Updated on 12.28.09

2010 Resolution #2: Pay Cash for a Replacement for My Truck

Trent Hamm

In an effort to talk about the power of goal-setting along with some methods of setting and achieving goals, I’m going to discuss my four resolutions for 2010 this week.

In 2001, I purchased a used 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the ensuing eight years, I put nearly 120,000 miles on that truck.

As the truck approaches fifteen years of life, it’s showing some desperate signs of wear and tear. There’s a flood of repairs that are imminent on it. It also lacks in four wheel drive, which is something that we’ve decided we need due to the winter driving that we do. Perhaps most importantly, the truck will not seat five people – which is how many people our family will have come April.

To put it simply, the truck needs replaced. 2010 is the year to finally do it.

Making the Goal Specific
The vehicle that replaces our truck will not be a commuting vehicle – instead, it will mostly be used for short, irregular trips throughout the year and for winter driving. Because of that, fuel efficiency isn’t as vital as it was for our last car purchase (a car for commuting).

It needs to comfortably seat two adults and (at least) three children with some adequate storage space left over. It also needs to have four wheel drive to adequately handle winter weather. We have been extremely lucky multiple times with weather and driving over the past few years and we don’t feel safe continually dodging that bullet.

As a result of these factors, we’re either looking at a minivan or a SUV. We’ve looked at Consumer Reports car issues for the middle years of this decade and have some specific used models we’re considering and looking for. We want to purchase the vehicle before the birth of our third child, which means the deadline for making the purchase is April 15. Our tentative plan is to utilize my wife’s 2010 teaching spring break to finalize our purchase, unless we find a great opportunity before then.

Since our goal is to pay cash, we also need to have an adequate amount of cash on hand to pay for this vehicle. We’re estimating $12,000 is our cap, with our purchase (ideally) coming in significantly below that.

Breaking It Down Into Microgoals
Our microgoals are simple. For our financial goal, we simply need to end a few CD ladders and have the cash deposited into our checking account, which will take care of the cash we need.

The real trick is continually moving forward on the purchasing decision itself. By the end of January, we’re going to have a full list of acceptable models for us to buy – ones that have the features we need and a blue book price in our range. After that, each week we will trawl the websites of various car dealers as well as the classified ads and Craigslist looking for an appropriate match. My specific goal is to find at least two cars to look at every week, whether at dealerships or sold by their owner.

When we find one we like that seems like a good deal from our research, we’ll simply pull the trigger and buy it.

Feedback and Adjustment
What do we do if we simply don’t find any vehicles that match our needs? If I find that my methods aren’t coming up with enough matches – and this should be obvious within the first week or two of serious searching – I’ll widen my net. I’ll ask friends and relatives to help me search in their respective areas, for starters.

If this still proves fruitless, I’ll step back and look at our original conclusions about which models we’re looking for. Perhaps we need to include older models or other models we weren’t previously considering in our search.

If we have a financial issue, we’ll re-adjust our criteria for what we intend to buy by including older models in the search.

Tomorrow, I’ll address my third 2010 goal – one that focuses on an area of personal growth.

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  1. George@MoneyLounge says:

    Yikes! April 15th…tax day and a birthday!

  2. Michael says:

    Would you be willing to share the list of models of vehicles you plan to look for? Your criteria are pretty similar to ours (though we have to be able to seat at least six passengers, rather than five) and I’d be interested in knowing what you’re looking at, as we will likely be purchasing a vehicle in the next 12-18 months.

  3. lurker carl says:

    A four door truck may be more useful and comfortable than a minivan or smaller SUV. And there are plenty of decent used ones for sale at bargin prices.

  4. Ryan says:

    If you decide to get a truck over an SUV, please choose a 4 door truck.

    My dad has a 2001 Ford F-150 and while it’s a been a great vehicle, it is not meant to haul a grown family around. When me and my sister were in middle school, it wasn’t too bad, but there simply isn’t enough room for 2 adults and one near adult (me!) plus stuff.

    This summer we drove 12 hours to SC and we opted to take my 1996 Ford Explorer instead of the truck. More room and better gas mileage too.

    I’d look at an Explorer (models now come with a 3rd row seat bring capacity up to 7) or a Honda Pilot. Neither are huge like an Expedition or Suburban so they can get 20 or more MPG with careful driving but still have plenty of room.

  5. Jonathan says:

    You can pick up a used Ford Explorer for a good price. I ran my 1992 for 287,000 miles before giving up on it. It is still on the road after I sold it.

  6. Troy says:

    The need for 4wd essentially eliminates the minivan. The only good minivan with 4wd is a Sienna in high trim and that would blow way past your budget.

    Considering your wants, needs and price range I second (now third) the Explorer. It’s not sexy or a Consumer Reports darling but it is likely the best value for your dollar.

    A mid 2003-2007 Explorer with third row seat, 4wd and low miles is easily within your budget. Likely even under 10K. They are everywhere so they are reasonable and easy to find. And they are easy to work on, get decent mileage and have lots of room.

  7. Tina says:

    I’d go for the minivan. It’s far easier for people (young and old) to climb in and out of a minivan than most SUVs.

  8. Chris G. says:

    Check into a Subaru Outback Wagon or Subaru Forester. Best all-wheel drive vehicles around, very roomy, and with snow tires, they can climb mountains in blizzards without missing a beat.

  9. Bill says:

    My mother-in-law has an Explorer. It’s very nice and it can handle itself in the snow. Also, the repairs should be cheap.

    I drive a different model Ford myself and it is now 6 years old and it is very reliable.

  10. Laurie says:

    I’m a little dumbfounded at the recommendations for Explorer’s with 3rd seats with 3 kids in car seats. How on earth will they get the child sitting in the rear into/out of his seat? IIRC he is only 4 right? Not an age to be working with his own seat belt. And while it is possible to put three seats across, it really is NOT very workable. (My mother has a Explorer 3rd row and it is a pain in the butt when she occasionally has her 4 grandchildren). I can’t imagine doing this on a day to day basis.

    I also don’t like how close 3rd seats are to the rear in the event of collision. I know it is “supposed” to be safe, but that is a major flaw in the Explorer compared to a minivan or larger SUV (Expedition/Yukon/Suburban) in my opinion.

    Minivan is DEFINITELY the way to go for seating issues. The sliding doors are also another huge plus when parking in the garage or tight parking. No reason that you can’t pick up a used Toyota Sienna with 4wd – living in a snowy area they should be available!

    And by the way – we’ve owned an Explorer, a Pilot (which I LOVE and am driving now), a Yukon, and an Odyssey with our two kids. My sister drives a Sienna. I’d go for a Sienna if I had more than 2 kids. If my kids were older (teen years) and tall (which I’m guessing yours will be) I’d go for a Yukon or Suburban – there is surprisingly little leg room in Explorers/Expeditions when you’ve got 6 fters.

  11. Kris says:

    Hi Trent,
    Excellent resolution, enjoying this week’s theme.

    Just a point – don’t forget that a lot of your work won’t be necessary if you go and test drive the models you’re looking at. It’s amazing how some cars ‘fit’ and some don’t, especially based on height, etc.

    Good luck!

  12. Call me crazy, but $12,000 seems like a lot of money for a (presumably) used vehicle, especially since the market for SUVs has really taken a hit due to gas prices. I could be wrong, I’m not in the market for that type of vehicle. I would think $5,000 or $6,000 would be more reasonable.

  13. Paula says:

    Trent, shouldn’t that read “approaching thirteen years of life”? I only caught that because I drive a 1993 model Ford Escort wagon approaching seventeen years of age, that I have been thinking of replacing for the past year. I will have to buy used as well, but am thinking of getting another wagon (maybe a subaru) as they are so useful to have and we have only one child. I live in Maine, so a vehicle with AWD or 4WD would be nice to have, but I have driven for years with just FWD in the snow.

  14. Um…. Most Explorers are NOT AWD, so I’d be careful about that one. FWD would be an acceptable alternative IMO, but not the RWD alternative of the Explorer.

    I’d also be serious about AWD and not go for 4WD, those systems tend to have engagement issues… Like my Mom’s Durango. (So don’t buy Dodge/Chrysler anything. The tranny will die.)

    YAY for someone else suggesting Subaru, if you want AWD you can NOT beat Subaru, they make the best AWD transmissions (next to Audi) and their engines take a licking, too. Just pull up some STi rally videos if you want a testament to Subaru’s build quality. Oh, and a Subaru will hold it’s value, too. Plus they look nice, and wagons are surprisingly roomy….

    Wtf did people ever do before SUV’s became “affordable”? They drove station wagons, that’s what.

  15. Ryan says:


    My Explorer doesn’t have the 3rd row, but I’ve always heard that the seats are ridiculously easy to move on the new Explorers and Expeditions.

    And in the SUVs I’ve ridden in with a 3rd row, it doesn’t seem any closer to the rear than it does with a minivan or car.

    I thought the rear of the car has always been known as the safest place to be…

    I just doubt that Trent will purchase a “large” (aren’t they all?) SUV like a Suburban. Though I suppose he could throw a curve ball and get an Expedition EL… :)

  16. Laurie says:

    @Ryan – The bigger problem is that with two carseats in the middle row of an explorer you can’t fold the 2nd row seat down to get the kid into the 3rd row without removing a carseat. So your kid has to climb over and then you have to act like a contortionist crawling over your other carseats and the actual seat to get him or her strapped in (at least in my mom’s 2005 model). In a minivan or Tahoe (with the two middle bucket seats) there is a pathway to the third row of seats. A Tahoe/Suburban with 2nd bench also works because you can use the center and one side and still fold the other side seat down. I’d not recommend that though – killer on the back trying to get a kid into a center car seat in a car that big and that far off the ground. (plus the gas mileage sucks!)

    Also, third row seat in older Explorers are VERY close to the rear of the car (I believe newer models have added more space for safety reasons) – unlike minivans/larger SUVs that have several feet. Rear is safe in a head on collision, but if you are rear ended at a high speed and your child is sitting in a 3rd row seat what do you think will happen?

    Cars with “third row seating” would work great if you didn’t have the car seat issue. Major pain with it believe me!

    Station wagons etc (subaru included) are also likely out. Have you people TRIED to get three car seats (even if one is a booster) onto one bench seat? Expedition is the smallest car it is possible and safe in and even that is a pain as you then can’t get your hands between the seats to the seatbelt hooks. I’ve done it with 2 boosters and an infant seat in an Explorer – definitely not safe and when you shut the doors the seats all ram together.

    We grew up with 3 kids in a station wagon, but they were a LOT bigger then – and no one was in a car seat after the age of two! I don’t know about your states, but my state requires a car seat or booster until the age of six and is likely moving the age to 8. Great for safety but that pretty much requires a minivan for 3 or more kids under 8.

    Trent (and anyone else shopping for a car with 3 or more children is car seats): Make sure you test drive the car seat situation also – with your actual car seats. I felt really stupid dragging ours around while test driving, but it was worth it! A bad car seat fit can really make your life miserable.

  17. Kara says:

    Okay, I’ll join in with the unsolicited advice. I would go with a mini van. I don’t know how tall your wife is, but you say that you’re pretty tall. My husband is 6’8, and I have to think tall to be 5′. A mini van was “short” enough for me to get all of the kids into, and it also provided enough head/leg space for DH. Also, I’ll second the vote about SUVs/Crossovers with third row seats. They were a real pain to get small kids into and out of. The asile between the bucket seats of a mini van is a real lifesaver.

    I’ll also second the comment that you need to take the car seats to the dealership with you. You need to see if they fit. I would also take the kids with you for the test driving portion (I wouldn’t do the actual buying with them there) so that you can actually see where they would fit and how they would go. You don’t want to feel like your newborn is on the moon when he/she is screaming up a storm and you’re on the interstate.

    As for the people who are suggesting that you get a four-door pickup, we did. I’m not exactly sorry that we bought the truck (we do use the pickup for hauling all kinds of things–it’s a side hustle), but I sometimes wish that I had the minivan.

  18. michael bash says:

    You’ve got to set a personal goal to improve your English. Many tell me that Americans are falling behind in their language abilities. You publish to the world phrases like, “…my truck needs replaced …” My truck needs replacing. Of course, it’s not just you; your hear the most amazing things on CNN: Mari Ramos’ English is replete with errors, but she’s from El Salvador. But then you have Pinto confusing less/fewer in front of mass and count nouns.

    What are we to do? Russell Brand is a character, but the quality of his language puts many educated American to shame. I could go on, but I will stop. Please think on it: it hurts me

  19. Michael, I noticed that too, but Trent is not the first person in my acquaintance to use English like that. My old boss used to tell that “This shelf needs cleaned.”. It might be a regional thing? She was from Pittsburgh.

  20. I have yet to be able to pay complete cash for a vehicle of mine.

    I think its one of the greatest things we can do.

    Besides the fact of saving interest on a car loan, you don’t have the monthly strain of a car payment for the next 4 years, or even more.

    I thiink its an awesome goal

  21. skywind says:

    It’s not a regional thing, Kristen and Michael; I hear it everywhere and it’s one of my pet peeves. “The truck needs replacing” or “the truck needs to be replaced” are correct.

  22. dan says:

    I would also highly recommend the Subaru Outback, the Subarus have the best AWD, extremely safe (essentially the modern volvo), low center of gravity. I live in WI and can’t tell you how many times I can dig out of my parking spot in 20 minutes and everyone else next to me ends up giving up. The only problem with the Subaru Outback is they have an extremely high resale value (good if you buy new, especially with the 0% and 0.9% financing) but hard to get a great deal on a used one.

  23. Ian says:

    The only minivan that fits three car-seats side-by-side is the 8-passenger Sienna.

    Though he didn’t say carseats, he said kids. Starting in 2004 Outbacks became very safe. Id start there to see if my family-size would fit.

    I bought a 2005 Sienna last year for that target price. It’s nice, but has lots of small issues — squeaky brakes, rattles, seatbelts that fold over in the pulleys.

    BTW, AWD is overrated, especially compared to what snow tires can do for any car.


  24. Little House says:

    My husband is looking for an older work truck, as you are describing you’d like to sell. Too bad you don’t live in Southern CA!
    Good luck with your hunt.

  25. All I can add is that I have a recent four-year-old who can buckle herself into her own booster seat just fine! :-) She started being able to do that around 3-and-a-half. Of course, having the room to find the buckle and such is definitely helpful.

    I only have 1 munchkin and we have a 99 Neon R/T (2-door) and a 2003 Dodge Ram quad-cab. (4-door). Both paid for, of course! I don’t know about any of the other quads but I wouldn’t even try to fit more than 1 other carseat/booster in the back of that! My husband mostly uses it for work, but we’ve also had her in it. Much more convenient than our 2-door ‘sports car’ but now that she’s older it’s not such a pain. She can climb-in either vehicle herself. If I went buying though, it would be exactly for Trent’s reasons, and I would definitely take her older seat with us. Here in Florida they are required to be in a seat/booster until age 5, backseat until 12. I have heard it varies quite a bit, state-to-state, so that’s something else you should consider if you travel!

  26. micki says:

    i have a suzuki grand vitara that i bought used in 2003, driven it in 2 blizzards, and have 260000 miles on it right now. it has had very few issues and the issues it DID have are mostly due to the fact that i deliver newspapers in it. i don’t know about fitting 3 car seats in the model that i have but there is a model that has 7 seats instead of the 5 that i have. there is adequate storage space in the back (i have carried my son, myself and about 500 fat Sunday papers in mine, which is very much on the small side of mid-sized). and for a minorly used vehicle (it had 33000 miles on it & was 2 years old), i paid 13000 for it…(so that’s about normal…) i DO know that the kia SUV that is comparable to mine, has less storage in the back (someone is trying to sell one down the street from me…). anyway, don’t know if that helps but i too, am looking to get a second vehicle that needs to be equal of my suzuki, if only to handle the amount of papers i do. would also be interested in what you come up with. thanks!

  27. Michele says:

    We have a Nissan Titan 4×4 Crew Cab pickup truck (2004) with 4 doors. It is an amazing vehicle! I also have a hard tonnneau cover so I use the bed of my truck for storage. It can hold 3 young adult men over 6’tall, a mom and dad driving to Mammoth 12 times a year :) and I’ve actually had 3 little ones in the back seat in car seats at the same time. Of course, it came with leather seats, seat heaters, tons of extras, and I did get a killer deal on it brand new (paid cash) but you could probably find a used one at a great price right now. I get about 18 miles per gallon and after living in the Klamath Basin of Oregon for the past 4 winters with tons of snow for oh, 6 months of the year, I have not had to put chains on the tires yet. It’s like driving a luxury car…but you can see better and carry more stuff. Good wishes with your search!

  28. Tami says:

    Go with the minivan. My Honda minivan has so much more space than any SUV with a third row seat (more space for seating and cargo). I have several friends who didn’t want the minivan because of style (not cool enough) and then were very sorry because they could not fit their double strollers in the back of their $50,000 SUVs. Once your third child is born, the bigger car will be the vehicle you drive with the whole family. You can fit three car seats in a sedan, but it is tight and not comfortable even for short trips. I had four kids in less than six years — which means I had four car/booster seats for three years and three car/booster seats for five years. I consider the Honda minivan the best purchase I have ever made. It blows my husband’s Isuzu Trooper and my sister’s very expensive “seven seat” Tahoe out of the water.

  29. Alex says:

    A minivan is going to offer the most space and will have most of the utility of a truck (as long as it will hold a 4×8 sheet of plywood). I think people’s need for 4wd/awd is an illusion. Given your concerns with traction, a good set of snow tires on a 2wd vehicle, front or rear wheel drive, will outperform any awd vehicle with all season tires. We have nasty winters here in NW Indiana and I’ve been using snow tires nearly as long as I’ve been driving and I would recommend them to anyone.

    Another concern that most people have is the cost of buying a second set of tires and possibly a second set of wheels. With two sets of tires being used, you will only be wearing one set for roughly half of the year and the other set for the other half of the year. The cost will work itself out.

    In the end, the cost of snow tires is irrelevant compared to the safety and confidence they bring to winter driving.

  30. Steffie says:

    I know you will keep your vehicle for years so remember that your children will not be in car/booster seats forever. And they grow into teenagers etc. I have 3 children;, 16, 12, and 11. I have an Explorer and thank God everyday for the big back seat. I don’t hear “she’s touching me”,”there’s not enough room for my legs when I sit in the middle” etc. This is especially good on any trip longer than an hour. As for gas mileage, don’t keep a lot of junk in the back and do regular maintenance. I will put up with low mileage for peace of mind and less distractions when driving ! Again, its all about what you value.

  31. John says:

    Again, I question your “need” for 4WD or AWD. I live in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and even with all our snow-covered, hilly roads, am always 100% confident with FWD and a good set of snows. Most people in NH are the same way. It’s because we’re Yankees. (That means “cheap” in the New Hampshire vernacular.)

  32. Ryan says:


    Gotcha. I wasn’t really understanding how inconvenient car seats can be!

  33. I agree that a 4 yr old suv with 4×4 is the answer

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  34. Aaron says:

    Two notes: “needs replaced” is indeed a regionalism. It’s informal and I wouldn’t use it in business writing, but for a blog – especially one that’s about money and not language – I think it’s fine.

    Second: Why not a wagon? Less rollover risk, plenty of storage, and more options with AWD than a minivan…

  35. Megan says:

    Two comments:

    I second the comments (the first in #8) about the Subarus. I have a ’99 Subaru Outback with 130,000 on it, and the thing is a wonder in the snow (I live in Michigan). I’m 6’0″ and my dad’s 6’2″ and he has no trouble fitting in the back seat of the car, which is always nice.

    Another one you might consider, especially if it has traction control (the best thing to have if you can’t get AWD), is a Honda Odyssey. My dad has one and we drove four tall adults and all our stuff down from Ohio to South Carolina with no complaints. There was plenty of room, and it actually got really good gas-mileage, due to a newer feature that lets the engine use fewer cylinders (I think?) when you’re on the high way to conserve gas mileage. Granted, he was driving a 2008 model, but I know they’re really reliable cars and have been performing well every since they were first put out in 1998.

    My second comment, which was also addressed by Aaron in #34 is that “needs verb-ed” is perfectly correct in terms of dialectic English (much like “should oughta”) and is not something that Trent should have to correct, especially for the informal setting of his own blog.

  36. AnnJo says:

    Did the Federal Government pass a law I didn’t notice, abolishing the 3+ child family? Reading the comments on people’s difficulties with car seats WAY beyond common sense, it would seem so. I used to love car trips as a child, snuggled in among many pillows and blankets in the back of an old Rambler wagon, my sister and I free to entertain each other, take a comfortable nap, or play games. Being a kid on a car trip today sounds like pure frustration!

    Psychological research suggests that many safety measures fail to accomplish their intended purpose because people unconsciously adjust their own degree of care. They go out in more dangerous weather BECAUSE they have AWD; they are more reckless drivers BECAUSE their kids are in car seats.

    I don’t doubt that some children have been saved because of car seats. I also don’t doubt that some children have died because their parents put too much reliance on the car seat’s protection, and drove more carelessly, or because their children, less able to entertain themselves, distracted the driver beyond tolerance.

    And then there are all the really neat kids who will never be born because their parents won’t be able to figure out how to fit them in the family car. (At least, if they read this post and its comments!)

    Trent, get the safest car you can get, and then drive as if none of those safety features existed. Ironically, that’s the only way to really benefit from them.

  37. Jennifer says:

    You might try looking at carseatdata.org to help you decide how your carseats will fit in future cars. Depending on the seats you have it might be possible to get 3 carseats/boosters in one row but it definitely won’t work with all seats and in all cars. Our 2nd is coming in May and I’m wishing we could upgrade now just so we’ll be able to carry at least one additional person in our car after installing two carseats. I was just looking today at dealership prices for minivans with less than 60k miles (Toyota, Honda or Nissan only) and they were closer to the $20k range. I think the Toyota is the only one with AWD. Also things like sliding minivan doors as opposed to doors that swing open, also opening doors & trunks on a keyfob are real minivan draws for me. Doing these things with while holding a baby in an infant carseat & wrestling a 2 year old seem a lot easier in a minivan

  38. Bill says:

    Do you need ground clearance for snow?

    I love minivans but they don’t have much.

    And keep a set of tire chains for at least the drive wheels.

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