Author Topic: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase  (Read 2517 times)

tyrannostache

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Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« on: September 05, 2018, 09:36:13 AM »
It's time for us to replace a vehicle. Family has 2 adults with 2 small kids.

DH wants to buy a full-sized van, a Ford Transit, to use for a family hauler/camping and for long work trips (he's self-employed and does a fair amount of travel to distant field sites 3 seasons out of the year). He wants to ditch the rear seats and install bunks for a minimalist, go-everywhere camper.

This would be awesome. I'd be all for it, except for a few factors. 

1) It is going to cost at least $30K, plus the cost of conversion (he's planning to get a local welder to install the bunk frame, so at least another $1500, probably more). His strategy: we'll put down a minimal downpayment and get a looong loan with a 3% rate (we're preapproved around there). Basically committing us to payments of $500/month for the next 5 years PLUS insurance.

2) Our town regularly has snow and glare ice for 4+ months. It's very hilly. Studded snow tires are a necessity for safely getting around town, not to mention the highway. These vans are RWD with an odd wheel size, and I have yet to find studded snows that would fit.

3) His self-employment is going well--really really well--but those tables could always turn. He argues we could just turn around and sell the van if it's not working out, no loss.

4) You can rent these, though admittedly not very close to our home. (4+ hour drive)

So I'm concerned that we'll be hemorrhaging money for a fun vehicle that we can use for 3/4 of the year. I've put it to him this way, he agreed, and I thought we had put the issue to bed. But this weekend, a friend introduced him to a grizzly old "car guy" who convinced him that it would be fine in the winter.

We could plop down cash for a relatively low-mileage minivan (right around 100k! luxury!) without stretching too hard. That would give us room to haul everyone and everything plus sleeping space for shoulder season camping (albeit cramped). If we buy the Transit, however, we're looking at a few more years before we can replace our other high-mileage vehicle.

He's usually a reasonable guy. In fact, he used to be the frugal one in our relationship. Sometimes, though he'll get an itch like this, and he'll obsess about it. He has compromised on a lot of things recently, so I don't want to be the one standing in his way here.

Any suggestions?

snogirl

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2018, 10:04:23 AM »
Welding a bunk frame? What is the load capacity of the van? You got gear, passenger weight, etc. I know some many people who build out the truck beds with wood. Nothing close to $1500!

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tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2018, 10:14:03 AM »
No, he's not willing to do wood. Kids will be in the first passenger row. And honestly, that's a small portion of the overall price, so that's not really the part I'm sweating.

Laura33

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2018, 10:15:04 AM »
For me, the family safety would be non-negotiable.  I don't care what some old fart says, and you don't have to either -- it is smart to have equipment that is properly designed for your environment, so the lack of snow tires alone would be a deal-killer for me.  I'd also check the safety ratings for the van and make sure that the "conversion" wouldn't affect any of those systems -- seems to me like a bunk could pretty easily become a projectile in a crash if it isn't properly attached, and depending on the attachment points could affect some designated crumple zones.

tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2018, 10:20:50 AM »
Thanks for the reality check, Laura33. Safety is the reason for the expensive conversion rather than tossing some wood in the back. But none of that really matters if we can't get decent tires.

patchyfacialhair

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2018, 10:28:49 AM »
Seems like a way more difficult way of doing things than just getting a regular minivan. Minivans are huge, common (so easy to get tires and repairs done), and a lot more affordable than a big old thing like a transit. Kids can sleep in the chairs of the van just fine for road trips.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2018, 12:22:41 PM »
But none of that really matters if we can't get decent tires.

I grabbed the wheel info for a 2016 Ford Transit and came up with a number of winter tire options. I looked at the Hankook product and it was studded. What year/model of Transit is he after?

zygote

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2018, 12:54:53 PM »
The backup plan to sell it if his self-employment income dips stands out to me. Is there really a good resale market for something like this? Someone looking for a large family van wouldn't want all the modifications, and I'd guess someone interested in the camper aspect would want to build one themselves from scratch to fit their own family. Plus normal vehicle depreciation.

That's not to say you shouldn't do it if you decide the cost is worth it (will it reduce your current vacation expenses?) and you can solve the tire issue, but I'd take a look at the market for used adventure vans like this if you're concerned about not being able to afford the payments for the term of the loan.

therethere

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2018, 01:06:18 PM »
Does he often need somewhere to sleep on business trips? In my work it is typical for contractors to travel in an RV or truck-camper and charge per diem. Then they camp or stay somewhere near the jobsite which may change weekly. If it is that type of situation then I'd say a full size van may be helpful.

You can get a converted Ford Transit for 30-35k. Older ones can be had cheaper. If you can keep the costs low, there is a market for people who want adventure vans but don't have a place to build one themselves. If you did the major work: insulation, walls, and vents it would still be an open book for people tho add what they want. But I'm fairly certain this is a project that would go overboard and continue to sink money.

What about a transit connect? They're smaller and cheaper and he can remove the seats to fit a bed when he needs it.

gaja

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2018, 01:34:14 PM »
Vans and van camping is great. But why not try it out with an existing cheap secondhand rig before splurging on the expensive and custom built one?

With icy roads, good tyres are essential. But iím wondering about the seats; are these and registered for four in the front seats?

J Boogie

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2018, 02:20:43 PM »
Sounds like this is a work vehicle and the depreciation, insurance, and interest can be deducted from his income. So that's important to note.

Does he plan to sleep in it or keep tools/equipment in it on his work trips?






tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2018, 09:29:45 PM »
Sounds like this is a work vehicle and the depreciation, insurance, and interest can be deducted from his income. So that's important to note.

Does he plan to sleep in it or keep tools/equipment in it on his work trips?

Yes, that's true. It would be a work vehicle, at least 50% of the time, whereas the minivan would be purely a family vehicle.

And he does plan to sleep in it during work trips. Most of his current field sites actually have lodging, but that certainly won't always be the case. It's not currently a necessity, but it would be handy for expanding. That's a lot of money for a big IF.

WalkaboutStache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2018, 09:44:41 PM »
How do the bunk beds work in a work vehicle?  That bit is confusing to me.  If the plan is for him to sleep on it when he travels, the minivan still seems to make more sense.  For family sleeping, a tent sounds infinitely more fun to me (and I bet your kids would agree).

His idea seems to be brushing close to this problem here:

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/07/25/the-twenty-dollar-swim/


Like you said, he compromised a lot recently, so he may be due a new toy.  If he still thinks the Transit is the car, he would be blowing all his brownie points until it is paid off.

And by the way, he is having a weird mid life crisis if a Ford Transit is the toy he wants.  I don't think he quite gets the concept...


tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2018, 10:02:15 PM »
But none of that really matters if we can't get decent tires.

I grabbed the wheel info for a 2016 Ford Transit and came up with a number of winter tire options. I looked at the Hankook product and it was studded. What year/model of Transit is he after?

Thanks, Canada. He had his eyes on a 2017, and our local tire shop said they wouldn't be able to get studdeds for it. I went back, and it looks like you're right--there seems to be at least one set of Hankooks that would work. Definitely worth pursuing.

Wait a minute, are y'all trying to talk me IN to this?

Vans and van camping is great. But why not try it out with an existing cheap secondhand rig before splurging on the expensive and custom built one?

With icy roads, good tyres are essential. But iím wondering about the seats; are these and registered for four in the front seats?
This IS the cheap secondhand rig. A custom built rig would cost a lot more. This process is about as barebones as we can get it while prioritizing safety. Most of the conversions I've seen don't have safe seating for kids.

Even considering this process has led me down the vanlife rabbit hole. I've seen some instagram van conversions that look like spectacularly cozy death traps. One in particular stands out--a cargo van that had installed gorgeous subway tile over pretty countertops. An adorable toddler bunk (mostly plywood) was dangling from the roof on little chains, and a bunch of custom wooden shelves held all of their stuff, neatly organized but not exactly strapped down. Everything was white and bare wood and so pretty. They had installed a teeny tiny little custom jumpseat where the 2YO's carseat was strapped on, just across from the kitchen area. I have horrible images of subway tile, pots, pans, and plywood crashing down on that baby in even a mild side collision.

That's why he's looking for passenger wagon rather than a cargo van: more windows and more safety features in the passenger area--he'd take out the last 2-3 rows in favor of bunks, which supposedly can be mounted so as not to interfere with the side curtain airbags (I remain skeptical!).

Ugh, now it sounds like I'm trying to talk myself into it.

tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2018, 10:09:25 PM »
How do the bunk beds work in a work vehicle?  That bit is confusing to me.  If the plan is for him to sleep on it when he travels, the minivan still seems to make more sense.  For family sleeping, a tent sounds infinitely more fun to me (and I bet your kids would agree).

His idea seems to be brushing close to this problem here:

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/07/25/the-twenty-dollar-swim/
The van would also allow him to carry a crapload of computer gear on work trips, which might (yes, MIGHT) be useful when this business progresses. But heck, if he gets to the point in his business where bringing the gear along like that would make sense, then I think the money question would sort of solve itself.

You are ABSOLUTELY right that it is the $20 swim issue. Every family camping trip would cost a boatload. We mostly do tent camping, but we live in the far far north where it gets cold. Pre-kids, our favorite times of year to camp were spring and fall. With kids, though, tent camping under 32 degrees can be an exercise in misery. This would solve that very small shoulder season problem. But, you know, we could also just get a cottage for outdoorsy trips in spring and fall.

Quote
And by the way, he is having a weird mid life crisis if a Ford Transit is the toy he wants.  I don't think he quite gets the concept...

Dude, you have no idea.

Dr.Jeckyl

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2018, 07:21:04 AM »
Used 4x4 van FTW. I've been watching a bunch of these vanlife youtube videos lately. They are really interesting but I really don't think I could see myself doing it. There are people that build them out of new vans and people that build them out of old vans. Quigley had been doing 4x4 conversions on vans for years and while a Transit is still fairly new and expensive an Econoline that's a few years older with 4x4 might fit the bill. But be warned you'd be looking at single digit to low double digit mileage. There is also the Ram ProMaster which is about the size and shape of the Transit but with front wheel drive. However, I would personally steer clear. I have been driving a ProMaster the last couple of winters for work and they are horrible in the snow and ice. I feel much safer driving our RWD Chevy Vans than the Rams.

I should mention that I'd probably be against the purchase as well. That's just too much financed for a fun mobile with a limited market for resale.

catccc

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2018, 09:11:03 AM »
You lost me at $30K. 

My family has been thinking about replacing our 2005 Toyota Matrix with 205K miles on it.  DH bought it new 13 years ago before we got married for $15K.  Thinking about replacing it, if we bought a $20K car with cash, we'd be losing out on investment gains (lets say 10% for simplicity's sake, and not unreasonable looking at historical trends) of $2K after a year.  After 10 years, the car would have cost us $20K in investment gains plus the $20K in cash we sunk into it.  And that doesn't even consider compounding/reinvestment.  Suddenly a $20K car is costing us $40K+.   So we are just going to keep our old car longer.  IDK what we'll do when it truly needs replacing, but delaying the purchase for now seems like a good idea.

I did throw the idea around here to finance at a low rate and basically reap the benefits between expected investment gains, so maybe you'd do a little better actually financing it over a long period of time.  But people here were surprisingly against the rate arbitrage I suggested, which I honestly didn't understand...  I get there is risk because expected gains might not be actual gains, but I have enough faith in the market and don't need the $$ anytime soon, and could pay the loan off easily at any time.

Another thing we were thinking was that we wanted a roomier car for road trips, say, a CRV.  Ultimately we decided that most of the miles would be commuting, and it was dumb to pay the extra $ and lose fuel efficiency for a few road trips a year.  So it made more sense to buy a smaller vehicle, and put the $5K savings towards renting a larger vehicle if we wanted to do a road trip.  The rental will always be new-ish and the gas cost won't blow the budget, and we can be fuel efficient and kinder to the environment when going to work or the grocery store.  Later, I was listening to a mad fientist podcast that expressed exactly the same principle.  I can't remember who he was interviewing, but they were talking about buying utility and renting luxury.  Just get a car that gets your family around.  Rent a campervan when you want to vacation.  Think there aren't any around to rent nearby?  Well, that could be a downer, but you might want to be further away from home when you camp, anyway.  (I personally use camping to see new places on the cheap.)  Try outdoorsy, RVshare, or even airbnb.

Good luck with your decision!

tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2018, 10:17:06 AM »
cat, your thinking is basically in line with mine. It's just that those arguments haven't been persuasive with DH yet.

lentil

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2018, 11:34:42 AM »
I don't know that this is particularly helpful, but FWIW, when we're discussing this kind of big decision, we often find it useful to do a full cost comparison together. Ideally at a time when we are not particularly stressed, and can maybe enjoy some hummus and snacks while we jot down figures! Total up all the costs (or make reasonable estimates) for each option -- cost of each vehicle, insurance, est. cost of gas/year, approximate costs of conversion, approximate costs of the hotel rooms he'd otherwise have to pay for (minus cost of a campsite, if that's a consideration), and so on. It sounds like there's a pretty clear financial difference, but sometimes it's a lot more persuasive to see it all broken down and tallied up in one place...it helps us bring it down from the "wouldn't it be great" fantasy version and into the "oh, that's a big commitment" reality version.

We also try to list & discuss the less quantifiable, but very real considerations. It sounds like one of your significant concerns is family safety, while your partner may want to include something about the value of having a project to work on (or maybe something that feels like "home" when he's on the road? It would be helpful if he could explain where his itch is coming from!). In general, we approach this as a question of trying to make sure we both get our needs met, rather than a zero sum game.

So, for instance, if one of the less money-based desires is to have a way for the whole family to go camping during shoulder seasons, an alternate way to do that would be to purchase some extra camping gear (four-season tent, etc.). Or if it's a need to have some kind of project to work on, maybe there are other ways to scratch that itch too. And of course, if there's a way to make the van meet your safety standards, it would be good to know.

Lastly, we often try to acknowledge that no decision is final. No fancy camper van now does not mean that a van conversion isn't still possible somewhere in the future, when the time is a little better.

therethere

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2018, 11:54:40 AM »
A compromise could be a minivan or whatever and about a small cheap trailer/RV. Then you can separate them and have a family/commuter, with a trailer you can use for business or play. If all you're looking for is a warm, dry sleeping place you could add some pink rigid insulation and beds/bunks to a standard enclosed trailer. Make them removable or leave space for the commuter equip. Then he could use it only on trips he would need. As long as you watch the weight it should be pretty light and able to be pulled by a minivan or SUV.

I know this isn't helping your cause. But there are ways to get creative.

BicycleB

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2018, 12:10:12 PM »
If you can't find a cheaper one used, then how does he know there's a market in the event he needs to sell this one?

Especially since need to sell could easily equal "look, we finally have a recession."

I recommend comparison shopping for a very used Matrix and a trailer. Or reading MMM's article about making a little car into a big one.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2018, 12:17:57 PM »
If you can't find a cheaper one used, then how does he know there's a market in the event he needs to sell this one?

It's a common vehicle. I can pull up pages of used Transit vans in my area and I am not in a huge market. If you have a van and want to sell it not having a lot of cheaper options used means you'll get a higher price. So that's a good thing.

The OP might have to remove the bunks or any other odd ball modifications to sell it. So I would assume those are sunk costs once expended.

Fishindude

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2018, 04:46:47 PM »
That vehicle would suck for an every day driver.   Get something more sensible and then buy a used camper.   You can pick up nice used campers for peanuts, compared to new ones.

tyrannostache

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2018, 11:28:08 AM »
Hey y'all, just wanted to say thanks. Spendypants purchase has been averted... for now.

mm1970

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2018, 12:29:21 PM »
Quote
Another thing we were thinking was that we wanted a roomier car for road trips, say, a CRV.  Ultimately we decided that most of the miles would be commuting, and it was dumb to pay the extra $ and lose fuel efficiency for a few road trips a year.  So it made more sense to buy a smaller vehicle, and put the $5K savings towards renting a larger vehicle if we wanted to do a road trip.  The rental will always be new-ish and the gas cost won't blow the budget, and we can be fuel efficient and kinder to the environment when going to work or the grocery store.  Later, I was listening to a mad fientist podcast that expressed exactly the same principle.  I can't remember who he was interviewing, but they were talking about buying utility and renting luxury.  Just get a car that gets your family around.  Rent a campervan when you want to vacation.  Think there aren't any around to rent nearby?  Well, that could be a downer, but you might want to be further away from home when you camp, anyway.  (I personally use camping to see new places on the cheap.)  Try outdoorsy, RVshare, or even airbnb.

I'm the owner of a 2006 Matrix and I literally have been through this analysis a dozen times.

Our last car rental ended up being a mini-SUV.  It was sweet!  And a few times we've gone on vacation, we've stayed at condos that were bigger than our house.

BicycleB

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Re: Help me talk spouse out of a purchase
« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2018, 01:33:40 PM »
Hey y'all, just wanted to say thanks. Spendypants purchase has been averted... for now.

Wow! Congrats.

Eternal vigilance. The price of freedom :)