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We Paid Cash! :: A 15-Passenger Van

We paid cash!

Testimonial submitted by reader, April

When we found out we were expecting our 7th child, we knew we were going to outgrow our minivan (which seats 8).

Having resolved to be debt-free, we began to search online for a good deal. We had our emergency fund, as per Dave Ramsey, so we planned to use that and just make “car payments” back to the emergency fund.

What we found

After searching for a few months, we found a van on eBay that had previously been used by a carpeting company. It had 3 of the 4 benches (so it seats 12) and was in functional condition. It met our criteria of having enough seats and of working perfectly.

The only problem is that we live in Alabama and the van was in Denver, but I didn’t consider that much of a problem.

It was ours!

We won the eBay auction and paid $1950 for a 15-passenger van that runs perfectly. Granted, it is 15 years old and has 150,000 miles, but the pride of it being paid for more than compensates.

After flying to Denver by myself — which should really count as a vacation when you have 6 children — and driving the van home, along with taxes and tag, the total price came to $2400. We, of course, paid cash and made monthly payments back to our emergency fund for about 8 months.

For next time…

Now we have a special savings account called “Car Payment” where we make our car payment for the next time I get to vacation alone. I hope the next van is in Alaska!

P.S. The children have named the Big Van, Shakespeare. We still have the minivan, since it is also paid for, and use it whenever Dad is not home to lengthen Shakespeare’s life.

April Bracker is a homeschool mom to 7.

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  • Jen says:

    Amen sister! Glad to hear of the Lord’s provision for your family. We too found a good deal through Craigslist and paid cash for a minivan. It is a good van. We do not need the latest and greatest to have our needs met, that is the problem that some of us must work through.

  • Gwen T says:

    We did the exact same thing this past year! I was expecting #7 and we were able to pay cash for the very first time in our married life. It was a wonderful, liberating feeling to not be paying a monthly amount to the bank! 🙂

  • Kassandra Wood says:

    I LOVE this!!!

  • This is great, and I’m so glad your van held up on the road trip home. We just did something similar recently with an SUV that my grandfather had given my mother in Texas before he passed away. She wasn’t using it, and would give it to us for free if we would come and get it (we live in California). Although it was older (16 years), it had been maintained immaculately by my grandfather, who was a mechanic, and it had pretty low mileage (78000), at least low mileage for us! 🙂 We drove through the desert and back up through California, and thankfully, nothing broke down. But along the way, we noticed an oil leak that we later found out will cost us $1000 to fix! Then, the “perfect” A/C went out just as we arrived home, and we discovered another repair that emerged (add on another $600), we think, as a result of putting all those miles on the car at once.

    It was a hard pill to swallow, but we also realize that sometimes, with used cars, you take a risk of those things happening, and, like we want to do in most situations, we want to pay cash for the repairs. None of them are urgent, and we are making do for now. My dad told us too that sometimes once cars get above 50,000 miles or so, a wave of bigger repairs can crop up, but once you get those taken car of, you can often drive it for a much longer time repair-free.

  • Cathe says:

    Good job!

  • Lisette says:

    Ah, I like the comment about using the smaller car whenever possible to lengthen the family vehicle’s life! We do the same thing! I figure out minivan will be much more expensive to replace than our sedan, so the minivan sits at home if there is a way for us to manage without it!

    • tamika says:

      @Lisette, same here, we have a tracker that we paid $1500 cash for (thanks to a tax return), gets so much better gas mileage and still has room for all three kids and one adult and all their gear. besides, the kids love that we’re in a “jeep” convertable that mommy has to shift gears herself (they think that’s so cool!)

  • Wonderful story! And we bought our van via Craigslist for cash, too 🙂 Gotta love Craigslist!

  • Allison says:

    Our next vehicle will be paid with cash, but sadly we don’t have any savings, so it will be tax time…maybe. We might also decide to stick with the car we have if the car seats will all work front-facing. I’m gonna try to get my hubby & me signed up for a Dave Ramsey class soon so we don’t end up unwittingly blowing all that money again.

  • Sarah says:

    that’s awesome! we’ve found a lot of good deals on craigslist, but my only question is (and i have never bought on ebay so i haven’t researched it…) how did you know that you were getting a good van without examining it before purchasing it? i would just be worried about that. were you able to get some sort of carfax or the equivalent so you knew you weren’t getting scammed? regardless, good job!

    • April Bracker says:

      Honestly, we just trusted them. We asked them outright, Does it run well? They replied, it runs perfectly. Strong transmission, etc. So it was a leap of faith. But when I arrived in Denver, nervous enough about driving around with a car salesman that I’d never met before, I noticed he was wearing a Christian t-shirt. So I asked about his relationship with Christ. That opened an entire discussion about our family and beliefs, his desire to be a Godly husband someday, the church he attends, etc. How wonderful to be in the presence of a believer on such an adventure! From that point on, I had no worries. Regardless of what happened with the van, I knew we both had the same mindset and I could rest easy.

  • Linda says:

    Wow, thats awesome, we also bought our car from craigslist. Cash, and its still going strong. The only problem was we didn’t save the “car payment” and ended up falling off the wagon per say. We bought a used car and have car payments now. I hate it, but we didn’t plan ahead. love to read stories like this to inspire me again to live frugally.

  • margaret says:

    What a great story .. and a nice looking van.. My husband would say that 150,000 miles, heck thats just broken in … actually we have had only one car in 37 years that had less than 100,00 on it and have had good luck with them all…. Our great heavenly father knows our needs and will provide,,,,thanks for sharing

  • Melinda says:

    Congratulations! I am following Dave Ramsey’s plan too! We’re back to baby step 1 but have finally set a date of December 2012 to be debt free, except for the house, which we plan to see shortly thereafter!

  • chris says:

    Congratulations, that is a great story! I love how God provided for your family. We also bought a used minivan for cash this spring.

  • Heather says:

    I too LOVE THIS!!
    I want so badly to be like this…. we are working our way out of debt too. Pay cash for everything. And what an amazing family you have and what a great testimony!! Amazing

  • Andrea says:

    I’m not sure which I’m more impressed with….paying cash for a 15 passenger van or surviving 7 kids debt free (maybe even just surviving 7 kids!! ) Either way it’s inspiring. Congratulations!

  • margot says:

    Another spot to check is your local university. Ours typically auctions off their 15 passenger vans when they hit 100,000 miles. We got a great deal on one through

  • That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing your story April!

    Mary Ellen

  • melissa says:

    thank you for sharing crystal and april. awesome post. awesome family, april.

  • Nancy says:

    Wow! That’s great, it sounds like everything worked out perfectly. And it sounds like it is actually BETTER for your family than a “true 15-passenger”, since you have all that extra storage space in the back for all the “stuff” you undoubtedly have to carry around, at least when you take everyone on vacation (and not just vacation by yourself for a change!).

  • Kristy says:

    What a GREAT story – thanks for sharing !! Blessings ~

  • sarah says:

    we always pay cash for our new (used) vehicles.

  • Katie W. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! Your story is a great inspiration! My husband and I hope to be debt free by 2012 and started paying cash for everything. We always buy used vehicles, they are great already broken in for you!:) It is amazing how God provides for us when we need it! thank you again for sharing your story! God Bless!

  • Amy R. says:

    Praise the Lord for his blessings! That is awesome!

  • Melanie says:

    Im glad to hear of someone having good luck buying used. I have not had a single used car that didnt cost more in the end. Less than 2 years ago I bought a mini van from a guy who claimed to have taken great care of it has his wife and babies drove it. However, I paid 3500 for it and had sunk another 1700 in repairs to keep in running, and it was unusable for 3 months. It currently does not have heat or AC and the windows have stopped going up and down. I am no in a position to get the heat or A/C fixed nor buy something else but next time, when I have the money I will be leasing so anything that goes wrong is covered. I have been stranded to many times and be left for weeks or months without a vechile having bought a used car.

  • Debbie says:

    God is good! By the way, I come from a family of seven children (oldest 45 and youngest is 33 years old).

  • Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love the part about going to pick up the van being a vacation! It’s wonderful to get a little time to yourself, even if it is while doing something else. Many blessings to you and your family!

  • Brooklyn says:

    I love these posts!!! Really give you the motivation we need to just use cash. 🙂 We just paid cash to book our Disney Vacation!!!

    • Kristine says:

      We are paying cash for our Disney vacation too. I am a SAHM, but do some part time, at home, contract work for my old company. The opportunity presented itself last fall where I worked full time for 4 months…it was too good to pass up so we figured things out.

      We decided that I would go back for 4 months and we would use that money to save for Disney and we did it! Our trip is now scheduled for September!

      The best was that we told our kids (3.5 year old twins) why mommy was going back to work and what we were saving for. EVERY day when I would pick them up from daycare they would ask if I had saved enough money for Disneyworld yet. And EVERY time they find money in a parking lot, etc. they always tell me they are going to put it in their piggy bank to save for Disney too!

      This is our first real vacation together as a family – I am so excited!

  • We also paid cash for our 15 passenger…I know that wonderful feeling! We had to look for about 6 months before finally finding a van. Our van had 128K miles on it and was 9 years old when we got it. But we only paid 4K for it, and people think it’s brand new..looks perfect inside and out. The dealer told us the market if really hot for passenger van right now. In the past most passenger vans were strictly used for commerical use. Not so much anymore, more families need them now! We have only 4 children and still wanted our “big red bus” (which we refer to as Clifford)…we have had it over year now and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Congrats on your purchase & vacation! I think people need to hear these great encouraging stories so they know to think outside the box.

  • Wendy says:

    What a great story! We just paid cash for a pop up camper and are taking it out for the 1st time this weekend! It felt so good to pay cash and not have that debt over our heads. The truck we needed to pull it unfortunately we bought brand new (GREAT DEAL and very bad experiences with used cars) and plan on paying it off quickly. Then start working on paying off the house and my school loans (I am still in school for nursing but transferred to a much cheaper school!). It is great to not be in total debt but I know it will be much better to be completly debt free!

  • Carol S says:

    Like Sarah in post #9, “how did you know that you were getting a good van without examining it before purchasing it?…were you able to get some sort of carfax or the equivalent so you knew you weren’t getting scammed?” I also would like to know what precautions you took regarding getting a good vehicle and not a lemon. Thanks!!

  • Molly says:

    Great story!! Thank you for sharing.

  • Awesome! Thanks for sharing April!

  • Denise says:

    I love it – you go April! We bought a 15 passenger van when our quads were born because that gave us five in car seats and the 15 passenger was the ONLY thing that would fit FIVE car seats, the quad stroller and the occasional bag of groceries 🙂 They’ll be five in October and I’m still amazed that it gets better gas mileage than the SUV we traded in for it!

  • Michelle says:

    What a great story! Your children are so precious!

  • Michelle M says:

    I bought my minivan from eBay. The seller had a carfax run and made it available upon the asking for the van. Lots of car dealers sell on eBay as well as individuals. Mine was from a car dealer which added a little higher level of comfort, but I wasn’t seeking that out it just happened that way. I would think that if they don’t already have the carfax included on their listing they would be willing to run one or give you the VIN so you could run it.
    Love my minivan. Got it very cheap. Cheap enough that the state requested extra documentation that I paid what I said I paid because it was well below market value for the car. They thought I was trying to avoid paying the full sales tax on it. Kind of enjoyed sending the letter back saying, no I’m not cheating you I just got a heck of a deal 🙂

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