When I was fresh out of college and landed my first “real” job in June 2004, I went right out and bought myself my first-ever brand new car. Looking back on it, it was kind of a dumb move. I mean, I hadn’t even moved out of my mom’s house yet (and wouldn’t for another year). And compared to what my measly salary was, the amount of my car payment was HIGH.
But for the long term, it was a smart decision. Instead of buying a cute little coupe/sedan like a lot of my friends, I wanted a Honda CR-V. It was more car than I needed at the time, but that choice is what has allowed me to continue driving that same car 10 years and 2 kids later. I guess you could say we’ve grown into it. And now? Well, now… we’ve kind of grown OUT of it.
It’s been a great car. There are still a lot of things I love about it. I can’t even tell you how many loads we’ve hauled—all of the things we’ve crammed into it over the course of two moves, many road trips, and countless DIY home projects. It has served its purpose. And it’s been mostly good for transporting our new family of four.
Back in September, we went on a long weekend trip to the Poconos for a wedding. It’s a four-hour drive. We were only staying for three nights (in a rental house). We didn’t even bring the dog. AND WE BARELY FIT. We were packed in there like sardines and it was a little bit miserable. It was then that I realized for sure: We need a bigger car. I even joked with Michael that we need a minivan. THE HORROR.
It had always been our plan to try to avoid having two car payments at once. I paid my car off in July 2009 and to save us money and have NO car payments for a while, Michael continued to drive his beater 1996 Saturn—which he’d had since sophomore year of college—until it literally died in April 2010 (we were going to replace it anyway before Nora was due in September 2010, so the timing was only a little earlier than we planned). At that time, we replaced it with a brand new Mazda3 (ooh, shiny). We qualified for 0% APR on that sucker, so we’ve not been in a hurry to pay it off, paying only the minimum payment each month. We still have about 16-17 months of payments left on it.
But now we have the itch to go ahead and buy a new car. At first we thought we’d wait until Michael’s car is paid off, like I mentioned… just so we don’t have two car payments. Then, that changed to “maybe we’ll look in the spring.” And then suddenly, we started talking about it more and we found ourselves at a few car dealerships yesterday.
You can probably see where this is going.
We haven’t purchased a new car yet, but it’s tempting. We visited Honda yesterday to check out the Pilot and Odyssey (OMG, minivan, AHHHHH!). We ruled out the Pilot right away—we just really don’t like it—but liked the Odyssey way more than we thought we would. They make some fancy ass minivans now, y’all. Then we headed to Mazda to check out the CX-9. We kind of fell in love.
I’m still not 100% sure what to do though. Bigger SUV (with three rows of seating to accommodate up to 7 people) or a minivan? The minivan was huge and spacious and had a lot of bells and whistles. The SUV seemed more “normal” for me to drive on a daily basis. We “only” have two kids, so the minivan sort of seems like it’s almost too much space. Mazda has done a really great job with the CX-9… it felt kinda luxurious. Heated seats. Lots of really cool technology that I have NONE of in my 2004 Honda CR-V. But as is typical with a 3-row SUV, there is not a ton of space to be had in the third row (although there is more in this make/model than there is in many other comparable vehicles). Part of me cares about that… shouldn’t the third row be easier to access and comfortable? But then the other part of me is like, Screw it. I’m not ever going to be the person who has to sit back there anyway. In all reality, it’s going to be my kids and their friends back there. So…?
Out of curiosity, we let the sales guy at Mazda run some numbers for us. We found out we’d get a REALLY respectable amount for trade-in of my CR-V. And the monthly payments were… well, monthly car payments. Blech. Of course they tried to sell us hard, but they were trying to sell us the last 2013 on the lot. So we wouldn’t have our choice in color or anything. And we feel like if we’re going to drop this much money on a car, we want to get EXACTLY what we want. So of course we walked away. Because hi, we were planning on just looking and it would’ve been pretty nuts to sign papers yesterday.
After the girls went to bed last night, I poured over the two vehicles on the internet. I was falling more in love with the Odyssey. I mean, it has a built-in “cooling drawer,” people. It’s a cooler… without needing ice! But I was also still really digging the CX-9. I sent in a request for a quote to another local Mazda dealer, just to see.
Well, I got an email back from the Mazda dealer today that made things kind of interesting.
This second dealership is having “Black Friday” sales this week and the guy laid it all out for me. And based on what I can tell from research on Edmunds.com and the like, we’d be getting a CX-9 with a technology package upgrade (a value of $3,000) basically at the invoice price of the car WITHOUT the technology package. Um, what? This is for the 2014, which they are literally just beginning to get on the lot. And this is without even TRYING to negotiate. This is what I was offered up front, just by sending an automated email to the dealership through Edmunds.com. So discussions became a little more serious today. Should we really consider doing this?
My question is this, though: Is Christmastime really as good a time to buy a car as people want you to believe it is? Or is it really just a ploy to try to get sales to pick up at the end of the year? I mean, the price of the car itself seems low… but they’re not offering 0% APR right now. The lowest is 1.9%. So say we wait. Surely they’re going to offer 0% APR at some point this year, right? (Mazda usually does.) If that’s the case, and they don’t have these “awesome deals” on the cars at that time, then we kind of make up for it with 0% APR, you know? Which is what makes me wonder if we’d basically get the same price/same monthly payments, regardless of when we purchase. So isn’t a wash? Does anyone have a lot of knowledge of car sales that can confirm/deny that this is the case? Any “insider info” or tips? I’m curious.
Obviously, if we’re seriously looking at potentially making a move, we also need to make sure that this is actually THE car we want to buy. I’m pretty sold on the Mazda CX-9 in terms of SUVs, but… the Honda Odyssey is still pulling me back in. Dude. A minivan. I can’t get over the fact that I’m even considering one. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
So, moms… minivan vs. 3-row SUV. Please weigh in. Let’s have a discussion. Let’s keep in mind that we’re pretty sure we’re done having kids. I mean, I won’t say never, but I’m thinking that’s the case.
And then there’s part of me that thinks we’re nuts for even considering this right now, when 1) we’re paying for two kids in full-time daycare and 2) my CR-V is technically still fine and I could easily get AT LEAST another year or two out of the thing. I mean, we “only” have two kids after all. It can be a tight squeeze (or impossible) at times, but it’s definitely doable on a day-to-day basis. For longer road trips—like our planned trip to Virginia and OBX next summer, for which we’ll be gone 10ish days—we would definitely have to rent a minivan or something, which would run us several hundred dollars (I’ve priced them out… we’re looking at like $800 at least, unless I can score a better deal as we get closer). My CR-V has less than 89,000 miles on it. It’s still a good car, and given that we drove Michael’s Saturn literally into the ground, I hesitate to get rid of a perfectly good car. And it’s PAID FOR. But then I remind myself that driving the same car for nearly 10 years is not something that too many people do anymore. And I can’t play my iPod/iPhone music in my car or use Bluetooth because this wasn’t even standard in 2004. First world problems, people.
For what it’s worth, Consumer Reports and user reviews of both the CX-9 and Odyssey are pretty excellent. The gas mileage is a bit better on the Odyssey than the CX-9. Technology features are pretty comparable. So it really comes down to form factor and space. SUV = less space, drives more like a car, has all-wheel drive. Minivan = ridiculous amounts of space, front-wheel drive, and… it’s a minivan.
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AboutI'm Heather. I'm 31 and have been married to Michael for five years. Together, we have two beautiful little girls we love more than anything, and a miniature dachshund who drives us crazy. I'm a full-time working mom who has very little time for my own "stuff" these days, like home improvement, cooking/baking, cake decorating, and photography. Despite the team not making the playoffs since 1999, I'm STILL a Buffalo Bills fan, which I think speaks to my loyalty AND sense of humor. I can't wait to pick up the pace with travel again some day... you know, when we're done being ruled by tiny fists. Welcome to my blog.
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