First, I’d tell myself to breathe and relax a little before taking on the decision process. I’m a Catholic Christian, so I’d also suggest praying to God for calm and then for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Now for some thoughts you may consider.
I’m concerned about this Ford dealer. Did you purchase the van from that dealer as new or used? This forgiving the loan deal on condition that you purchase another vehicle from them sounds different from a trade-in deal. Do you know enough people working at the dealership that tends you toward trusting what they are telling you? Did you check on blue book value including mileage? Suggest being very cautious even though I realize that you need to make a decision and obtain a working vehicle that meets your requirements and that is also reliable. I also just realized that the dealership’s finance company holds the note on your loan so you’re somewhat at the dealer’s mercy. I guess that the Aerostar is not drivable since you need an alternator.
You may be able to purchase a remanufactured alternator on trade for your bad one for a fee less than what you’d pay for a new alternator. Keep in mind that the dealer may want to sell you new parts that may be of better quality than the after-market and rebuilt parts, but they’ll be more expensive when you may only want to get the Aerostar running for now while you complete an organized search for a replacement vehicle in advance of a very long trip of say 200+ miles round trip.
You certainly don’t want to tell the dealer how much cash you have on hand to spend because they might steer you toward a vehicle that the purchase of which may cause you to not get a good deal but spend all of your available cash.
I suggest thinking about negotiating a price for your replacement vehicle first, and then talk about the “trade-in” deal afterward.
Even though you may not be a vehicle expert, you are still a woman and a Mom. My point is that you should still trust your instincts somewhat. If a proposed deal seems to good to be true, it probably is. It’s that woman’s intuition thing. When my mother was alive, I’d swear that she could smell out a bad deal when she heard or saw one. She raised me almost exclusively by herself, and I can’t think of anyone who could’ve done a better job on extremely limited resources. Please don’t disallow your feelings and instincts. What does DH have to say? Certainly you’ve asked for his advice?
As for your requirements, something being able to survive the Autobahn, the Nissans or Toyotas listed may work for you in Germany or Japan depending on their condition and mileage. I don’t have a lot of Chevy experience, so I’m not much help in that regard. If relocating overseas is a likely event for you, perhaps you can research whether or not you can readily find repair mechanics in whatever country you end up moving that will be able to repair the make/model of vehicle you purchase. I would think that Nissan and Toyota repair would be easily found in Japan. I guess that your DH will not have much choice as to where his next Army hitch happens, but if you can predict when it will happen, you can arrange to visit elderly relatives in CA and KY before the move. It might be costly, but you may be able to rent a vehicle to travel to CA and KY. In that case, try to rent 2 different vehicle types in which you have interest so as to try each of them on long trips. Depending upon how long your DH will be stationed overseas, you might consider the tough road of you and the girls staying in the states until DH returns. That of course is a personal decision that you may factor in.
It seems to me that you may want to list, organize, and prioritize all of your choices, and then after you have set your priorities, you can start from the most important and most urgent to you and then work down to the least important and least urgent. Your short-term goal may be go just do what you can to keep the Aerostar running for now, and then take on the longer term question of what vehicle you purchase to best meet your requirements.
You may want to revisit your factors below because it is unlikely that you’ll be able to get everything you want.
So I have a lot of factors to look at:
– my family of 4 (2 girls 8-6 that do not want to be touching each other in the car)
– we have and will continue to take “road trips” to California and Kentucky starting from Texas each year (elderly family members to visit before its too late)
– descent gas mileage
– the possibility of relocating to Germany or Japan with DH’s Army career (something that can survive the Autobahn)
I need a reliable vehicle that can handle all of this.
Decent gas mileage with hauling capability including room for your 2 girls in the back seat without touching each other may not be easy to get. Perhaps DH can talk with an Army buddy who’s been in Germany or Japan to get the gouge on the best way to go for a vehicle choice there.
I’ll pray for God to provide you with the prudence, patience, and right judgment to do what you decide to do.
Gotta go. God bless, and hang in there. I’m serious when I suggest praying to God about it. I don’t know your religion of choice, but God is always there for you. You just need to ask Him for help.
I’ll think about this topic further, and advise if I think of anything else that I believe would be of value to share.