Back in 2006 when I was searching for the Ryomobile, I found the perfect match in a Scion xB, and it has served me well over the last 4 years and 60,000 miles. But times change, and now that I’m thinking of spending a significant amount of time this Summer up on my property, the xB’s inability to navigate the dirt road leading up to my hut will be a significant drawback. While wrenching a 800lb trailer up by hand was fun, and hauling hundreds of pounds of supplies using a handcart gave me a great workout (you shoulda seen my abs), I’ll be completely honest and say, I don’t want to do that again. It’d be nice if I can drive up to my hut with supplies and equipment, so that I could spend less time hauling, and more time doing other things. The thought of having to spend half a day just to haul in supplies by foot discouraged me from going up there on a short trip this month, and when my tools prevent me from doing something, that’s when I know I need a new tool.
So, basically, I need a truck. An SUV would do, but pickup trucks tend to be cheaper, and also lighter and therefor more fuel efficient. Seeing how I’ve had the back seats in my Scion folded down permanently for the last year or so, I doubt I’ll miss the passenger capacity. But hauling dirt? Mmm. That sounds useful.
Of course, while trucks are great for going off into the woods, they’re not so great everywhere else. They get worse gas mileage than my puny xB, and they’re harder to park. So, seeing how I’ll probably be a city-mountain-hybrid Ryo for a while, would it make sense to completely ditch the Ryomobile? Also, I haven’t finished paying off the Ryomobile (I have about $4k left to go) and on top of that, I’m not exactly drowning in cash like I used to… So I have a few options:
- Trade in the Ryomobile for a truck
Pros: This is the simplest option, and I could end up with a vehicle that could last much longer than what I have now, since trucks generally outlast cheap 4-doors.
Cons: There are numerous downsides to getting a used truck. One is that you don’t exactly know what kind of condition they’re in, and they generally don’t come with any warranty (my xB has an extended warranty out to 75k miles). I’ll also be spending more money on gas, and would have to deal with all the headaches of owning a truck while living in the city (if I return to the city). On top of that, according to KBB, my xB has a trade-in value of $6500-7000, which means I only get $2500-3k after paying back what I owe. A decent truck will cost at least $10k, so I’d have to shell out cash, or go further into debt.
- Sell the xB, then buy a used truck
Pros: If I sell the xB privately instead of trading it into a dealer, I can probably sell it for a higher price than the trade-in value. With another 15k miles left on the warranty, I’m pretty sure I can get a decent price, since buyers won’t have to worry about it falling apart in a week.
Cons: Selling privately is a hassle. I’d have to get the car cleaned up, inside and out. I also might have to get some dents removed and the windshield replaced, and who knows how much that’d cost. Then, I’d also have to pay off the balance on the loan before I can get the title and sell it. And only then, would I be able to go buy a truck. Oh, and I’d have to deal with not having a car after I’ve sold the Scion but before I’ve bought a truck. I guess I could rent a car, but that’s more money I’d be spending…
- Keep the xB, buy a clunker
Pros: I’ll get a truck that I can use for going up to my property, but I’ll still have the xB for all other times. Keeping the xB and driving it into the ground will also allow me to extract every last dollar of value from it, and frankly, it’ll probably last me at least another few years.
Cons: I’ll have to spend cash on the clunker, while continuing to make payments on the xB. I’d have to pay double the insurance, two registration fees, and figure out what to do with one while I’m driving the other. A clunker also is more likely to just stop running, and when up in the mountains, far from civilization, I’m not sure I want to worry about that. Also, when clunkers die, they tend to require more money than they’re worth to keep running.
- Sell the xB, buy a clunker (or two)
Pros: I’d have my truck, and I could also be free of debt, and possibly even come out ahead. If I can sell the xB for $8k, that’d give me $4k to spend on a clunker. Or two. It’d be kinda cool to buy a couple of ’89 Toyota pickup trucks, and use one for parts to keep the other running (well, and learn how to do that).
Cons: I end up with a truck (or two trucks) that could die at any moment, and leave me stranded and immobile somewhere.
- Swap the xB for a truck with someone for the summer
Pros: Surely there’s someone out there with a truck who doesn’t really need it and would rather drive a car that gets 33mpg for a while. I can use a truck while I’m up on my property, but I’ll have the xB when I come back to civilization. Ideally, this won’t cost me anything.
Cons: I’m not sure this is something people do, and I’m not sure how I’d find someone trustworthy to swap cars with. I’m also not sure how the insurance will work out.
I think right now, I’m leaning towards either just doing a trade-in, or buying a clunker and keeping the Ryomobile, with a slight preference for the former if I can find a good deal. I saw a ’04 Toyota Tacoma today for a little over $10k. It was one of the smaller trims, which are also reasonably fuel efficient, so I probably wouldn’t mind having one of ’em as my primary car.
What do y’all think?
Well, I’m generally against purchasing foreign cars personally, especially since our current economic crisis. However, before the U.S. economy went to pot, I thought Tacoma’s were pretty cute. You really need a truck on rough terrain as well. Go ahead and get the Tacoma.
“Foreign cars” aren’t alway as foreign as you might think…. For instance, Toyota’s trucks are actually assembled in the US, at a plant in San Antonio.
I think the Toyotas are great trucks (and cars) but they tend to be overpriced on the used market, which is good if you plan on reselling it in the short term.
A good value, around here at least, is the Ford Ranger. Comparably equipped they cost 25% less than a Toyota. There are LOTS of them out there in a number of variations. I have a SuperCab 2wd with the 4 liter engine. I have 160K on it and it is still going strong and been reliable the whole time. I’ve owned and abused it since new. My brother has the Toyota, which is a nice truck but I wouldn’t trade him.
There’s a definitely a premium on Toyotas, so adding other brands to my list makes sense. It seems like the Ford Ranger and Nissan Frontier are also in a similar class as the Tacoma.
When I recently bought a new Corolla, I sold my 13 year old Chrysler (Complete POS) to the dealer as a trade in. i just put a $100 battery in it, but only get $200 out of the dealer!! Because of this, it’s my opinion that you should always attempt to sell it yourself. Since my car was mostly worthless (it needed at least an engine rebuild, lots of minor things too), I wasn’t terribly supprised, but I figured I could have gotten at least $600 for it at a scrap yard for the metal.
Also, for what you buy, maybe a Subaru outback or similar would be more to your needs. You have a full interior for when you need to move lots of people, but you still get descent towing capibility and the AWD should have no problems with your dirt roads.
Grant has a good point there. A Subaru is an excellent option if you don’t need the cargo and towing capacity of a truck. The all wheel drive would also come in handy, imho.
Yeah, I’ve been looking into Subarus as well, though I think I’d rather have a truck bed that I can haul things in. Subarus are also pretty expensive, and their gas mileage is only marginally better than a low-end pickup (26mpg vs 23mpg for a 2WD Tacoma). Pickups also have higher ground clearance, which I think will make a difference on my property.
Trade up on a truck. Check consumer reports on the used domestic options because those toyotas do command a premium. Trucks with options are often way over priced so go stripped down. I would assume 4×4 would be ideal for you up there but does add complexity and cost.
Actually, it’s the small tires and low ground clearance that dooms the xB. My friends rear wheel drive SUV had no problems on the same road, so I think I’ll be ok without 4WD.
car and trailer?
truck and public transportation?
Why not think out of the box and get and old farm tractor. I just missed a deal on a 1940’s vintage Massey Harris 44 super for $400. When I got there to look at it, someone had beat me to the deal by an hour and they were loading it on a flat bed. Although only 44 horsepower when you add wheel weights and front end weights, because of the gearing, this beast could drag a 4 wheel drive pickup pulling against it all day long without breathing hard. These old tractors are not much use in modern farming because they lack hydraulics and 3 point hitches (drawbar only). Most modern farming requires machines in the 75 horse and up category. Also, most farmers consider air conditioning, a cab and a stereo essential. As a side note they make excellent skidders for towing cut down trees to a portable sawmill or hauling your firewood to the house if you have standing timber on your land. If you do consider a tractor, avoid the narrow front end types, they are a tip-over death trap.
I live in Maine in potato country and back in the 60’s potatoes were harvested into barrels and carted away in trucks of 40 to 60 barrel capacity. This all changed in the 70’s when the industry shifted over to bulk bodies of 250 barrel capacity (a barrel is 165#). So the older trucks no longer filled the bill, the new trucks needed larger engines, beefier frames and dual rear axels. The trucks were used for two weeks in the spring to haul lime and fertilizer and 3 weeks in the fall to get the harvest in. The rest of the time they just sat there doing nothing. Another plus is the payload capacity which is six times or greater than a big pickup. I just picked up a rust free 1965 Chevy cab and chassis (no body) with 52,000 miles and a 350 gas V8 for what I consider a good deal: I swapped for a Mossberg 500 shotgun. I don’t even want to speculate on the gas milage which will be horrible, but I don’t intend to put more than 300 miles a year on it. Another plus would be that you could avoid insurance and registration if you kept it on your land strictly for off-road use.
You want to avoid a truck that has been in continuous use. Why not snoop around in Idaho potato country and see what turns up? I imagine the trucks up there got used similar to the ones in Maine (sitting most of the time).
Trade in the xB for a 1980s Vanagon with the Westfalia conversion. The syncros are four wheel drive.
Now ur talking! You get him into a Syncro Westy then he’ll ditch the entire landwelling scheme altogether! Better get a ’91 tho’.
Oh man, I’d love a Syncro. But they’re so damn expensive! Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but the ones I’ve seen cost $15k or more. They’re cool, but I’m not crazy enough to pay that much money.
Get a Subaru Outback! Hands down best option for your needs now and short term.
have you priced out grading out your road enough for the xB to work?
I have a 97 Tacoma…got it new back then…just hit 210,000…still going strong. 4wd with 31.1050’s great clearance and cargo too.
I have a camper shell on it and built a deck in the back to get up over the wheel wells, can carry plywood better this way. we also have camped back there with some carpet over the shelf.
We were just at our cabin last week, came through large patches of 1-2 feet deep late spring snow and a fair amount of mud.
Would never consider anything else.
Ryo, I think the Toyota is the way to go. I currently have an 86 Nissan 2wd which just does not work well in the woods. I need a 4wd and have been searching for an old toyota for some time. I also have a 2000 Ford Windstar which works well in the woods, lots of room but too big for my road. I only owe for another year when I plan to sell it and buy the Toyota. I don’t care about rust and will probably take off the bed and make a flat bed as I did with Nissan. The Toyota engine is powerfull and long lasting I know people with over 300,000 miles and still going strong with little cash outlay for maintainance. Tires, brakes and lots of fresh oil, the key to longivity. Good luck. Rick
Love the blog.
I have some experice with similar needs and towing. I have property with steep hills and a 4×4 is a neccicity, don’t consider a 2wd truck, it will be the same as your Xb.
Get a truck with a v6 NOT the inline 4. One for resale but the main reason is I saw the trailer you want to haul! The extra power means safely towing and not over stressing your vehicle and possible breaking things. It those small trucks the V6 is not going to mean that much extra mileage.
STAY AWAY from Toyota’s old 3.0L v6! That was their worst engine and they’ve replaced it with the 3.4L and now the 4.0L I believe. Do a search on the 3.0L if you don’t belive me. I’ve known 4 people with those and they will all blow in the first 100k mile. In fact if you look at used Yotas with that engine many will say “rebuilt”. Manufacturers defect, the rebuild dosen’t fix the problem in that engine.
Tanks for your comment. I’ve been up there with 2WD trucks a couple of times, so I know they can make it up the road. It’s mostly that I need big tires and ground clearance, not necessarily more horsepower or torque. Though, locking differentials would probably be nice in slicker conditions… For towing the trailer, you’re probably right about the extra power though.
Check out my blog, we have similar off grid interests and I’m building a small cabin right now… http://www.solarburrito.com
Cool! I’ll definitely check it out.
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