Monday, June 20, 2005

New Car

Well, I've done it. I've switched to a minivan.

My 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale died on me last Wednesday (with five boys and myself inside, on a busy boulevard). We (all of us) made our way through streams of traffic to an IHOP across the street and made an S.O.S. phone call.

On Saturday, Scott and I drove away from the Toyota dealership with a 3 year lease on a 2005 Toyota Sienna.

I hate having a car payment. Actually, I've never had one. And actually, we can't afford one. Afford is a relative word. But getting this car is part of a shift in thinking I've been going through for a long time.

I used to think anyone driving a new car was irresponsible and greedy, not to mention wasteful, what with all those perfectly good used cars out there. I've never paid more for a car than my first one, which I bought in 1992 for around $1,800.

What I've realised is that I've had a rather upside-down (not to mention hypocritical) view of money-management. I forego all the big-ticket purchases and squander my money on cigarettes or late-fees or drinks and an evening on the town.

Last year when we decided to put our boys in a private school, we fretted over tuition expenses, knowing we didn't have any extra $ to squeeze out (nor any place to squeeze it out from). But we faithfully (if not punctually) wrote out our check to the school each month and, strangely, our standard of living never really changed.

That's when it hit me: We were typical, American consumers, spending everything we took in. Unlike typical American families, we don't have any of the toys or even the necesary ingredients in the "American Dream". No new car, big house, boat, fitness club membership, not even a home stereo system. But, since our seminary days, during which we really were poor (I got dairy and juice and peanut-butter vouchers through a government program, for Marshall, and for myself, because I was pregnant with Micah) I've never felt significantly less "strapped", financially. We just sort of increased our spending on pacifying ourselves, without increasing our living standard.

So here I am with a spanking new vehicle, fretting a bit about the payments. I've had a little bit of post-buyer's panic. But I'm not really questioning the rightness of the decision. This monthly payment affords me the ability to drive my kids and their friends places, help drive for school, and mostly, it affords us (Scott was very particular and insistent on this) the reassurance that, if we must expose our children to dangers of the road every day, we're at least protecting them as well as we can. (Ten years ago cars didn't even have air bags, and in the more recent past, minivans have been rather collapsible). To be honest, I couldn't care less what I drive or how old it is or what it looks like. Which is probably why I've driven a paint-peeling, rusting, crashed-up, falling apart 1988 Oldsmobile for so long. But it occured to me at some point along the way that, every day, I was putting my entire life (my kids) into an unreliable, unsafe box of metal and driving at inhuman speeds, alongside other speeding boxes of metal.

Now that I've got all the obligatory (for me) reflections out of the way, let me be happy about it... It sure is nice to drive! I've got all the comfort and convenience I could ever want (in a car or in life!), even without all the bells and whistles (we went low-end options/high- end safety). It's silver in color and looks less like a minivan than the typical one (sort of a station-wagon/van/SUV hybrid). I feel a little bit out-of-place, like Cinderella at the ball.


laura said...

Nice new set of wheels, Rae! I have to say I was wondering when that Old's was gonna fall apart.
I remember feeling a bit out of place when I got my Saturn, being that I was only 25 years old and was going on owning my eh-hm, 5th car. I don't have any buyers remorse. I'll be paying it off for the rest of my life, but I figure, what the hell? It's worth it. I'd rather make the car payment than having to take the piece o' poop to the car doctor every month.
Have you decided on a name for it?

lithereed said...

Very cool car! It sounds as if you made the best decision. (You and I both know that used cars aren't always cheaper in the long run.) When my good old Hyundai dies I know that I'll buy a new car. (I just hope it gets me through grad school.)

Rachael said...


I'ts funny, Stephanie, when we were at the dealership to lease our new car we came accross a used red Mazda van. I almost bought it solely because it looked like the big brother of the Mazda wagon we sold to you. I thought it would be sort of fitting, you know... the family version of an old car.

I'm not really attached to this toyota van the way I was to the mazda wagon or the old toyota van (Scuby) -also silver, by the way, though 20 years older and center-of-balance deficient.

So, no, I don't have a name for it yet. It's just so strange to drive a new vehicle. I feel like I'm renting.

Rachael said...

Scooby, that is. (I knew it looked funny.)

Michael Ciani said...

Raquel, I fear that your boys being on summer break has severely impeded your blogging efforts. Don't you know that I'm out here in San Francisco anxiously checking each and every other day for your latest thoughts?!?