We Paid Cash: New-To-Us Volvo Wagon

We paid cash!A testimony from Suzi

We recently paid cash for a new-to-us Volvo Wagon! We are a family of 5 that realized we just didn’t need so much space or better yet…a car payment!

Financing a Van

Before relocating to a large city, we purchased a 2008 Honda Odyssey Van. At the time, our youngest child was transitioning from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat and it didn’t seem that our sedan would “cut it” anymore for our family of 5 + 1 large dog!

We wanted something that was bigger, more comfortable for everyone and “nice!” We found the van we loved, paid a bit of cash, and financed the remainder.

Our car payment was relatively low and for the short-term we were quite pleased with our purchase! It fit everyone (with lots of extra room), looked nice, drove well, and would last us a long time.

Simplifying & Realizing We Didn’t Need the Van

After making our big move and settling into a much smaller 990-square foot loft, we began to realize a lot about ourselves and our family.
  • We could live with a lot less!
  • We could save more.
  • We didn’t drive nearly as much as we used to.
  • Public transportation is cheaper, easier, and fun for the kids!
  • Walking is oftentimes better.
  • We didn’t really need so much extra cargo space in a van that we were rarely driving.
  • The cost of gas was rising.
  • We didn’t want to pay monthly payments on a van that was being parked on the street.

We had the van for about six months until one night it hit me: we didn’t need the van! I approached my husband with the crazy idea of selling it.

Within days, we had posted the van for sale.

Thankfully, we were able to sell the van for our asking price (the same as what we had paid for it six months prior) and deposit the money into our savings account. What a great feeling!

Focusing on Our Needs More Than Our Wants

We moved forward with the premise of casually looking for a replacement car. We weren’t in any rush since we knew we could manage without one. This time we had very different criteria for our family car.

  • We wanted to pay cash, while still leaving a substantial amount of money in savings.
  • We set a price of $3500 and we wanted to stick to it.
  • With the lower price point we we understood that we’d have to be flexible and really focus on our needs and not our wants.
  • We wanted something that was “good” based on the price range we were looking in.
  • We’d prefer something with lower miles, but we were realistic that we may not find it.
  • We were hoping to find something that would comfortably fit everyone, but not necessarily offer so much extra room that we’d repeat our first car buying mistake.
  • We wanted something safe.
  • We wanted to feel good about parking our purchase on the street.

After a couple months of looking and narrowing down our choices, we found a second owner, 1996 Volvo Wagon (with a 3rd row seat) with only 110,000 miles on it. It fit all the car seats and allowed room in the back for the dog!

We negotiated the price to $3200 and paid cash. Changing the way we thought about transportation, our family, city living, and the direction we wanted to go with saving money, allowed us to find the perfect car for this stage of our lives!

Suzi is a former elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom to 3 little girls (5, 3 1/2 and 20 months). She spends her days homeschooling and exploring the city with her husband and girls.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. maggie says

    Wow!! They do not make Volvo wagons with the 3rd row seat anymore! I know because I had asked. I have a 2007 new to me Volvo wagon.

  2. J in VA says

    We bought a new to us 1999 Volvo wagon last fall with cash. We haven’t been able to pay our savings back as quickly as we would have liked but at least we don’t owe anyone else!

    We really like it–the only bad part is that our trusty mechanic who helped us through our Saturn’s “hospice care” for the last 2-3 years, can’t work on it for us because he doesn’t have the tools to read the European car’s codes. We did find a great guy with lots of Volvo experience (independent shop)but we have to drive about 30 miles :(

    • Liz says

      this is the kind of deal we are hoping to find as my Honda Civic is just gonna be too small for our growing family. .. keeping my fingers crossed!

  3. says

    Thanks! I’ve been resisting replacing my van because I’ve been worried about space. I’m impressed that you get 3 car seats across the back. I may just have to reconsider in the near future!

    • Christy Carden says

      I think they were wise to get a wagon with a third row. Otherwise they’d never have space for anyone else. We have a Pilot and chose it over a less expensive CRV because of the extra seating and we only have 2 kids. But I didn’t want to be the mom that never helped with carpooling because, “I didn’t have room.”

  4. Lana says

    Too funny—our son used to have a Volvo wagon and traded up to a Honda Odessey which they did pay cash for. He works for Honda as an engineer and they make the Odyssey at his workplace so he knows them inside and out. Good for you for making a good choice!

  5. Katie says

    Great job!! I’ve had three Volvos and they’re wonderful cars! My first one was a hand -me-down from my grandparents and my dad took it to the junk yard with just over 300,000 on it. My second one I bought for 900 cash and it had 200,000 when I sold it. My 3rd one I also paid cash for, was in a minor traffic accident that totaled it and I got more out if it than I paid which allowed me to pay a significant portion of student loans off. I sold it with 260,000 miles and it had a 3rd row seat!:) I hope you enjoy it!

  6. says

    I love the back seat for the dog!! My husband and I own our car outright (thanks to my dad being willing to chip in when I was younger and only having to pay him back for the couple years I was in college after that!) – we have been thinking about a second car, but think about the same issues you mentioned (not driving it enough, gas prices, etc.) – our car fits us (family of 4) with no problem, and was a fabulous deal (2001 car with only 19000 miles when I purchased it, now right around 65000), so we don’t need more space. It would just be convenience to have a second car – thanks for making me think about it a bit more! Debt free comes before ease and convenience!

    • Amie says

      Good post! My husband and I both drive compacts. His is paid off, but older and mine still has a year’s worth of payments on it. My two boys’ car seats take up the whole back seat and I slide the front seats forward to give them leg room. I have to take my dogs to the vet in trips. I can’t fit them all in my car at once. I do want a bigger car and my in-laws had been praising their leased vehicles. Their payment is less than $40 more than my loan payment for a “family sized” vehicle so I have started feeling the temptation. I don’t want payments forever and I want to be debt-free. This post felt like a nice nudge to start saving for a used vehicle that we can pay cash for. It was just what I needed to keep me on track. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Matti says

    I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, but I do wonder what others think. I TOTALLY understand wanting to pay cash for a car, and to not carry a car payment. I think it is ideal, however, I wonder how the rest of you feel about driving older cars that may not have the same safety features as newer cars while you are saving enough cash to pay for the newer car? This is the situation my husband and I currently find ourselves in and we’ve discussed it several times. I mean, if you have a car that is 10+ years old, regardless of how many miles it has, you’re going to be missing out on some newer, greatly improved safety features (side curtain air bags, especially in the second and third row seats to name one, but things like traction control, stability control, etc).
    Sometimes I convince myself that it’s just mommy guilt, and sometimes I think what would happen if we did get in a crash?
    I truly do not mean to offend anyone, or to make anyone feel guilty for not going out and taking out a huge loan to buy the biggest, best car. I get living simply, living well under your means, and saving for bigger dreams. I just don’t know to prioritize this in my own mind, and I was looking for guidance from some that may have walked this road already.

    • Christy Carden says

      Something is screwy with the reply feature:

      Matti – We bought a 2007 Pilot in 2010 when we knew we were having a second child — Annie–2 large dogs that we sometimes bring out of town with us (vs. $40/day to board). We put 10K down and financed 13K. Our payment is low and we have just gotten agressive at paying it off. Annie- we had a civic and a Sentra prior to this. Still have the civic–husband uses it to commute so it makes more sense with gas. I work 2.5 miles away and until recently my daycare was within walking distance of my job, but now I will have to go about 6 miles round trip out of the way for new daycare (old one closed).

      Mattie – We were concerned about the safety esp. since my husband knew this would primarily be my car since I usually have the kids with me (teacher schedule) and it would be our trip car (none of our family lives in town and they live in all kinds of places) and I often take the kids out of town to visit family solo (again teacher schedule).

      So I guess we went against hat everyone on here says by financing 13K, but we love it and are paying it off early. We also makde sure the payment was way less than we cold afford so we could pay off early. Even putting 10K down in today’s world must be out of the ordinary; the salesman looked at us like we were nuts!

      • Matti says

        Thanks Christie,
        This is exactly the scenario I keep trying to sell on myself and my husband. We have two cars now, a 2005 Prius that my husband uses for his commute, and a 2001 Honda CRV w/ only about 76,000 miles, but we are thinking of expanding our family. And, I have been eying a 2006 Pilot at a local dealership that has all the safety features I’d like. We plan to trade the CRV and put several thousand down as well, so we’d only be financing about half the price and the payment is much less than we can afford. We have a plan in place right now where we’ll have both our school loans and our mortgage paid off in 5 1/2 years and we still have wiggle room :)

        • Christy Carden says

          I do absolutely love the Pilot! Of course on the flip side, my husband is driving a 2001 Civic that I bought new when I was single, with the headliner falling down and he is 6’5″ so he is cramped–head hits the ceiling. But it is a Honda–it will run forever. And we will probably keep the Pilot for at least 10 years. When we pay off the Pilot, we may replace the Civic with a used Accord (maybe one that is less than 10K so we can pay for it outright).

        • says

          So, Matti,
          I think I’d temporarily throw a little less at your mortgage and student loans, and put a little more toward the cash or down payment on the new car.

          I think it Rocks that you’ll soon be totally debt free, but I’m guessing your mortgage and student loan rates are both pretty low, and you get to deduct those. That would be my two cents. Of course, I’ll be paying on my mortgage for a Long time and driving an old car, so what do I know-lol.

    • J in VA says


      The thing about used cars is that the even if you buy 2-3 years old you can get a lot of car for so much less! Choose your used car wisely and you can have good safety feactures too. I’m not positive about side air bags in the rear; but, our ’99 Volvo has AWD, traction control and even the “94 Saturn we had before had traction control plus ABS.

      I just know for us, a car payment was not an option. We just do not want to add that to our budget. I work only 8-12 hours a week and homeschool my dd. I COULD work more but our family life would suffer. When others at work whine about how nice it must be to work so little, I invite them to drive my car for a week (better now than the ’94 with 300K miles on it) and live in my 1930’s house with no central heating and window AC.

    • B says

      This is something I struggle with as well. My husband drove a car that had plenty of miles on it and was about 17 years old. It served the purpose of getting him to and from work. However, one day out of the blue, the car stalled that locked the steering wheel. He ended up going into the grass headed toward a park and was able to turn it onto a dirt pile that stopped him. The car was a loss and he suffered some minor injuries. It could have been much worse had he been traveling his normal path to work or had their been traffic when his car locked up causing him to go across the lane. There was no prior indication that anything was wrong with this vehicle and we had owned it for 16 years. It really make me question how old is too old for a vehicle when it comes to safety and whether or not buying used might cause someone to get seriously hurt since you don’t know the history of the vehicle. On the other hand, it has been 8 years since I have purchased a vehicle and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the equivalent to the price of a small home in our community.

    • Whitney says

      I think that with very, very few exceptions, we are all driving vehicles that are not the safest possible. When I was driving my children in a Honda Civic, we could have been safer in a van. Now in a van, even though it’s new, I’m sure there are other models that would be safer (a armored Humvee comes to mind :) ).

      I do think yours is a legitimate question, and it’s something that’s crossed my mind. But unless you are driving an unsafe vehicle, or placing your children in obvious danger, I think you have to draw the line somewhere. It’s impossible to remove all danger and risk from our lives, and even if you can mitigate risk, there has to be a point when you accept you’ve done enough.

    • bobcat says

      One thing people should be aware of, is that after a certain time period (I think it’s when they are 8-9 years old????) even the REGULAR, front airbags EXPIRE! Meaning they won’t inflate. The gas in there just breaks down or something. So you need to go to a dealership or whatever and have them replaced if you want them to work!!!!

      But this affects people, whether they are driving the same car they have driven for 10 years, or if they buy a “new to them” used car. I am not sure if when you buy used from a dealer, if the dealer has replaced the airbags, or what.

      On another note, I drive an 03 Audi that does have side curtain airbags, and it has traction control. So my car is 9 years old and has them, but it’s a luxury car from Europe.

      However, I’m now thinking I will need to get the front airbags replaced….bummer. :( But we plan on keeping this car until it needs repairs that cost more than its worth….which may be another 10 years!

      I would recommend people be cautious about buying European or luxury cars because of the cost of maintenence. I am not sure where Volvo falls into this, but I regret buying an Audi, because while it has held up great (so maybe we ARE breaking even?), whenever you get it serviced, it costs you much more than if you had a Chevy, for example. All the parts cost more, it seems, because they are “special.” Also, my car has to take premium fuel, which I didn’t realize when I bought it. Granted, that isn’t too much more, compared to servicing it. We recently paid 2500 to get a zillion things fixed on the car….however….this is one of the first times we’ve done anything in the 7 years we’ve had it, aside from brakes and maybe (?) tires like 4 years ago. So dividing it out, it’s not awful. I can remember the older, rickety cars my family had growing up, they were in the shop at LEAST a few times a year, which couldn’t have been cheap!

      One other safety issue is that in my Audi, there are bigger blind spots for ME, because I am short and the little back side windows are small, with lots of steel/material between that and the rear window, so I actually feel safer driving around in our really old car that has more glass, more visibility.

      Overall, I have thought about that safety issue of newer vs older cars. I think that obviously the safest car is one that’s well-maintained. Meaning the tires are properly inflated and have great tread. Many people don’t replace their tires when they should, and that is dangerous if the roads are wet. Also, just never being distracted while driving, never drinking and driving (obviously!). Being a DEFENSIVE driver. When roads are dead, I glance both ways when going through green lights (I don’t slow down though, obviously), because you never know what crazy person is barreling through an intersection, esp on holidays or gamedays. I think doing those things AVOIDS crashes, which is obviously best. ALWAYS check your blindspots by turning your head! Those kinds of things. Doing that, I think I’ll be okay driving an older car with my future kids, but maybe once I’m a Mom I will change my mind?

    • Jessica H says

      I think it depends on the car. We have a newer Nissan and a 15 year old Nissan. When storms came through our area last year, the new car had more significant hail damage while the older car had only minor damage (they were parked side by side). The insurance adjuster told me that it was because the older car was made of better materials, which makes it a safer car. Our mechanic also said something similar. This may not be true for all older cars, but we don’t feel bad about driving our car. Doing so helped us pay off our mortgage so I could stay home. For us it was worth it.

  8. Regina Shuey says

    Lol. I tried this same thing just last year… and it didn’t turn out nearly as well. If you are going to spend less for a car, you need to know how to spot the faults (which I don’t)! I spent $3600 on a Ford Taurus Wagon with 76,000 miles on it. The owner had a carfax report, check up receipts showing the super low mileage, and just about everything else I could think of. When I popped the hood, the engine looked great (which should have been a warning because old cars do not have pristine engines). I test drove it and it ran great too… Then I got it home.
    Turns out the safety and registration had expired (the stickers on the car were probably stolen and when I looked closely at the registration paper it was for another car!)… this was mind blowing and when I called the “owner” he never answered my calls. Then when I took it in for safety… it failed! The barings were bad! Then after a few weeks it began over heating, and the weirdest part… the paint that had looked so good began MELTING OFF! It turns out that the man had somehow created a showroom finish out of some kind of wax-polish or some junk, because when the sun hit it… it melted like candle wax!
    Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson and I am planing on trading this sucker in for a car with a WARRENTY as soon as I can afford it!

  9. Nikki's says

    Awsome! I liked the savings part. Car prices depreciate the moment you leave the parking lot so it does justify spending a lot more on a fancy car. As long as it fits your family needs & is the budgeted price it is the right one.

    • Penny says

      As someone who’s currently stuffing her two kids (both in carseats) and large dog into a Honda Civic, I know the feeling of wanting more space! We would love something bigger, but we’re saving until we can pay cash.

      That said, I would make sure you factor in the costs of repairs and reliability of the car. Volvos are actually a lot less reliable than Hondas (I have three brothers who work on cars; two are professional mechanics) and the maintenance costs can be extremely high.

  10. teena jackson says

    As a family of 4 (2 in college), we happen to have 6 cars. With the exception of my husband’s “fun” Mustang GT (which he purchased new w/cash – straight out of college), we have purchased ALL 5 used.
    My sons drive little Ford Focuses that are 9 & 10 years old (one has over 226k on it) and they are both safe economical cars. My sons are both saving up to buy good used vehicles that they will own when in graduate school. We will match their savings up to 5k & that will guarantee a newer used model car w/low mileage & no car payments!
    My husband came out of high school w/licensing mechanic education & has always taken car of all our cars. This has included all sorts of repairs – easy & hard! He is an executive & we could afford to have someone else to do all the work but my husband finds fixing cars relaxing!(I know – odd isn’t it?)
    Anyhoo- we haven’t had a car payment for over 8 years & never will go back to them again!

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