MomSense: How to Buy a Minivan – Part 2


Last time, I told you about how Erin just broke down and bought a pre-owned minivan after battling her Suburban for several years.  She shared tips with SMB on how to research which car is best for you and your family’s needs and which year/make/model offers the most value. 

To review:

Step 1: Search Consumer Reports

Step 2: Get a good “feel” for each car

Now we get to have some fun…

Step 3: Finding “the one” 

1. Rate the car on mileage, condition and price.  And decide which is the highest priority to you.

2. Be careful out there!  Erin found the same van listed for one price at the dealership, another on their website, another on craigslist, another on, and yet another on ebay! 

  • I mean really careful… Erin called offering to buy the van at the ebay price, the dealer said it was sold (but listed it that very day?!?!?).   Ummmm, yeah.  Shady. 
  • Also, beware of craigslist shipping scams! 

3. What features do I want/need???

  • Things such as a dvd system, power doors or lift gate that open and close at the touch of a button on your keychain, seat configuration, 7 vs 8 seater, leather, etc make a big difference in function and price!  Since Erin’s kids are slightly older (3,5,7) and can open the doors (5 and 7 year old at least can) and buckle themselves, they decided to go with the base model that has less features, but that allowed them to get a more current model with lower mileage within their budget. 
  • However, if you have a 3, 2 and 1 year old, your may want/need/use all of the features (which are really nice!!!) because of the years using strollers, needing more hands in the parking lot, etc… 

Step 4: Buy it and become a “Soccer Mom”

  • Erin recommends Arizona Fleet.  They had a really cut-and-dry price that was one of the better prices:-)

Step 5: Warranty on a used car?

  • Erin chose an extended warranty from the broker because 1) it was rated really well 2) they were replacing a vehicle that had needed thousands of dollars in repairs several times and that was really stressful 3) seemed like a good cost vs repair costs 4) if they have any repairs made at Arizona Fleet (they have a repair shop, too), there is no deductible and they give you a free loaner while yours in in the shop and 5) peace of mind buying a used van.

So far, I LOVE our van!  It drives great, the kids love the various seating arrangements, and I’m saving $40-$60 a month in gas vs what I was paying for the suburban!

Erin M.
Minivan MomSense Provider

Mission Accomplished: To buy a family car that will hold their three children, plus a friend or two while saving money on gas and repairs.

Current vehicle: Honda Odyssey

Frustrations: None 🙂