Saturday, January 21, 2012


I am not a car person. I want a safe, reliable vehicle, and beyond that, I could care less what I drive. It's not a status symbol for me, and I don't care what other people say. Oh, and also, I'm really cheap. I don't want to spend a lot of money on my cars.

When we lived in the U.S., I needed 4WD. I lived in a cold and snowy place, and I often had to drive hundreds of miles in bad weather on an emergency basis. I also drove 100+ miles every day, regardless of the whether. Because I put so many miles on, I always bought new vehicles--a small, moderately priced SUV. I put about 120,000 on them, then traded them in. For me, this seemed to strike the right balance between affordability, safety, features that I needed, etc. It was practical.

When Miss M was born, my car was about a year old. I felt like it was a safe vehicle to put her in, and it worked out fine. But then when we moved here, we sold our vehicles. We live in a major metropolitan area with plentiful public transportation. When we travel, we often take trains, and rent a car when that won't work. We haven't had a car since we got here, and it's been fine.

When we go back to the U.S. next fall, though, we will definitely need a car again. We'll be spending a lot of weekends with family, giving the kids a chance to spend time with them, and that will mean driving. We'll need a car to go get groceries. We'll want to make day trips. Plus, for two months, we'll basically be visiting rural or suburban areas where you can't get anywhere without a car.

When we move to South America, we could go either way. We could live without a car, I suppose, but public transportation is much more limited than here. We'll want to get outside of the city, which will be impossible without a car. It's possible to rent, but renting is kind of a hassle. I'd really like to get away on weekends, when we can. Buying a car there seems to be out of the question--vehicles are super expensive. Taxis are really cheap, but only work inside the city.

So I am torn about what to do. Option A would be to buy a used vehicle for maybe half the price of what we would spend on a new one. The is cost effective. I have been setting aside some money to do this, and could pay cash for it, so we'd have no car payment. We could either drive it while were are in the U.S. and sell it, or we could bring it with us to S.A. But, I worry about reliability, and what happened to the car before we bought it. It's also logistically challenging, because we'd have to buy something after we got back to the U.S., or have someone else find something for us. I have a family member that wants to help us find something, but then we'd be stuck with his choice, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. It's complicated.

Option B is to buy a new car in the U.S. We could get it all arranged before we go back, and just pick it up when we land in the U.S.. If we did this, I would likely get another small, modestly priced SUV. It would be a good vehicle for our use in the U.S. and we could take it with us to S.A. It would be a good vehicle for South American roads, too. It's a bit more money than a used car, obviously, but not a ton more than I would spend to get a reliable used car.

Option C is the one that I'm struggling with. We have a chance to buy a new Volvo at a very, very good price. We could buy it here, and have it for the rest of our stay here, which means that we'd be able to use it for road trips during my maternity leave and beyond. We have been talking about attempting to do a two week driving tour before we leave here. There are places we can't visit without a car. We'd be able to ship the car home, and use it as soon as we land in the U.S. We could ship it to S.A., and it would be a good, albeit slightly large, car for there. The downside is the cost--even with the excellent price we'd pay, it's still a pile more money than buying a new SUV, and probably twice what I'd spend on a reliable used car.

The thing that gets me is the safety. I'd feel so comfortable driving my kids around in a Volvo. I think it's the safest of all of our options, and I just can't shake that. Plus, there is the convenience of being able to have it here, and have it ready when we go home, etc. We could even drive it for the next year and sell it for at or even slightly more than what we paid for it (it's THAT good of a deal). Plus, Volvo's warranties apply internationally. A lot of new vehicles void their warranties once you take them outside the U.S.--not helpful for someone who is moving outside the U.S..

But then there is the money. It feels so imprudent to buy a new car that costs that much, even thought it is a very, very good deal. It's outside my comfort zone, although we could afford it. Have I mentioned that I'm cheap? Plus, I had really settled on the idea of buying a used vehicle and paying cash for it, until this great deal came up on the Volvo. Then I circle back around ot the safety issues. I'm just so torn.

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