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Discussion Starter #1
I purposefully used the word "another" instead of new.

We have a 1996 Astro Van that is great for many reasons, but not so great for other reasons. Pros and cons include:

Pro: Great for my husbands small side business (electrical contractor)
Pro: We love how big it is for road trips, lots of room for camping gear etc.
Pro: It's big and good in the snow (we live in Winnipeg)
Pro: Its dirt cheap on insurance
Pro: Parts are really cheap (comparatively)
Pro: We paid $5500 cash for it about five years ago, so no money owed on it
Con: It can be a pig on fuel - I don't know for sure off hand how much mpg we get, but it's not great
Con: It's an older vehicle so it's more apt to break down at inconvenient times (ie on those road trips I spoke of earlier)

There are other pros and cons I'm sure I have missed.

I've been thinking how nice it would be to have a newer vehicle, perhaps a Volkswagon Jetta or Jetta Wagon TDI (Diesel). Part of me wants a newer vehicle, but part of me thinks our vehicle does what we need it to do so why change.

I have to add that even though our vehicle is hard on fuel, we do not drive it regularly. We drive it perhaps 2 or 3 thousand clicks a year plus the odd road trip. So this is what makes me wonder if it's worth looking at a newer vehicle or not.

Have others gone through this same thought process? What did you determine? Am I missing any major considerations?
 

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I am sure if you calculate out the cost per mile of your old vehicle, it will be considerably less than the cost for a newer vehicle, even when most repairs are factored in. For a second car, I would stick with it, since reliability should not be as big of concern for a 2nd car.

As for a volkswagen, I wouldn't buy one. From what I have heard, they are engineered considerably different than other North American and Japanese cars. Because of this, most repairs need to be done at VW dealerships and they charge an arm and a leg for everything and there will not be much you can do about it.

If you travel mega miles everyday a diesel has some benefits, but for the miles that you describe, I wouldn't make it a consideration. Just my opinion.
 

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Couple of thoughts to throw into the mix:

One way to approach this would be completely dispassionately. Here's an example of a route you could take: decide to set aside an arbitrary monthly savings amount for a "new to you" car, and set an arbitrary budget. (For example: you could say your budget for a "new" car is $6,000, and you are going to save $350/month towards that goal.) Then, when you have the money saved, you buy the new vehicle. So "you" aren't deciding - or, at least you are not deciding the moment of purchase - instead, you set something in motion now and the purchase is a natural fallout from that.

My other thought isn't likely that helpful: but the time to buy is when your concern over breakdowns and low mpg outweighs your desire to avoid the purchase cost of a new car. :) It doesn't sound like you are there yet...but perhaps you are on your way there. (Another kind of road trip!)

FWIW: Until my current car, I have always driven Volkswagens...and I was raised by Volvo drivers, another expensive European car make. My strategy has always been to find a fantastic mechanic who will support me in keeping my cars on the road efficiently. My VW mechanic actually had to talk me into selling my last car (a Jetta) - he said it wasn't worth keeping on the road anymore. When you live in a big city, my experience is that parts are not hard to find for European cars. I concur with Optys on the diesel thoughts, though.
 

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In your case if you are having reliability problems with your van and think it's time to replace it I would just buy another van. Yes they are expensive on gas but there are a lot of them for sale at very reasonable prices.

With the mileage you do it will take a lot of time before the differential in price between another vehicle and a van will pay off. Then if you factor in the loss of use of the van (they are very useful for moving things etc.) for your husband's business it makes even less sense.

In my case I travel a lot in my job but I don't get another vehicle because the cost of insuring another vehicle would wipe out any savings in gas. Sometimes I just need the van.
 

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I will answer this based on the financial side. Do you have the money to buy a 'new' car? How much money do you have? Have you looked closely at prices to see if the car you want can be obtained for the money you have on hand? If not, how much more $ would you need to save until you have enough? How long would it take? Can you hang on for that long with this vehicle? I don't need to know the answers of course, but these are IMO the questions you should be asking yourself.

As far as vehicle type, that's obviously a personal choice but I do like the ones you mentioned. Definitely good to try and find something that's more efficient on fuel. At $1/litre for gas and subject to spikes anytime, the last thing anyone needs is a gas guzzler. And despite what society thinks, the average person does not need a van, pickup truck or SUV, kids or not. Even in Winnipeg. Sedans have plenty of room in the trunk and back seat.
 

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We were in a similar situation. Until November, we were a single-vehicle-family driving an older North American mini-van. The van has served us well. We drive less than 10km per year (husband commutes on public transit and I stay pretty local except for a handful of road trips each year to visit family). But it's a gas guzzler! Now that our stroller days are behind us and we no longer have a large dog we decided to purchase a gently used new-to-us car (german engineered) and use the van for our side business (we own rental properties), roadtrips, snow days and the few days each year when we have a scheduling conflict with the van.

I thought that the insurance on our van was cheap, but ironically, the nearly new Benz we bought is cheaper on insurance than our van. This was a real shocker, but a pleasant surprise.

We have a lot more flexibility with two cars. We don't have to carefully schedule everything around who has the car and who needs the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks to everyone for the great information and things to think about.

Just to clarify, this is our only vehicle. We drive minimally (often have the van in storage during the warmer months, choosing to bike or walk or occasionally hop the bus or even less occasionally taking a cab) so we put on at the most 2-3K/yr plus the odd long distance road trip.

Most of the replies so far seem to support my thoughts that we do not need a "newer" vehicle right now.... my want is to have a newer vehicle, but it's not what we need.
 

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Well, in your shoes, you could also consider renting vehicles as required. If there's a "Rent a Wreck" nearby, you can even rent older, cheaper vehicles (I've rented plenty a wreck in my time...)
 

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Just to add another option: Car-pooling! I don't know where you are located Addy but here in Ottawa, there are a few places where you can sign up to be a member and you can pick cars up and drop them off at various locations throughout the city.

I am in a similar boat as you are: We are still driving a 1993 Camry, it's running as good as a 17-year old car can run but my wife has been putting some pressure on me about getting something newer. She came from a different background and she *thinks* older cars are not really safe. To compound the problem, the brake line broke last year (it has been fixed since obviously) and that certainly didn't put her mind at ease. We will be looking at some options (used cars here, used and new down in the States) and see what is the best bang for our bucks. I am not much of a car guy so we will probably stick with a Corolla or Camry for our next one, boring and bland but durable and do its job...that's all I can ask for really.

P.S: I saw the new Sentra SE-R today and have to admit it looks really sharp.
 

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I got rid of my car when it was time for brakes, tie rods, suspension and tires. All of those repairs was almost what the car was worth!
 

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Folks, I bit the bullet if you will and picked up a 2006 Nissan X-Trail SE today. It only has 70K on it and has no issues that I can speak of. I had it inspected in the shop by my mechanic and also ordered a Carproof report for peace of mind and everything checked out fine.

I also looked at a couple of CR-Vs but folks always ask for the moon for their used Honda and Toyota but that is their prerogative. I'd rather buy a lesser-known brand (with comparable quality) and use the difference to pay my mortgage.

Our previously-mentioned Camry no longer starts after the heavy rains in Ottawa a few days ago. I suspect it has something to do with the distributor caps/wires/sparkplugs but I will not spend any more time/money on this puppy. It has done us well but it's time to move on.

Cheers!
 

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I'd say just buy it when the costs of repairs don't make sense anymore. I sold my 1997 CR-V when it was about time to change the timing belt.
 
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