Monday, April 07, 2014

A happy ending to our car search

The time had come to replace our Honda Civic. It had served us well for many years, but it was a 1998 with 170,000 miles and it was tired. We sold it on Craig's List and started the search for a replacement. After receiving some input from friends, we decided that a Mazda5 would serve our needs well. It is a six seat, compact minivan that gets good gas mileage. We already have a full size minivan but wanted something that could handle all six of us if needed. It will be the car I use to drive to work and the vehicle we will use whenever Heidi or I need to go somewhere without the whole family.

I found a few websites that were helpful in the search for used cars and started planning my strategy for making the purchase. Right away I discovered that Mazda5s hold their value and the decent ones were out of our range. Heidi and I don't finance anything (except a mortgage) so we had a set amount of money saved up. A relative felt the Lord urge her to give us some money toward a vehicle and that proved extremely helpful. As I searched, all the vehicles I found were either newer with a lot of miles or older with less miles but a newer vehicle with low miles was proving elusive in our price range. I took a couple of test drives but those vehicles felt kind of beat down and the salesman I worked with seemed somewhat uninterested in selling me a car. It was a bizarre experience. In all this Heidi kept reminding me to be patient. As usual, she was right.

As the car search was progressing, I was getting tempted to reach past the amount we saved to buy a nicer car and finance the difference. Heidi kept reminding how that would be unwise and how we need to trust the Lord for our needs. I had been having trouble lately trusting God in the area of money. It is a blog for another day, but the duplex caused a financial catastrophe that wiped out much of our savings over the past few years. It is not smart to let circumstances dictate what you believe, but I was totally doing that. I ended up having a few discussions with people about money and my disordered attitude was laid bare. If I am to trust God for anything, I have to trust him for everything. The same week that I kept having discussions with people, a special guest, Dale Van Steenis, preached at our church. He talked about money and the role it plays in our lives. During his sermon, I felt the Lord say to me that He is going to use the car search to teach me to trust Him about money. It was clear to me that the Lord was going to take care of us.

Heidi and I scheduled a chunk of time to take some test drives. I was exchanging emails with a private seller in Savage (a southern suburb of Minneapolis) to plan a test drive, but something just didn't feel right. The car was great, a 2009 model with only 35,000 miles and a clean title. It was far and away the best one we had seen but it was still $2,000 more than we had to spend. I felt a strong sense that going for the test drive and making a low offer was not the right thing to do, so I sent him an email and told him that we would pay cash but we were $2,000 short of his asking price. I said that if our offer was too low and he did not want to take it, I would not be offended and would keep searching elsewhere. He replied that my offer was indeed too low, so I moved on in our car search.

A few days after our email conversation, the seller contacted me saying that he and his wife decided that they would take our offer. We had already scheduled a test drive in Hudson, WI for that afternoon and put a $100 deposit down for them to keep the car off the lot that day. So we decided to keep the appointment in Hudson and drive the car in Savage the next day. When we arrived in Hudson, we learned that the vehicle we had agreed to test drive had been sold a week earlier. Upon that unpleasant revelation, I called the seller in Savage and he agreed to let us test drive it that day. One hour later, after stops at Starbucks and McDonalds, we got to the seller's house.

The vehicle was in great condition. An elderly couple owned the car and barely ever drove it. Heidi and I took turns taking test drives and quickly agreed to buy it. However, it was a Saturday night and our bank would not be open again until Monday. I anxiously waited until Monday evening when Dan, my brother in law, went with me to pick up the car. Our search was over and we were very pleased with the result.

Someday the car will rust away and be gone like the rest of our earthly possessions. After a week I am still thrilled with our purchase but the point of all of this is not the car. Sometimes God needs to teach us things and He uses many creative ways. My disordered view of money needed to be dealt with and God decided to gently teach me through something as simple as buying a used car. This will be an ongoing lesson for the rest of my life but I feel that I am making progress toward trusting Him regarding money.