Starting The Thought Process Behind Buying A New Vehicle

As the months pass, it looks more and more likely that we’ll need to buy a new vehicle sometime between now and next summer. My wife’s Mercury Sable, that with almost 150,000 miles on it, is starting to show lots of little issues wrong with it – most notably, a recent severe issue with the transmission.

Before we even begin to look at this topic, my wife and I agree that we’re looking at a late model used vehicle. We don’t want to pay a huge premium for the “prestige” of owning a new vehicle, but we also want one with a long lifespan, so we’re looking for something fresh off a lease.

What are our needs? That’s the first big question for anyone considering a car purchase. For starters, we currently have a toddler and a newborn and we’ve both made offhand references in the last few days that basically implies more children to come. Thus, this new vehicle will need space for a family – we need a vehicle with adequate room for a five person family – and occasionally with more, as we live on a block with a lot of children near my son’s age that I’m sure he’ll begin to pal around with.

The second consideration is that we will likely rack up significant miles on this vehicle – it will be used in high-mileage situations. That means we are highly interested in fuel efficiency and reliability above all.

As far as my wife and I can tell, these two factors put us squarely in the minivan camp. Our recent reading of Consumer Reports points us towards either the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna for long term reliability. We’ve found late model used instances of both (2005 model year) in the $18K to $20K range (not including any trade-in value).

So what’s the plan? We’re going to accelerate our savings for a vehicle so we can make a large down payment on this van when the time comes. We’ve basically been saving what amounts to a car payment on this type of car each month – we’re going to kick it up to saving double payments until we make the move to buy it.

Until then, we’ll study both models in detail, test drive a few, and know exactly what we want – then wait until the time is right to make the move (probably early next summer or when the old car has issues).