteed by the manufacture for 10 years). We were also well aware that newer minivans had many more safety features, such as a backup camera, additional roll bars in the roof, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and alerts for if you are getting too close to a wall, etc. These extra safety features felt even more important knowing that we were on the cusp of having two brand new teen drivers in our family. Anything I can do to increase their safety on the road is high on my list of things to spend money on!

The short story for those who don't want to read all of this. Always buy used and always do your best to pay cash.
So, we decided to buy a relatively new mini van...just four years old with low mileage. However, we made the commitment to buy it for cash and not to take on any debt. Fortunately, we had a small inheritance from my father, which we spent a good portion of last year to buy a used car for my husband to replace his 19 year old car. After much deliberation, we decided to spend the rest of our inheritance to purchase a used (but as new as we could get for cash) minivan. Now, if we hadn't had the inheritance, we would have had to buy something much cheaper, older and probably not even a minivan -- or even gone to sharing one car for a year or so. We have gone down to one car before for months on end. We even went through a spell once when our one car did not fit our entire family and we had little ones at the time. That was an interesting period. However, this time we were blessed with this pocket of money. So, we set out to spend it as wisely as we could.

Why we chose a minivan ~ Several people have asked why we purchased a minivan when our kids are practically grown up.
  • We love to travel and traveling by car is always cheaper than other forms of travel. We have six family members including grandma and often take the dog with us as well.
  • Our children are not likely to leave home immediately due to special needs and the cost of living in our area. It is just hard to launch into complete independent adulthood around here.
  • When I return to work in the next year or so, I will most likely be providing in-home childcare, and a minivan will be useful to my job.
  • We cart lots of teens around. My kids have lots of friends who visit us frequently, and I often end up carting around four to five teens on the weekend.
We did tons of research and decided that a KIA Sedona was the best fit for our family. They are very affordable (next to their competitors), have a 5 Star Safety Rating, affordable maintenance outlook, and plenty of bells and whistles. 

Consequently, this is what we bought! A 2016 KIA Sedona with back-up camera. It even came with an eighth seat if we want to put it into the middle row. It drives so smoothly. I am sure anything would drive smoothly after my former minivan that was shaking violently at every light, plus and the transmission was slipping when you least expected it. What a relief to teach my kids to drive with a reliable vehicle!
One funny aside. During the haggling process over price at the dealership, an elderly man came up  to me while the car dealer had stepped away. He told me he was enjoying watching me haggle. He said it was a lost art and I was doing a great job. Now, I really don't enjoy haggling, but I hate paying an unfair price even more. My husband doesn't haggle. He is given the price and he pays it. We knew going in that, if we wanted a fair price and something we could afford, I would be in charge of the purse strings and haggling. I did a bit of research on getting a fair deal from a dealership before going in to buy both used cars that we purchased in the past year. I knew what were fair charges and what were up charges that I could insist that the dealer make disappear. I was honest about other minivans that I could go and see and that I fully understood that it was January and that this was a minivan, so they were going to have trouble moving it. Minivans aren't super popular right now. My husband said it looked like the salesperson's eyes were going to pop out a few times. But I just remained honest, patient, steady and true to our bottom line. In the end, we got very close to what we wanted to pay.

Speaking of teens driving -- in our state, teens are required to have six hours of driving instruction from a professional driving instructor before they can get their learner's permit and practice with their parents. Now, I could have picked the free way and gone through the school system. However, I heard many horror stories from my kids' friends. They told about being forced to drive on the highway in the first two hours behind the wheel even though they were shaking and crying! They told stories about other teens arriving to take their lesson high on drugs and the instructor not noticing (at least not right away). The more I listened, the more I knew this was not the way for us. I am more than happy to spend money when safety is involved and there is nothing more important for my teens to be learning right now than how to drive safely for a lifetime. I am investing in their lives and all the other lives they meet on the road. So, we decided to go with a private driving academy, which isn't cheap. However, the instructor teaches only one student at a time, welcomes parents to ride along so parents can learn techniques to teach their kids later, tailors the lessons to each individual teen instead of scrolling through a check list, and is happy to work with special needs.

Anne started her lessons first. She is ready to move on with driving lessons. Dean would rather wait a few more months. He tends to prefer to see how it goes for a sibling before he will try  something out. It has been a fantastic experience for Anne! We may even decide to do a few extra lessons once she has her learner's permit. The instructor is calm and has really put Anne at ease. I am learning a lot from the back seat. I didn't expect to learn much of anything. I have a completely clean driving record and consider myself a law abiding, good driver. However, I am learning each time.
We had wanted to replace the roof on our home with the remaining amount of our inheritance, but having two safe vehicles was more important. The roof can wait for now. We are abundantly blessed.

Blessings, Dawn


  1. Congrats on your new ride, and your new driver(s). I need to work more with Olivia as well.

  2. I'm not a haggler. I'd have loved to see you in action! Suddenly I want to search for videos or tutorials on haggling. :) You're a fabulous researcher, and I appreciate how you share information.

  3. Congrats on your "new" car! That's so exciting.