Bear with me, this is rather long, but I'm hoping someone can help me think through the things I haven't considered...
So, my hubby's 94 Subaru Outback is getting close to dead. At least, we're at the point now where when it has a mechanical problem, it's costing us about $1000 a pop. Blue book value on his car is only about $2500, and we spent about that last year in repairs, I think. It's running for now, but I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before we have to sink more into it.
I have a 98 Honda Accord with super low miles (about 54,000, I think) that I use to drive myself and my two kids where we need to go. We bought both vechicles used and they're paid for.
We'd like to get a new vehicle this year, and we've been thinking of a Honda Pilot. I've always said I'd never be "one of those" SUV owners...but my sister let us use her Pilot for our vacation last year, and I have to say, it was awesome to be able to take DH and me, my toddler and infant, grandma as nanny, and all of our stuff for two weeks in one really nice feeling vehicle. We even averaged 23 mpg, highway driving! I've looked around at minivans, bigger sedans, and smaller SUVs (we're thinking of a third child eventually), and that seems pretty darned good compared to many of the other mpgs we've seen out there.
We've instituted an envelope budgeting system that we're really loving so far. I've got our balanced spending plan for the next 12 months mapped out, with all the necessities, a somewhat generous amount of wants, and even some additional savings categories like additional retirement and starter college funds for the kids. (There's very little in there, but at least there's more than $0 like there was last month! =) Anyway, I figure the Pilot would set us back $575/month for a 5 year loan (we have excellent FICOs, so we'd get a "good" interest rate.) We'd pay an additional $235/year in insurance, and I figure an additional $30/month in gas over what we're already paying. The thing is, I don't see how we can fit this into our budget without really, really cutting back in some crucial areas and maybe not even then.
So, you say, get a cheaper car or a used one!
I'd usually agree - neither DH or myself has ever had a car payment. We buy used cars and drive them into the ground. But there are a few reasons I'm really into this car. First, we are considering having one more child, so I'd like the next vehicle we buy to be able to hold three kids in carseats, plus the two of us and all the other detritus of traveling with a family.
I also want something that can tow a horse trailer as we plan to move further out toward the country in the next 5 years and I'd like to move my old horse with me and maybe get a cow. And, my sister lives in a town up near the mountains that gets feet of snow all winter and I'd like 4WD and clearance so we can visit during all the winter fun!
All those things say to me, fairly large SUV. Of the ones I've been able to test, or my friends have, or I've read about in places like Mother Earth News, the Pilot is one of the most fuel efficient, and Honda is one of the better companies environmentally. (None of them are exactly great, but some effort here is better than none.
) Honda is also one of the most reliable vehicles out there, and I absolutely hate, hate, hate, having to go to the mechanic. They make me nuts. As far as used goes, I'd love a used Pilot, but no one sells them once they have them! Seriously. They come up like once every two months in our classifieds.
So I really feel the Pilot is a good choice for our next vehicle, but I'm not going to jump for it, knowing we can't afford it. I'd be interested to hear if any of you have other recommendations for vehicles that fit my criteria above that might be less expensive. (I think it will cost us about $31,000, given my sister's experience.) So given that I want the Pilot, I'm forced to think of how to do it on our current budget. The only thing I can think of is reducing to one vehicle for our family, but I don't know if the hassle would be worth the benefit, or if it would even save us enough money.
Have any of you done this? What has been your experience? What do you wish you had known before you downsized to one vehicle? I mean, it makes sense since I am a SAHM, and my husband works only 5 minutes drive from home. If we went to 1 vehicle he would probably start riding his bicycle some days which could be a good thing. But, on the other hand, he's not in that great of shape right now, and I'd worry about him having too much physical stress right away, not to mention the danger of riding a bicycle with all those darned SUVs on the road!
I'm only sort of kidding there. It makes sense, but I would really miss my car! We do live close to town, but our public transportation sucks and I hate to think of being "trapped" at home with the two kids nearly every day. If I took the car, I'd need to get all of us around early enough to drop him off at work if it was a rainy day or something. And, gee, that would be really early. (Insert bagface smiley here. =)
All that, and I'm still not sure if it would save us enough money. I think we could get probably $10,000 for our two cars combined as a downpayment. Maybe then that would bring the monthly payments down to something we could afford, given we'd only be paying for one vehicle's insurance, maintenance, and gas. I guess I need to crunch the numbers some more. And, I'm hoping y'all can give me some other things to think about in regards to the benefits of being a one car family. I would think we'd exercise more, but on the other hand, walking as far as we'd have to go to get to the grocery store with two young kids in our 100 degree summers (southern Idaho) isn't really practical. I just don't know. But, I'm strongly considering it. If only to see can we get by tightening our belts a bit. It's good exercise.