Seven Car Shopping Tips to Save You Money


    Recently, it became obvious that it was time to replace our 2001 Chevy minivan.  We had already replaced or repaired the windshield wipers four or five times and they were broken… again.  It was also time for the brakes to get some major work, the rust was so bad we were worried about structural things instead of just cosmetics, and to top it all off, the odometer was nearing 250,000 miles.  As much as we both hate it, Patti and I agreed that it was time to go car shopping.  Our experience made me remember a few simple rules that saved us a lot of money.

1)      Decide what you need – Before you start looking at cars, decide what you need first, and then decide what other options you might want, but can live without if necessary.  We decided that, we needed seating for at least seven (eight is better) and since we drive our van about 20,000 miles each year, we wanted the best fuel economy possible.  Our Chevy Venture got 27 miles per gallon on the highway when it was newer and still was getting a little over 20.  We hoped to get a new car with 27 mpg but could live with a little less if necessary.
2)      Decide how much you can afford – The time to figure this out is at home and not on the dealer’s lot while you are having an emotional reaction to plush, leather, heated seats or an awesome big block V-8.  Pick a number you (and your spouse) can live with and stick to it.  Dealers will always try to push you higher than you want to go.  Stick to your guns and be prepared to walk away.
3)      Do your homework – Before we left the house we went online.  If you don’t have an Internet connection at home, go to the library but research what’s out there.  You should know what you want, how much that car should cost, and which dealerships have the cars that you are looking for at a price that you can afford (or can haggle down to).  In our search we found that only two or three manufacturers make a van that met our requirements and only a few dealers who had them.
4)      New cars are for suckers and rich people – Okay, not everyone is going to agree, but for those of us who are trying to make every penny count, new cars just don’t make good sense.  A new car loses about $5000 in value the day you drive it off of the lot.  Is it worth five grand just so you can say it’s new?  Buy a car that’s a year or two old and the price can drop as much as 50 percent.  Because our Venture had almost 250,000 miles, buying a car with 50,000 on the odometer was no big deal and well worth the savings.
5)     Pay cash – What?   Many of you will think that this is impossible, but it isn’t.  Dave Ramsey explains this in more detail (I strongly recommend his class – Financial Peace University) but simply put, if you take out a 5 year car loan, you will pay for your car TWICE.  Once for the car, and once for the interest on the loan.  This is not a good deal.  If your loan is almost paid off, don’tbuy another car.  Instead, keep on making payments… to yourself.  Write the same check every month and put it into a savings account.  You should be able to make your car last a few years longer.  Then, when your car is on its last legs, use the money in savings to pay for the car.    You might not reach this goal on your first try, but if you can get halfway there, you’ve saved a bunch of money and can make it all the way the next time.  If you haven’t done this, you can’t imagine how good it feels to own a car and owe… nothing.
6)      Don’t get emotionally attached – Decide what you want and then go look for it.  Don’t hang all your hopes on one deal.  If this deal doesn’t work out, another one will.  Someone has the car you want andcan afford.  Keep looking until you find it.
7)      Be willing to walk away – I said this before but I cannot overstate this.  Car salesmen want you to fall in love with the car you are buying.  They will do anything in their power to make you think that this is THE ONE.  In the end, we finally found a 2010 Honda Odyssey that was close to our price.  The dealer tried to get us to a higher price several times.  They encouraged us to drive the car home for a while hoping that we would fall in love with it.  Once you fall in love, they gotcha.  Once you’re in love you will pay $500 or $1000 more than you planned.  We knew how much we could afford to spend and were willing to walk away no matter how much we liked the car.  We walked away… twice… and they finally came down to ourprice.
These are a few of the things that helped us, I hope they help you too.

Ahimaaz – Patron Saint of Cross Country Running?

    I have two children who run.  Not just a little, they run a lot.  During this time of the year my son and daughter are training for the upcoming Cross-Country season in which they will race other students and other schools in races that are 3.2 miles long.  Each day they can run six to eight miles during practice and often, added to that, they work out in the weight room or do yoga core exercises.  They make me tired just hearing about their workouts.  This past week, as I prepared for Sunday’s message I discovered a man who is, perhaps, the first cross-country runner named in the Bible. 
    Of course there were many runners before him.  Before cell-phones or radio, the way that battlefield commanders communicated with their kings and their armies was by sending runners or riders.  In the time of Samuel, Israel wasn’t known for having many horses so they would send runners back and forth carrying important messages and news.  In 2 Samuel 18, as the king’s armies pursue David’s traitorous son Absalom, David’s General, Joab captures Absalom quite by accident (Absalom’s hair got snagged in the low lying branches of a tree) and plunges three javelins through his chest despite David’s orders to treat him gently.  
    A man by the name of Ahimaaz son of Zadok volunteers to carry the news to David but a Cushite runner is selected to carry the news instead.  Undeterred, Ahimaaz again asks Joab for permission to run to Jerusalem saying, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”  Joab the general is puzzled by this and asks why Ahimaaz would want to go especially since this is not good news and there will be no reward at the other end.  To this Ahimaaz replies, “Come what may, I want to run.”  At this Joab allows the young man to run but Ahimaaz, despite giving the Cushite a significant head start, runs a different route and arrives in the king’s court first.
    The notable thing about this story is not only that Ahimaaz liked to run and was evidently pretty good at it, but that he honors Joab and despite arriving first, does not announce the news of Absalom’s death.  The official message was given to the Cushite and Ahimaaz allows him to give the news to David.  When he is questioned about the welfare of Absalom, the king’s son, Ahimaaz says only, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”
    The patience and self-control of Ahimaaz shows, I think, a stark contrast from the impatience and self-importance of Joab.  Joab heard the king’s command not to harm Absalom, and one of Joab’s lieutenants even reminded him of their orders but Joab insists that he is not going to wait and kills David’s son immediately.  Ahimaaz is known as a good man by the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem and he shows it through his obedience, patience and self-control.  
    I think that it is fitting that Ahimaaz is perhaps the first man in the Bible who is said to love running.  Cross Country is not a quick dash to the supermarket.  Cross Country athletes often train all year long, they run miles and miles every day and their races often take 20 to 30 minutes to complete.  Cross Country is a sport that requires an abundance of patience and self-control and Ahimaaz, I think, is a fitting role model.