Reader Question: Should We Sell Our Second Car?

So…I’ve introduced you all to my badass Toyota Prius already.  However, I haven’t quite told you about the other car that rounds out our fleet: My 2007 periwinkle Dodge Caravan.  Check it out and please *try* not to be jealous.

 

Should We Sell our Second Car? Minivan

 

Yes, I realize that my minivan is beautiful and the fact that it is completely paid for truly makes it a sight to behold. The night shot makes it look even more swank, right?  At this point, you are probably wondering how I could even be considering selling this amazing set of wheels.  Well, the problem isn’t really with the car itself.  It’s awesome.  I love it.  Not only does it have stow away seating, but it also has side doors that open when I push a button.  Do your car doors open automatically?  I didn’t think so.  Yet, despite all of this minivan’s attributes, we are starting to wonder if we really need a second car…and the main reason we are considering selling it is because we hardly ever drive it.

About two years ago, we started carpooling to work.  It makes sense, really, since we do actually work together.  But, until a few years ago, we weren’t super concerned about gas prices or vehicle wear and tear or anything like that.   We seriously drove two separate cars to work and parked them next to each other like dumbasses. When we had our financial awakening, we decided that it made a super amount of sense to carpool and have been driving together ever since.  The result is that we maybe drive our minivan once or twice a month.  It has also become very rare that we actually *need* to drive our minivan.  When we do drive it, it is typically only because we want to look freaking awesome driving to the grocery store.

So, the question is this: should we keep the minivan or sell it? We’ve come up with a list of pros and cons…and we’ve shared them with you below. Check ‘em out!

Reasons to keep the minivan:

  1. It provides a second, paid off vehicle to use at our convenience.
  2. It is amazing.
  3. It has stow away seating and occasionally comes in handy for hauling things (maybe once per year).
  4. It is amazing.
  5. In the rare occasion that we need two vehicles at the same time, it is available.
  6. It would make me sad if we sold it.

 

Reasons to sell the minivan:

  1. We don’t really need it and we rarely drive it.
  2. We have to pay for insurance, license plates, oil changes, and maintenance on it (estimated at $700 per year total).
  3. It takes up valuable space in our garage, and selling it would free up extra space to keep storage stuff and our children’s bikes.
  4. We could use the $7,000 that it’s worth and accelerate the early payoff of our home.

 

So what do you think, my frugal friends?  Should we keep it?  Should we sell it? We really need your input on this momentous decision. Please share your feelings by commenting below.

 

 

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. For me this one is tough. It’d be easy to tell you to sell it. But with your children getting older, are you going to be driving them and their friends around town?
    I’m not a parent, so I can’t say one way or the other. But once it’s gone you may regret it. On the other hand, paying down the mortgage by 7 grand would be a great feeling.

  2. The truly frugal, and the car haters, will say to sell it.

    You say that you rarely drive it, but haven’t really defined how often rarely is. And you haven’t really outlined whether or not it provides any major advantages over the Prius that might warrant keeping it.

    If rare equates to once or twice a month and you plan to continue carpooling for several years, you might be better off selling it. If the once a year need to haul stuff comes up, you could just rent a vehicle for a day.

    • We drive it a few times a month. It does have fold down seats, but we rarely haul anything and my dad has a truck if we ever needed to.

  3. Hmmm…this is a tough dilemma. I think Justin raises a good question: in the foreseeable future, will you need the extra passenger space? Within the next few years, is it likely that you’ll need to have each kid in a separate place at the same time?

    Also, not sure if you’re considering having any more kids in the future. If so, that could add an additional consideration. My parents had a sedan until the third kid was born. Then, they discovered how difficult it was to squeeze three car seats/booster seats into a single row (my brothers and I were fairly close in age). They loved having a mini-van at that point! Of course, my mom still drives a minivan even though we’re all in our 20s at this point. I don’t quite get that : )

    • We aren’t having any more kids!

      My mom still drives a mini-van too. We’re all in our 30’s but I think she likes having it now so that she can haul all of the grandkids around. =)

  4. Keep it. Do you really only want one car? I think it might sound good on paper but I could see you running into issues if you need to be at two places at once.

  5. To be honest, I think you should sell it. You rarely use it, so why spend $700 a year (plus the extra interest on the $7000 of mortgage you could be paying off) to keep it looking pretty in your garage? Even if it is awesome!

    Even if you’re planning on having more kids, I’d say sell it and buy another if you need it when the time comes. Definitely don’t base the decision on having enough space to ferry OTHER PEOPLE’S kids about! That’s like having two houses just in case the whole family comes to stay!

  6. I think I’m with DC on this one. It’s a great, reliable vehicle, you love it, and it’s paid for. If you decided in a year or two that you really do need a second vehicle, you’ll buy used, of course, as frugalmeisters, and what if you end up with a huge POC?

  7. Very tough question! Personally I’d keep it or downgrade to a car rather than a van if you never use the van for its space. On paper, I’d say sell it. How about you take it somewhere or completely forget about it for 2 or 3 months and see what it’d be like if you don’t have the car. It might be painful the first month, but wait it out and see if you can live without it. If you decide it is worth it at that point you can always sell it. If not… you can uncover or “buy” your van back at no cost because you never sold it!

  8. Keep it. I think your kids are young enough that they don’t have tons of activities. Once they start branching out your are going to count your blessings that you have a second car (and it is already paid for). They are also really helpful for when you need to pick up supplies at the hardware store (mulch anyone?).

    You like to travel right? A mini-van is great for the good old American road trip. This country has so many great places to visit, from National Parks, to interesting cities to old battlefields. It is much nicer to get there in a minivan than in a 4 passenger car. Want to save money? You can pack your lunches since you have plenty of space.

    I also know what city you live in and not havine a car pretty much means you are stranded since public transportation is a joke here as is finding an overpriced cab (unless you are drunk in Broadripple).

    • We do like to travel, BUT we always travel in our Prius. It gets 50 mpg and the minivan only gets like 20 mpg on the highway.

      You’re right that there is not public transportation where I live! I am within walking distance of several stores, though.

  9. We’re in a very same spot with our second car. Now that we work from home most days, do we really NEED two cars? We’ve gone back and forth on it and have not come to a final decision yet. That said, I think DC and Laurie bring up great points. Do you really only want to have one car? And what happens when your daughters become older and need to be shuttled to different things? That’s what’s holding us back right now.

    • I think that’s what holding us back from selling it right now too. We don’t really need two cars right now, but we could in the near future. My oldest starts kindergarten next year!

  10. I just hope you haven’t named it yet. Its tough to get rid of a car you’re that attached to! Do you have access to car sharing? That might be a good solution when you need it. I feel like wed all be better off if we each purchased vehicles that worked for us 80% of the time and car shared the rest. Either way, that’s a sexy vehicle.

  11. How much is it worth? How much would it cost to rent a van on the occasion you need a van? How many of those occasions to you foresee? If you sold it and needed a second car later for whatever reason, what would you replace it with (and how much would that cost)? Do the entire cost-benefit analysis.

    • It’s worth probably about $7,000. I probably wouldn’t ever need to rent a van since my dad has a truck that I can borrow at any time. We rarely move anything anymore anyway.

  12. Samantha says:

    I think you should PRETEND you don’t have the minivan for a few months until you are convinced that you can do without it. Then when you decide to sell it (or not) you will feel comfortable with the decision.

  13. I keep a motorcycle in Europe to go have fun once a twice a year because I love it and wouldn’t want to sell it only to get a worse one if I ever go back to live there. It doesn’t make sense but is conscious spending. I would list the van at a very high price, if it goes so be if, if not keep it. And try to get a lower insurance rate, some offer rates based on mileage over the year.

  14. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember you saying that your work situation will be changing pretty soon and you’ll be spending a lot more time at home. Will that change your need for a second car? I’m sure you’ve already considered that, but you might have a much greater need when you aren’t both working at the same place. Unless you’re both going to be home, in which case one might be more feasible.

    • Yes, my work situation will be changing! However, we only live about 5 minutes from work so I could easily take Greg there if I needed the car for the day. I can also walk to the grocery store, etc., from my house (if I needed to)

  15. We had the same situation: working at the same place. Our decision got made for us when my wife’s car got totaled by someone who T-boned her after making an illegal turn. The insurance paid us within $150 of what we paid for it new (hello, Toyota Corollas holding their value). We decided to go with one car, and it worked for more than five years.

    There were times we needed a second car, but for those, we simply went to Enterprise and rented a car for those days. So, the breakeven point is: when you spend more in car rental than the depreciation (don’t forget that one — it may be the biggest) insurance, licensing and repairs. (Gas and oil changes don’t count, because you’d spend that anyway — miles is miles, don’t matter which car it’s in.)

    If you use the van a few times a month, my guess is Enterprise will cost you more than the running costs on the van. And if your life situation changes (i.e. no more working together) that will definitely affect the Enterprise bill.

    There is a third option you didn’t list: Sell the van and buy a runabout for, say, $2,000, and pay down $5,000. When we stopped working together, that’s what we did. One of our neighbors sold their 2000 Focus station wagon with 80,000 miles for $2,000. Looks ugly, but has run reliably as a Swiss watch. Low insurance, low license, cheap on gas — all adds up to less than Enterprise for a year.

  16. If it were me, I would keep it. But if you don’t see value in it and don’t drive it much, then sell it!

  17. I’d be inclined to keep it mostly because the car’s all paid for. There also may be times when you and Greg need to be in different places and have to take two separate cars. I tend to be risk-averse by nature, so I’d be afraid of all the inconveniences that might crop up by being down to one car.

  18. This is a tough one. Haven’t a second car is very nice, especially when it is paid off. But, if your situation doesn’t necessitate you having to keep a second car, then I would sell it. You can use the $7k plus the additional money that you pay for upkeep throughout the year and use to pay down your debt quicker.

  19. Wow you two are big pimpin with that minivan. Seriously sweet wheels. This is a tough one. I am actually keeping a car in a similar situation. It’s totally paid off. It’s an 11 year old volvo. It’s very cheap to insure because no one drives it since we live on an island and the car is in the US. We actually tried to sell it but someone offered us $500 for it and we realized we were way past that point. We’re moving to New York next year and we probably still won’t need it, so it’s just going to hang out in the driveway and get driven 1-2x a month. Your minivan is worth a lot more but you have kiddos and so they’ll probably love to pile their friends in that thing. :)

  20. I grew up in a one car family because my parents could not afford a second car. I don’t think I could ever give up my car because honestly it sucked growing up in a one car family. I would not give up the car.

  21. I think I saw in the comments that you have a short commute, so maybe sell the Prius and keep the van. It is practical, gets relatively good mileage, is cheap to insure, and is paid off.

    Would whatever gas savings you’re getting from the Prius offset the flexibility of the van?

    Maybe keep the van and then bike to work!

  22. Have you thought about turning it into a commuter van and charge other people to get to work. It is quite popular in southern California.

  23. You can use math. The number you want is:

    (Amount you can sell it for*) x [1 + (Cost of capital**)] ^ (1/12)
    + monthly insurance cost
    + monthly taxes, fees, smog as applicable

    *If you’re looking instead at buying, substitute the purchase price in
    **where your cost of capital is the interest rate of your most expensive debt or of your most productive asset

    If there’s a gas savings to the second car, then subtract (monthly miles driven in second car) x (difference in MPG) x (per gallon cost of gas)

    This will give you the actual monthly cost of the second car. You can compare this number to the cost renting a second car when you need it

  24. Sexy ride ;) I actually want a mini-van for my next vehicle, but we’ll see it if happens. If it’s already paid for, I say keep it, just in case your daughters get involved with sports when they are older (equipment takes up a lot of space!). But, there’s so many cars with huge trunks these days, so maybe Priuses (sp) are like that, as well? Tough call, let us know what you two decide!

  25. “We seriously drove two separate cars to work and parked them next to each other like dumbasses”. I lol’d, haha.

    I would say to sell it, but I don’t think I’d even take my own advice! If you can put it on a super low-cost insurance, then there’s no reason to sell if you’re not wasting any other money on it. Right? There’s no other recurring cost. I mean yea, the extra few grand would be nice, but I feel like you’d be tempted to buy a NICER car once it’s gone and you realize you need it, and that would really be a bummer. Plus you know it’s weaknesses, and buying a different car comes with a whole new set of problems.

    So my vote is to keep it, but just make sure you’re not paying for insurance you don’t need.

  26. Financial Black Sheep says:

    For me it would depend on how much a rental car would be or if I had relatives close by (from which I could borrow a car from) if the first one broke down.

    Other than that, do you really need two cars? I live forever away from work and have no options like bus, or relatives nearby otherwise I would probably share a car. Well, except school is the oposite way from work.

    $700 a month seems like a lot to spend in order to have a backup vehicle. I guess it just depends on what you want to use it for. :)

  27. Do you see yourself buying another car in like a year or two if you sell this one? If it’s really an extra car and could help you a lot financially, I say sell it! I also carpool to work. It saves me at least $100/month!

  28. I say keep it, if for no other reason because you are attached to it. It doesn’t cost you to store it, you can carry liability only coverage on it, hey maybe rent it out from time to time if need be. Keep it if you dont need the money.

  29. I say keep it. I am not the best one to give advice here because we have three cars. One for me, my wife, and then my hobby vehicle. I could sell my hobby car, but then I wouldn’t have a hobby that I enjoy. I wouldn’t want to be stranded with one vehicle, especially if you need one.

    Example: say you are home with the kids and Greg is off running errands. If something happens to one of the kids that requires you to go to the emergency room, but not in need of an ambulance, then the van is there for you. With one car, you need to wait for Greg to get back in order to travel to the emergency room. One trip in an ambulance and you could have kept the car for many more years without breaking even on the cost. Just a thought.

  30. Since you guys have the exact same commute, I think dumping the van is an excellent idea. If you like being able to use the van on occasion, take $1K of the sale price and set it aside in an account for you to rent the occasional van without feeling guilty about it. I bet you’ll be surprised how long that $1K lasts considering that depreciation and maintenance probably run you about $1K+ per year from what you’ve posted.
    If Mr. PoP and I had commutes that weren’t in the complete opposite direction, I would totally ditch the 2nd car. Any excuse to get me out from behind the steering wheel!

  31. Sell, Sell, Sell. You don’t use it now, and with a little work from those excellent Club Thrifty brains, you can sure as heck figure out how to plan trips around 1 car. Vanessa and I seem to be doing just fine without a second vehicle…

  32. Sounds like me with my surfboard. :) I would say sell it if you aren’t that attached to it, but keep it if you think it will come in handy on those occasions you need more space. Sounds like a win/win situation.

  33. I really like William’s idea up there. Also, could you just keep the car and NOT renew the insurance, license plates for a few years until you find that a second car would be useful? I agree with people that having two cars will be great once the kids get older and maybe you could even EVENTUALLY pass down the car to them.

    William’s idea is good, too…you could sell the minivan and buy a cheaper run-into-the ground car for $2,000. You do risk buying a problem car, though….so… I would stick with the minivan!

  34. I’m so paranoid about being with the kids without a car I’d say keep it. But all practicality from what you’ve shared says sell it. I’d go with the more rational of those two bits of advice. :)

  35. I think you’ll need an extra vehicle when your kids start school, especially if they have different activities. But you could sell it and use the money now and buy something else later. When you quit work, you’ll probably want something so you’re not stuck, but if you can drop Greg off and if he doesn’t need to go anywhere, it might not be an issue.

  36. If you needed the money- which you don’t, I would sell. In your case though I would likely keep it. It’s a convenience, yes but when you do *need* it, it’s nice to have as an option. We’re a one car family right now and it works but it’s a pain in the ass sometimes. I can tell you right now that when our debt is paid off we will likely buy another vehicle especially with kids and them growing up/pulling in different directions. The 7k is tempting but honestly I’d keep it.

  37. I really am jealous about the space! Do you find that you use it as much as you thought you would for its extra space when you bought it, presumably with that in mind?

  38. I would say keep it. As the kids get older you will find yourselves driving them to activities and will appreciate having two vehicles!

  39. First – your mini-van rules. I can’t believe you choose to drive around in a Prius over a mini-van! :) Tough question. We are a two-car family and it’s hard to imagine going down to one vehicle. Of course, you guys have the unique situation where you work at the same place and I assume having a relatively similar work schedule. I can attest that as your kids grow older and into more activities – you probably want to two vehicles. There is also peace of mind in having two vehicles. Assuming you two aren’t always together, if one is at home without a vehicle, but needs to get somewhere fast – that could be an issue. Of course, on the flip side, your girls are still quite young and probably have a few years before they get heavily involved in various activities and if you can pay off your home mortgage in that timeframe (which I believe you can but I honestly can’t remember) then you can buy a second vehicle at that time. So many choices. No real wrong answer – just what works best for you. :)

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