Ever since I got the news that the frame on my truck was going to be replaced, I’ve had the idea kicking around my head that I should take the opportunity to add a vehicle to our fleet that can actually hold all of us. We’re a family of five, and the kids have been jammed three across in the back seat of Mrs. P’s 4Runner since the day Ginger came home from the hospital. Not a problem when they were a little more compact, but now that my son is pushing 6′ 2″, it’s not an ideal situation. As an aside, I finally decided on a code name for my son, to go along with my daughters Grace and Ginger. In keeping with the alliterative convention, and in celebration of his stature, I shall henceforth refer to him as Groot.
With a strong possibility of another trip out west in the near future, we decided to concentrate on vehicles that would make the trip more pleasant. Sure, the minivan we rented was serviceable, but we figured we could do better. We first tried a conversion van, and as comfy as it would have been across country, it really had no other use, as the five of us would not be likely to pile in it just for a half-hour trip to Grammy’s.
So, being a Toyota fanboy, I started looking for used Sequoias. The key feature is a third row of seats so we can avoid the three-across seating plan. I hit up craigslist and while the secondary market for Sequoias isn’t exactly hopping – people tend to hold onto them – there were a fair number to choose from locally, mainly at dealers. We test drove a few, getting turned off by used-car salesman scene, but eventually we more or less settled on a 2004 a few miles away.
But I wasn’t feeling it – residual skeeve from the used-car lot, perhaps. So I cruised CL once more and found another 2004 with way fewer miles – only 79,000! Not even to it’s first timing belt service interval yet! And pretty much the same price as the other one, for pretty much the same trim level, except the leather seats, which everyone hated anyway. Trouble was, it was in upstate New York. Way upstate, up near Lake George. Did I really want to drive two and a half hours to buy a car from a private party? After exchanging a few emails, it seemed to be worth the trip. So we piled into the 4Runner in what might have been the last time all five of us were in the car together and headed out.
Turns out the guy had greatly misrepresented the vehicle in his ad. It said the car had “normal dents and dings for a car this age.” There’s no way this car is anything like normal. At eleven years old, there are exactly three dents and two scratches, and the finish still looks showroom fresh. The interior is immaculate, and the level of care he put into the car is evident everywhere you look. It even still has new-car smell! We crawled over, under and around it, took it for a good long ride, tested everything, and came back and made an offer. He countered with $200 higher, we shook hands, did the paperwork, and drove it home on his plates. He even threw in a pair of rear brake rotors he had lying around.
I think the vehicle fits in well with our needs. With just the 4Runner and my Tundra, we didn’t have a credible way to mount a long journey with all of us and any reasonable amount of gear. The Sequoia will be more than comfortable enough for the next trip to Idaho, and with a hard-shell luggage rack on the roof and the flexibility to remove one of the seats from the third row, we’ll be able to stretch out a bit better than even the rented minivan allowed. True, the mileage will suck, but with four-wheel drive, we’ll be better equipped to handle any early snow while crossing the Rockies and Great Plains in late October.
It’ll also be a good around-town vehicle when we all have to go somewhere together, even if it’s just a Walmart run like we did tonight. And with two driving-age teens, a third vehicle is probably a good idea as well. It also offers some “two is one” redundancy – I’ve been stalling on doing the 4Runner’s timing belt, but now that we have another vehicle that we all fit in, I’ll finally be able to tackle that project.
I think we’ve also enhanced our bug-out capabilities here. Until the Sequoia, a one-vehicle bug-out would have been pretty limited in terms of the gear we could carry in the 4Runner. By adding the Sequoia, two drivers could carry all five family members, the dog, and a hell of a lot of gear. With one more driver, the truck could join the convoy and we could really haul some gear. Oh, yeah, and about selling the truck once the frame is replaced: not so much interested in doing that now.
I’m pretty pleased with the purchase, and very pleased that we were able to pay cash and not increase our debt load. Yeah, we tapped into our ready reserves, and that scares me a bit, but this was not an opportunity to be missed.
As pristine as the car is, there’s still a fair amount of work to do, mainly in loading out the right emergency gear. It’s also going to need a decent inverter, some two-way radios, a thermoelectric cooler for keeping insulin cold, and maybe a few other techno-toys that’ll make the long trip more manageable. More on that as the summer unfolds.