Since you guys asked..... well two of you anyway... here's the story. How did the car become the one? As I mentioned Mike had a long list of vehicles he liked and was looking daily at all of them just to get an idea on prices and what our meager budget could get us. I had decided that the car we purchased this time around should be paid for with cash and let me tell you it was not an easy sell. In fact I'm fairly certain that Mike thinks it was a great idea only now after everything has been settled.
So our long list, there was everything on it... cars, vans and suv's. We took a day and found a private lot that had most of what Mike had been looking at and test drove our faces off. Following that we had lunch and discussed what we liked most about each one and which would be the best fit for our family. We weren't 100% sold on needing to purchase another van. There are only four of us and no plans to add anymore little feet around here... although I keep telling people the last two times we bought vehicles I ended up pregnant, so I'm understandably nervous now :) The thing was, we weren't 100% sold on a car either and that led us to smaller SUV's. After that session of test driving the two that seemed to fit the best were the Ford Freestyle and the Ford Escape, in that order.
Mike focused his search specifically on the Freestyle for the next six months or so. Just keeping an eye on prices and many times he found "the one". There were many "discussions" about sticking to the plan... stay on budget, pay cash, buy in the spring. I'm afraid I'm making this sound easier than it was, there was so much talking, with Mike, with friends and still it wasn't an easy decision to make. We talked to people who's opinion we trust. We talked to more than one mechanic and tried to go into this with as much information as we could. At the end of the day we don't have a crystal ball, but we did the best we could.We decided a little late in the game that we needed to buy a new vehicle and only saved for a year. Our plan is for this vehicle to get us through the next two or three years and at that point purchase something else. That way we'll have at least a couple of years of our savings regime under our belts for the next purchase.
Next week we pick up our "new" car, a 2005 Ford Freestyle. Mike showed off some amazing negotiating skills and got within $50 of his "walk away" number. I was perfectly content with the sticker price and the thought of negotiating was filling me with anxiety. I am glad he didn't listen to me though, since he ended up a few hundred dollars under budget when all was said and done. It's a bit smaller than the van in terms of engine, but it still seats six, so we can take a grandparent or two with us if we are going out.
What will I take from this experience to the next? I think it's important to really have a handle on what you need from your vehicle. Mike liked a lot of other cars that, if we were being honest, were too much for our family, too much car, too much money, just too much. Start looking earlier, especially if you are shopping with a strict budget to get an idea of what is reasonable at your price point. I give all the credit to Mike for this one. He did 100% of the leg work here. My job (self imposed) was just to keep him on plan. The Freestyle ended up at the top of the list largely because we were comfortable in it.That's it, in a really big nutshell.