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The Car


So I’m here for your advice today. We’ve had our van listed for sale for almost 4 months now, I believe, minus that month it was in the shop was being rear-ended. And while I’ve gotten a few inquiries, but nothing really solid. Then this week, I had a super low ball offer…like 33% less then what I’m asking…no thank you!

Being a commercial vehicle, it’s harder to place a value on it so I went to my bank and asked their help. They valued it at about $25K. I own right at $27K.

So here’s the question…do I continue to list it for sale and just keep on or do I explore downsizing to a used car and perhaps roll the portion I am “upside” down into a new auto loan? I’ve looked (just online) at used cars and I see two viable options:

5+ year older Honda Element
Plus: Price around $12K, great gas mileage, low maintenance
Down: Only seats 4, there are 5 of us. But we do have the ’96 Honda Accord that seats 5 and is paid off. History Buff will get his license in March. Would have to rent a vehicle for any longer distance driving, which we are certainly not doing alot of but it will happen on occassion.

4+ year older Honda Pilot
Plus: Good gas mileage (much better than current vehicle,) low maintenance based on reputation, 3 row seating so seats all of us and some extras when needed (which we actually have ALOT)
Bad: Price around $18K, and I HATE 3 row seating, it’s very inconvenient for getting in and out.

I’m certainly not rushing into any decision. And as mentioned on several occassions recently, I don’t really trust my judgment. So I’m asking for your opinions.

Just a refreshed on current vehicle situation.
Car #1: New, Financed, large commercial van that I purchased to accomodate our growing family. Currently financed $27K, insurance runs about $100 per month, taxes are about $400 per year, monthly payment is $696. Regular oil changes and tire rotations, no other maintenance expected for forseeable future.
Car #2: Older Honda Accord, in good shape, owned outright. Insurance about $20 per month and taxes will be around $50 year. Just got inspection and oil change, will need new tires and to recondition headlights in coming months but no other maintenance known. This will become the twins car as they get their licenses (starting in March.) Oh, and it is a stick shift which I have VERY limited experience with.

Ok, I think that gives you all relevant information. What do you advise?


  • Reply amy |

    I think downsizing to a vehicle that does not seat the whole family is a bad idea. I also think rolling an upside down portion into a new vehicle is a bad idea. Keep the van for sale a little bit longer until you are no longer upside down and then reconsider.

    • Reply Hope |

      You are probably right, Amy, thanks for the feedback.
      As suggested, I’m going to re-write my ad and relist today. Maybe with Christmas time here someone is looking for a large family vehicle!

  • Reply Angie |

    I would not roll the upside-down portion into another car loan. Besides the fact that you will immediately start upside-down on the new car (both the 2k you are now plus the immediate depreciation when you walk off the lot)… That also means you’d be trading in your van to the dealer, and doing dealer financing. You would be missing out on low interest rates for the replacement car that you can find through credit unions. Additionally, the dealer will screw you on the value of your trade knowing that you don’t have a lot of options. Its really a lose-lose situation. I would not consider that at all.

    With 4 kids, why are you not looking at minivans? They will be much better on gas mileage and a tad cheaper. Take a look at an older Odyssey (post 2004 model) or Sienna.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thanks for your input! I can actually finance through my credit union so that’s not an issue. But I definitely see your perspective in rolling the bad debt.
      I am not comfortable in mini-vans so would much prefer a sedan or suv.

      • Reply Ms. Mintly |

        Hi, Hope! I enjoy reading your posts and really enjoy following along with your family’s debt journey.

        Out of curiosity, what is it about driving a minivan that makes you uncomfortable vs. an SUV? I ask because I have driven both and found them very similar, but I am interested in your opinion.

        • Reply Hope |

          My mom has always had a minivan and not only have I found it less comfortable to drive, but also to be a passenger in. I suppose it’s just a personal preference, but would prefer a sedan or small SUV over a minivan any day.

  • Reply B |

    Try redoing the ad. Or having someone else rewrite it.
    a tip about trying to sell your vehicle: I had my car posted on Craigslist with an ad I wrote. After a week, I had received a bunch of texts/emails, and low-ball offers, but no one actually came to look at it. The ad expired and my boyfriend, who has way more experience on CL than me, rewrote the ad, posted it, and sold the car that day for full asking.

    It only takes one person to buy your car, but if your ad is stale maybe have someone else take a stab at rewriting it.

    • Reply Hope |

      Excellent idea! And what my dad said too. Being Christmas time he thought more people might be looking right now. I will definitely relist it today with a fresh ad, thanks for the reminder.

  • Reply first step |

    I have 2 thoughts about the van. 1. Could you refinance the van loan to a lower rate like Ashley did through Pentagon Federal? If so, you may be able to save money on interest, get out of the upside down situation sooner and sell without taking a loss. 2. For other options to sell, in addition to Craigslist, try a free listing at cars.com and maybe even a paid ad through AutoTrader, if that’s published in your area. Also, contact churches and daycare centers to see if they are in the market for a used passenger van.

    You also need to start saving if you are going to add your sons as drivers. Because you have 2 cars, the first son to be licensed will be considered a primary driver on one of the cars. This will make your rates significantly higher than if you only had one vehicle. If you add both sons, one of them will have to be a secondary driver on the more expensive car which will also make your premium increase substantially.

    We have 2 teen daughters who drive and 3 cars. When we had 2 cars and no teen drivers, our insurance was about $1000/year (during 2012, w/2002 & 2008 Hondas). Now we pay over $3000/year w/same Hondas plus a 2012 Toyota.

    • Reply Hope |

      I did look into refinancing at a lower interest rate, but was not able to make that a reality.

      The bottom line is that I would really love to sell it completely and then be car debt free for several months.

      So hoping relisting the van and marketing it more aggressively will get me some viable offers. Here’s hoping…

      Thanks for your feedback, it’s greatly appreciated.

  • Reply Mary |

    First, I wouldn’t do anything until you know what, if anything, you’ll have from the sale of your house. Once you know that, you’ll be in a better position to make some decisions.

    Regarding the sale of vehicle #1, I’d do a little research first. Check the car dealers to see what they are offering for your make/model. Then Kelly’s Blue Book to see what the current value of the car is based on it’s condition. Before I’d price it, I’d go out and look at other vehicles via Craigslist for that same amount. That way, you get some perspective on what a buyer is getting for their money. If someone is in the market for a used commercial vehicle those are the avenues they might take and most people want the best car they can get for their money. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a better idea of what to price your vehicle at; at that time, you can have someone re-write your ad.

    Keep in mind, if you don’t get the full amount of your loan, you’ll have to have cash to pay off that loan in order to get the title to give a potential buyer. That’s why the sale of your house funds are important. If you can’t do that, how will you get the title?

    In terms of a replacement vehicle, I’d spend the least amount possible and try to pay cash with zero financing. You definitely want a car that seats the entire family however I’d probably nix the SUV in terms of a used van, probably around ten years old or more since the prices are better. I’d look for a used van that is in good mechanical shape, high mileage and priced to sell. You can get a Car Fax done on the vehicle prior to purchase and you can also have a mechanic look it over before you buy. Personally, I must say that I’ve always hated a van and always preferred SUVs; my son’s in a wheelchair and I swore I’d never get a van. Well, things have changed and I needed a wheelchair van and my ex-husband bought me a used wheelchair van, eight years old, with high mileage and we got a great deal. I negotiated the deal since I’m great at that and he paid cash for it and titled it in my name (his idea). He wanted me to have a van to be able to take my son out (I had just purchased a home last year and refused to have a house a car payment and my current car was paid for in full but it didn’t accommodate wheelchairs.) He asked me what I wanted in a van (the main thing I wanted was a rear entry not a side one for wheelchair)and told me his price range and that he was looking for (high mileage (mostly highway), great condition and used). We went to the dealer together (you have to go to a special dealer for wheelchair vans) and when the negotiations began, I told him that we had x amount of dollars and that was all I’d spend. The dealer wanted me to spend more and finance a “little” and I refused. I was firm and never wavered and told him if he couldn’t do it for “x” amount of dollars then I wasn’t interested. We got the van at exactly that price including taxes, etc.; ex was happy to since he was willing to up another $3-4k and I said no since I knew we could find a good vehicle for that amount of money. The van looks beautiful and is in great shape. I asked for the Car Fax report before we purchased it at the dealer. We had him put in a new battery and other than that, we haven’t had any repairs since we got the vehicle a few months ago. My point is that there are a ton of used vans in good condition out there. A wheelchair van costs a lot more than a regular van but if I were you, I’d look for a used van in really good condition for $4000 or so. If you have some house funds left over and you only had $2k, then I’d find the best van that I could for $2k. I’d do just about anything before I’d finance the van. As your financial condition changes, then you can upgrade the van paying cash of course. In terms of insurance, I got a great deal via Geico for only $55 a month-that’s full coverage and then some because of the wheelchair conversion so that increased the premium but even with the increase, it’s only $55/month.

    Good luck. I hope this helps.

    • Reply Hope |

      I am certainly not going to rush into anything and reality is I would just like to be free of the debt and make due with the existing debt free car for a while…

      Just anxious I suppose to see those debt numbers drop so explorying all options!

      Thank for your for feedback and shared experience, they are greatly appreciated.

  • Reply Mary |

    P.S. I also sold my old car outright after we got the van. I was going to sell it on Craigslist (did my research to see what my make/model was going for and what people could get for that amount of money on any car on Craigslist) and as I was cleaning it up, I thought about who my buyer would be for my older, high mileage, used car. At that time, the landscaping crew was coming to take care of the yard ( I live in a townhome and we have an homeowner’s association that takes care of the yard.) On a hunch, when I saw them, I thought perhaps one of the crew might need an “affordable” vehicle. I was vacuuming the car and ran inside and hand wrote a sign quickly with the make, model and price on it and taped it on the window and proceeded to vacuum my car then went inside leaving my car out for them to see. Less than 5 minutes later, I got a knock on my door from the crew inquiring about my car. One of the guys needed a car for his wife. We made a deal and told them I’d need cash and we made an appointment for later that day after they got off work and it was a done deal. They gave me the cash and the whole thing was done. My point is to think about who your buyer might be and proceed from there. I know it’s not easy selling a higher price, slightly used vehicle but it can be done.

  • Reply Mary |

    And finally, check with your Secretary of State’s Office in advance for instructions/forms on transferring the title of your vehicle to the new owner.

  • Reply jaye |

    I agree with the others – don’t get a car that doesn’t fit everyone. There are so many good cars out there that fit 5, there’s no reason to do that.

    Also, I was going to suggest a minivan, but saw that you are adverse to them. I wonder why? I know they’re not cool, but they are more comfortable, more affordable and you can do SO much more with the space in a minivan. I had an Odyssey and when it got to the end of it’s life switched to a Pilot. BIG mistake. I hated the thing. Huge gas guzzler, limited storage space, uncomfortable 3rd seat. After 9 months, I brought it back to the dealer and they took it back. Bought a used Odyssey and haven’t looked back. I can fit anything in that car – 8 people, whole gardens (I’m a landscape designer), construction materials. I would take another look at minivans!

    Also – do you have to give your car to the boys? Could you sell your big van and wait until you’ve got more cash to hand it over to them?

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, ideally that’s what I’d like to do…sell the van and make do with the debt free car until such time as it’s reasonable to purchase another USED car this time.

      I’d much prefer a sedan to a minivan, I’ve just never found them comfortable to drive or be a passenger in. Personal preference. My mom has always and still has one…have driven it many times and just don’t like them on any level.

      I’m just anxious to get rid of the big debt and big monthly obligation so exploring all options. From all the feedback I think my best bet is to continue to try to sell the existing van and not consider a trade in or purchase as this time at all so think I’m going to move forward that way.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  • Reply Barbolarb |

    Refusing to purchase a minivan in lieu of an suv is going to impact your plan to get out of debt substantially. We just sold a 2003 minivan in excellent condition, with complete maintenance records, for around $3000 on craigslist (in a strange twist of fate we inherited another minivan, and kept the newer one with stow-and-go seats, an awesome feature by the way). You could be driving a car that you can pay for in cash with six months of savings, and release yourself from $27,000 in debt at the same time. If you can get out from under massive car payments your financial life will never be the same. We have never looked back. Our friends (all with less dorky cars, and huge car payments attached) give us a hard time every now and then, but we just smile as we sock away savings into our Vanguard accounts and watch our wealth grow. Incidentally, whenever we do big group outings (Christmas tree hunting in the mountains, mom’s trips for pedicures, a night out at the karaoke bar) who do you think drives?

    • Reply Hope |

      I don’t think having a different car preference is going to make that big of a difference…the point is not what car I would get into. The point is the $$. I’ve had much experience with mini vans and just am not comfortable driving or being a passenger in them, so am not willing to consider them if I were to look at trading down. Personal preference.

      But from what I’ve gathered, I really need to continue focusing on just trying to sell our van and then make due with our existing debt free car for as long as I can.

      Thank you for your shared experience, I can certainly hear your pride in far you’ve come and that’s great.

  • Reply adam |

    a minivan is obviously the right answer. if not, then maybe a nice big sedan that will seat 5, like a 3-4 year old buick or something.

    • Reply Hope |

      Ha, I don’t think a minivan will answer my problems…having no car payment would! So I’m going to heed what I think is the best advice is trying to continue the sale of our existing van and then be car debt free…yay! And make due with our existing car until it’s time to purchase another USED car.

  • Reply TENN |

    Minivans are generally cheaper than SUVs and seat more people than sedans. Also, they have more storage than SUVs because you can put duffle bags under the seats. I think that is what people are confused about your aversion to minivans. Have you driven more than one brand’s minivan?

  • Reply Anne |

    I hope you rethink the minivan as an option, it would be the cheapest (in absolute and relative terms) and has the highest chance of eliminating a car payment for you. I own a Honda Element, and it does not seat 5 as you said, but its backseats also sit very high. Your oldest ones look tall in your pictures, and would not fit in the car comfortably.
    Like another poster said, maybe you need to try a different brand of minivans to be comfortable?

So, what do you think ?