It has been
very extremely delusionally hot and our entire family simultaneously came down with a nasty cold this week that has wreaked havoc on all the kids’ respiratory systems – thus the lack of posts. I actually did sit down and pound one out the other day, but after reading it Noah recommended that I not post it because it MIGHT have just been one big fat stream of consciousness complaint. The internet will not suffer for lack of another whinefest, right?
At any rate, we did have at least ONE bright spot this week – we solved our vehicle dilemma.
If you’ll recall, the need for a new family car was brought on first by the news of my surprise pregnancy. It was then compounded when our Murano broke down and for the past two and a half months I’ve been driving the kids around in our 25 year old, 2-door Pathfinder while Noah has been taking our gas-hog of a Dodge truck for his daily commute.
The Pathfinder has been a lifesaver in the fact that it runs pretty well, is reasonably okay on gas, is relatively easy for Noah to repair himself (which has, admittedly, been necessary on more than a few occasions) and makes me feel pretty awesome for being able to drive a stick shift like a boss (meaning: I didn’t completely kill the clutch in the process!)
However, the two biggest problems with the Pathfinder include it’s inability to carry an additional child and it’s severe lack of air conditioning. The latter is what mainly prompted us to speed up our hunt rather than waiting until we sold the RV and had additional funds. (Incidentally, this has also spurred a train of thought in my brain concerning what constitutes a “first-world problem” in today’s culture – such as a lack of air conditioning and more than 400 square feet of living space – that I would like to eventually expound upon at some point).
So. After scouring Craigslist, Ebay Motors and the Autotrader websites for weeks and debating over the pros and cons of SUVs and Minivans Noah and I narrowed our selection of vehicles down based on distance, price, and condition.
We wanted something close by (which didn’t make that big of a difference in our selection than if we had included Riverside or LA and made it much less of a hassle to look at our choices with the kids in tow), under $3000 and in decent shape. Within that criteria, Noah narrowed it further to either the Ford Expedition (SUV) or the Ford Windstar (Minivan) both within the ’98-’03 models.
We set up appointments around town to see our online favorites of each type of vehicle and went and checked them out in person.
I read each and every single comment that was left on our debate post and I think that our conclusions match up with the majority of what everyone said.
Our first-hand conclusions of the Ford Expedition:
The Expeditions we saw within our price range were not in great shape. Even those with leather interior were pretty wrecked and stained and had some minor body damage.
While the kids were able to get in and out, it wasn’t necessarily easy for them to climb up the step and get to the spots where their carseats would be.
I thought the option of having the seat fold down on the passenger side to allow access to the third row would make a big difference, but it mostly seemed heavy and cumbersome to have to do multiple times per day getting the kids in and out. I probably would have wound up just leaving it down all the time, which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, or letting the kids climb over (which might have something to do with why the interiors of the ones we saw were already so thrashed).
The storage in the rear was pretty miniscule. We like to keep a blanket, a couple gallons of water and jumper cables in the car, but in an Expedition, I wouldn’t have been able to have those and adequate room for a full grocery trip.
First-hand conclusions of the Ford Windstar:
All those things we didn’t really like about the Excursions? Completely the opposite in the Windstar.
The kids could open the doors, climb in and get buckled in about half the time. The storage in the back was bigger (not expansive, but bigger) and had bag-hooks for added convenience.
Also, after a mini-test drive, I was able to easily back into a narrow parking spot when we were done.
One of my favorite features is the little mini-rearview-mirror that comes down so I can see the kids in the back without having to adjust the main rearview-mirror. Very cool.
The one down-side was that apparently it’s difficult to find a mini-van with leather interior and to compound on top of that issue, all the interiors seem to be light colored. Noah commented at one point that it’s like the manufacturers WANT them to be destroyed by families with small children. (we tend to be a black, leather interior type of family, with good cause).
After dealing with both in person, I found myself agreeing with a comment left by Busy Mama: “I always look at mini-vans as movers of people, and SUV’s as movers of things.” This rings very true – and since we already have the truck and the Pathfinder for moving things, a people-hauler is really what we needed!
In the end, we wound up going with a 2002 Windstar with 134k miles in great shape – even with light-colored cloth interior! That’s the trusty dusty Pathfinder in the background, there:
The owners even let us keep it overnight (with a small deposit) before buying it so I could take it into our local Ford dealership and have them look it over.
There are a few minor things that need fixing that we were aware of prior to taking it in. For example, it needs new tires and there’s a “thwapping” sound coming from one of the air conditioning vent doors (which doesn’t impair the AC, thank goodness, but is kind of annoying to listen to). The dealership fixed a sensor that was recalled free of charge and found no other major mechanical issues. Huzzah!
The sellers dropped the price $600 and we were out the door for $2400.
I feel like we got a fair price on a vehicle that will hopefully last us some time and, importantly, we were able to pay cash on semi-short notice and not dip below our set emergency fund amount.
I’m calling it a Good Thing.