The minivan is pretty clearly on its last legs, so we decided to finally bite the bullet and get a new vehicle.
Jerry did a lot of online shopping and decided that a Kia Soul was a good fit for our budget that still had enough cargo room to haul a bunch of martial arts weapons around. We were able to go over to the K'GoGos' place (three? weekends ago) and were able to test-drive Cris's, which was a nice no-pressure way to check out that we really did like it.
So then we started looking for ones we could buy. I will say that the entire car-shopping process is a lot easier than it was the last time we did this. Not only is absolutely everything listed online, there are also website like cargurus that will tell you what's a reasonable price for that particular vehicle.
So Jerry did all the online shopping and I went to the credit union and got a loan preapproval and ran the numbers to figure out what we could comfortably afford and did the in-person looking at the top candidates. (Many of which had already been sold.) My mom also looked around some in Nebraska for us, since cars are often cheaper out there. She found one that was likely, but the guy selling it couldn't deal with a SMART preapproval, so that ended up being a no-go.
Anyway, after a lot of looking and prepping, we found one we liked and decided to go for it, so Thursday two weeks ago we drove all the way down to Centennial to buy it. Turns out the other thing that the internet has made easier is that you can just google "how to negotiate a car price" and get a bunch of good advice on that part of it, too. The one we were looking at had a posted price that the websites said was a fair deal. The dealer had signs posted declaring the fixed amount that they add on to the negotiated price (to cover costs and their baseline profit); we followed the tips we'd found online and got them to reduce the price by that amount, so that put us back into "fair deal" territory when all was said and done, and it was within our budget, so we decided that was good. (We figured they had come down by a fair chunk and weren't likely to come down further by that much again or even anything close to it, and we didn't care enough to spend a lot more time haggling over a couple hundred bucks, so good enough.)
The actual buying was then a little bit adventuresome, because the salesman sent us off to the finance guy, and there I discovered that I'd left my checkbook at home! Whoops! We were on a time limit at this point to get Jerry back up to Boulder for work, and we didn't want to make another trip all the way back down there to finish things off, so there was a little bit of a scramble to get it all sorted out. We figured out that we could put most of the down payment on the credit card (hey, free miles) and then we ran over to a nearby Wells Fargo to pull cash out of the ATM to cover the rest. We hit the limit on how much I could pull out with my card, but fortunately Jerry had his card, and we were able to get the other half of it with his, which gave us enough to go back and have the entire down payment we'd planned for covered and not have to redo all the financing. Woot!
So we drove home with a new car. It's a 2017 Kia Soul with only 17k miles on it. It's dark brown with a white top, and Jerry dubbed it Cappuccino (Cappy for short) because that's what it looks like. It's very nice, and we are very pleased with it.
(Postscript: To add to all the excitement, at the same time that we were dealing will all this car buying, we had a clog in the pipes that resulted in an overflow of blackwater into the laundry room. Super gross. We got a guy to come and snake the drain, and then a couple days later it overflowed again. Fortunately, this time it was only graywater from the washer. We had a warranty on the work, so the guy came back and did it again, and this time it seems to be all fixed. The basic problem is that he was going through a 1.5-inch pipe (where the overflow happened) to try to clear a 3-inch pipe where the clog was, and it's hard to get the snake in there. The other fortunate bit is that it only affected the upstairs plumbing and the washing machine drain, so we still had usable toilets, kitchen, and shower downstairs and in the basement. The previous owners of our house appear to have drywalled over the pipes where the cleanout is, so if it happens again we'll probably have to cut a hole in a wall, but at least at this point we're pretty sure where to do that, and it'll be in the garage or the laundry room. So that was an adventure. A gross, gross, adventure involving lots and lots of laundry.)