older black Honda Odyssey minivan in driveway in front of house.

Inside: Wondering why any sane person (with kids!) would be happily buy a 14-year-old used car in cash and avoid car payments? Here are five reasons why it made perfect sense to us.

I dropped our 19-year-old minivan off at the mechanic last week for what was supposed to be a relatively routine visit.

Rotate and balance the tires, inspection, no big deal…right?

I even joked with a friend on the phone that day, “Yep, the car’s in the shop today. Fingers crossed I get no surprise $1,000 phone calls.”

Oh how I wish it had only been a $1,000 phone call.

It came twenty minutes later: “I have some bad news,” our mechanic said, “The car needs $2,500 worth of work to pass inspection…and $1500 more work besides.”

This was the vehicle I was sure would last another five years. “Old Faithful”, I called her.

With one phone call, all of my carefully laid plans to buy a second used vehicle next year went up in smoke. And now we were stuck car shopping in the worst used car market in decades. 

The best part? Because the inspection was due at the end of the month, we had thirty days to find and buy a new car.

Nothing like a countdown to make used car shopping even MORE fun.

silver Toyota Sienna minivan in driveway with woods behind it
RIP “Old Faithful”, Our 2005 Toyota Sienna

What Everyone Else Said We Should Do (Spoiler Alert: We Didn’t)

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My first instinct was to call all my people. What should we doooo?! 

Everyone agreed not to put any more money into Old Faithful. Sadly, she was a lost cause.

But about buying a new car? While the answer varied from person to person, everyone I talked to brought up the possibility of getting a car payment.

I mean everyone.

We’ve never had a car payment. Our first joint vehicle was given to us by my late grandfather (a trusty, 2004 Toyota Corolla), and our last 10-year-old vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Sienna, we were able to pay for with savings and a trade-in.

Getting a car payment felt like a huge loss to me. I don’t really believe in car payments. 

But maybe the 2023 used car market was just that crazy? Maybe we needed to suck it up and join the car payment ranks for the first time?

As I looked at the available options, 8-10-year-old minivans were well out of reach without a car payment. 

It was looking like a car payment was inevitable.

And yet…

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black 2009 honda odyssey front with small crack and missing piece.

5 Reasons We Happily Bought a 14-Year-Old Minivan Without a Car Payment

The more I thought about it, the more I knew that car payments weren’t the answer. At least not for us, not right now, not if I could help it.

I’ve worked really hard in the past few years to learn how to listen to my intuition and to not make all of my decisions based on outside authorities or other people’s opinions.

Can contrary opinions be helpful? Yes. Can they confirm what you knew was the right decision for YOU all along? Also, yes.

My intuition told me to think outside the box, go back to the drawing board (or Carfax search bar, in this case) and find an option that fit the cash we had on hand for a car.

I was going to exhaust every possibility before resorting to a car payment. So we extended our search to older vehicles and beyond Toyota Siennas, our minivan of choice.

That search led us to a 2009 Honda Odyssey with 110,000 miles, the only good option in a 30-mile radius and in our price range (asking price was $8,100).

We happily put down a deposit on that 14-year-old minivan the same day we looked at it, and yes, we feel good about our purchase. 

Why? Here are five reasons buying a used car in cash makes sense to us.  

Related: 11 Money Lessons Kids Need That Schools Don’t Teach

1. We knew a lot about the car’s history and our mechanic checked it for obvious issues.

The Carfax report for this vehicle was over ten pages long. It included detailed records of everything from brakes and tire replacements to major repair records. 

A few costly repairs like a new transmission, alternator and timing belt were already done. That’s $5,000 worth of repairs. 

We also pushed to be able to take it to our mechanic for a pre-sale check.

It’s a thing apparently, although judging by the salesman’s response, I’m pretty sure not many people ask for it. 

Our mechanic, who we trust, told us about a few minor issues that would need to be addressed over the next year, but otherwise, he thought it was a good buy that matched our expectations. 

What are those expectations?

2. We don’t expect to get more than 5-8 years out of it. 

We don’t expect a 14-year-old vehicle to last forever. I thought the 2005 Toyota Sienna would last forever, but apparently that’s not realistic for our area where we have a lot of hills AND ice, snow and road salt.

We hope it will see us through our minivan years, and if it does, it will have served its purpose. 

We also know from experience that older cars come with more repair costs, and we happen to live in an area with a lot of hills AND ice (therefore, salt that rusts cars).

So we are lowering our expectations for this vehicle.

Car Fax report on used vehicle close up.

3. Newer used cars can have just as many (if not more) problems as older used cars.

We could have bought a newer vehicle with the same number of miles for $7,000 more. Or $15,000 for a 3-4-year-old vehicle. 

But I’ve known a lot of families with newer used cars over the years, and they often had more problems than our Toyota Sienna ever did. 

Just because a car is newer doesn’t mean it will have fewer problems. 

4. We have other plans for the money that would have gone towards a car payment. 

Now that we have one reliable vehicle, we are doubling down on saving for a second used car. 

Hopefully spreading the number of miles we drive across two used vehicles in a year or so will make them both last longer. 

We knew we would need another vehicle in a couple years. Buying an older vehicle now will theoretically allow us to do that. 

And after that, we can go back to putting a good portion into retirement. We may not retire early, but we are slowly working towards financial independence.

(As long as this 2009 Honda Odyssey stays in good shape, that is. Fingers crossed while applying Wool Wax annually – a underbody coating designed to stop rust from road salt.)

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bob iger quote overlay "The riskiest thing we can do is just preserve the status quo"

5. We don’t know what the future holds. 

As much as I like my plans, I’m learning that life happens – always. There are curveballs lined up waiting for us somewhere in the future, no matter what we do.

It could be an unexpected death. A life-changing diagnosis. A job loss or accident. 

Or another global event we have absolutely no control over, like the pandemic, that upends life as we know it. 

If the past five years has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t know what the future holds. 

So buying a car we can afford today, with cash we actually have in our bank accounts, makes much more sense to me than planning on a car payment for years into the future when anything could happen to the car or our income or just about anything else.

Related: How to Declutter When the Future Is Uncertain

Seat Warmers! DVD Player! The Luxury

To Us, A 14-Year-Old Car Feels Like a Luxury, And We’re So Grateful

When we got in the car to test drive it, it honestly felt like luxury. My kids agreed!

Leather seats? Seat warmers? Rearview camera for backing up? A working DVD player? Air conditioning that’s actually icy cold?

I could go on, but I guess when you’ve been driving a 19-year-old minivan for the past eight years, a four years newer vehicle feels pretty luxurious, despite the scratches and small dents. It probably helps that it happens to be the high end version for its year. 

Our old car felt the same way when we first bought it…after the kids with the sticky fingers and blowouts got to it, anyway. 

That was after squeezing three car seats into the back of a Toyota Corolla for two years (THIS super slim car seat came in clutch).

Maybe some people feel safer driving newer cars, and that’s o.k. But we aren’t scared of older cars, and while there are no guarantees, we knew a Honda Odyssey was likely a good investment. 

So if you’re questioning the status quo of car payments and credit card debt and upgrading to the latest and greatest technology, you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.

There’s a lot of us out here, living financially counter-cultural lives. To us, it just makes sense. 

“The riskiest thing we can do is just preserve the status quo.”

Bog Iger

P.S. This would never have been possible for our family without two incomes. HERE are 9 flexible work-at-home job options for homeschool moms, and a guide for how to start a blog HERE.

Do you happily drive an older vehicle? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  1. Love this post! We happily drive a 2006 Honda Odyssey, and we plan on driving it until it falls apart lol. We’re also living financially counter-cultural lives so it’s always nice to see other people with the same mindset 🙂

    1. Author

      Absolutely! Drive it until it falls apart – or it won’t pass inspection – is my motto. Hoping your Odyssey lasts many more years!

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