Two Ninjas, One Car.

November 17, 2011 · 29 comments

We had our first snow of the year on Friday night and it was pretty epic. It was a light dusting over certain neighborhoods in the greater Seattle area that last about three hours. Although there was no SNOWpocolypse, Girl Ninja and I got a much-needed reminder that we no longer live in San Diego; 70 degree winters are a thing of the past.

As we navigated the snowy streets in her Toyota Corolla S, we started talking about what our next car would be. That conversation snowballed (pun intended) in to internet shopping for a 2011 4wd Acura MDX. Which then turned in to a visit to a local dealership. Which ultimately left us $40,000 poorer :(

April November Fools suckers, you didn’t really think we’d go buy a new car without discussing it on PDITF first, did you?

While a new-to-us car is still a ways off, we did have a pretty serious conversation about when and how we want to go about making the switch. My guess is Girl Ninja’s 2005 Corolla S would fetch about $7,000-$8,000 on Craigslist. My (two door) 2007 Scion tC, should sell for around $9,000-$11,000. We know our next vehicle will be an all-wheel-drive SUV, priced somewhere around $15,000. An SUV gives us the ability to navigate the snowy roads (have I ever told you I LOVE skiing, which requires driving through the mountains?) with ease, but more importantly we’ll be able to fit some car-seats and strollers in the back when Baby Ninja(s) come in to play.

Since I like to analyze, over-analyze, and reanalyze everything that goes on involving our finances, I’ve laid out the facts of our situation as I see them:

  • My car has 36,000 miles on it. Should drive another decade (at least). But is not family friendly since it’s a coupe (it can seat five though).
  • Girl Ninja’s car runs like a champ but has 89,000 miles on it. If this is the car we are going to sell, we want to get rid of it before it breaks 100,000 miles, since that is a psychological barrier for a lot of buyers. If we keep this car, it should drive another 2-3 years with no significant issues, after that point maintenance will start becoming a financial factor.
  • It doesn’t really snow that much in Seattle. Probably three to five days each winter, it snows hard enough that driving is pretty dangerous. Girl Ninja is a teacher so if it snows that hard, school will be cancelled. And the government wont let me drive in sketchy conditions so we shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to get to work in the event of a blizzard.
  • Since I have a company vehicle, we don’t necessarily need our own personal cars. In fact, I haven’t driven my car now in over a week (this is why it only has 36K miles on it even though it’s five years old).
  • I really like Honda Pilots and Toyota Highlanders, Girl Ninja likes Volvos and Acuras. While GN’s tastes are likely outside of our $15,000 budget, we should be able to find a 2004 Highlander (or similar Pilot) with 80,000 miles on it for around $12 – $16k. We will not buy another car until one of ours has sold. Using the cash from the sale, we’d be out-of-pocket about $5K – $8K to cover the difference.
  • We don’t plan on having kids for another ten years. Oh wait, that’s just me. Girl Ninja says we are waiting one to two more years :)
  • We will not drive a minivan. EVER.

::::END FACTS::::

I really am at a loss as to what the heck we should do. I know we don’t need an SUV anytime soon, so I’m not going to pretend like we do. People have kids and drive in the snow with regular sedans all the time. That said, we work hard, save hard, and we want an SUV. We just don’t know how to go about acquiring one.

Before we can move forward with the process, we first have to decide which of our two cars to sell. My car will last longer, her car has four doors. They both have some serious pros and cons. (side note: we will drive whichever car we keep until it explodes)

My plan at this point is as follows:

When the time comes to sell, I will put both of our cars on Craigslist and the car that fetches a better VALUE (not necessarily which one brings in the most money) will be the car we sell. If we don’t get any serious offers, we just keep posting them until we do. Since we don’t need an SUV, we are in no rush to give our cars away for below market value.

As I mentioned earlier, we can easily be a one car family. After we sold one of our cars, we wouldn’t rush in to buying our next one. I could literally spend months browsing Craigslist, newspapers, auctions, etc waiting for a “great” deal. When we finally find an SUV that meets all of our criteria, we buy it and live happily ever after. This is a pretty good plan isn’t it?

Do we sell my car because it has two doors? Do we sell Girl Ninja’s car because it has more miles? What’s the most miles you’d allow on a used car you were considering purchasing (GN’s limit is 40K, my limit is closer to 100K)? What else do I need to be (or not need to be) thinking about?

AHHHH!!!! Planning stresses me out :(

{ 29 comments }

1 Jessica

My husband I dealt with this same issue about 2 years ago! We both had good decent cars, no problems each could have lasted probably another 5-8 years (we take very good care of our cars). However, my husband had a 2 door coupe, I had a 4 door car. Guess which one we sold…the 2 door car. Our philosophy was we wanted 2 family cars. After his car sold, we started looking for another vehicle, we ended up buying a 2009 Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 (side note: I then drove the truck and my husband took over my old car…my husband loves me and let me drive the new vehicle!). We bought used (one previous owner, who took amazing care of this truck!), with 50K miles on it. The highest I would go with miles would probably be 60K before I wouldn’t look at it.

2 Matt, Tao of Unfear

I totally had an “OMG! WHAT AM I READING? WHO’S WRITING THIS? WHAT DID THEY DO WITH NINJA?” moment. If I were in your position, with two perfectly fine vehicles, I definitely wouldn’t be thinking about buying another. And having grown up in the Pacific NW without an SUV, I’d be really concerned if I STARTED wanting one. But that’s just me. One can always rent if they genuinely need something larger… otherwise, why waste the gas? (My mother is doing this currently, and it drives me absolutely batty.)

3 Claire

I wouldn’t necessarily be too fussed about the whole 2 door thing. Now I don’t know what your 2 door car is like, being from another country, but we have a 2 door Mitsubishi Lancer, if that means anything to you, and our son is now nearly 7. Kids can get in a 2 door car. Granted it is not as easy as a 4 door, but it can be done. My friends have 2 kids and a Honda 2 door (can’t think of the model to save my life, but it’s really common one) and only now the kids at 6 & 8 is it starting to become a problem when they go on big camping trips – and they regularly cart bikes around.

You should pick the size car that suits your everyday use roughly 90% of the time. Sure an SUV would be good for skiing, but if you only go 3 times a year, you would be paying for the higher costs of an SUV the rest of the year. You could probably hire a SUV easily enough. But if you went every weekend through the winter, that’s a different story.

The other thing you can do if sometimes space is an issue is add on. Get a roof pod for the extra luggage, attach a tow bar for bike racks and trailers.

HTH

4 Claire

It was a honda civic! those cars are like the tardis

5 Matt

5 years 36,000 miles?! Amazing… That is all I have to say…I am on the east coast so that means I get to comment before all you West Coasters for once.

6 Larry

Thought you lived in San Diego, Matt.

As I would support a Constitutional amendment banning the sale or ownership of SUVs, I can’t help you (Ninja now) in your quest to acquire one of those gas-guzzling monstrosities. I prefer to keep any car for about 10 years (I have owned only 5 cars in my life), or until they start showing symptoms of terminal disease. Agree with Claire and Tao above.

7 Matt, Tao of Unfear

Haha. I’m totally a West Coaster. Just happened to still be awake when this hit my feed reader. :)

8 Melissa

My parents just recently bought a two-door Civic after years of their second car behind a four-door Lumina (the car I learned to drive in, almost 10 years ago), and let me tell you, I hate the goddamn two-door. It’s not biggie if you’re in the front seat, but it’s a nightmare trying to get in the back.

Occasionally, my mom will come pick me up from my apartment for a weekend at home, and I’ll bring my cat with me. I usually seatbelt the cat’s carrier into the backseat, so she doesn’t go flying around if we brake suddenly, and this is the biggest hassle in the entire world! I miss the four-door so much, and this is just for a once-a-month cat-related inconvenience! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to strap a baby into the back seat of a two-door car all the time.

So if it was between the two, I’d probably sell your car. (Also, because it’s newer, has such low mileage, you could probably get a really great price for it, and also, assuming Girl Ninja’s car is still in good condition, you could probably get another 5-10 years out of hers if you wanted.)

9 Shawnna

As a (former) fellow Toyota owner, I’d say you’re all clear to drive that Corolla for a lot longer than you realize. I wrecked (totalled) my RAV4 last year…it had over 130,000 miles and drove just like it did when I bought it at 16,000 miles. I always said I planned to drive it into the ground…didn’t mean it quite that literally… :D

10 Spork

Agreed. And Corollas are definitely long-term cars. My 98 has over 170,000 miles on it and it is extremely reliable. I will drive my car into the ground too. I actually have no problem paying more for repairs than the value of my car because it is still cheaper than the price, gas mileage, and insurance on something new.

Check which of your cars has the better safety rating since that will be the one you will feel safer driving the kids around in.

11 Allie

When I purchased my first car (used) at 17, my dad had two requirements for me: two years old or newer, and with less than 50k miles, for under $9,000 if possible. The Honda Civic that I got was two years old, had 51K miles and cost about $9,600, but it’s been a reliable little car and it’s still holding strong 10 years and 100,000 miles later (I just broke 150,000 over the summer).
Because those rules turned out so well for me, I’m probably going to follow the same requirements when my car eventually craps out. I understand where GN is coming from with her 40K requirement, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. I would NOT accept a car closer to 100K miles, because at that point you know you only have a few good years with it left, so why not get an SUV with a little lower mileage at a slightly higher price but know you’ll get more years/value out of it?

12 Daisy

I love 2 door cars, because they look so much sportier than 4 doors, but thinking about the future and having kids, I think it would be an absolute nightmare to have kids with a 2 door. Can you imagine having to put a newborn in a car seat with only two doors? *Slits wrists*

On the other hand, more mileage=more problems. Can you imagine your car breaking down on a snowy back road with a newborn in a car seat in the back seat? LOL.

I can see where this is tricky for you.

13 Brandy

Please research the Toyota 4Runners!! I love mine, 2007 SR5 with 4 wheel drive. I have kids and pets and we have plenty of room for everything we want/need. Go drive one (not the new ones…I don’t like the new body styles) and you will not be sorry. They will last forever!!

14 JP

Gas mileage is the main reason I wouldn’t want to get an SUV. If you really just want the AWD look into a Subaru. They are great cars that last forever and will have better fuel efficiency because they are still sedans/wagons. I think the Ford Fusion even has an AWD model but that would be a newer car than you probably want.

15 Margaret

I’m with GN on the mileage limit for the used car. Once you’re over 100k, any moderately large repairs (engines, transmissions, etc) will start to approach the value of the car itself, which is always an uncomfortable position to be in. With something closer to 40 or 50k, you should still be getting a good price (especially if you manage to find an older model year with such low mileage), and you should still have 50k miles before any major repairs even think about coming up.

I would sell your car (I find two door cars to be a hassle), and hold on to GN’s car until it dies. I would also consider 4WD station wagons in addition to the SUVs if I were you. They have a ton of storage space compared to a car, are car seat friendly, and tend to get much better gas mileage than even a small SUV.

16 StackingCash

” That said, we work hard, save hard, and we want an SUV.”. Heck ya! This justifies you into getting whatever you want. Another factor to consider is that the “nicer” SUV you get the more enjoyment you will get. This tends to help you keep the vehicle longer. How many years and miles would you get out of that brand new Acura MDX? Soooo worth it ;)

17 Jeff @ Sustainable life blog

Even though it may not snow much, if you want an suv then get one. I got a truck after my 25 year old car died with 185k miles on it because that’s what I wanted. Though it may not have been the best move financially (I couldnt pay cash) I realized that if I bought something for cash I’d probably want to get rid of it in 2 years once my finances got better, and I plan on keeping the truck for 25 years.

18 Meg

Hi! I read your blog often but don’t think I’ve ever commented before. Since we’re starting to look for another vehicle to buy in the next six months, I thought I’d share what we’ve discovered along the way.
Background info: Household consists of me, Teacher Hubby, Son (8) and Baby Squirt (in utero, ETA April). Car needing replaced? 2001 Olds Alero w/ mileage 214,000. Dwelling in Illinois where we get all 4 seasons in full force.
We’ve also been looking at SUVs as well and here’s what we’ve learned.
Any SUV under 80,000 miles will be more than $15,000 sticker. (Not that we’d ever pay sticker.)
Hubby is 6’4″ and does not fit into a Chevy HHR, Toyota RAV-4, or a Honda CR-V.
Chevy Equinox ’05-’07 fits well and is affordable but is also on Consumer Reports Used Cars to Avoid list.
Infant car seats do not fit well in small SUVs except *perhaps* in the middle of the back seat. If I’m sitting front passenger (I’m 5’4″), the infant seat barely fits behind me and will definitely not fit behind Hubby. My advice: borrow an infant seat when you go to test drive to make sure it fits! The things are huge!
Also, take into account national/state laws about children in car seats. Illinois requires a carseat or child booster until the child turns 8 years old. If you plan to keep the vehicle awhile and have your kids fairly close together, you may end up with more carseats than there is room for in your vehicle. Ex. friend of mine is expecting their third and can *barely* fit 3 car seats in their Chevy Equinox.
Oh, strollers are also huge – take that into account and perhaps consider an SUV w/ roof rails for a cartop carrier. Seriously, for a trip, once you get the stroller, the pack ‘n’ play and other baby paraphanelia, plus the wife’s clothes & shoes (love her posts!), you may need the carrier.
Hope that’s helpful and love reading your blog!

19 Emily

Re: Acura MDX. I know two different people who own one. Both bought them used from dealerships. Having been passenger in them and fortunate enough to have friends who let me drive them, the MDX drives really nice in rain and sunny weather at 25 miles an hour or 70 miles an hour. A 7-hour road trip was no problem.
Re: one-vehicle household. It’s nice to drive only one vehicle when possible, but I wouldn’t own less than two. If you change jobs and lose your company vehicle, what is your back up plan?
Re: which vehicle to sell. Which one costs more to maintain? Which has the better insurance rates? I would sell the one that I’m dumping less into to maintain and/or saves me money on the insurance end.

20 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

Ninja Girl and you should come visit me in PDX! Then I can drive you both up to Hood in my SUV for some awesome skiing. Opening Day was Saturday and it was an epic powder day!

21 Jenni

I realize the two door would just be a back up family car, but I still vote to get rid of it. Also, check to make sure a car seat or two would fit into the two door. Some makes and models of car seats just don’t fit into some two door cars. Better yet, babysit some toddlers for a weekend and drive them around in the two door. This will solve two issues: 1), you’ll know which car you want to sell and 2) you’ll both be back on the 10 year plan.

I have two kiddos (2 and 5) and I would hate the struggle of getting them in and out of a two door. It’s hard enough getting out the door with kids, why add more hassle?

22 Mo D.

We just recently (August 2011) upgraded from a one-car family to a 2-car family… we still have a couple more years with the 1999 Chrysler Cirrus my father-in-law gave us for free when he decided to get a new car, but it was unreliable as a main car. We’ve leased a 2011 Honda CRV 4WD (mini SUV that gets pretty good gas mileage) for our lovely winters in Southern Ontario, Canada… they can be BRUTAL! Hubby’s 6’3″; I’m 5’6″ and Hubby’s rarely comfy driving in a normal sedan. I can honestly see us having one mini SUV and one sedan from now on; works well for us. When we travel together, we always take the CRV, and because our commutes are almost identical, we take turns driving the new car every week.

23 Kristin

My BF traded in his SUV and got a Subie a few years ago. Handles great in the snow, better gas mileage, and he can put snowboards/skis/kayak on top with no problem… except that one time with two boats on top, five large males in the car, and a logging road with rocks everywhere that we bottomed out on. But you do see Subarus in the mountains a lot because they handle pretty well.

I have a manual 5-speed Sebring convertible with traction control. When I have snow tires on it, I feel very comfortable in about 3-4 inches of snow on main roads. The additional control from the manual shifter and just plain not being stupid will get you a lot in the snow. However, I can’t put anything on the roof and my back seats don’t fold down for skis. It’s at about 120k miles right now with two new sets of tires, and I plan to drive it into the ground. I’m not sure what my “selling” mileage mental limit would be, but the buying limit would definitely be 90-100k if I planned to keep it for any length of time.

I don’t like SUVs – they’re dangerous to other cars in an accident, hard to see around, hard to park, and are gas guzzlers, IMHO. That said, if the only reason you’d want an SUV right now (prior to kids) is the skiing factor (which I can totally understand!), you might want to calculate your annual gas expenses and insurance expenses with one of your current cars plus however many weekends of renting an SUV, versus the yearly cost of the SUV. Coincidentally, another usually-stick-figure blog, XKCD, (http://xkcd.com/980/) has a section today on the cost of ownership for five years plus the base cost of the car for about 10 different models, for current gas prices and gas prices at $10/gal.

24 kim

I lived in Colorado. You don’t need an SUV for snow. AWD isn’t bad. The SUVs were usually the ones flipped over on the side of the road because the driver thinks the SUV helps him in the snow and thus he doesn’t drive as well. No idea why this doesn’t happen with AWD drivers – maybe because they’re typically in cars. Now a 4-door for babies…yes. But I’d wait until you actually have babies.

25 krantcents

Why do you have a car at all? The company vehicle should replace one car.

26 Ninja

company car is for business use only. can’t use it for personal, otherwise you better believe we’d sell one immediately

27 Drew @EpicFinances.com

I always admire people who get along with 1 vehicle in a household. Maybe someday I will join these frugal elite, but for now its not in the cards.

Good luck to your car selling.

28 Trina

Or you could loan one car to your brother in law and he could total it over the weekend…or maybe that is just me:( Seriously, I do not know if we would have purchased a new (to us) car when we had the twins if my car had not been totalled by said brother in law when I was 4 months pregnant.
My two cents would be to get rid of your car..you can get more money for it, end of story. My car, the one we got 4 years ago currently has 102k miles on it and she is rocking along just great.

29 Nikki

Check out the Hyundai Santa Fe. I KNOW: Hyundai?? But it’s very highly rated by Lemon-Aid and Consumer Reports and much less expensive. We bought one in the spring and love it. It’s a treat to drive, and has tons of room for kid gear.

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