If there’s one symbol of overwrought suburban life, it’s gotta be the minivan. When we decided get ours, I had absolutely no reservations about sacrificing my cool image as I got in the minivan. First of all, rocking the mom-ponytail in my hair and spit-up on my shoulder, I no longer had a cool image. Second of all, getting around in a minivan with three kids makes life a whole lot more cushy. And I LOVED it.
We went whole hog when we bought ours: The Honda Odyssey Touring model. Silver, of course—aren’t they all? It came with the automatic lift gate, so I could get groceries in without putting the baby down. And a DVD player, which, as any parent knows, is the secret to sanity while driving any distance longer than ten minutes with kids. We even threw down $2k—TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!!—for the navigation system, which came in handy before there were free apps for that. And without even flinching, we handed over our down payment, qualified for an auto loan, and drove off the lot with a $40,000 instantly depreciating investment.
What in the world were we thinking? We were thinking about comfort and convenience getting around with three kids. We were thinking about three ginormous car seats and how they’d fit in a vehicle. We were thinking about how much easier it is to clean yogurt off of leather seats. We were thinking about being able to take Mauricio’s parents, who were living with us at the time.
We were NOT, however, thinking about debt, the long-term repercussions of being out $40,000, or how we could have been racking up the compounding interest on it instead.
In due time, we paid it off, and congratulated ourselves on having a cushy, paid-off vehicle.
But once we sold Someone Else’s American Dream and moved to the sticks, well, a minivan just sort of seemed ridiculous.
For starters, this past winter, when the rain came, the minivan couldn’t even make it up the dirt road, and Mauricio had to come get us down the hill. Also, it sits pretty low to the ground, so we were scraping the bottom if we weren’t careful with our off-roading. And most importantly, since we’re a good half hour from civilization, and the minivan only gets 19 MPG on a good day, we were putting on miles as gas money flew out the window.
As we went along, committed to building our new home on a cash-only basis, we began to see the minivan as an unused wad of cash. So one weekend, I spent an entire day cleaning it out. And believe me, after six years and many yogurt spills, it did take a whole day to get the nasty crud out of all the crevices. You should have seen the Before picture.
Then I took it to the cheap car wash, drove to the nice neighborhood, parked in front of a nice house, and snapped some photos to post it on Craigslist.
The next day, the last vestige of our suburban life was gone. In it’s place was a wad of $12,600 in found resources. Because we still needed a second vehicle to get Mauricio to work, we turned around and paid $8k cash for a used natural gas vehicle (more on that soon), which also got him in the carpool lane. The remainder became our kitty for building supplies.
Because everyone around us doesn’t think twice about taking what amounts to, after loan interest, the median annual household income in the US and investing it in what amounts to a Living Room on Wheels that automatically and continuously depreciates, well, we just did it, too. It was normal.
We won’t be doing that again any time soon. Funny how normal doesn’t look so normal to us any more.
But this does. It’s our old ride that I’ve had since 1995. Over 300,000 miles on the original clutch and engine, and still going strong. Instead of a DVD player, we have audio books. Instead of roomy leather seats, we have tight quarters, less comfort and more fights in the back seat.
But, hey, it’s a People Mover. And it does the job. Besides, I think it does much more for my cool image than a minivan. Don’t you?