Our Astro is slowly dying. As I mentioned before, we have a serious van which is developing serious problems. One of them is the rear axle power hub is leaking oil, which may have something to do with why the "Service AWD" light is usually on.
Our plan has been to exchange it sometime after tax season, using part of our usually bountiful refund to pay whatever isn't covered by the trade. But last night I was fiddling with numbers, and came up with a much lower number than we usually get in return - about 10% of our usual refund. That number later turned out to be WRONG - I was calculating based on full wages, not with the deductions. But with that number in mind, my husband and I stared at each other in sick shock. We wouldn't be able to replace the Astro with that kind of money. We would have to repair it and make it limp along for another year.
Thankfully I found my error, and we should be getting a refund much like last years. But while we were freaking out, I was pondering what our alternatives would be. You see, we currently have one car payment for Goliath, my husbands huge SUV. The payment isn't big, but we don't want to have another one. We paid for the Astro with cash and trade. The Saturn ION that I traded for the Astro had carried a payment for only 4 months - I paid nearly all my savings as a down payment, and paid it off with my tax refund when that came through. I haven't had to drive a vehicle with a payment since the ex and I were getting ripped off by a buy here pay here lot. I really have an issue with car payments. Like, really, really have issues.
So, with that in mind, with no tax refund, we COULD get different car with a payment, we could buy it with trade and our 0% credit card and pay it off before the 0% expires, or we could fix the Astro and keep going for another year. (My other suggestion, that we try being a one car family for a while and use the bikes and bus more, did not go over well with Jake. He is serious about the safety and comfort of his family, and it makes him nervous if we don't all have access to a car. I have to respect that - it comes from his need to provide for and protect his family, and that is a Good Thing.)
Since we figured out our math error, though, I'm now wondering how feasible it would be to repair the Astro. It IS starting to falter in a lot of areas, and the mileage is lousy, but it's a paid-for vehicle that runs. I'm thinking of asking a garage what it would cost to keep it running another year, and doing a cost/benefit analysis complete with gas savings against a newer Odyssey or Town and Country, and letting the numbers make the decision for me. It could work out that the newer vehicle would be a smarter choice, especially since as I keep driving the Astro it loses more trade-in value. I don't want to drive it until it's barely worth the scrap metal it's made from.
Do you have any suggestions? Have you ever had to make the choice between nursing the car along for another year vs. trading up?