SOUDER: Buying a new family vehicle? The Price is (not) Right

-A A +A

Yes, car shoppingcan be fun – exciting even. Car buying, on the other hand, is a colossal pain in the rear end – especially the side on which you carry your wallet.

By Chuck Souder

Our family is a mostly normal, middle class American family – a mom, dad, two kids and a minivan named Daphne. (If you think naming your vehicles is not normal, this is one of the reasons I used the word “mostly” in the first sentence, and you’ll have to take it up with my wife.)

Unfortunately, Daphne is at the age and life stage where it’s hard to know how much more service we can get from her. Repairs are coming a little more frequently, and we are always afraid that the next issue could be the big one.

The latest issue was that Daphne needed some new shoes, er…that is, tires.

Now you might think that tires are a normal maintenance kind of a thing that should be expected. And you would be right, except that only 40,000 miles earlier I had put 70,000-mile tires on her, thinking they would be the last ones I would need to buy before it was time for a different vehicle.

But because of bad alignment, the tires wore quicker than they should have with the result being that you had to hold the steering at the 2 o’clock position in order to go straight.

I’m not a mechanic, but even I knew that wasn’t good. We were faced with the dilemma of putting money into the van for new tires and an alignment (and hoping nothing else would go wrong), or trading her in for a newer model.

So, two weekends ago, my wife and I loaded up our kids and went to Louisville to go car shopping. That was the loud groaning sound you no doubt heard.

However, unlike my children, some people actually think that car shopping is exciting. And I admit that car shopping can be fun.

Taking new cars on test drives. Basking in the “new car smell” of leather seats and fresh tires. Imagining what it would be like to own a car with heated and cooled self-adjusting seats, a sunroof (or moon roof), satellite radio, GPS, iPod ports, a CD changer, DVD players for the kids and a microwave oven.

(OK, I’m making up the part about the microwave – those don’t come out until next year’s models.)

Yes, car shoppingcan be fun – exciting even. Car buying, on the other hand, is a colossal pain in the rear end – especially the side on which you carry your wallet.

Now, I realize that some people get a new car every couple of years. Some people even choose to be fleeced...er...that is...to lease a car.

I, however, come from a long line of tightwads who believe that, as expensive as cars have become, you should drive a vehicle until the day before the wheels fall off.

Given that pre-disposition, you can imagine my response to the salesman who said, “Oh no, you don’t want to put any more money into your old van – haven’t you gotten your money’s worth out of it?”


Well, we test-drove a few cars and got some “bottom line” prices. We were asked, “Is there any number I can show you that will cause you to buy this car today?”

(There was, but my number didn’t have as many numbers in it as theirs.)

We finished our day at the Volkswagen dealer at the corner of Hurstbourne Lane and I-64 because my wife wanted to drive one of those 50-mpg wagons (or is that “wagens”?) that they have.

It was about 5:45, and we could tell a storm was coming, but we decided to take a short drive anyway.

We left our kids (who do not like storms at all) in the safety of the all-glass front showroom (!) and pulled out. Unfortunately the storm was moving quicker than we thought, and it descended upon us before we were able to get back to the dealership.

Dripping wet from our 15-foot dash from the parking lot to the showroom, we were greeted by two scowls from our children (I’m pretty sure we lost their votes for “Parents of the Year”).

Waiting for the storm to pass, we watched as the large “Bachman Chevrolet” sign blew over and onto (and into) the sporty BMW convertible parked underneath it. As the car’s windshield shattered and pieces of the sign crashed into other cars and the 2-story glass windows in the showroom, we decided we had had enough excitement for one day.

As I was thinking about the whole car-buying experience, it occurred to me that sometimes we in the church try to “sell” Jesus like some car dealers sell cars.

We tell you all the features (benefits), emphasize the “sizzle” and “sweeten the pot” with rebates or special offers.

In the end, though the preacher tells you all that Jesus will do for you, somehow it seems like you’re doing God a favor by accepting poor Jesus into your heart. I’m not sure how much further away from the truth we could get.

As Ephesians 2 (and the rest of the Bible) makes clear, the reality is that apart from Christ we are dead in our sins and in line for God’s wrath (not a particularly good spiritual spot), and we are helpless to do anything about it.

The whole account of the Bible is the story of God going to extraordinary measures to make it possible for us to change that spiritual (and eternal) reality through a relationship with Jesus. Far from doing God a favor, to choose to follow Jesus is a life-saving decision for us – but also one that requires everything that we have.

That’s part of the sales pitch we preachers sometimes leave out, but it’s true none-the-less. Still, in spite of the cost, God’s proposition is the best deal going.

Well, in the end (for now) we decided to simply buy Daphne some new shoes, cross our fingers and hope to get another year out of her.

Although, I’m thinking we missed a chance on a good deal on a slightly used BMW convertible.


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org