I Just Purchased A Minivan – Here’s How I Purchased Our Used (But New-To-Us) Vehicle Without Borrowing Any Money

I just finished finalizing a deal for a newer minivan.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the transmission in my current minivan is dying – and I’ve been looking for a good deal on a newer (slightly used) model that I can afford to pay cash for – and I found one.  After searching through online auctions, automobile websites, and local dealerships, I finally found the van that I wanted at a price I was willing to pay.  Here’s a quick overview of “what I did”.

  1. I sat down with my wife and we discussed what we wanted in the new van – and what we could live without – and then decided that we wanted to buy a newer model van – but neither one of us cared for many of bells and whistles.  (In other words – we want a vehicle, not an entertainment center.)
  2. I began to do some research at various sites online, and I narrowed our search to those vans that were within our price range.  I used sites like Edmunds and KBB.
  3. I decided on a “must get” price for our old van – the lowest amount that I would accept on trade or for sale.
  4. A couple of days I ago, I narrowed my search down to three possible vans – a gold one and two red ones – both near our price target and both available from reputable dealerships.  (One hopes!)
  5. I emailed the dealerships and asked for price quotes – I found the advice from my buddies Nickel (who has an awesome form letter that he uses when emailing car dealerships) and FMF (who has a step by step guide to buying a car) to be invaluable.
  6. After receiving the initial quotes, we soon settled on one of the red vans.  It fit our price range, so I called the Internet sales rep.  I asked him how much he would give me for my Chrysler.
  7. After a few minutes, he called me back and gave me a quote.  I was satisfied for the amount he offered, so I asked him to “bottom line” it – I wanted to know how much the entire deal was going to cost me, after fees and taxes, “out the door” so to speak.
  8. He called back and gave me the news – a few hundred dollars below our “this is what we want to pay” amount.
  9. I faxed a copy of my license to the dealership and the car will be delivered in the morning.  The dealer will pick up my old van and drive it away – as soon as I sign some paperwork and give them the title.  I initiated a transfer from my ING Direct account to my regular checking.  The dealer is going to hold the check for 5 days while the funds move from ING to my checking account.
  10. I called my insurance company and they said to call back as soon as the deal is done.  I’ll do that in the morning.

Possible issues – I am buying the car “sight unseen”  – but I can change my mind after it gets here in the morning.  The van is a “program car” and is certified used from Chrysler.

The coolest part of this entire thing is that I’m paying for the newer car with cash.  For the first time in my life, I’ll be driving an automobile that I didn’t have to finance.  It’s strange – I’ll be paying less for this automobile than I did for some of the other automobiles I’ve purchased in the past – but it “feels” like I’m paying more.  Why?  Because, I’m spending real money – not borrowed money – but real money – and it hurts!  But, it’s awesome to know that my wife will be safe, that we’ll have plenty of room for the kids – and no car payments!

I’m sure that there are savvier shoppers out there.  I would never, ever purport to be an expert when it comes to buying or selling automobiles – but I think I did a pretty good job of finding a nice automobile at a decent price – so I’m happy.

49 thoughts on “I Just Purchased A Minivan – Here’s How I Purchased Our Used (But New-To-Us) Vehicle Without Borrowing Any Money

  1. Congrats on paying cash for a car!

    That is such a radical way of thinking these days, but clearly the smart way to go.

    I’d be afraid to buy a car without a test drive though. 🙂

    I know you can get out of the deal, but by that time they will kind of have you hooked and try really hard to sell you something else. I don’t know, just a thought. I hope all goes well!

  2. Did you run the VIN numbers? The Vehicle registration numbers to see if the car was ever in an accident or flooded in Hurricane Katrina? Did you get the history of the car repairs yet? Has your mechanic looked at the car? is there a clause in your contract that a mechanic can look at it and if you don’t get a good report you can get ALL your money back?? You can check out the car for free at:

    Just shopping price is good but not everything. Even though you paid cash, can you put it through a Visa/Mastercard debit card to reverse the payment if the car is a lemon?

    I don’t know. I’m leary of this sale but please keep us posted. Just because it is certified from Chrysler means nothing these days. Did you google the dealer or the sales rep?

  3. Boomie… I ran the vin and did the whole carfax thing… It’s a one owner off lease – local in Georgia. The dealer has a good rep and has been in business for more than 30 years… Ah, the chances we take…

  4. Congrats on the new vehicle. You have bigger cahonies than I do buying it sight unseen but it sounds like you did everything to minimize your risk. Do you beleive in the extended warranties? I have never bought one and am leery of them (pure profit for the dealership?)

  5. Congrats on the new car. I know it must be an awesome feeling to know you don’t have to worry about financing and what your payments are going to be. Just curious, how much did it cost you?

  6. Excellemt, you opted out of the system, or should Isay, the trap. This is what a wise and smart person, like my hubby, does. Good luck with the purchase.

  7. NCN,
    OK,OK. Good. You should have said you ran the VIN numbers for your readers. Most people don’t know that. Good luck. Keep us posted. Maybe a photo. We’ve been paying cash for our cars now for decades but I am so used to my DH mechanically looking them over before we buy and we buy locally. But, it’s a brave new world out there!

  8. This is awesome, I have been doing my own research into the whole used car buying process, and only have gotten so far as narrowing down what model/year. Your methods for settling on the dollar amount and asking the dealer to bottom line it sounds like a great time saver. I hate going from dealer to dealer.

    Be sure to keep us up to date on how this “sight unseen” works out for you. That is my only hesitation but if it worked out for you, no reason why it can’t work for some of us.

  9. So the dealer took your trade sight unseen also? Did you even send any pictures of it to him? Never done an auto deal online before. 🙂

  10. Chris.. yep, they purchased it sigh-unseen… I’m pretty sure that they’re just gonna wholesale it or something…
    They didn’t really seem to care, as long as it made it back to the dealership…

  11. Hooray for paying cash for a car!!!!

    Most people would think that anyone who can
    pay cash for a car is a gazillionaire, but
    you showed that a regular guy (your words)
    can make it happen.

    We are planning on buying a nused car
    (hopefully for cash) some time next year.

  12. I bought my last car with cash but I first maxed out my credit card so I could get 1% back… not much but 1% of $14,000 = $1,400 thank you visa.

    I paid the CC off before I had any fees so it pays to discover… no wait wrong company

  13. I bought my last car with cash but I first maxed out my credit card so I could get 1% back… not much but 1% of $14,000 = $140 thank you visa.

    I paid the CC off before I had any fees so it pays to discover… no wait wrong company

  14. How come there are no real numbers being provided? A newer van, a gold and two red ones? Can’t you be more specific?

    I would take this write up to be more creditable if I saw makes and models plus real quotes being provided.

  15. Matt.. I purchased a 2007 minivan (a basic model) and I got it for a really good price… There are some things that I’m willing to divulge here on the blog, and other things that I’m not… I may talk about specifics at a later date –


  16. We have bought our last 3 cars with cash, and it really is a great feeling. It also helps you be realistic about how much you want to spend – which can’t go higher than how much you have!

    I would always recommend taking a used car to your own mechanic to have it looked at though. Even certified used ones. Even from reputable dealers. It is the cheapest insurance you can get when buying a new-to-you car.

    Congrats, and glad you have seen the light of paying cash!

  17. I still feel a little bad for the salesman I bought my last car from, about three years ago.

    We did a lot of the beginning same steps you did — we knew we wanted a four-door hatchback, and we knew how much cash we had to pay for a car, so we looked on Consumer Reports to find one with a good reliability record and cross-checked that with all the sale prices we could find to figure out what years and models would work, so we narrowed it down to a one- or two-year-old Mazda or an older Toyota or Subaru. I didn’t do the phone calls or anything, though — we just looked online and called before going to make sure the cars were still there at the places we test drove.

    Well, after a little hunting, we found an off-lease manufacturer Mazda loaner. Test drove it, liked it, certified (so the warranty was actually longer than if we’d bought it new, because it was one year old), the price was less than we were expecting, etc. We went back the next day to make an offer, and the salesman immediately handed me the loan paperwork. I started filling it out while my husband and I haggled. Didn’t talk about trade-ins, etc. At one point, we started hemming and hawing about price, and the salesman helpfully pointed out that we could “stretch out the payments over sixty months.”

    After we finally came to an agreement on price, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Well, I think we can just write a check for that right now.”

    The look on the poor guy’s face. And the trade in? Oh, we donated that junker. Although the Blue Book value was only about $1,700, and it needed a lot of repairs, so who knows if they would’ve even taken it.

    We’re not wealthy by any means, but neither of us have ever had a car payment. Right before we bought the Mazda, I was driving an ancient Saturn with about 100,000 miles on it that was on the verge of collapse, and my husband’s Maxima had over 200,000. Not having a car payment makes it much easier to buy a car with cash, paradoxically.

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  19. Well done. Those are the same steps we used this summer, too. I would hazard a guess you bought another Chrysler T&C or maybe a Dodge Grand Caravan…? Those are pretty much the only affordable, good quality “cash only new to me minivans” out there. Used Hondas (Odyssey) or Toyotas(Sienna) are usually higher mileage/older or trashed, plus very, very hard to find.

    Most other brands don’t really have great resale (and neither do Dodge or Chrysler), but Dodge/Chrysler are the longest running minivans in the country. Finding a “new to me” minivan that is not trashed is hard enough…I mean, it’s not like people who buy minivans don’t drive the thing…we have kids jumping in and out of it all day long!! Take care of it, change the oil every 3000 miles, keep good tires on it, do all the service work at suggested intervals and you should be able to get 150K or more out of it. The trannies are known to have issues, budget it in to happen around 85-90K at about $3K and you can get way more than your money’s worth. (I’m a farm girl, I know about stuff like that. 🙂 )

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  21. Dude, congratulations!

    I know my comment is four years after the fact though.

    I am very happy for your success.

    however, I would like to add a slightly different perspective.

    A new transmission would cost under $3000 and would probably last 10 years, as opposed to (I’m sure) at least twice as much for your “newer” van purchase.

    I noticed in your more recent posts that you are planning for the future to replace your 8 year old Honda (you don’t say what kind of Honda)’

    I have a Honda too.

    It’s a ’92 Accord DX (standard transmission)with 220K miles on the (original) engine

    It’s 17 years old and going strong. Original transmission (that’s why I buy manual transmission cars) Original clutch even.

    I found a great body shop that restored the rotted out rear quarterpanel for only $400 and now the car looks like new. Ask around for a shop that does frame welding. They are used to serving people who keep their cars for a *long* time, as opposed to the shops that charge $3000 for bodywork because their clientele is the nonhandy/nonfrugal type.

    I will be doing what would be about $1500 in suspension and brake work next spring (which isn’t a lot of money, but it will really only cost me $400 for parts (no labor) because I do most mechanical work myself).

    What I’m getting at is you don’t need to replace that honda. At least for 12 years or so. Even if you don’t do your own car work

    so keep saving that “car payment” is my advice.

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