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Mourning the Montana Mini-Van

If you have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have been trying to get 200,000 miles out of my Montana mini-van.  It is a 2004 model year and had been paid off for some time now.  Mostly, I had been doing regular maintenance type activities.  The only major repair was a new transmission at 108,000 miles although it did require $650 for a new radiator and thermostat a year ago.

Well this past weekend, it started overheating quite quickly.  My boys were traveling home from practice and called me to let me know that they had stopped on the side of the highway.  They let the engine cool down and got about 5 more miles before having to call it quits again.  Their sister went and picked them up and later my wife and I got it and were able to limp to the repair shop near our house.

On Monday, we got the great news that it had a blown head gasket.  The repair was estimated to be $3000.  I took the vehicle home and now am in mourning while I figure out what to do.

Options for dealing with mini-van.

1.  I figure the first option is to spend the money and get it fixed.  That is a big cost to keep a vehicle running that probably isn’t even worth that much in the first place.  When I went to the Kelley Blue Book Value website, it looks like it is worth between $2000 and $4000 but I assume that is before a blown head gasket.  Still I would be spending about the entire value of the car to get it fixed.  And who knows when the transmission will go again.  It looks like I am spending roughly $2000 per year on average to keep it on the road ($166/month) in repairs above routine maintenance.

2.  Try to list in on Craigslist as a mechanic special.  I might be able to get about $800 for it.  It still ran well until the most recent problem.  Someone with the knowledge and skill to change the head gasket could get a decent vehicle for not much money plus some do-it-yourself effort.

3.  Sell it for junk.  If I took this route, I would try to see if I could get $500 for it.  The rear tires are only 6 weeks old so the 4 tires themselves should be worth about $200.  Then the rest of the van could be used for parts.  It has never been in an accident and the body seems to be in good shape.  This might be a fairly quick transaction and would give me some quick cash.

I am leaning toward number 3 as I am starting to spend a fair amount to keep it on the road.  Plus dealing with Craigslist and having strangers coming over to case my place sounds a little spooky.  I could donate the vehicle and take a tax deduction, but dealing with the IRS doesn’t sound fun either.

Now About Transportation

Next, I have to figure out how I am to get back and forth to work.  Right now, I will be able to get by through most of the summer.  But my options during the winter aren’t that great with the vehicle I will be using.  So I am thinking I have a couple of possibilities.

1.  Buy a junker.  When I look for what I can get around $3000, it seems that most cars are from the late to mid-90’s with over 100,000 miles on them.  If I wanted that type of scenario, I could fix my own junker for $3000.

2.  Save up $8000-$10,000 this summer and buy a used vehicle in the fall.  There seem to be a fair number of vehicles in this price range with mileage running between 40,000 miles and 60,000 miles.  There are lots of PT Cruisers.  I suppose if I could get about 80,000 miles out of it, that would be 4 years at 20,000 miles per year for a purchase cost of $2500 per year or just over $200 per month.

3.  Buy a new car.  Again, I have to assume that I can get at least 120,000 miles out of the vehicle.  At the same rate of 20,000 miles per year, I could 6 years out of the vehicle and possibly 7 which would be comparable to scenario number 2 above.  It looks like there are some decent (not too small) cars available for about $18,000.  I am looking at the Mazda 3 and like the looks of it right now.  Divided over 6 years, the cost would become $3000 per year of usage or $500 more per year than buying used.

The question then becomes what are the pros and cons for that difference in cost.  That doesn’t consider taxes, which in the state of Indiana depend on age and type of vehicle, nor insurance.  So the actual cost would be higher.


Past Experience Can Cloud Future Judgement

So maybe cloud is a bit strong, but I know that sometimes past experience with definitely have an influence.  Growing up, my father would purchase used cars at times, and it seemed like half the time it would work out while the other half would be a real pain with lots of unexpected repairs.  Now I am not the most mechanically inclined, but I know enough to get around and could get a car to limp along with a few basic tools and duct tape so I wouldn’t end up stranded.

But my fear regarding used cars is that I don’t want my 16 year old daughter to find herself in the same predicament.  I don’t mind the adventure, but would hate to put her through that.  So I am tending to lean toward spending the extra money and getting a car that is new, and presumably, reliable with the thinking that my daughter’s safety is worth an extra $80 per month in the long run.

This is just one of the issues that I have been facing recently.  Isn’t life fun?

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4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - March 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

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Blogging from Las Vegas

I was hoping to write something before we left and get it published, but the last three days have been incredibly busy getting ready to come to this conference for work in Las Vegas.  The good news is that we (my wife and I) arrived safely and will have four days without kids.  Yay!

I think she is making the time zone transition fairly well.  She managed to stay up until 1 am Eastern time which was 10 pm here.  Now it is 7:30 here so the day should seem like a normal day.  I stayed up an hour later and woke up about an hour ago, but that still gave me almost 7 hours of sleep so I should be OK.  The problem is the incredible headache I am having.  Don’t think I got my usual dose of caffeine yesterday.

Anyway, there is probably not a lot to talk about when it comes to Las Vegas and cash flow other than stuff is really expensive.  The conference is being held at the Wynn so we are in Encore.  A bottle of water in the mini-bar costs $9.  Thank goodness I am being reimbursed otherwise I wouldn’t be staying here.

My wife and I will have time in the evenings to catch a few shows so the only real costs for the trip will be our own entertainment, her plane ticket, and her food.  Today is a free day so we will have to figure out what to do once she wakes up and try to catch a show tonight.  I want to see either Criss Angel or CSI and she is wanting to see one of the Cirque du Soleil shows or Blue Man Group.  We will have to see if we can get a deal on something since Blue Man was over $125 per ticket just to get in the door.


So while I try to figure out what shows to attend and how to get the cheapest price, check out the carnivals in which my blogs were included over the past couple weeks:

Lifestyle Carnival   – PT
The Wealth Artisan FinCarn  – PT, GPM
Carnival of Money Pros   – PT
Carnival of Retirement #41 – GPM, PT
Carnival of Investing #7  – PT
Carnival of Investing #9 – CFM
Yakezie Carnival  – CFM
Lifestyle Carnival #26  – PT, GPM
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4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - November 8, 2012 at 11:00 am

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Shopping for Caskets

Don’t worry!  I am not sick or have anything planned, but I did go shopping for caskets last night with my wife.  We don’t plan that far ahead either.  We were helping my mother pre-plan and pay for her funeral and my father’s.  You see, he has been suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for the past 2 years and finally got to the point where he could no longer stay at home.  He was admitted to a nursing home in early October.

Long Term Care

According to my mother, my dad felt that long term care insurance was too expensive, and I can understand the sentiment although I don’t have any details about premiums or the decisions that he made many years ago.  So now, we are looking into Medicaid to pay for the costs of the nursing home.  Currently, it is being paid out of pocket by my mom, but she still has the possibility of living another 20+ years.  We can’t have all of her money going to pay for medical expenses.

Shielding Assets

According to the Medicaid rules for our state, mom is allowed to keep a house to live in, a car to drive, and about $115,000 in assets (not sure of the exact number so don’t hold me to precise details).  The rest of her liquid assets has to be spent down or somehow shielded within certain guidelines.  We are working with a lawyer that specializes in elder care law and estate type issues so we feel confident that all will work out.

So that is what we were doing last night.  My mom is allowed to use some of her assets to pre-pay for funeral expenses for my dad and her.  That is where the casket shopping came in.  My wife and I were there to help provide moral support for my mom as she went through the process.

Too Many Choices

Let me tell you, there are a lot of different choices when it comes to caskets plus other decisions to be made.  I can’t imagine going through it all after a loved one has died.  You could choose from wood, steel, or stainless steel.  There were different types of woods and different finishes and different thicknesses of steel.  Prices could range from $600 for a wood/cardboard casket to over $10,000!  Plus decisions had to be made about the type of vault in the ground as well as all the services provided by the funeral home.

It was somewhat overwhelming at first, but I think we ended up in a good place.  We tried to balance respect for the dead (seems sad to be buried in a cardboard box) and choosing a decent casket and burial vault considering the fact that the casket ends up in the ground and no one will even see the vault.  You don’t want to spend too much money knowing that my mom could live another couple decades, but you don’t want to be insulting and cheap either.  Tough decisions.

The Costs

In the end, my mom paid just under $11,000 for each funeral.  This includes all the funeral home services, along with the burial vault and the casket.  They already had paid for the burial plots years ago.  There is still a fee to be paid at the cemetery for opening and closing the graves which will be about $1000 each.

The money was placed in an irrevocable trust which I thought was good (apparently it is state law) because my mom was worried having heard stories of funeral homes going bankrupt and losing the money.  But these funds locked in the price for all services and are even transferable in case the funeral home goes out of business (unlikely since they have been around since the 1920’s).

Like I said, I think we ended up in a good place, but it wouldn’t be my first choice of how to spend an evening although it did get me to start thinking about some of the things I might want for my own funeral (my wife said I would get the cardboard and she would go on a cruise).  Hmmm, I wonder what she meant by that?



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10 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Cash Flow Mantra - November 2, 2012 at 8:47 am

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