To drive or not to drive, THAT is the question

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Last week, our van died. It was a cruel, fast death. The head gasket blew, engine light was flashing and the van produced a noxious smell with fumes and smoke. Not pretty. Luckily a friend was able to help me get where I needed to go. Once the dust settled, we got the van towed to a repair shop for an estimate. They estimated $2050. My goodness! Having looked up the selling price of the van, I knew that this repair would cost more than the entire value of the van.

[For those who has experience the same problem, a class-action law suit against GM has been settled and the details and claim forms are available here.]

We had some options to weigh:What I wanted to do to my van when it died.Last week, our van died. It was a cruel, fast death. The head gasket blew, engine light was flashing and the van produced a noxious smell with fumes and smoke. Not pretty. Luckily a friend was able to help me get where I needed to go. Once the dust settled, we got the van towed to a repair shop for an estimate. They estimated $2050. My goodness! Having looked up the selling price of the van, I knew that this repair would cost more than the entire value of the van.

We had some options to weigh:

  • Clearly the vehicle had more value to my family than just the sale price. It was our transportation. Other options involving a car are not feasible since we have 5 kids - they just won't fit.

  • Money is tight for most people these days. We could find the money from our savings, but it just didn't feel right sinking money into a van that is clearly dead (and has a number of other problems already)

  • While we could come up with the repair money, we could not come up with enough money to buy a new vehicle without going into debt, something we are avoiding like the plague.


We began to investigate options like using the bus and other public transportation. After all, we don't travel *that* often right? We sat down and started figuring. We used CalendarBudget to figure out how much we'd been paying for our van (including gas, insurance, maintenance) and what public transit fares would be, keeping in mind the inconvenience of having to use it. We figured owning our vehicle costs anywhere between $4000-$5000/year. Public transit on the other hand (for our needs) would be about $1500-$2000.

Wow! More than 50% savings... that's amazing. We pay for it with inconvenience. I tried very hard to isolate my emotions from the decision and after some prayer, we decided to give it a try. We're in week #2 so far. Let me describe what has happened.

A friend discovered our plight and volunteered to lend us his van on Saturday evenings until end of Sunday. This will allow us to do groceries on Saturday evening, and get our family to church on Sunday. Those 2 things were the main transport we needed. He won't accept more than $10-$15/week, which is much less than public transit and WAY more convenient. He brings the van to our home and we just bring him to his home. There are some inconveniences during the week, but we are managing just fine so far. And we've already noticed the savings (well - CalendarBudget has helped us see the savings).

The point of the story is this: sometimes doing something which seems drastic can work out for your good, if you are willing to live with the worst case scenario. We went into this thinking public transit and self-sufficiency, and were willing to sacrifice to work with that. Also, a few people thought we were crazy to go without a vehicle. "You need one; your family needs it" they said. But we had done our homework and, understanding the whole situation (my wife was on board with the plan), we decided to safely ignore those naysayers.

True, life will require some adjusting, we won't have certain conveniences and we'll have to curtail most things requiring travel, but we didn't have to go into debt for a fairly major life challenge.
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