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Family or Marriage Finances & Money

We’re selling a car! Guess which one

So we have 3 cars for two people right now.

Do you think we’re selling the 2005 MINI Cooper? What, are you kidding? My wife would kill me!

Do you think we’re selling the 2006 Honda Ridgeline? As much sense as it makes to dump this truck (get it? Dump truck? sorry), we’re holding onto it for now.

So that only leaves our 1997 Pontiac Grand Am. It’s the car that Stacie bought (used) with her dad about 8 years ago while she was in college, and we’ve just held onto it since then. People mocked us for keeping it because it didn’t look flashy, or because it was a “junky American car”, but we didn’t care. It was out trusty “Greenie” (it’s green).

Greenie has been paid off for years, and insurance only costs a few hundred per year. It was a great fallback vehicle when gas prices rose, or when one of our other vehicles was in the shop. We even loaned it out for free to friends who needed a second vehicle to shuttle some kids around.

But we’ve been questioning the need to have 3 cars for years, when there’s only 2 of us driving. And now that I’ve been riding the metro to work since January 2007, I haven’t driven much except for home repairs or trips to PA or to see out-of-state friends. So when an unexpected opportunity arose to sell the car, we took it.

How the Opportunity Found Us

A couple weeks ago, while in PA, Stacie and I visited her godparents as they had some of their daughter’s clothing to give to Stacie (btw, Stacie got a great winter coat out of the deal!). Their daughter “Em” is going off to college this month and they were deliberating whether to get her a car. They didn’t want to bother with car hunting and trusting someone they don’t know with their daughter’s safety, so they figured they would wait on buying her a car.

As a side-note, I’m not a proponent of buying kids a car unless they put in significant effort on their part to earn it. However, I also attended the same campus, and lived in the same housing as Em will, and I know that her job and grocery prospects are severely limited without a car at this campus, as is her ability to visit her parents, but more on that later.

So during the conversation, I mentioned we would be willing to sell Greenie if they were looking for something cheap and reliable (it’s been very reliable for us). We had the truck with us and Greenie was in MD, so we couldn’t show it to them at the time.

We parted ways and didn’t expect to hear anything from them about the car. But just a day later, Em’s parents called Stacie’s parents because they wanted to see the car. Wow, that’s a fast turnaround. I guess they saw the opportunity to get a car with a known history from a reliable source (Stacie’s dad always handled the repair work with the mechanic in PA) for a cheap price. Unfortunately, they thought the car was in PA, but it was with us in Maryland.

Showcasing the Car

So while I was in PA visiting my own family this past weekend, I planned a meeting with the godparents and Em at a midpoint about 45 minutes away. It was the opposite direction that I needed to go home, but it gave me a chance to revisit campus and see how it’s changed (and reminisce).

Now I knew a few things that I needed to highlight up front, such as why there were no hubcaps (they rubbed against the tire and I had to remove them) and that the volume knob on the stereo acts up. Otherwise, the car was in tip-top shape for a vehicle of its mileage (130,000 miles) and age (11 years).

I pointed out that we spent about $1,800 in the last 4 years on the car, which is about what it’s worth according to Kelly Blue Book. I didn’t mention that Edmunds has it valued at about $1200 because I saw every other 1997 Grand Am priced well above $2,000-3,000. I also pointed out the following:

  • New alternator, timing chain, water pump
  • New tires (fronts last year, rears a few years earlier)
  • New headlights (the old ones fogged up and I got replacements on eBay)
  • New suspension last year
  • New power window mechanisms
  • New brakes
  • New wheel mounts, or something (can’t remember those details, but it was expensive)
  • New transmission fluid (I did that a few years back)
  • I personally changed the oil

Once “Jay”, the godfather, heard all this, and after driving the car (Em also drove), he said we have a deal. Wow, really? It was that easy?

I referred Jay to Stacie’s dad to talk about money as it wasn’t my car. I called Stacie’s dad separately to inform him of the KBB value and to agree on a price.

We’ll be very sad to see Greenie go, but we know it’s going to someone who will get much more use out of it than we will at this point. In fact, we’ve only put 2800 miles on it in the last 10 months. I know this because when I got home from PA on Sunday, I changed the oil and noted the mileage in the log book. It was 10 months since the last oil change (I already knew this), but I didn’t realize we drove it so little. But the oil was still translucent, so I didn’t see the need to change the oil until now.

Closing the Deal

I wish we would have known how serious Jay was as a buyer, because I would have planned to take my gram’s car back to MD, and leave Greenie in PA. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t know and thus we need to drive BACK to Pennsylvania this weekend to deliver the car. That means driving up with 2 vehicles on a Friday and coming back early on Saturday as we have house guests arriving at noon on Saturday. We’ll be working extra hours so we can just skip out early on Friday to beat the weekend traffic. And then maybe this will be the last trip to PA for a few weeks? I think we’ve spent about $500 on gas this summer driving to PA, seriously.

As for signing over the title, we found out something humorous. These last 8 years, we assumed it was Stacie’s dad and Stacie on the title, and that any transfer of ownership would require both signatures. That’s one reason we didn’t bother registering the car in Maryland (oops, that’s against the law). It was too much of a hassle, and we knew it was half in her dad’s name and we could explain that we were just borrowing the car.

But alas our assumptions were incorrect. Stacie is NOT on the title! Stacie’s dad pulled it out and was also surprised as he saw it was only him and Stacie’s mom on the title! He then remembered the circumstances that it was easier for them to just register it in their names at the time (Stacie was away at college).

Stacie was heartbroken. This whole time she thought the car was half hers (it is financially, but not legally according to the title). Even worse, she said “I don’t own anything, do I?”. See, the truck and the MINI are both in my name (she didn’t want to be there for all the paperwork), so she prided herself that at least the Pontiac was hers. Nope, sorry. At least her name was on the Chevy Malibu and VW Passat that preceded the MINI.

So in just a few days, we’ll be able to fit all our vehicles in our driveway, although we probably won’t, just to tick off the neighbors (see if you can recall who our neighbors are). Also, I’ll have one less line in our net worth charts as that asset will be gone.

Oh, and I think we’ll use the $900 towards debt.

About the author

Clever Dude

3 Comments

  • So you CAN sell a car in today’s market, eh?! Good work 🙂 I guess I’ll have to hold off another day before posting about selling my…..drum roll please….SUV! haha… Great job my man, one less thing to worry about.

  • Makes sense financially to let the car go and the money doesn’t hurt either. Its a good think you maintained the car so well; that was probably what ended up being the selling feature. Want to come sell my car for me?

  • i can’t believe it took you this long, and i told you so. i think i arrived at this site when there was discussion on ways to trim and to get money, and one was to get rid of the pontiac. you are now only doing so and wrote a lengthy explanation on everything but it making financial sense to get rid of the car. hopefully now that you are in your 30’s you have finally learned this financial lesson. p.s. happy b’lated b-day.

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