Back at the end of July we sold my car, I assured Ken that we could deal with being a one car family for a while, I was thinking a couple of weeks, maybe a month. I could totally handle that. We contacted a car broker and asked if he could help us find a van. Around here vans are EVERYWHERE but all the vans we saw that were in our price range had quite a few more miles on them than we wanted to have and or they were older than we were hoping to be able to find. But the broker told us that he thought he could find what we were looking for (a Honda Odyssey with lower miles from model year 2005 to 2008 for around $9,000) and so we had hope that within a couple of weeks we would hear some good news and have a VAN!
So, we embarked upon our one car family adventure. We worked around Ken's work and carpool schedule. Luckily my OB appointments were on the week that Ken didn't drive the carpool and so whenever I needed a car I would just take the boys for a walk, the boys and I would walk the 1 & 1/4 miles to the park and ride where Ken had left his car, go to our appointments, run our errands and come home, leaving the car at the park and ride, so that Ken would be able to get home, and then I'd get the boys back in the stroller and walk home. It seemed to work fine when I was 24 weeks pregnant but by 28 weeks if I needed the car we'd just wake the boys up early and take them with us as we drove Ken to the park and ride in the morning....sometimes I forgot to pick him up in the afternoon, oops.
Ken and I both found vans online that were, in our opinions, (based upon KBB and NADA values) overpriced. We contacted the sellers, Ken was quite blunt and asked if they would accept a lower price, they were quite blunt too and said no. I tried a different tactic, asking if there were more options on the van than had been listed in the ad, the seller of the van I had found told me that there weren't and that he had come up with his price using NADA car values and he sent me his link....to the RETAIL price of his van, I sent him a link back with the Private Party value, he agreed that he was "slightly" overpriced but he was not yet willing to lower his asking price to what we could offer. At this point I really felt like I had tried, I had done some work AND I felt like I could be patient and wait to see what our broker could find for us. A couple of weeks passed and we really didn't hear much of anything.
At about 30 weeks pregnant I was feeling a lot of doubt in the ability of the broker to find us a car, plus I wondered how much of our budget we would end up paying in order to have the car delivered, from wherever he found it, to us. If we had to pay $1500 to have our car transported then we were really only going to get a $7500 car and we would still be spending $9000, it didn't seem like such a great deal to me anymore. I told Ken that I didn't feel like we could or should just wait, I really doubted that the perfect van would just "drop in our laps". Ken still had faith that we would get the right van for us but I felt like we needed to put in some more work to go along with that faith. So we started visiting local dealerships.
The first dealership we visited had sent us an advertisement about an "acquisition sale" they were having. "Pay $37 and take over the payments" they said. This intrigued me, They were a large new car dealership- and it sounded like they had repossessed some vehicles and so if they had a nice van that that fit our needs that we could purchase for whatever remained on the original loan (that's what I thought- take over the payments- meant) we'd probably make out quite well price wise. Well that's not what was going on. They just had lots of used cars they had taken in as trade-ins and were selling them, completely retail priced, there really wasn't any "take over payments" involved. They did have one Honda Odyssey on their lot (they were a Mazda dealership- but their ad had a picture of an Odyssey on it...SO we took a chance) it was a 2007 Touring with 138,000 miles. More miles than we wanted on a 2007- I mean 12,000 a year would have been 84,000 miles for a 7 year old van.....but anyway, we drove it and liked it- it had lots and lots of bells and whistles after all, and they offered it too us for $13,000 which was way under retail price BUT STILL way over what we wanted to spend. Ken had told the sales person that we'd love to find a van for $7,000 before he even offered to have us test drive that van. "Would you consider financing part of the amount?" Nope. They were kind of baffled by us, they sent over the manager. He said it was a great deal. We told him that we knew it was a great deal, but the van had more than we wanted or needed and the price was more than we wanted to spend. I think he liked us, he smiled and said "So, we just showed you the wrong van?" and we told him yes, it was just the wrong van. We left our information with the salesman, who said he would keep an eye out for what we were looking for, and we left. No van, but we were okay with that, we had put forth some effort.
The next day we went to check out a van at a small dealership here in Lehi. It was a 2006 EX with 135,000 miles for $8,995. It drove well, but it had a broken DVD Player and Ken just didn't feel good about it. That night night Ken saw a van online, for sale by owner, a White 2005 LX for $7,500 with around 100,000 miles on it. He emailed the seller immediately upon seeing the ad, then we went to bed happy. In the morning we hadn't yet received a reply so we texted (didn't want to call too early), then when it was late enough to call we called and left a message. We prayed that if this was the van for us that we would be able to go see it and if we felt good about it, BUY IT! It was a long day of waiting but eventually Ken was able to get a hold of the seller and he was told that the van had already been sold. Oh well, it apparently wasn't the van for us, BUT we had hope that there really really was a van with lower miles in our desired year range WITHIN our price range! If it happened once, surely it would happen again. So we waited, and didn't really see anything remotely close to what we were looking for.
A couple of weeks later for date night Ken and I went out to check out an ad we had seen for a 2006 Odyssey EX-L, it had lower mileage than we we had been seeing and according to the ad it was "the Perfect Van, priced to sell". We found the slightly shady looking dealership and we were told that they had just sold the van that day! So we left. Oddly, that ad is still up on the website, I wonder if it's just a lure to get people to come to their dealership. We then visited a couple of Honda dealerships, not finding anything within our price range/year range on their lots they each told us that they would keep an eye out for what we were looking for and give us a call if they found anything.
With that my hope was renewed! We were going to find a van, it was going to happen and maybe, hopefully, it would happen soon! A week went by and we hadn't really heard anything from anyone, but then this Monday we got a call from the Mazda dealership we had originally visited. Over the weekend someone had traded in a White 2006 Honda EX-L with 129,000 miles lots of options. I told the salesman that $10,000 was our MAX and if he could tell me that we could get it for that or less then we would certainly come down and take a look. He needed to ask his manager but a little while later he called me back and told me that they could get close to that price.
So we loaded up our children and went to see the van. It seemed nice. They gave two offers, $13k and they would detail it and send it through their shop to fix anything that was wrong with it, or $10,500 and we could take it as is. The as is offer intrigued us, and so we asked if we could have a mechanic look at it, they said yes and let us take the van home that night so we could take it to a mechanic the next day and make our final decision. In our minds, if this van was pretty well maintained and or only needed a small amount of work done to it then $10,500 was a steal. Well, we took it in for a very thorough pre-purchase inspection and BOY are we GLAD we did......it needed than $4,500 of repairs, it would not pass a safety inspection AND the check engine light had recently been reset. It was the opinion of the mechanic that the light would soon turn back on. We took the van, and the list of needed repairs back to the dealer and said "Thanks, but No Thanks". That night I think I was at my lowest, I remember asking Ken if we were still only looking for Odyssey's, after all, there were plenty of other types of vans out there. Ken still believed we could find an Odyssey. "Do you really believe that the perfect van is just going to drop into our laps?" I asked. Ken was sure of it.
The next morning Ken sent me a message from work. There was a new ad online that he thought we should call on. I pulled up my saved search and didn't see anything new, so I adjusted the desired mileage on my search from 110k or under to 120k or under. Sure enough- there was a 2005 EX-L with 111,000 miles, one owner, well maintained in OUR TOWN, for $9,200!!!! It was still kind of early in the morning (Ken is at work a little before 7 AM) but the seller said that interested people could text him, so I did. (I figured a text was slightly less intrusive before 8 AM) and I quickly got a text back. A time was arranged to see the Van that evening and we hoped and prayed that if this was the right van for us that we would 1- KNOW IT and 2-be able to buy it.
I was a little scared when the seller told us that two other people had looked at the van earlier in the day, basically because it looked PERFECT, It almost glowed. The seller told us about a small issue that the dealership, where it had always been serviced, had told them they didn't need to worry about quite yet. As we were driving we heard an odd sound that we wanted to make sure to get checked out. But other than that, we really felt like this was a good van, we liked this van. Ken told the seller that we would like to buy the van and we felt that it was priced fairly, we were willing to offer full asking price contingent upon us being able to check the car out with a mechanic. The seller agreed and so the next day I picked up the van and took it to the same local mechanic that had inspected the other van 2 days earlier.
This time we got good news, there were a few things that needed be done, but the van had been well maintained and nothing that needed to be done was out of the ordinary for a van of this age and in their opinion this was a good van. So Ken gave the seller a quick call, told him that the van did need some repairs and asked if we could split the cost of some of those repairs by lowering the price of the van from $9,200 to $9,000, and the seller agreed. So we picked up the van from the mechanic (at this point I closed one of the van doors on J's hand, I felt very very bad about that, but he is just fine so really it must have just been the best way to break me into they joys of driving a van) then we went to the bank and got a cashiers check and headed to the sellers house. There we finalized the sale AND drove home with our new van.
The next morning, which happened to be yesterday, I took the van and got the Safety and Emissions testing done- it passed! Then I went to the DMV and registered our new van :) I even talked Ken into a Vanity License Plate. A picture of which will be posted here in 6 or so weeks when it arrives, but I will tell you now- it will be AWESOME! It doesn't say "awesome", it says something else and it will make me smile every time I see it :)
So, yesterday afternoon Ken and I had a date. I told Ken how amazed I was that the right van for us had pretty much fallen into our laps. Ken had never given up faith, but it amazed me. Here's why. The seller and his wife have been discussing whether or not they should sell this van for about 2 months, pretty much the same amount of time that we have been looking for a van. When did they make the final decision to sell it? On Monday, the day that we were looking at the 2006 model thinking that it might be the one for us. They had it detailed on Tuesday and that night, at pretty much the same time I was finding myself convinced that we would NEVER find a van, they posted the ad. Other people had seen the van before us, but no one had made an offer on it so it was still available that night when we were finally able to see it. (Parent Teacher Conference had delayed us a bit.) It just seemed like God had truly lead us, the Seller and our family, to the same place at the same time. Ken agreed and once again, smiling, restated that he always knew it would work out.
We've named our van Penelope. There are probably a lot of Odysseys out there named Homer, but we've already had a Homer- Ken's Accord- Ken's Homer was not literature related but rather baseball related. Still we thought it would be fun to give the car a Homer's "The Odyssey" related name and so we took a look at all the characters in The Odyssey and I decided that I liked Penelope. And that is the story of how Penelope, the Super Van, joined our family. We couldn't be more pleased.