Piston Slap: The Buy or Rent Pitfall?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the buy or rent pitfall

Henry writes:


My wife and I are planning on taking a large 20 day vacation this summer where we plan on driving aver 5000 miles with our three older children. My wife drives a 2008 Ford Taurus X, which we love, but does not have enough space for a family of five for such a long journey. We were originally going to rent a minivan from the local enterprise, but a two week rental will set us back $1,300 with tax.


Recently I noticed that there are some good deals to be had on fourth generation Chrysler minivans. My wife and I bought two of these vans new, a 2001 and a 2005, and we loved both vans. This has me thinking, why not just buy a loaded up low mileage van for around $3,000-$4,000, use it for the summer/trip, and then sell it after we are done. Any advice?

Sajeev answers:

If you have the cash flow/time to buy-then-sell AND assuming you can do a bit of repair with your own hands, then yes, you should absolutely do this! This will be cheaper than renting (obviously) and maybe even flying to your destination. Plus, road trips are all about the journey. That said, let’s make sure you are safe and not stranded on the journey.

A list of items you must check on your short list of minivans you want to buy, then sell:

  • Tires, tires, tires. Road trips are hard on old tires, so new-ish tires are almost mandatory. And not just tread depth wise, also age wise. Don’t forget the spare, either!
  • Service records: buy the van with the most comprehensive service history. Even if it’s Barney purple and has stains/rips inside, that’s the safest bet.
  • Fresh fluids, good rubber hoses/wipers/belts/vacuum lines, fresh brakes and all the stuff we preach in this column on a regular basis.
  • Clear headlights with new bulbs, as you will drive at night and want to actually see where the hell you’re going.

There are other granular bits to discuss (strength of transaxle if subjected to neglected ATF) but that’s hard to armchair in terms of being a relevant concern to your short-term ownership. I would buy the van with the most records, the best tires/brakes you can find and hope you can add value in your ownership (via repairs and detailing) so you can actually make money on your vacation!

Best of luck with that.

[Image: Shutterstock user Lightspring]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Piston Slap: In Praise of the 2005 Honda CR-V

Piston Slap: Travel Well, Work Well?

Piston Slap: Better Steering without the Better Car?

Piston Slap: Sealed for an Infinite Life?

Piston Slap: Daddy’s Daily Driven Droptop?

Join the conversation
2 of 82 comments
  • CapVandal CapVandal on Mar 29, 2014

    Non airport Enterprise has all sorts of deals. The list price on larger vehicles is high. Don't buy and sell a car. If it goes great, no one will care about saving $1000 or whatever. But if it goes south, and the vacationed is either ruined or seriously messed up, it goes on your permanent record. No statute of limitations. "Remember when Dad bought the junky minivan?" You buy a used sports car. "Remember when Dad bought the minivan. Some people never learn." They will be telling this story at your funeral.

  • CapVandal CapVandal on Mar 29, 2014

    From my local Enterprise Web Site: A Tahoe for a grand. Or Standard Size SUV for $650 Large SUV Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition, or similar Room to seat 7 passengers V8 engine Air conditioning Premium audio system with AM/FM/CD Cruise control Power windows and remote power locks View other Vehicle Classes: Mileage Restrictions MILEAGE IS UNLIMITED IN THE CONTINENTAL USA. Your Dates and Times Start: Apr 1, 2014,Noon End: Apr 14, 2014,Noon Price Quote 2 Weeks @ $ 476.99 USD $ 953.98 USD VLCRF $ 14.30 USD Subtotal $ 968.28 USD AUTO RENTAL TAX $ 48.42 USD SALES TAX $ 0.00 USD * Total Estimated Charges $ 1,016.70 USD Standard SUV Hyundai Santa Fe, or similar Room to seat 5 passengers Automatic Transmission Air Conditioning AM/FM CD Player 6-Cylinder Performance Tilt/cruise Control Split Rear Seat View other Vehicle Classes: Mileage Restrictions MILEAGE IS UNLIMITED IN THE CONTINENTAL USA. Your Dates and Times Start: Apr 1, 2014,Noon End: Apr 14, 2014,Noon Price Quote 2 Weeks @ $ 301.99 USD $ 603.98 USD VLCRF $ 14.30 USD Subtotal $ 618.28 USD AUTO RENTAL TAX $ 30.92 USD SALES TAX $ 0.00 USD * Total Estimated Charges $ 649.20 USD

  • KOKing I car-sat an A32 while its owner was out of the country, and the then whiz-bang VQ motor was great, but the rest of it wasn't any better than a XV10 or XV20. Definitely the start of its downward slide, unfortunately.
  • Norman Stansfield Why are leaf springs still a thing on this truck?
  • Syke The expected opening comments. Have had mine for two years now, the car has done exactly what I want out of it, and a little better. I'm quite happy with the car, haven't had to adjust my driving style or needs in the slightest, and . . . . oh, did a mention that I don't give a damn what today's price at the pump is?Probably going to go for a second one in the coming year, the wife's happy enough with mine that she's ready and willing to trade in the Nissan Kicks. Eventually, the not often used van will end up getting traded on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, basically ensuring that we don't use gas for anything except the occasional long trip.And the motorcycles.
  • Bobbysirhan I've never found the Allegro appealing before, but a few years of EV rollouts make it seem downright desirable.
  • Scoutdude I know that dealership. Way back when my friend's grandfather was that Turner that owned the Chrysler Plymouth International dealer, in MacPherson. Of course the International was dropped when they didn't deem the Scout reason enough to keep the franchise. I moved from there in late 1978 so it is possible I saw this running around town way back when.