Why we drive two used cars instead of one

By glblguy

Driving two cars
Photo by: johnbrian

As many of my readers know, I have a large family. There are eight of us (my wife and I and 6 children). Finding a vehicle that will haul all of us together isn’t too difficult, but they are expensive. We’ve been looking since 2006 and have narrowed our choices down to either a Chevrolet Suburban or a Ford Expedition EL. There are other full-size van and SUV options, but my wife isn’t comfortable driving them and I am not comfortable with their reliability or safety ratings. Minivans, while some hold 8 people, do not do so comfortably. The Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna both are 8 passenger, but with my children being older, space is tight especially when you throw in 2 car seats. For now, whenever all 8 of us have to go somewhere, we drive two cars, our 2004 Dodge Durango and our 2001 Nissan Sentra (which is paid for).

We like 2-3 year old vehicles

The problem with the Ford Expedition EL is that it’s a new model. Released in 2007, they are difficult to find used and when you do they are expensive. Chevrolet Suburbans have been around since 1936 so there are plenty out there. This would be our primary vehicle and I like to buy cars that are 2-3 years old for our primary vehicle, meaning I’m really looking for something from 2005 and newer. I also try to find something with higher than average mileage and then do a little digging to determine why the mileage is high. If it’s all highway miles, that’s okay and you can get an even better deal. Why 2-3 years old? Here are just a few reasons:

  • 2-3 year old vehicle have taken a significant portion of their depreciation. The largest portion of depreciation occurs during the first year, and generally as soon as you drive it off the lot. So basically that nice shiny new car you purchased, takes a huge hit real quick due primarily to the fact you paid retail for it (plus a number of fees that cannot be recuperated). If you were to sell it or trade it in, you would only get wholesale value. Car’s generally depreciate 15-20 of their value each year. This goes even higher for SUVs like the Suburban. For the used car buyer that plans on keep a vehicle for a long time (like me), high depreciation is a good thing.
  • 2-3 year old vehicles are still under warrenty. Depending on the manufacturer, they may still be covered under the bumper to bumper warrenty. Even if they aren’t, unless the mileage is really high the power train warrenty is most likely still in effect.
  • Many of the “kinks” have been worked out. With any new vehicle, there are bound to be a few kinks here and there. Either problems directly with a particular vehicle due to manufacturer defects, parts the manufacturer used (like tires) or manufacturer recalls. In a 2-3 year old vehicle, many of these types of problems have already been addressed meaning potentially less maintenance cost for you.

Why we continue to drive 2 cars

So with all of this great information, why are we still driving two cars? As with anything, it boils down to making the right financial decisions. Here’s why we are still driving two vehicles whenever we go somewhere all together:

  • We’re in debt – We just simply don’t feel good about buying another car right now while we have outstanding credit card and 401k loan debt. Could we afford it? Sure, but it would take a significant bite out of our debt snowball and decrease the speed at which we are paying off our debt.
  • We don’t really need to go somewhere as a family very often – Now that my oldest son is a teenager, he doesn’t generally want to go to the store, mall, etc. with us and usually would rather stay home. This frees up a seat in our Dodge Durango so we can all ride together. We are finding we require two vehicles to get places less and less frequent.
  • We really like our Durango – Frankly, we really like our Dodge Durango. It’s big, but not too big and it’s loaded with lots of great options(yes, it’s a Hemi)! Seriously we really do like it. We got a really great deal on it, our monthly payment is minimal and we wouldn’t be able to replace it without doubling our monthly car payment right now as we don’t have money for a significant down payment. Not something either of us want to do. We also have a great relationship with the dealership as a result of being friends with the owner.

We’re sacrificing in the short term to gain in the long term

So, it’s a bit inconvenient to drive two vehicles around town every so often, sure it uses a little more gas, and it reduces our family time a bit, but I think the minor sacrifice is worth the cost savings. We keep looking at Suburbans, and will continue to. We keep hoping to find the perfect vehicle at the perfect price and we’re being very patient. I’ve learned through my financial journey, in key to being debt free and gaining wealth is sacrifice. This is a small sacrifice to make that overall is saving us a good chunk of money.

What do you think? What would you suggest we do? I’d love to hear your thoughts, agreements or disagreements on our decision as this is a discussion my wife and I have had many many times.

23 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Why we drive two used cars instead of one”

  1. Mrs. Micah Says:

    Since you already have them, I think it’s good to stick with them for now. Better than making another purchase.

    Also, if one breaks down you’ll have a backup. That helped my family a number of times.

    Plus, once teen gets to driving age in a couple years, it’ll be good to have one for him to practice with.

  2. Lynnae @ beingfrugal.net Says:

    Sounds like you’re doing the right thing. But speaking of breaking down, what do you do when you break down? We used to have one car that had bucket seats that didn’t mesh with the carseats very well, and it was a huge pain whenever my car would need to be serviced. We couldn’t go anywhere, because we couldn’t get the carseats in the car!

  3. glblguy Says:

    @Lynnae – Well, so far the Durango hasn’t had a breakdown. When/if it does we most likely wouldn’t go anywhere as a family until it gets fixed. 2 other options would be renting a car or just borrowing a new one from the dealership (advantage of knowing the owners).

    Given break downs don’t occur frequently, it would be cheaper to rent something. My car will hold the car seats…but only 5 people total.

  4. plonkee Says:

    You may never really need a big 8 seater car. If you’ve got one teenager already, in a few years time you’ll have more, and they’ll start going off to college, and you can look forward to indulging your BMW fetish.

  5. Money Blue Book Says:

    I’m contemplating buying an older 1-2 year old car as my next “new car”. The mileage should be low but I still wonder about the wisdom of such a move.

  6. Chief Family Officer Says:

    I think I would probably do the same thing in your shoes (not that I can imagine having six kids – I’m overwhelmed with two!). But my husband and I are going to buy a new car toward the end of this year and we have thought about buying one with third-row seating so that at least one set of grandparents could join us. We are hesitant, though, because our 2-car garage isn’t very big, we don’t want a gas-guzzler, we want to stay under $25K, and we haven’t seen a car (well, SUV or minivan) that we love. So we’ll probably end up with another sedan. It’s just one of those times when saving money wins out over convenience.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    glblguy — I agree with plonkee. Given that you’re getting by with two cars during the years when all your children are younger and going in the same direction, you may find that you never end up needing a vehicle large enough to fit everyone. The only exception to this would be if you decide to go on a road-trip/vacation. Then, I would assume, a rented vehicle would be your best bet.

    Now that we have two active teens, we find that we rarely venture anywhere together all four of us. Most often I have one child going one direction while my husband is taking the other child to a different activity in a different direction.

    I drive an ’01 Toyota Sequoia that I absolutely love and would highly recommend to anyone looking for an 8-seater. My sister, who had a Ford, highly coveted my Toyota. The V8 engine is a thing of beauty ;-) and the third seat is a legitimate, comfortable seat — not just a mildly padded bench mounted on the floor (as the Ford’s third seat was).

    The Sequoia is really much more vehicle than we require these days — now that we live a typical suburban commuter lifestyle, but it was fantastic for those years we spent traveling with extended family. We keep it because that’s the cheaper option — even with gas prices what they are. At 7 years and almost 120,000 miles, it’s been a very dependable and luxuriously comfortable workhorse of a vehicle.

  8. Laura Says:

    you’re so right about waiting a few years on purchasing a vehicle. The depreciation is quite significant for some models. Insurance companies also offer lower premiums for insuring used cars.

  9. glblguy Says:

    @plonkee – That is a good point, and probably one that has been in the back of our mind. He’s only 3 years from driving…scary thought, but true. BMW fetish…hehe, that’s true too :-)

    @Raymond – Why question the wisdom? I seriously question the Wisdom of paying for a new car. It’s like throwing money out the window. Cars these days run for well over 100,000 miles. If well cared for 200,000 and more isn’t unheard of at all. I wouldn’t let miles impact you too much.

    @CFO – NEW car? Why? I would buy a new, used car. More care for the money.

    @Elizabeth – Good information on the Sequoia. Toyota makes an awesome vehicle that really holds it’s value too. I read the other day they are now the second largest vehicle manufacturer in the world, moving Ford into 3rd place. Thanks for the comment! Oh…wanna race…Hemi vs. Toyota ;-)

    @Laura – Good point on insurance Laura, I should have mentioned that. Funny, most people look for cars with low depreciation, like it’s an investment. I buy one with high depreciation, get a great deal and drive it until the wheels fall off. I didn’t always do this, but it’s kinda fun seeing how many miles you can get out of a vehicle. My Nissan is at 130,000 miles…not a single problem yet.

  10. joel Says:

    a pretty good way of buying cars is to go for whats called a program car. this is the right time of year for them too. its basically buying a factory car that is of the current model year but has some miles on it.

    its a good time for it because of the early part of the year…it being january and all

    if you get a second please send me an email. i’d like to chat with you about something, if you dont mind.

  11. glblguy Says:

    Hi joel, great suggestion. Our Durango was a similar. Dodge gave all of the District sales reps new Durango’s to drive when the 2004’s came out. Ours was one of those. Had all the scheduled maintenance documented and everything. Miles were a bit high, but that was ok as I knew most mileage was highway and it was well maintained. Got a great deal on it and it’s loaded.

    Great suggestion and something I’ll bet a lot of people wouldn’t know about.

  12. Roshawn @ Watson Inc Says:

    I agreee completely with Mrs. Micah and plonkee. You already have them and your children are getting older. Another expense right now just seems unnecessary.

  13. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Shawn. I agree!

  14. joel Says:

    I’m glad you liked the idea. your exactly right about the miles being highway too. i have always found that those types of vehicles work out really nicely for people. you know its only highway driving because
    it is difficult to put miles on “just around town” and like you said
    they are usually maintained by a company so you know its a reasonably safe purchase.

    thanks for emailing me by the way. i responded and hope to hear from you soon..


  15. SC Says:

    I understand your wife not wanting to drive such a large car. I drive a small car and occasionally borrow my sis’s SUV–and I don’t like driving it. It’s too big and I can’t see well from the back (hers isn’t equipped with any fancy cameras). I like driving the smaller SUVs but that’s not what you’re looking at.

    Plus, even though you have a large family, there will be times when you have to drive the suburban by yourself and then I know you’ll probably get looks from people who see you alone driving a suburban around town.

    That being said, I drove a minivan when I was in high school (family car that became my car) and it was fairly easy to drive. I would really look twice at the 8 passenger minivans as they are not such gas guzzlers.

  16. glblguy Says:

    Hi SC. I understand too, I’d much rather drive my Nissan than her Durango. We’re just staying with what we have right now. I’d rather drive 2 cars than have a big’ol car payment.

    Thanks for you comment!

  17. Paula Says:

    I’m the oldest of 7 children. Now this was in the day before children’s car seats took up so much room. It is a bit more of a challenge these days to seat a large family in 1 vehicle.
    But my parents always owned 1 big car (station wagon, van, these days an SUV because they have a camper) and 1 commuter car (subcompact). That arrangement worked well for them — and because of everyone’s schedules, sometimes they would have needed two vehicles on family trips anyway.

  18. Marshall Says:

    wondering how to price a 2005 Explorer. it has 225,000 miles, it looks clean but should I not at least take it to average or rough with that kind of mielage?