Need to help a friend

We have a friend who lives in St. Louis, MO (we live in WA)and is the mother of 3 adopted boys and grandmother (caretaker) of two very young grandchildren. She is in desperate need of a car and we would like to anonymously help her out. We are able to contribute some cash from our savings to help, but perhaps not enough to purchase a reliable piece of transportation. Our request is this: Is there anyone reading this in the St. Louis area that might know of a charity/organization that could match or add to our contribution? AND…could help us out with the purchase and delivery of this car? We don’t really know how to make this work–and are open to any suggestions. Of course we are aware that this is a public discourse and we need to be careful. But we figure it’s worth a shot to at least ask…or at least try some CAR TALK. :>) Thanks in advance for any suggestions…

How about his; You start looking around where you live for a minivan(this will be the best vehicle for the number of children you say she takes care of) you can afford to pay with cash, or finance for a very short period of time. After getting a mechanic to look the car over, before you buy it, and it get a clean bill of health, but it.

After you’ve purchased the vehicle and driven it around town for a little while to make sure nothing major is gonna happen, one of you takes the van and another takes your normal car, and you both go visit your friend in St. Louis for a few days and surprise them with the van as a gift.

This will serve 3 purposes. 1, you will know the car is in good running condition before she gets it. 2, you’ll get to have a nice little vacation away from home, and 3, you’ll get to see your friend and her reaction in person when she gets it.

Thanks so much for this great suggestion. A van would be perfect, but we suspect out of our reach without some help. The Car Talk guys say a Sienna or Odyssey van are the best of the bunch, but even used they are pretty spendy and she really needs reliable transportation–not something she (or we) would have to worry about. Would go to St. Louis to buy it there, and let her drive it around if we could–but sadly cannot–which is why we’re posting this. Plus, we really want/need this to be an anonymous gift. We were kinda hoping for a reference to an organization or perhaps a church group in St. Louis that we might be able to work through. Thanks however, for giving this some thought! Every day we’re amazed at how great people (strangers!) are–thanks again…

I think it is going to be the (perhaps “a”) church that helps you out. At times my local Catholic church has helped me with “life issues”. Perhaps this church has had a car donated to them and they could see it fit to donate it to your friend. I think posting your question here was not at all improper, it was a great idea to “get the ball rolling” so to speak.

You’re right…we hoped this might be a good place to begin. Many churches help folks out–so maybe one in St. Louis will hear about this and lend a hand. Never hurts to ask–and hope! Thanks!

While the expensive Sienna and Odyssey minivans may be the “best of the bunch”, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, etc., minivans depreciate much more quickly pricewise and are still good bets if checked by a mechanic.

Check the prices on late model used vans such as these–they should have many years of service left if they have been maintained properly (again, check it out with a mechanic before purchase). We purchased a used Chrysler Town & Country 6 years ago for a price we were happy with and have had few repairs these past 6 years–a comparable Toyota or Honda minivan may have been a tad bit more reliable per Consumer Reports but I still think we are money ahead due to the big difference in purchase price–and our van has been excellent. The utility these vans offer a family is also hard to beat, especially when you take one on vacation.

I applaud your efforts to help someone in need, especially anonymously.

Here in Maryland there is a charity called “Vehicles For Change” that does exactly what you describe. Research to see if they operate in MO or if there is a similar organization.

Great news about the Town and Country–six years is a good run and would certainly be something we’d consider for our friend. If I might ask–what was the mileage when you purchased your Town and Country–about what mileage should we consider in a used one? Will check out the cost of used vans at your suggestion…Thanks so much! Again, we really appreciate everyone’s comments and suggestions!

Vehicles For Change–great! Will look them up and contact them for a possible referral in St. Louis or MO. Thank you!

ALL of the big non-profit charitable organizations have car programs…They all accept vehicle donations, they scrap most of them, but the cream they recycle to themselves and families in need…All it takes is a phone call and finding the right person…

She needs reliable transportation first. Though I love the minivan, I think all of them used are a gamble. I would reluctantly agree with T and C if initial cost is so important. This is a tough one considering safety of the kids and “inexpensive” cars.

Had no idea this was the case–sent an email to Vehicles For Change in MD and am waiting a reply–if we don’t hear from them, we’ll call them in the next few days. Any tricks to “finding the right person”? Again, we have some cash to contribute to this cause, so we’d certainly consider giving it to the organization, if we had some assurance the vehicle was “the cream” and going to work for her. Thanks for this info–every bit is getting us closer to finding our friend a car!

Yes,we agree–the safety of the kids is vital as well. Sadly a new van is way out of our reach. We do feel that if we could get an organization to match our funds, or consider offering her one of the “cream” type of car/vans mentioned earlier, that has good safety features–seat belts, air bags etc.–a late model used van like the Town and Country would work. But you’re right, reliable transportation and safety are both major considerations. Thanks for helping us think this through…

When it comes down to it, any used car is a gamble. If you know a car’s history from a prior owner, if you have a mechanic check out a candidate prior to purchase, etc., etc., etc.–all of these significantly lessen the risk but won’t eliminate it entirely no matter what the car.

I have friends who have purchased used minivans (Ford, GM, Chrysler/Dodge, Honda) and have been happy (they did due diligence, though). I had a brother wanting to get a van (for sale at a dealer)–he got it pre-inspected and found it had significant problems–he walked away, of course. He bought a different minivan from the original owner which is the Town and Country we later purchased from him (we are the third owners and it now has 145,000 miles). It had every service record from day 1 and was well maintained. And I have friends who have bought lemon cars (who didn’t do their due diligence).

Yes, any used car is a risk, but the risk can be lessened by doing some due diligence. Most minivans depreciate rapidly (not Honda or Toyota) and can be a bargain and I would argue that most are a good bet when checked out in advance. I sincerely wish janandgeorge the best in finding something (car or van) which will meet this family’s needs.

We purchased the Town & Country with close to 100,000 miles, but we knew its history and it had all the service records. Normally I would advise buying a used minivan with fewer miles but above all, have a mechanic inspect it first. 60K-70K miles is a good consideration balanced with depreciation.

By the way, my sister’s family bought a new Nissan Quest minivan years ago…their daughter later took it to college and now their son (a Junior in High School) drives it and it has over 200,000 miles.

Exactly. Car buying is a gamble at best. On the other hand, as you say, asking the right questions, getting as much info about the car as possible and checking out not only the car, but the people selling it and their reliability (original owners with good service records as you point out) help to hedge the bet. We are working in good faith to make this happen for our friend, and really appreciate your comments and good wishes.

As an update: “Vehicles for Change” folks said that they do not have a contact in St. Louis, but have referred us to another group– We are in the process of contacting them. Thanks again, folks! All this information helps!

Yes, the Sienna and the Odyssey are the best minivans, but they also have a high resale value. Don’t limit your search to the the Sienna and the Odyssey. Also check out the Chrysler Town and Country/Dodge Caravan (same vehicle, different names) and other brands, including crossover vehicles (front end of an SUV, rear end of a minivan). Including crossover vehicles could help you expand the possibilities. Then get some help to make the delivery anonymous. You could drop off the vehicle in the dead of night, and have someone dressed as Santa deliver the keys the next day.

Wow–Nissan Quest–will keep that in mind as well…60-70K sounds good especially since yours was 100K and did so well. We understand that a lot has to do with good service and kind of miles (city vs country)driven. Thanks!

Good suggestions! And what fun to drop it off in the middle of the night–and have someone dressed as Santa deliver the keys!! Doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make this happen before Christmas though–and since we can’t make it to St. Louis–we’ll have to make it work another way… But loved your suggestion!