By Eric on May 8, 2012 20

We Bought a Minivan (With Cash!)

Last week we said goodbye to Trish and hello to Sophia Grace (aptly named because it’s soo good!). Purchasing a vehicle can be a very stressful situation, and it’s amazing how different this experience was for us compared to when we bought Trish four years ago. We are a heck of lot more mature now and really took our time trying to find a good deal.

We’ve wanted a minivan for more than a year (since we rented one when we road-tripped to Charleston), so the purchase was a long time in the making. I think that is one of the biggest keys. Patience.

A couple nights before we made the offer, we listened to Dave Ramsey’s FPU episode on negotiating. His lesson offers a number tactics for negotiating big purchases, and it was a great motivational message that gave us the firepower to make the deal happen. Not all of them applied to our situation, but we noted the ones that we wanted to include in our negotiating strategy.

Negotiating Strategy

  • Don’t speak, just listen: I tried to let the sales guy do most of the talking. This gave me time to really think about what I wanted to say and created some awkward moments that made him a little uncomfortable.
  • Research: I knew exactly what our Jeep trade-in was worth and what the minivan was worth (not just what they were asking). I used Kelley Blue Book for this. I also knew what similar Jeeps in the area were priced at other dealerships, and that this particular minivan had been sitting on their lot for months, and I had seen the price drop over time from $10,995 to $7,995.
  • Cash: I went to the bank before heading to the dealership and took out $1,200 cash, not wanting to spend a penny more.
  • Prayer: We spent time with God praying for the whole process. Consulting our heavenly Father is always a great starting point for big decisions in our lives.
  • Walkaway power: If the deal wasn’t going to happen for $1,200, I was going home, where Kelsey and Rooney were waiting for me. They wanted to come with, but the timing of feeding just didn’t work out. It also made walking away easier, knowing that I would have to go home to discuss with Kelsey anything above our offer.

The Negotiation

After I test-drove the van to make sure there weren’t any obvious red flags with how it performed, I kept looking over the van to make sure I wasn’t missing anything on the inside or outside.

The salesman and I discussed the value of the Jeep. I wanted to discuss this before asking about negotiating the price of the van, because I felt that if I could get what I wanted out of the Jeep, I wouldn’t have to ask him to lower the price of the van (which had already been deeply discounted). The salesman told me that they us NADA for valuing trade-ins and that it was more accurate for the Midwest as Kelley Blue Book is based out of California.

Here is a recap of our conversation:

Salesman: The NADA value of your Jeep is probably around $6,200.

Me: I know you’ll be able to list this Jeep for at least $10,000, as that’s what I’ve seen online. I also know the minivan has been sitting on your lot for months. If I give you the Jeep and $1,000 cash, do we have a deal?

Salesman: (thinking) I’ll admit I only have $100 markup on the van and we’re sick of paying interest on the payments. But we are still about $500 off from a deal.

Me: Well, I have $1,200 cash in my pocket, I’ll give you that and the Jeep. How does that sound?

Salesman: OK, if I can get my boss to OK that, do we have a deal?

Me: Yep.

Saleman: (on the phone for a few minutes) OK, you have yourself a minivan!


I think the biggest takeaway from the experience was that you must believe in your strategy and hold your ground. You must leave your emotions at home and be comfortable walking away if the negotiation goes beyond the amount you were prepared to spend.

It was confirmed the day after the purchase when I texted Kelsey this message:

Buyer’s remorse is a real thing. I had it ever since we bought our Jeep four years ago. Although it was a great vehicle and served us well, I always felt stupid for the way we went about purchasing it (with a loan), and the time I had to spend working two jobs just to pay it off. But it built some great character deep within me that urges me to never finance a vehicle again!

What’s been your experience with vehicle purchases? Do you believe that you don’t have to have car payments for the rest of your life?



Husband to Kelsey. Father to Rooney. Follower of Jesus. Born and raised in Iowa. I like blogging. Bulleted lists excite me. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Congratulations!

    thought you guys might like this video:

  2. That’s awesome! Patience really is key. My husband and I had to buy a new car at the beginning of the year and we scouted out exactly what we want until we found it in our price range.

  3. Was there a reason you did not try to sell your Jeep yourself? Usually private party value is more than trade in value. We sold my car last year on ourselves and was able to get the KBB value. We took the cash from the sale with cash we had saved and bought a newer, more fuel efficient, and reliable car from a private party for far less money than from a dealer.

    • I thought about it, but thought selling it ourselves would consume a lot of time which is something I wasn’t willing to put into at the moment. We probably could have gotten a better deal, but the time factor was not something we wanted to deal with. Might try it the next time around though.

  4. Thanks so much for this post, it at the perfect time for me. I’m driving around a 16 year-old Acura. It’s started making some really weird noises lately and I’ve got some money burning a hole in my pocket telling me to buy a new car. But I know if I just wait about a couple more months I’ll be able to purchase something outright without a car loan or dipping to into my ‘emergency fund’.

  5. sweet!! i’m taking you along when we want to look for a new van in the next year or two!!

  6. Our vehicle is paid off next month and I can not tell you how good it feels to know we can invest and save that awful car payment!

  7. I applaud you! It would be wonderful to just walk off of a lot with a car and no payment. I just purchased a car last August through an auto loan, however, I had my last car for 10 years and really didn’t want to get another one. Mechanical issues said otherwise. Saving money to buy one in cash was not realistic at the time. Now my husband wants to trade in his car and I really don’t want him to. If we’re going to have car payments I’d rather have one out at a time. He doesn’t agree. Oh well :-\
    Your story has definintely inspired me though!

  8. What an awesome story! My husband and I follow Dave Ramsey’s FPU too, and it has been the best thing we ever did. My husband recently purchased a used car because his previous car of 10 years just wouldn’t go anymore. We did have to get a loan, but since we don’t have any other debts, we are aggressively paying off the car loan. I hate having car payments!

  9. it’s certainly possible to never have a car payment, but it isn’t always the most financially savvy move. in your scenario i would do exactly what you did, but in other cases i might choose to keep my money in my savings account and benefit from compounding interest if i can get a car loan with a really low interest rate.

    congrats on the new van! it will be great for all those road trips and ikea hauls!

  10. Great job, guys! We bought our van with cash 2 years ago when I was expecting baby #3. We had been shopping for vans for a couple months, and this one just wasn’t selling. When the price dropped $2000, we went to look at it and loved it. It was still almost $7000, and our budget for everything was $6000. Our Dave Ramsey techniques came in handy! We talked to the salesman and said that we were interested and wanted to make an offer. He laughed at us when we said we’d pay $6000 total. However, when I told him that we knew the van had been there for awhile and told him we’d pay cash right there, he stopped laughing, but didn’t want to make the deal. So we told him we had another appointment to check out another van that afternoon (which was true), and that we’d be back if we didn’t want the other van to talk again, he stopped us, called his manager, and was back in a few minutes with papers for us to sign. We just had to buy another car in February as my husband’s car was totaled, and unfortunately we couldn’t pay cash for all of it. The car was over $11000, and we took out a loan for $6600. At the end of the month we’ll only owe about $3000, which is not bad for a family of 5, my hubby’s a teacher, and I’m a stay at home mom. Gotta love Dave Ramsey!!!

    • That’s a great story Shawna. And even though you had to take out a loan for the second car, it’s great that you are gazelle intense again to get rid of the payment… and it blows my mind how you can do that on one income!!! Just goes to show there is always room for improvement in the budget.

  11. I LOVE it. It’s amazing what the power of CASH can do. We had a similar experience with our Van and most recently, our HOUSE! It’s an amazing feeling to be able to be debt free. Amazing!

  12. I moved to HI and needed a vehicle. Honestly I hadn’t prayed about the price point and went into it knowing how much I wanted to spend. Well, God had other plans for me as I bought a great vehicle at a really high price. I never thought I would do that, but felt absolute peace about it – and the reminder that my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills and that my money is His. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone what I did, knowing that it was only a God thing in my life. I do find myself freaking out sometimes because I still have many payments left, but then realize that it’s not my car or money in the first place. I’m incredibly blessed beyond belief. It’s exciting to see how God worked out your vehicle blessing! Thanks for sharing! Lesson learned to pray…and that I don’t control all :)

  13. I just linked over to this post from Kelsey’s most recent JCPenney post. I couldn’t have read it at a better time! My husband and I have been married for two years and are finally starting to shop for a house. We’ve found one we’re interested in, but it’s going to require serious concessions on the seller’s part to bring it down to a realistic price. We’ve decided what we can afford and determined what it’s actually worth, but I really needed your reminder on believing in your strategy and sticking with your decision. We’re prepared to walk away! Thanks for the reminder. :)

  14. Thanks for finally writing about > Negotiating Strategy for Buying a
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  15. What about the taxes and fees? How did you pay for them since you only brought a fixed amount of cash? I’m curious ’cause I’m buying a minivan too by the end of the month.

    • Hi Laura… I just told him that I only had $1,200 cash. The salesman was able to work his formula so that that’s what I paid. Essentially he took the sale price down by the cost of the fees and taxes. Pretty sweet deal!

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