So We Bought a Car

Reflections & Ramblings: Volume Thirteen


A couple Sundays ago, an off-duty police officer backed into our car while Sarah was in the parking lot of a mall. The officer took full blame for the accident while he was there. Mall cops came and took down statements. They had the whole incident recorded on their security cameras. So we were hoping the process would all go smoothly with the insurance companies.

But no. The officer never called in the accident to make a claim, and so we had to work with both our insurance company and his insurance company to try and get this all settled. It was quite the headache.

After they tried telling us our car was valued at $6000, a complete fabrication, they said the cost of repairs would be around $3500. Sarah went after the insurance companies and after talking to many different people she finally convinced an adjuster from our insurance company to go out and check the damage. He said that it was without a doubt totaled. Kind of what we figured.

In the meantime, we had to get a rental car on our own because the officer’s insurance had not claimed liability yet because he had not called it in and he was not taking their calls. We were told he had eight days to call in the accident.

Eventually his insurance took 100% liability for the accident, and agreed to cover our rental car.

But that left us with having to find a new car.


We had actually been talking about getting a bigger car. Our 2005 Corolla had done us well over the years, but it was kind of small for our needs, and definitely was not safe in the snow here in the Omaha area. When we drive it around town we slide all over the place. I’m not convinced that the anti-lock breaks worked correctly, either.

We considered that maybe it was time to get a small SUV or a van for our family. A safer car to drive in the snow that would give us plenty of room.

Well. Now we had the opportunity to look for one.


Ok. Before I complain about shopping for a used car, I will first say that I acknowledge that Sarah and I have been extremely fortunate due to the generosity of Sarah’s mother and our general life situation that we both have never had to purchase a car of our own. To go 29 years without having to purchase a car is privilege and blessing. We realize that. And we are very grateful.


Looking for and purchasing a car is not fun. Not at all.

These days there are plenty of sites you can check online for used cars. And there’s lots of options. Which is great. It helps with the competitive pricing of the vehicles among other details. What we found out however, is that many of these dealerships either get these cars from auctions or sell them to auctions if they don’t sell in a decent amount of time. We discovered that it’s actually better to know where the car comes from and whom the car comes from. So to work with a dealership where they deal directly with the person who traded in their car is ideal.

We asked for some advice on Facebook, often a dangerous thing to do. We were thankful for most of the advice we got. It was very helpful.

We did learn that yes, we are privileged to only be having this conversation for the first time, but some people said things to us like,

“Don’t finance. Just pay cash.”

Oh, yeah. I hadn’t thought of that. That sounds like a great idea.

Um, excuse me…your white privilege is showing. 


We did for a brief while consider the option of leasing a new car. Looking for a used car was ending up pretty fruitless. No decent options out there. The few cars we had looked at and driven were not turning out to be good options for us. The lease option was looking pretty tempting for sure, but yes, we did realize that it was not a wise financial decision in a number of ways. You’re paying a very high price for features and for ease of mind. It is very short-sighted.

We made that our very last option. We were now determined to get a good used car for ourselves.


I looked at probably 100 or so cars online. Many of them ended up already being sold or not available by the time we asked about them.

Apparently the average amount of time one spends looking up cars online is 16 hours. I believe that wholeheartedly.

But I did finally find one that both Sarah and I liked.


The car was a 2010 Subaru Forester. A small SUV that would be good for our family. We also made a few more appointments with other dealerships to look at a CR-V, a Hyundai Sante Fe, and a Subaru Outback. But this was the one that looked like it had the most potential – the best bang for the buck.

We arrived at the dealership we were buying it from, and took the car for a test drive.

The salesman was the one who did the trade-in with the previous owner. She was a professor at University of Iowa, and she had gotten a raise and it was time to get a new car. She was the only owner, and had done a number of improvements to the vehicle like get new alloy rims, and added a wrack to the top. She did all the advised maintenance anytime she was told to, and kept the car in great condition. We were impressed.

We liked it more than we had thought we would have. The salesman was probably about my age or a little younger. And he wasn’t a snake like a few that we had met the day before. Our hopes were high for this option. But we still were hoping to also check out the CR-V. But they called Sarah and told her they had already sold it. This looked to be our best option. (Of course we didn’t want to let them know that).

After some back and forth. We talked about leaving to look at other cars, they of course didn’t like that. They were doing everything they could to keep us at that dealership. They went ahead and brought down the number to the low end of the Kelly Blue Book value like we had asked (about $2000 less than what they were asking). And then we suggested that they cover the cost of the tax by bringing the car down in price appropriately. They ended up doing that too.

Eventually, after a few more back and forths, we told them that we’d be willing to purchase it.

And so we did.


There are still some wrinkles to get ironed out with the insurance companies. Oh joy. But we think we will get those resolved here soon. We have Allstate, and up until this accident I have been fairly happy with them. But their service was not very helpful this time around, when we needed them most, and sometimes they were outright dishonest. We are going to shop around for another insurance company now.


So here we are. We now have a safe, all wheel drive SUV for our family. I feel much better about Sarah driving it through the snow and ice as she goes to and from work. And when we (hopefully) take our vacation again in Colorado later this year, we’ll have something that isn’t ridiculous to drive up and down those mountains like we did with our Corolla last October.




Published by Andrew

a ragamuffin dad planting some sequoias

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