Snatched from the mouth of car Hell

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(If you are unaware of the back story regarding our Dodge van, check out the category “Why Dodge Sucks” in the pull-down menu on the left. Also realize that the most recent problems we had with it are not recorded there so the situation is even worse than what’s been written here.)


I would like to take this opportunity to announce our salvation from automobile Hell. We’ve been redeemed, we’ve seen the light and now walk in the ways of our Asian brethren, who have a tendency to eat weird shit with tentacles and eyeballs but know how to make a damned fine car, praise Jesus and hallelujah.

Thanks to some inspired and determined work on behalf of my husband, the following things happened in the space of two days last weekend:

*Robert visited the local Nissan dealership and they cut him the deal of the century, taking both his trashed Oldsmobile Alero (Trade-in value: $100. Pay-off: $1900) and the non-working van (on which was owed $400 just for the labor it had taken to figure out they didn’t know how to fix it) and giving him an ’07 Nissan Sentra in trade. Folks, they paid off the Alero and the repair ticket on the van, which they are towing down here to auction. All told we, for all intents and purposes, were given over $4000 for the van….the van which does not currently run and may, quite possibly, never run again. Robert’s payments on the Sentra are actually about $70 less than what he was paying on his previous car and both our crappy cars are now someone else’s problem.

*Next, we located a Honda Odyssey at the Carmax in Tulsa. The price was more than fair and included tag, title and tax. Robert went up to look at it on Saturday and bought it on the spot. And, get this: they financed us at a 4% better interest rate than we’d have paid if we’d used the Capital One check we intended to use!

The van is very nice. It’s got leather and an in-dash touchscreen GPS system. It does have a little over 60k miles on it but 60k on a Honda is like 20k on an American-made car. I can put another 100k on it if I want to and it shouldn’t give me a bit of trouble.

And so, just like that, our car woes are over. It’s been a long time coming. We sold my 4Runner in the summer of 2005. I was without a vehicle (this would qualify as a woe) for nine months. Then we got the van and had consistent problems with it (approximately every 2-3 months) for the entire time we’ve owned it. So I’ve been toasting my feet over the pit of vehicular Hades for close to four years now. My friends and family got sick of hearing about it. I’m sure everyone online got sick of hearing about it. You can be assured that, no matter how sick of it anyone else was, their disgust paled in comparison to how sick and freaking tired I was of it all. And now, poof. It’s over. I can walk out the door at any time I wish and go where I need to go. My vehicle will start and it will take me where I want to go and, most likely, will not die in intersections (or anywhere else). I’m a free woman, and not only that, it’s a pretty nice set of wheels, too. You know…..for a mini van.

Some might wonder about the wisdom of making this deal. You see, we will still be paying for the van for quite some time to come. Fortunately we are blessed in that the source of the loan for the van has given us low payments and exceedingly generous terms. But it is still a payment we have to make every month on a vehicle we no longer possess. So let’s look at our two other options for a moment.

Option #1: Fix the van, sell it & send the proceeds to pay off the loan
To do this, first we would have had to attempt to make a deal with the Nissan people sans the van. This would not have happened. We just tried that at a different car dealer a couple weeks ago and the terms/payments they gave us were so outrageous as to be unaffordable. So at that point Robert would’ve been stuck driving the Alero until it paid off. We’d have ended up shelling out another $1900 in payments on a car that was worth $100. It would’ve paid off in June and then we’d have been starting from square one. Square one for us means nothing to trade, hoping someone would finance us. And did I mention it had 180,000 miles on it and he was driving it 600+ miles a week?

So then say that, despite this, we decided to just forge ahead, forget getting Robert a car, keep the van and try to sell it. How much would we have gotten for a van that has an apparently unidentifiable problem and does not run more than a mile or two without dying? Fix it, you say? Okay, fine. At what cost? We’d already racked up a $400 bill just for them to figure out they didn’t know what was wrong with it. And nothing had worked to repair it. The only other option the service department could think of was to call Chrysler and see if they could help determine the problem. Oh, that really fills me with confidence. How much would this have ended up costing? I feel safe in saying it would’ve run to the thousands. We’re talking hours of diagnosis, perhaps transporting it to some other location and God knows what else. There’s a good chance that the repairs could’ve cost us 50-75% of the sale price we’d have gotten if we tried to sell it.

Finally, consider this: Conversion vans are difficult to sell. They are a niche market. We wouldn’t have been able to get Blue Book price for it even if it ran perfectly. Not in this market and this economy. We’d have had to spend thousands to get it running just so we could sell it at a reduced price and the amount we’d have gotten out of it wouldn’t have paid off the loan for it entirely, anyway. We’re better off simply continuing to pay off the loan than paying the loan and several thousand in repair bills. Also consider that, over the past year, the amount we’ve already paid in repairs for that van has worked out to approximately $300 a month. So, for all intents and purposes, we’ve been paying an extra car payment for the past twelve months or so, anyway. We ought to about break even.

Option #2: Repair the van and keep it
First off, see above paragraph regarding the chances of the van being repaired, and the potential price tag to make it so. Also please keep in mind that we’ve already spent thousands repairing this van and it has never stayed repaired for more than a few months at a time. So there was no guarantee that we wouldn’t pour all this money into it only to have it break down again later this year.

Secondly there’s the little matter of how much longer it would’ve taken to get it running again. It has already been gone five or six weeks. In case anyone missed the news bulletin, my husband, along with our second car, is gone all week for work. I’m here by myself with three kids who have school and various activities, not to mention niggling little things like needing groceries to feed them and whatnot. I have been sharing a car with my 72-year-old father-in-law who lives across town. This involves a LOT of him driving here to pick us up, me driving him home, me driving back to his house, him driving us back home, lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe it means I’m a spoiled rotten, fat, lazy, sense-of-entitlement-holding, instant-gratification-requiring American but, really, how long should one be expected to go on like that? Weeks? Months? Surely there’s a point where cutting one’s losses and moving on becomes necessity rather than simply an exercise in self-indulgence. No, I guess in European terms, or in metropolitan terms, I didn’t need another car. Yes, I could’ve continued to get by without one, probably for as long as it took to get some sort of answer on the van. But I’ve simply had enough. We were no longer willing to gamble on the van. We’ve gambled thousands of dollars already on it, that each time we had it repaired would be the last time and it would keep running. We were wrong every time. My getting a new van wasn’t me being spoiled and pampered. It was us throwing up our hands and admitting defeat. As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We’ve been insane long enough.

So there you have it. My conscience wouldn’t let me end the story without touching on those points. I don’t know that anyone is actually questioning our decision. Hell, for all I know everyone may be so happy that they don’t have to hear me uttering the words “my van is broken down again” any more that they aren’t thinking twice about the details. But, still, I wanted to explain. On the surface our decision may not seem like the wisest one but I truly think that, looking at ALL the factors, it was the best route to take. Not perfect, by any means, but the least of several evils.

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About msmaryb

I'm a native Californian who lives in Oklahoma. I'm a full-time student, pursuing a Bachelors in Anthropology, following which I hope to attain a Masters in Archaeology. I have three kids, one husband, no pets, and a lot of friends - most of whom live inside my computer. I love to read, write, watch tv (shut up, we can't all be brain surgeons), shop, and travel. I'm trying to set foot in all 50 states before I die. I have 38, so far. I love the Beatles and Maroon 5, and if you think those two things are incongruous, well, they are. But that's me. When I love something, I love it 100%. I don't do anything halfway. I want to know everything there is to know, so I'm trying to cram as much into my brain as I can in the short amount of time I'm allotted in this dimension.

2 responses »

  1. Woo Hoo!!! Mary I’m so happy that all your car problems have worked out!! I’m sure people who live in metro areas are asking… “can’t she just walk?” I’d like to see them walk all 3 kids from 18th street to Glenwood at 8:30 every morning!!

  2. Unless they’ve gone through automobile hell like you have I don’t think anybody could possibly judge your decision. I’d think you’d be willing to pretty much sell your soul at this point to see the van issue go away. I am happy for you; you’ve definitely earned the right to not have to worry about your vehicle.
    Enjoy your freedom, baby!!!

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