O, Toyota

If someone is walking or driving behind me when I back out of a parking space, my car starts to beep and a red light on my dashboard blinks. When I pulled into the space and maybe got too close to the opposing car, the same thing happened, only the sound was different so I could distinguish where the problem was.

On the open highway, of which there are many in New Mexico, I’m quick to set the cruise control for the maximum speed limit. The cruise control in my car is ideal because it will slow me down when I get too close to the car in front of me and it will even sound an alarm if I get real close.

It does have a tendency when I pull into the passing lane in such situations to go into a quick acceleration mode that exceeds the set speed limit, but then it settles back to the right speed and I continue on my way.

It’s a comfortable car that despite its youth of six years we’ve already put more than 100,000 miles on. It’s good for road trips.

The only problem with our car is that it’s a Toyota, a 2004 Sienna XLE, complete with a DVD player for the grandchildren, heated front seats and lots of room to stow luggage, folding chairs and tripods. We’ve hauled queen-size mattresses, a wine cooler, futons and day beds in it. It has had great value for us.

But I have to wonder what value it has given Toyota’s current problems.

We’ve debated whether or not we want to trade it in. When we’ve mentioned that in the past, some people have said, Oh, it’s a Toyota, you can get 200,000 miles or 300,000 miles on it.

We were not sure we wanted to wait that long. So we laid down a marker for when we would get a new car—when we put 135,000 on this one. That was before Toyota’s current problems, none of which we’ve experienced, by the way. Our car has been all but recall free. You have to wonder what went wrong a Toyota since 2004.

Suddenly a trade isn’t looking too good. Despite its quality, our Toyota has lost value beyond the Blue Book’s numbers (between $7400 and $9000). I would imagine I could trade for another Toyota and get better than average on the Blue Book, but what if Toyota hasn’t solved its problems or what if Toyota doesn’t even exist anymore? I am not a risk taker.

So we’ve decided that as long as it runs well, we’re going to keep it until it has no value at all. Just when we thought we had a good car. Well, at least we don’t have car payments. Maybe that’s our car’s value.

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