A Forced New Ride

Back in August, a week before school started, the children and I were headed to one of my doctor appointments.   We didn't make it to the appointment because a truck slammed into us at a red light.   Thankfully,  none of us were hurt, but the van was rendered immobile due to the way the body crushed into the rear tire.   Every safety feature worked and the parts crumpled just as they were designed in a wreck.   It was that side of the van that received the most damage and it was right over that tire where Clare was sitting.   The guys at the body shop were surprised no one was hurt.   She is still worried about car wrecks and last week, when we had a delayed start because of ice and sleet, I kept the kids at home because she was upset about the road conditions.  

You shouldn't be able to see through that section in the middle.

Closer view: top middle is the seatbelt holding Clare's booster seat.

We waited a week to find out that our insurer was going to total our 2006 Toyota Sienna.   We bought that van as a Toyota Certified Used vehicle in December of 2006.   We had just celebrated our tenth anniversary and the van would be our first vehicle purchase as a couple.   It was low-mileage (rental car company), reasonably priced, and Toyota was still offering 0% loans on their Certified vehicles.   It was an incredible deal and we were so grateful for it.   It replaced our 1995 Corolla that I bought new when I took my first teaching job.   I was never given a car by my parents and I did not buy one myself until I started teaching.   I used the family car, a 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass and later, a 1993 Corolla, when I needed to drive somewhere.   I lived at home for college since we lived in the same town as the university.   Yes, all of this does really happen.   And people do survive.   Such "hardship" even helps reduce college costs so said survivors aren't saddled with debt upon graduation and parents don't spend their retirements on college degrees which are becoming more and more of a gamble.  

My 1995 Corolla was still going great in October 2006 when we hit a 10-point deer while driving through east Texas.   Again, thankfully no one was hurt, and Emmeline and baby Clare didn't even wake up until we pulled to the side and stopped.   Insurance totaled that vehicle and we were faced with buying another vehicle six months sooner than we had planned.   Even then, we had planned to keep the '95 as Joey's car and trade in my dad's '93 Corolla for a minivan.   At that point, I had been appointed as his legal guardian, he was getting worse as his dementia and Parkinson's progressed, and we needed a larger vehicle to take him to doctor's appointments after Clare was born.   We visited our local Toyota dealership the day after Christmas and I enjoyed bartering for a great deal on our Sienna.   We enjoyed watching the A & E series, King of Cars, and I learned so much about negotiations from that show.   When the salesman figures out you know the slightest bit and are going to stand firm, they just give in.  Plenty of people seem to just open their wallets and say, "Here," so they can afford to let you have your fun, I guess.

I never considered anything other than Toyota when we bought the '06 Sienna.   There's a line in the Christmas classic, A Christmas Story, when adult Ralphie says, "Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man."   Well, my dad was an Oldsmobile man, too, until he bought a 1976 Toyota Celica.   Our family became devoted to Toyota after that, although he tried a 1985 Volkswagon Golf  and a 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis along the way, only to return to a Toyota Camry in 2000.    The '76 Celica had over 250,000 miles on it when we sold it to a mechanic.  

A New Van

After we found out our '06 Sienna was totaled, we started to look at a new Sienna.   I checked out all the Certified Used vehicles first, both locally and on-line.   I didn't find anything that compared to the deal we made in 2006.   They were either higher mileage or they were too close to the price of the new vans.   So, we went brand new this time and bought year-end 2013 Sienna.   I wanted a white or silver one.   We knew what was available at our local dealership and we loaded into the car the first Saturday after we received our check from the insurance company.   We arrived and were told that the ENTIRE SALES DEPARTMENT was shut down for the WHOLE day because of the Texas A & M vs Alabama football game.   The Service Department was open until noon.   Now, I had been looking forward to that game for months, but I never imagined a business would just shut down the whole day for a football game.   I fully expected tvs to be on all around the place and I hoped to be finished before kick-off, but never did I expect to be turned away.   So, we drove to a near-by town and bought our van.   The dealership is owned by the same company as our local one, so there was no real victory, but I refused to wait another week because of grown businessmen acting like little boys over a football game, albeit an exciting football game.  

At the little dealership, there were only two new Siennas and one used.   The used looked exactly like our '06 and was a bit high mileage, so we concentrated on the new.   One of the new ones was the same red as our '06 and the other was a grey, I thought, until I read the tag and saw "Cypress Green."   It's grey in shadows and shade; it's greenish in bright light.   It was not my first choice.   I really wanted a white van this time and I knew the other CLOSED lot had several.   The salesman was hungry for a sale, though, and the small-town branch liked that they were stealing a sale from the big boys.   He asked if I could learn to love the Cypress Green if we could get the price right.   It turned out, he could make me learn to love the color.   Also, if you take small children with you, you don't even have to do the whole stand up and start to walk out thing when the negotiations stall.   You just tell the salesman the children haven't eaten and you're going to go eat.   Number one rule for car lots: Don't let the customer leave the lot.   It was nearly noon and they were hungry.   Clare and Thomas were getting restless at that point, so it totally worked and suddenly, the sales manager was able to give in to our last offer.  

Overcast and there seems to be a blue tint, but there is no blue at all in person.   My parents' diesel VW Golf was blue and so I have issues with blue cars: SO many hours spent in repair shop waiting areas!    I'd have to get the most amazing deal ever to buy a blue car, or one with any slight hint of blue.

I don't know if it was as good a deal as I made in '06; I know the sales department will always win, kind of like the house in Las Vegas.   It seems I worry about everything these days.   Dave Ramsey and his followers would call us stupid for buying new instead of used.   My parents only bought one used car, the '83 Cutlass, during their marriage, but they drove cars for lots of years and many miles, so they seemed to get their money's worth.   They never cared about the age or beauty of cars.   We planned on driving our '06 Sienna until 2016, at least, but our wreck changed that.   Seven years for a Toyota is still the break-in period!   Now, we hope to drive our '13 Sienna until 2023, at least.   Wow, that looks odd when I actually type it.   I was in no physical shape to drive all over Texas to look on lots and some of the features of our new van were really helpful when my back pain worsened.    It's not the top of the Sienna line, but it's the nicest vehicle I've ever owned and I feel a bit guilty because that's my nature.   I also still miss our other van, but we're all getting used to this one now and I'm very thankful for it.  

Saying "good-bye" to our van :(    It was a very sunny day.   Clare still talks about missing the van.


  1. Terri,

    So glad to hear no one was injured in the accident.

    We just traded in our old van which we'd had for 14 years. It was 26 years old and although still going strong, we decided it was time for a newer vehicle that can cope with hills better. We also wanted to downsize from a 9 sitter to a 6 sitter as we no longer need such a big car. So we bought a new second-hand car. (It was hard to say goodbye to the old one because of all the associated happy memories.) It is about 10 years old which seems very young to us! Very luxurious compared to the old van. We also expect to keep our new vehicle for a long time!

    Enjoy your new car. I hope you have many happy journeys in it.


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