Becoming a Minivan Family

 - by Brittny

*SPOILER ALERT* – This is the van we ended up with :)

With the impending addition of a third baby Eric and I knew that we couldn’t continue for too much longer as a one car family.  At least, not when that one car was a Toyota Corolla and we would have all three of those kids in carseats.  We knew we wouldn’t need it until close to the arrival of the 5th member of our family but I decided to start looking in advance so I could figure out exactly how much we needed to budget out for a van and be prepared for that eventuality.

In June we took a trip down to California to see my family while Eric was at a conference in Los Angeles.  We were planning on purchasing a used van and I thought it might be worthwhile to look at used vans in California.  I figured that we could get a better condition used van there since it wouldn’t have been driven on icy, salty roads like vans in Utah.  So while Eric was at his conference my mom and I started looking around online for vans in the area.  I had thought that I probably wanted an Odyssey or a Sequoia, but as I looked at the different vans more closely I found that those vans were not worth the price difference to get them.  Eventually I honed in on the Dodge Grand Caravan.  Both Eric’s parents and my parents own Grand Caravans and we’d driven them around before and liked them.  The major selling feature was definitely the stow ‘n go seating.  That is a feature that is awesome beyond words in my opinion.  The ability to turn your van into a truck without having to leave the seats behind is SO useful.

While my mom and I were shopping around we decided to look also at what a new van would cost, just for comparison’s sake.  We found some in the area that were listed at $19,500, which was only just a little above what I was expecting to pay for a used van.  Since that seemed worthwhile to look into my mom called the dealer to see if that price was really for real and make sure there weren’t any special qualifications that were assumed to get that price.  The dealer assured her that $19,500 was the price, no catches.  So we made a field trip with the kids down to the dealership.  We found the vans and they looked great, took a test drive and it seemed like a pretty good option.  Then as we talked to the dealer he said that to get that price we’d have to meet some qualifications – like being in the military.  We were pretty disgusted to have been told one thing to get us down there, and another once we were actually there.  Needless to say, we left and did not come back.

So we did a little more searching and found another dealership that was offering the same van for $17,500.  That was absolutely insane!  We did a lot more vetting of the van and the price before going down, but after several emails back and forth with the salesman we determined that it was completely legitimate.  When Eric came home I showed him the van and what we’d found out.  The van had no fancy bells and whistles, but we weren’t planning on getting any of those anyways.  The price was so incredible, especially for a new van.  So we decided to go down and investigate.

Unfortunately, we left just before 5pm on a Friday afternoon, and we had to drive all the way through Los Angeles down to Huntington Beach Dodge.  That drive takes about an hour and a half in good conditions – rush hour on a Friday is not exactly good conditions.  It ended up taking us 3 hours to get down there.  On the way down my phone was acting really weird.  It had been having some problems before but as we were driving down it was really struggling.  I tried a few different tricks to try and get it to work, but by the time we reached the dealership it had given up the ghost completely.  I couldn’t even get it to turn on, despite having a charged battery.  Eric played with it too but he had no more luck than I did, which means it was *really* dead.

Since it had taken us so long to drive down we decided we should probably hurry over to the dealership despite not having had dinner yet.  We met with a different salesman from the one I’d been emailing with but after some searching he was able to find us the van from the online listing.  It was, as promised, not super fancy, but new.  We drove it around and everything looked great.  We decided that we would buy it.  How could we pass up the deal of having a van that was such an awesome price and still brand new?

As we were going through the paperwork we discovered that the reason the van was such an awesome price was that it wasn’t truly *brand* new.  It had been purchased but the financing hadn’t gone through (or something similar) and so the van had been returned within a few days.  So the van did have almost a thousand miles on it, but that’s pretty darn close to brand new, and for the price we’d gotten I wasn’t about to complain.  Still, I felt a little bit swindled to not have found out about this until we were in the process of signing the purchase paperwork.  I feel like their classification of it as a “new” van was misleading.    Aside from the price that we got I have to say that I was not at all impressed with the way Huntington Beach Dodge did business with us.

We continued on through the paperwork until we got to the financing part of the deal.  We had a decent chunk of the money we needed for the van saved up, but since we hadn’t been planning on purchasing a van for another 6 months we knew we’d have to finance some it at least in the short term.  One of the deals they had listed online was that they were offering 0% financing on their loans for some period of time.  I had figured that looked like the best deal we’d ever find for a loan so I hadn’t done any research on what else was available.  When we got to the financing we found out that the deal was only available if we didn’t take some other promotion that they were having which was saving us a thousand dollars or so on the price of the van.  Clearly it wasn’t worth getting 0% financing at the cost of $1000.  So we filled out the forms to have them run our credit and find out what sort of deal they could make for us.  While they were running their numbers we quickly used Eric’s phone to secure a loan through our bank.  They were running a promotion that would get us our financing at an introductory rate of 0.79%.  We looked through how to use the loan and it was so easy, they would immediately wire money to the dealership and we’d be all set to go.  When the dealership came back with their financing it couldn’t hold a candle to what we’d obtained so we obviously wanted to go with the loan we’d obtained through our bank.  The dealership’s financing guy (who we’d already felt was just kinda greasy, the stereotypical used car salesman type) then started telling us that they wouldn’t accept that loan, that we had to have a cashier’s check, they couldn’t do wire transfers etc.  We talked to our bank later about what happened and they told us that the dealership was just screwing with us.  This is how they do all of their auto loans and it is never a problem.  The only reason the dealership would’t take our money was that they wanted us to use their financing so they were being intentionally difficult to put us in a hard spot.  I think he just came up with whatever answer would make it so that we’d have to use their financing.  He knew it was past banking hours so we couldn’t go to a bank, and that we’d driven a long way and weren’t likely to do it twice, and we were unlikely to walk away from such a great deal.  We were extremely frustrated and felt like they were being totally unreasonable, but we also knew we were getting a killer deal on the van so we decided to just take their financing and re-finance when we got home.  But we were pretty ticked.

Anyways, the rest of the deal went fine, and we were finally out of there by 10pm with our brand new van!  But we were STARVING.  Especially since I was 11 weeks pregnant at the time and still very much so in the throes of “morning” sickness – not eating for that long was not going over so well with me.  So Eric and I were all ready to go out to eat and celebrate our new purchase… but of course most everything was closed at that point.  So we settled on a romantic evening at McDonald’s – wahoo.  After our dinner we decided that Eric would drive the van back to my parents’ and I would drive our Corolla.  Of course, my phone was totally out of commission so I didn’t have the luxury of my GPS to get me back (not good for a directionally challenged person like myself).  We quickly wrote down the directions that we got from Eric’s phone and just agreed to stick close to one another on the drive back.  Luckily Eric had a spare iPhone in his backpack that I could use to listen to my book on the way back.  I know, that sounds totally crazy to anyone who knows us that Eric would have anything made by Apple on his person, but he had it from work to help him test different features on some projects he was working on.  The phone didn’t have cell service, but I was grateful to at least have something to keep my attention on the boring drive back.

So we hopped in our vehicles and headed back to the freeway.  We didn’t get very far before everything STOPPED.  Apparently the 405 freeway was closed and the backup was insane.  As we tried to navigate onto the freeway I quickly lost Eric in the zillion cars that were all stopped at the same point as us.  So much for sticking close together.  I missed the first place that I could have turned off for a detour since I didn’t realize what was ahead of me.  The detour took 2 hours just to get back to the freeway.  It was brutal!  It was all the worse for not being able to call Eric and let him know where I was.  I was certain that he had made the first detour, or had used his GPS to get him better directions to get out of that mess and was probably well ahead of me.  I was also convinced that with how long it was taking me, by the time I got home my family would assume I was dead or extremely lost.  Being lost would be totally par for the course, my family used to joke that if they’d let me drive up to BYU from California on my own I’d likely call from the Mexican border saying “I don’t remember having to go through Mexico to get to Utah…”  While that would have been a slight exaggeration… my directional abilities really are that bad.  It’s incredible how debilitated I felt without my smartphone that night.  The next day found us at the Verizon store to purchase me a Galaxy S4 so we wouldn’t have these problems anymore.

It again took 3 hours to get home and I didn’t get back to my parents’ house until about 1:30am.  Eric had beat me but not by as much as I had expected.  He too had missed the first detour so we’d been stuck pretty close to one another most of the way back.  I was glad that they hadn’t yet called the police to try and find me.  Eric and I sorta collapsed into each other, not totally believing the insane ordeal we’d gone through.  We were very glad that we’d gotten such a great deal on our van, but man, what an experience!

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