How My Husband Rocked Our New Van Purchase - A No-Regrets Guide to Buying a Car from Mr. Boredom Devastator

How My Husband Rocked Our New Van Purchase - A Car Buying Guide from Mr. Boredom Devastator

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Tips and tricks for buying a new or used car, utilizing a car aggregator search engine like cars.com.  A guide for how to decide what car is best for you, research safety, plan for financing, and get a great deal, with no regrets! via Devastate Boredom


When Cars.com asked me to write a sponsored post for them, it was perfect timing because my husband and I had just recently purchased a new-to-us van in preparation for becoming parents a few months ago.  I looped my husband in on the task of writing this post, since he is, in all modesty, a bit of a genius in the realm of car research-and-search.  So, say hi to my husband, Andrew (aka, Mr. Boredom Devastator), as he shares with you his fine-tuned system for locating and purchasing the best possible car for you!

*Andrew waves*  Hello Devastate Boredom readers! When Sarah and I began considering buying a new car, the first and perhaps most important determination was how much we were willing to spend monthly on the new vehicle. There are a few components to the true all-in cost of a new or "New To You" car. First, there is the direct cost of the car, which is the monthly payment. Second, there are the ancillary costs of the car such as insurance, gas mileage, likely maintenance, and any registration fees your county or state may have. Considering both together allows us to budget appropriately and not be surprised by any unexpected expenses.  It is important to start by saying that, as a rule, Sarah and I do not buy new cars.  It tends to be a poor economic value to purchase a brand-new car, given the intense asset depreciation that occurs in the first few years of a car's lifespan. For our vehicle-search this time around, we decided to set an initial price point of $10,000 for the purchase of a used vehicle. 

Once we had determined a monthly budget, we pondered and discussed the requirements of the new vehicle, given our needs. In this latest case, we were expecting the birth of our first child which meant we would have 2 adults, 1 child, and two 75 lb dogs needing to be reliably and easily transported for the near future. Right away we know we will not be getting any two-door convertibles, much to my chagrin. As such, we filtered our search to vehicles that seated at least 7 people. Realistically, that meant third-row SUVs and minivans. Now, one of Sarah's requests is always that her vehicles have as tight a turning radius as possible. A quick google search to check for that information eliminated a number of third-row SUVs from our search, majority of minivans had a better turning radius than third-row SUVs, which further helped to guide our search.  

Note from Sarah:  If you are just beginning to explore your options in terms of what features are important to you in a new vehicle, it might be helpful to check out Cars.com's Videos and Reviews page.  You can explore video comparisons such as "Best Three-Row SUVs of 2016," "Best Compact Sedans of 2017," etc, that can be incredibly helpful in giving you a more visual understanding of the differences between types and models of vehicles.  If you're not sure what you want out of your next vehicle, this is where you should start!  If the video reviews don't happen to include the particular make / model you were looking for, Cars.com also has a side-by-side comparison feature as well, offering you an easy way to view and compare stats on everything from MPG to seating, pricing, reviews, and more.

After you have decided on what type of car and what type of features you wish to prioritize, the next step is to determine what utility will be left in a used vehicle, particularly one purchased at a lower price-point. What does "utility" mean in real life? To us it means getting the best price-to-use or value in a vehicle. Put simply, it will be the vehicle with the lowest possible miles, at or below our set price point. Now, it can be very easy to be lured in by the siren song of seat warmers and features galore, or by that rear entertainment system that you've always wanted. But, at the most fundamental level, you don't actually need those things... what you really NEED is for your car to run well. You NEED a reliable vehicle that will run without issue and last for the time frame that you have determined for this vehicle purchase. In our case, we wanted a car that would likely last us at least five years, if not more. So, as you can tell, we weren't asking a lot!  (#sarcasm)  We simply wanted a used minivan or 3rd row SUV, for $10,000 or less, that was going to last us at least 5 years. 

And it got more complicated from there!  Even though I just said that the most important thing to our decision-making was the utility or economic utility in our vehicle, that's not completely true. In actuality, the most important aspect to our choice of car was the safety of our family.  From the beginning, we prioritized investigating and understanding the safety associated with the vehicles we were considering.

Now, how on Earth did we do that? Aren't all cars safe?  You'd like to think so, wouldn't you... in the past, Once Upon a Time, cars were rated using a star system where 5 Stars was the best crash rating possible. Then the IIHS (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) came along and changed how cars are rated. Instead of assigning Stars, they now assign ratings with good being green, acceptable as yellow, marginal as orange, and poor as red. I highly suggest checking any car that you are considering buying with the IIHS, to see to what extent it has been tested and how it scored especially in relation to its peers. 

It is important to note that the IIHS does not compare across classes of vehicle. So, a subcompact car and a minivan might both have good crash ratings, but each one of those crash ratings are considered within the class itself and are not considered across the broader spectrum. This is a vitally important distinction when one is trying to consider and understand the safety of family vehicles. Also, when considering safety it is important to understand that in an ideal world every test would come back good -- but that does not always happen. We should try to consider the most likely safety scenarios we will need in the event of a collision or crash, and work from from that point. 

Adding in the factor of safety at our given price point, there were only two minivans which met our safety requirements. Those were the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. Sadly (for our purposes), they are also the two most popular minivans in America and have the highest residual value, which can make getting a good deal more difficult especially in competitive used marketplaces.  I won't lie and say that the 2015 Sedona with perfect crash ratings selling for approximately $15,000 to $16000 in our area was not a huge temptation. It was. But, we stuck to our plan.  We wanted a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna under $10,000 for our next vehicle.  

Cue the searching!  Automobile aggregator search engines like cars.com were a valuable resource to ensure we were familiar with the entire inventory of used vehicles being sold in our vicinity, that met our price and model / safety criteria.  Don't underestimate the power of "advanced search" options and a little patience! The advanced options on Cars.com allow you to tailor your search by dozens of criteria, from fuel type to seller type to interior color, and on from there.  You can even use the features search bar on the left of the page (shown below) to tweak your selections further while you browse, and you can save your search criteria or specific cars to be notified of price drops, new additions, etc.  Save yourself a little leg-work, and take advantage of these kind of features!

Tips and tricks for buying a new or used car, utilizing a car aggregator search engine like cars.com.  A guide for how to decide what car is best for you, research safety, plan for financing, and get a great deal, with no regrets! via Devastate Boredom

Since we were not in any rush to buy a vehicle we could take our time and wait until we found exactly what we wanted.  For a while, it seemed like every Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna in our price range was going to have a 120K+ miles or be 15+ years old, neither of which was appealing to us.  And even when the perfect vehicle did appear, we took about 10 days to think and discuss it before we went to see it. Risky choice on our part! However, when we did go to see it, we knew we were very likely going to buy it that same day and had already secured financing options prior to arrival. I highly suggest having your financing in order before arriving at car dealership, to avoid finding yourself locked into a higher-than-necessary interest rate.  This will avoid any unpleasant budget surprises when the price of the car is suddenly augmented by a high interest rate.  If you need a little extra help with this, a good place to start is to check out the Car Finance Calculator on cars.com. 

So, to review, what is the best way to approach buying a new car? 

First, define your needs. 

Second, define your budget. 

Third, research to understand the safety and utility implications of your potential vehicles. 

Fourth, take your time and and maximize the search options on a site like Cars.com to locate actual vehicles available within your safety and price range preference.

And, once you find your dream car, I suggest that you move faster than we did and and secure the vehicle that you have been working so hard find, with purchase.

Note from Sarah:  We are LOVING our van!  I know it isn't exactly a cool ride (does just using the phrase "cool ride" make me less cool by default??) but it is SO roomy. We stuffed two mattresses from Ikea in there without batting an eye! And alllll the boxes from baby's sweet shower gifts with no problems at all!  Not impressed yet?  Get this...  We just took our first road trip with Baby L. AND we brought our two dogs along. AND two of our friends. AND their dog.  Yep, I'm telling you that we fit four adults, a carseat and baby, three dogs, baby equipment, two dog beds, two dog crates, and baggage for a weekend away, all into our lovely roomy van.  And I don't think anybody even felt crowded!  The dogs did get a little snuggly (pic below!), but it was entirely by choice... there was a whole empty seat next to me and baby in the back where our dog Jayne sat for a good bit of the way.  😜

FFor us, all of Andrew's hard work researching, crunching numbers, and evaluating options has already paid off in spades.  I hope this overview of his process is helpful to anyone else looking to purchase a car in the near future!




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1 comment

  1. Ahhhhhh! You've gone over to the Dark Side and gotten a minivan!! I hope you still have your other wheels, too, because I loved being car buds like that! (But yay for all this space!)

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