Author Topic: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!  (Read 4975 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« on: August 03, 2013, 02:24:57 AM »
Okay, I'll try to keep it short.  First, the disclaimer: I am a recovering financial idiot.  Made plenty of mistakes.  Only recently discovered MMM; making changes.  Need help.  Assume all the typical stupid financial mistakes have been made leading up to this scenario.

We have (had) two cars. 

2002 Honda Accord (being stupid when I bought it, I of course opted for the v6).  140k; needs timing belt service; new tires; paint has worn off the metal above windshield right down to metal...weird.

2005 Honda Odyssey (yes, fell victim to the "we have two kids, we need a minivan!" trap).  It's dead.  Gone.  It was in good shape with 150k miles on it, but we hit a large deer on a recent month-long tour visiting family in Montana.  Insurance deemed it a total loss.  (Mock me now, but only in your head please: we refinanced it at 1.99% shortly after paying it off to pay off a 14.99% debt).  This means that the settlement from insurance paid the rest of that off leaving us with $1300.

Here are the questions:

1)  Should we invest in the 2002 Accord, even though it only gets like 22 mpg on a good day because of the v6?  Estimate that the timing belt service is around $1200; new tires $800; new paint....MAACO????  We live in Vancouver, Washington.  Lots of rain.  Matter of time before it starts to rust due to the weirdly exposed metal.  I suppose I could just slap some primer on it....but...

or.....should we unload the 2002 Accord and "reset" our car reality?

2)  Regardless of unloading the Accord or investing in keeping it alive, we will need a second vehicle.  What should it be? (Yes, I've read MMM's articles).

As a Moustachian neophyte, I recognize that I am battling old thought patterns, beliefs founded in fallacy, and decades of bad habits.  Here are some facts about our family and what we THINK we me cut out the BS.

1.  Family of 4.  Kids are 8 and 10.
2.  School is walking distance for kids.
3.  Work is biking distance for me (7 miles), but this will be new for me!  Ready to try it.  Excited.  Need a bike.
4.  Wife does tech support from home, loves to bike, but sometimes has to drive 40-100 miles to work on-site.
5.  Wife recently diagnosed with what is turning out to be a pretty aggressive auto-immune disease that, in the last year, has taken her from a marathoner, daily runner/biker, to hardly being able to navigate the stairs in our house.  :(
6.  Grocery shopping is within biking distance.
7.  When we travel, we drive.  I HATE flying.  I LOVE driving.  We travel fairly often.  We have no family here.  They are all spread out across Montana and Idaho.  We visit them for 2-3 weeks every December and 3-4 weeks every summer, with long distance driving in-between families.  In addition to visiting family, we like to take our family of four out to explore the Washington and Oregon coast, go wander around Mt. St. Helens, find mountain lakes to hike to, but you have to drive to the trail head first, etc....
8.  We downhill ski and cross-country ski. We drive to Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor (Oregon), and various ski hills around Montana.
9.  We hike, backpack, and campground/car-camp.  With the wife's new reality, probably more campground/car-camping until we get her health under control.
10.  Our relatives visit us often (3-4 times a year).  They fly here, though, so show up with no car.  We enjoyed the minivan because we could fit all of us into it when we all went exploring the area together (driving to the mountains to hike/ski, going into Portland, etc).
11.  We enjoy being the parents who offer to drive "the group of kids" here and there, rather than let our kiddos climb into someone else's car (false sense of security, I know).

Okay....enough facts.

We have it in our heads that we need another people mover.  The ability to chauffeur the grandparents and kids around in one rig when they visit FEELS important.  Maybe it isn't.  Maybe it's an easy way to cling to a fallacy-based belief.  Not sure.

Since we are effectively down to one car right now (borrowing a 1991 Chevy extended cab pickup from a family member in Montana (15 mpg....ouch).....we are looking to replace the minivan.

My search started with the mindset of "okay...finally out of the minivan stage."  Of course I am fighting the ideal that we NEED a 3 row SUV/Crossover.  Do we?  I have been looking at the Chevy Traverse, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-9.  But as I do, I feel like I am being a lemming.

So, what are your thoughts?  We need a rig that will complement our desire to hit the slopes, drive to trail-heads that are "out-there"(but we really aren't "off-road" drivers), ferry the grandparents and kids and us around that possible in a Moustachian way?

And what about the 2002 Accord?  Dump around 3k into it and keep feeding the v6 for another 4-6 years, or replace it with a used high MPG 4 seater for running around when biking won't work?

Thanks.  Take your best shot at challenging my perceived reality/needs.  My momma always said, "with that one, it'll take a 2x4 upside the head."


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2013, 05:12:58 AM »
From what I understood, if you bike to work every day, there would be no need for a second car. In which case, do not buy a second car, sell the Accord now. I'm sure on the odd day where the weather is absolute shite, you could either use the one car you own, or car pool with the wife and kids etc.

Then do your research on 6-7 seater vehicles, within a modest budget - say under $7k.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2013, 05:47:28 AM »
I'm in complete agreement on only needing one car.  And it sounds like the Accord is having enough problems that is might be worth replacing it.  I'm not completely convinced that it needs replacing though.  Do you have special tires?  $800 seems pretty expensive.  Could you do the timing belt service yourself?

If you do replace the Accord, a standard 4-seater might be better.  Most of your driving is with 4 people or less.  It seems pretty ridiculous to drive around with two extra seats if you don't have to (even more ridiculous when it is just one driver).  Renting (borrowing if you can) a van while your parents are in town might be cheaper given how much you like travelling.  How long do your parents visit?  How many miles do you estimate you will put on the vehicle in a year?


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2013, 07:16:43 AM »
A colleague of mine justified buying a seven seat Volvo XC90 just in case family visited. He ignored the fact that the additional capex and opex he paid would have afforded a fancy rental whenever they visited.

I suggest you stick with the Honda and continue to maintain it for another few years. Do the math on renting a cheapo minivan for trips. 


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2013, 07:30:31 AM »
I agree that you only really need one car.  You can bike to work and leave the car for your wife so she can get around town or go to work sites with it.  When your relatives come they can rent a car, or you can rent it for them if you feel that's your duty as a host.  A rental a few times a year will be less money than buying a large gas guzzler.

If your Accord has no other issues beyond needing routine maintenance, I would fix it and keep driving it while you continue to improve your financial picture.  Then, once your finances are under control, you can start to save up for a new (and by new I mean used, of course) car.  Something like a Honda Fit or a hatchback Prius would probably work well for your camping and road trips. 

There are a million threads bikes-what to get, to buy used or new, what accessories to get, etc.  Do a search and check out all the tips.  I have a hybrid/commuter bike that I love but I have a shorter commute than you do (3 miles each way through the city, so skinny road bike tires won't work).  A road bike would likely get you there quicker.  But 7 miles isn't a super long ride either way.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2013, 07:38:30 AM »
$3k sounds too expensive for that maintenance.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2013, 12:51:22 PM »
Drive the Accord better! I drive a Crown Vic and get better MPG than you do!!

Timing belt shouldn't be $1200, on our (admittedly I4) Civic it was ~$700 inc water belt.

Paint the damn roof!! You should be able to make it look 'ok' for ~$50. Not amazing, but ok. Rust primer + colour + clearcoat.

Tires, well, $500 maybe. $800 does seem steep.

150k means you have probably another 150k to go before this car is really done. 50+k before it starts needing more regular repairs.

In terms of one extra person, you could go for a Buick Century or Ford Crown Vic with bench front seat - ie, seats 6.

In terms of car camping - I'm assuming tent rather than camper? You could get a hitch on the Accord and a small trailer or box-that-goes-on-hitch to carry any extra stuff.

Or just buy a cheapo Dodge Caravan/Chrysler T&C where you know the history of the transmission.

In terms of really long distance, I'd say a VW diesel. Prius isn't bad either, but a *manual* Civic or Corolla would be cheaper to buy, and the fuel efficiency is not far off (again, depending on how you drive!).

Drive at the speed limit, try not to brake, etc, etc. You should be at 34mpg or so!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2013, 03:39:43 PM »
We just rented a car for a road trip and it was more reasonable than we thought it would be.  I would think that as another poster mentioned you could rent a vehicle for when family is in town or when you travel and STILL come out ahead compared to buying another.  We were surprised that in our area it's cheaper to get the car at non-airport offices.  We had assumed that due to volume, etc., that the airport (which is close to us) would be cheaper, but we ended up getting it at the Amtrak station.  It worked out well for our needs.

I hope you will post an update about your decision whenever you make it.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 07:08:43 AM »
We were surprised that in our area it's cheaper to get the car at non-airport offices.  We had assumed that due to volume, etc., that the airport (which is close to us) would be cheaper

The rental market in our area (Dayton, OH) is different during the weekend vs. weekdays.  The airport is more expensive during the week, but reduces prices dramatically on the weekend.  I'm guessing this is due to increased business demand during the week.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Car dilemma. Help me stop being such a CLOWN!
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 09:35:54 AM »
If you keep the Accord, those repairs sound overpriced. Are you taking it to the dealership? Ask around about trustworthy independent shops. You should be able to get information from whoever quoted you on exactly what parts they expect to replace and what makes up their quote (i.e. cost of materials and estimated cost of labor/time). is where I buy tires (someone else probably has an even cheaper place they use) and where I went to look up a place that would install them for me. The local tire shop was excellent (they gave me a quote on the phone that was lower than the invoice and discounted the invoice without me mentioning the difference). You should be able to order the tires and have them installed for far less than $800.

As far as the paint goes, you should be able to take care of that spot yourself, which will look better than it does now, for very little.

Vancouver's a beautiful city; if I were you, I'd be on craigslist looking for a bike to cut out a bunch of the commuting you are doing for work and groceries. It doesn't sound like you need a second car.