Thoughts on Becoming a Minivan Driver

A couple of months ago, my blogging friend Rach wrote a post about buying a car on Craigslist. That really got my wheels turning. I’d never really thought about turning to Craigslist to search for a “new” car. I pretty much thought the only option was the scary scary car lot. (Coming from a girl who gets intimidated into making rash choices while having a sandwich made at Subway, you could say I was a bit nervous about setting foot on a car lot and trying to deal with a car salesman. ;-)) But since Jake has arrived, it’s become more and more difficult to share a car with Justin.

I drove a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta for about ten years–from the time I turned 16 (which was actually 2001–my car was BRAND new) until 2011 when Justin and I decided to move to China and needed the cash more than the car. Honestly, at that point my car was over 100,000 miles and it was having a lot of issues, so it was kind of a relief to let go of the burden of constantly taking it to the mechanic. While we lived in Pittsburgh, I made good use of public transportation…but now that we’re living in Knoxville, out in the country (we drive past barns and horses on the way to our house), walking to a bus stop is no longer an option. I’m pretty much just stranded at home while Justin works during the day. If I need to have the car for the day, I have to wake up and go to work with Justin (he leaves at 7 AM!) and drive his 90-minute round-trip commute to get back home (and of course, pick him and up and drive him home at the end of the day). Needless to say, I don’t borrow the car very often. 🙂

The biggest issue we had with the idea of purchasing a new car was budget. Eventually, I plan to go back to teaching full time in the fall, and I will definitely need my own car for my commute to work. However, it would be ideal to work for a few months and save up some money before investing in a new car. So we were torn. What we decided to do was start looking around Craigslist to see if I could find a CHEAP car (around the $2000 range) to get me from point A to point B–something that will hopefully last for at least 3 years or so, until we can save up some more money to buy a NEW new car. In my mind, I was picturing this:

car

Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised when I started browsing on Craigslist. Having a $2000 budget did not limit me to a rusted piece of junk! I would for sure be purchasing a car with high mileage and it wouldn’t be perfect–but there are cars out there that drive for 200,000 and 300,000 miles (apparently, since people are selling them on Craigslist). I spent a LOT of time looking. The frustrating thing about Craiglist is that there are so many scammers that post ads that are too good to be true (“Just wire me the money and I’ll have the car shipped to you in a POD!” Right.) and there are people who think their car is worth $4,000 more than it really is (“I paid $20,000 for it new fifteen years ago!” Get real). I responded to many ads and never got a reply, and I got in really deep with one car (a little red ’98 Ford Escort) only to find that there were issues with the title.

So after two months of searching and saving ads for compact cars on Cragslist, what did I do? Naturally, I went to a used car lot and purchased a minivan.

I know. I’m still in shock, myself.

Here is my "I just won the Price is Right Showcase" pose :-)

Here is my “I just won the Price is Right Showcase” pose 🙂

It’s a 2002 (my lucky year for cars, apparently) Dodge Caravan Sport in forest green. I bought it for $1950, and it has less than 100,000 miles on it–woohoo! It is very clean on the inside for a van (I’m assuming a family with young children owned it before me, and there are only a few stray crayon marks in the backseat–nice!), and it doesn’t have that weird, stale pizza smell that so many vans have.

Sounds pretty great, right?!  (I know some of you are laughing.) Here’s the thing–as soon as I got over the thrill of handing over my cash and driving off of the lot, reality hit me. I am now a minivan driver. In most situations, people are not defined by the car that they drive (though some guys like to think that they are). However, in this case, there is an entire culture that goes along with driving a minivan. Am I really ready to embrace that culture?

van1

For example, I was originally thinking about getting a cool bumper sticker for my car. Maybe something to support my local community, like:

sticker

Now, because I’m driving a van, I feel compelled to get something like this instead:

sticker2

It’s the same with music. Should I really be blasting and singing along to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars? Or should I be listening to something a little less contemporary? Maybe a radio station that plays a soothing mix of the hits of yesterday and today?

Even naming the car is tricky. When I was looking into the little red Ford, I was searching for a good Harry Potter reference. I was thinking I could call it Firebolt. (I know, I know. I shouldn’t have named it before it was really mine–I told you I got in deep!) But now that I’m driving a van, none of the cute names that I was throwing around in my head seem appropriate. If anything, the name that fits this car is THE BEAST. (When I first pulled it into the driveway, Justin said, “That thing sounds like a BEAST!” It may have a muffler issue…)

I guess my issue is that I’m turning 30 later this year, and now I’m driving a minivan. All of this growing up stuff is happening so fast! It makes me a little sad that I can’t pull up into a parking lot in my car and have someone mistake me for a hot young girl ready for a night on the town. More likely, I need to be on guard for stray young children dressed in soccer gear who accidentally get into my backseat, mistaking it for their mom’s car.

But there are some good things about driving a van. We’ve already removed the backseat and used our van to haul around some things (a couple of porch rockers we found on Craigslist and MANY spring plants/shrubs from the nursery). And just last night, we accidentally left our doors unlocked, and nobody tried to break in. Probably because nobody wants to steal a minivan. But I’m already thinking about how nice it could be to have a van in the summertime–we can go on long trips and have some extra wiggle room, with plenty of space to store all of our luggage. Justin has promised me that when The Beast eventually dies on us, I can go back to a stylish compact car. But I’m guessing that won’t happen.

I think once you go minivan, you never go back.

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Categories: car, craigslist, driver, minivan, soccer mom | Tags: | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Becoming a Minivan Driver

  1. New-to-you cars are always fun!! Congrats on your purchase. I’m so glad that you found something in your budget and that it ticks off all the must-have boxes. Also, my first car was that color so it holds a special place in my heart. 🙂

    • Come to think of it Amy, the first car that I drove around when I turned sixteen was also forest green….a forest green mini van! My parents had owned that van since I was seven or eight years old. It was in terrible shape, belts squealing whenever I fired up the engine…and I’m pretty sure one of the rear windows was broken and taped up with plastic. But it got me around, and I listened to my cassette tape of N*SYNC as loud as the stereo would go as I rode around town. But I was really happy to get that Jetta a couple of months later!

      On Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 1:49 PM, the new normal. wrote:

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  2. Sorry that Craisglist didn’t work out so well for you, but I’m glad you found a great new (to you) ride! Perfectly in your price range and all! Our friends who drive minivans LOVE them. They love the sliding doors for loading kids in and out of the car and they love the space. You should hear them talk about how they covet the new Honda Odyssey. 😉

    • Honda Odysseys are REALLY great! Maybe that will be my next upgrade! 😉 It took me a little while to adjust to being a van driver, but now I’m really starting to like it. It is easier to get Jake in and out, and to carry whatever we need. We recently went on a weekend road trip in the van for the first time, and it was great because we didn’t have to debate over what to take and what to leave home….we were able to just take it all (with room left to spare!). I recently switched with Justin and drove his Nissan Sentra (just because I needed to get to the store and his car was parked behind mine in the driveway) and I was actually surprised by how claustrophobic I felt! I really got used to the extra space in the van pretty quickly!

      On Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 2:49 PM, the new normal. wrote:

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  3. Rachel G

    Congrats on the new car! We were the ones selling a used car on Craigslist last year–that was also a plenty fun process, as you can imagine! I kind of suck at parking, so I hope we never have to get a large vehicle like a minivan–but I agree they would be really useful for hauling stuff around in!

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