Ever since returning to the U.S. from China, my wife and I have shared the increasingly dilapidated 1999 Toyota Camry I purchased from a wholesaler back in 2004. Now that we have two kids, and I soon start commuting to a neighboring city for work, the One-Car Policy was clearly in need of revision.
After months of looking, I decided to continue our expensive but reliable Toyota tradition. I got reconnected with that wholesaler who was going to help me get a great deal from a car auction, but week after week things either fell through, or a reasonable Toyota in my price range wasn’t available.
Life was getting more and more challenging with one car, and the looming start date of my new job was pressing down. It was about time to jump ship on the wholesaler and start looking at dealers. One dealer, Dave Edwards Toyota, has a good reputation, so I began watching their site.
Of course, the only part of their site I even looked at is the “Used Under 10K” tab. The only reason I stuck to that tab is there there wasn’t a “Used Under 6K” tab. The options there were kind of sad. The only Toyota in our price range was a Sienna with over 200,000 miles on it. The non-Toyota options weren’t attractive at all. Since I started shopping for a car, I find myself looking around at what’s on the roads and asking, “Where on earth does all that money come from?”
Then it happened. Our 1999 Camry started making clicking sounds. Angel had to do without a car while I took it in and walked to work. I got a call at work and the mechanic said, “There’s no oil in the engine.”
While I don’t know how that happened, I do know the results. The car was pretty much a lost cause. They did what they could, and the next day I took it to another shop. The mechanic said if it’s driven carefully, it might last a while. Or possibly not. And definitely do not take it on the Interstate. “You might not make it home.”
Suddenly, we were no longer looking for a car, but two cars.
On that very day, a car popped up on Dave Edwards: A 2006 Toyota Corolla with 137,000 miles. I thought, “I bet I can get them down to $7,000 total.” So two days later on Saturday morning, I stuffed my pocket with $100 bills (just like Dave Ramsey says), and we all drove down to Spartanburg in a borrowed car. Before the morning was over, we drove away with a car only $125 more than my target price. It was clearly very well cared for, and looked almost new.
But we still lacked a car. My dad volunteered to loan us the money, so my search continued in earnest. I had spent months looking into the second-hand low-budget German car subculture, primarily Mercedes from the 1990s. I noticed a coworker driving a nice-looking BMW from the 90’s and asked her how much it cost. “$1,900,” she said. I looked into where she got it. I was willing to consider the two options they had, even though they looked a bit pathetic.
In the process, it happened again: On the Dave Edwards website, a listing popped up for an immaculate-looking 2000 BMW 323i with 117,000 miles on it. The price was a bit high, but I decided to go have a look during my lunch break anyway. A bit high or not, it was the second cheapest car they had. The very cheapest was a 2004 Buick Century.
They remembered me (and my kids, not to mention my pile of $100s) from Saturday. They bent over backwards to make a deal I’d be happy with, and although I didn’t have the time or money to complete the deal on the spot, I arranged to bring the Camry on back roads and trade it in for a beautiful BMW.
I couldn’t be happier with it. I understand that maintenance will cost much more than on a Toyota, but when the thing costs a fraction of what a Camry would be, I’m willing to stick it out for a while.
Through the whole process, we had been talking with Ezra about our need to pray to find the right car. Then it became praying for the right two cars. It’s exciting to see how the Lord provided.
As I’ve been rather excited over my new car (Thursday night felt like Christmas!), we’ve also been telling him: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. We don’t know how long we’ll have these cars, but we know they won’t last forever. We are thankful to have them for today.”