14 January 2009

About cars

Crunchy Chicken posted today about whether higher gas prices are a good or bad thing.

This is a tough one for us. Our "family car" is a 94 Chevy Astro van that we bought used 10 years ago. It gets about 20 mpg in the summer. At that time we planned on having a big family and would be needing the room. That indeed happened. We have 5 kids, so the 8 seats in the van definitely get utilized. At one point, we had 3 kids in car seats, though we are down to 2 now. We also have a 180-mile round trip every other week for visitations with my oldest daughter who lives with her father. This was murder on the pocketbook.

Last year we used our tax refund to pay cash for a used 99 Mazda Protegé. The gas mileage (when it is only being used for the trip to get my daughter) is around 35 mpg in the summer. Winter is harder on the gas mileage since we have to leave vehicles to warm up (especially the van) before we go anywhere or else the cars complain.

The Mazda only has 5 seats. It won't fit our whole family, so if we go anywhere as a family, we have to take the van. The van is going through some trials right now (over 200k miles on it), and we are trying to decide if we should keep putting money into it and hope it lasts as long as we can afford gas, or if we should replace it. But with what shall we replace it? Financing a $20k hybrid car is completely out of the realm of the most remote possibility. I suggested an old station wagon, the kind that has the extra back seat that flips up and faces backwards, but I haven't seen one of those in, well, probably decades. My husband suggested a small pickup truck. Yes, it would mean we have to take both vehicles to go somewhere as a family, but really, we don't make long distance trips as a family very often. He also said that when gasoline is prohibitively high, we can pull the engine out and convert it into a horse- or ox-drawn cart. I don't know how plausible that is, but it is intriguing. We shall await the prognosis on the van right now.