Thursday, September 6, 2012

In The Family (Car) Way

Some things just aren’t as grand in real life as they are when you picture them as a kid. Parenting, for instance, has a lot more gross-out, hair-pulling, heavy-sighing moments than I thought it would as a naïve young(er) adult – you know, pre-parenting. Car buying is the same way!

We’ve just been through the process of going from one car payment (the hubby’s) to two. For 10 years, I drove a Ford Escape. It was the first car I bought for myself (with help from Dad for the down payment) out of college. It took us to Houston many times, Brownwood several times, even Colorado once (where I like to think it, along with Bryan’s smart driving, saved our lives – but that’s another story). That truck gave us some great memories. It went through three windshields, two liftgates, many tires and even one wheel (see the above comment about it saving our lives). It gave us 10 years and almost 140,000 miles… and five years with only one car payment.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and after some major repairs started to add up, we made the decision to shop for a new vehicle. Now, those of you who know my husband and me know that this is a loooooooong process for us. We looked at different makes and models online. We looked at our budget to see what we could comfortably afford. We asked friends and family for their opinions. We had lengthy discussions about whether it made more sense to get another larger vehicle (we already have a Ford Flex to carry all 5 of us), or go for smaller/better fuel economy, since we likely didn’t both need a vehicle to carry all 5 of us. We looked online again. We looked at safety ratings. I insisted on a “substantial” vehicle (read: I wanted another crossover/SUV) because I have a 45 minute commute with big rigs who like to play chicken with each other. We looked at our budget again…you get the idea.

Finally, after as much online, at-home research we could do, we narrowed down and started test driving. Thankfully, we were able to schedule the test driving days when the big boys were with their Mom, and my fabulous Mother-in-Law was able to stay with Sam. I can’t imagine doing those drives (in 100+ degree heat, no less) with kids in tow. After the initial test drives, we had narrowed it down to our top two choices. We took each vehicle home for an overnight test drive and I finally decided on my favorite, and we set out to the dealership.  Long story short, the finance department at the dealership ruined that deal with questionable (at best) practices. We left with no new vehicle, an entire day of work/productivity lost, and we were (I felt) back to square one.

One night, as I nursed a headache and Bryan did some more research, he looked up and asked, “why didn’t we look at the Ford Edge again?” I replied that I assumed it was because it was out of our price range. “Hmmm…no, I don’t think so. Would you be interested in looking at it?” Uh, YEAH. My Mom had just recently bought an Edge and loved it, and—I admit it, I’m a Ford girl. The next day I went to test drive the Edge (note to self: go for test drives alone next time; I got WAY more information and personal attention than when Bryan was with me) and fell. in. love. By the end of the week, we were picking up a new car – no more hassles or headaches. And, for the next few years, no more repair bills!

What’s your process for big family purchases like vehicles? What factor is most important – cargo/passenger room (if applicable), budget, safety, public opinion? Something else entirely?

Julie Daneman is wife to Bryan, Stepmom to Jacob and Caleb, and Mommy to Sam. They are a boisterous, loving, happy interfaith family.


  1. Interesting question you have there, Megan. Choosing the right car, for me, rests on various factors. First, I list down the things that I want to see on a car (e.g. design, features, etc.). I then search (thank goodness we have the internet) for the car that meet the criteria I have set. After I have found the car, I then look at the price. Questions like, “Is this within my price range?” or “Can I pay it in cash or credit?” pops into my mind. :D

  2. The tricky part when buying a car is confusing what you want with what you need. To avoid such confusion, it’s important to keep an objective mindset. You might find a car that appealed to you so much, but lacked the requirements that your lifestyle requires. This is where research and planning become important.

  3. The most important thing you need to consider when buying a car is to determine what kind of car really suits your lifestyle. Will it be for the family or more for personal use? Once you determine that, the rest will follow: The color, its features, and if it’s within your preferred budget.