Truck Hunt

I went looking for a truck, and realized that I had to find myself first.

I’ve spent 3 full days doing nothing but traveling up and down and around the Bay Area, stopping at more than half a dozen car dealerships. I’ve driven 3 trucks. One was a ’97 Tacoma with 118k miles under its wheels, being sold by a kid who wanted to buy a VW camper van. Another was a ’99 Tacoma Prerunner being sold by a dealer. The third an ’06 Tacoma with only 22k miles on it.

The three trucks I drove represented three different possibilities. The ’97 Tacoma was cheap enough that, if I sold the Scion, I could buy it with what cash was left after paying off the remaining loan. On the other hand, it was a beaten up truck owned by a couple of kids. It ran well, but it didn’t make me feel safe, and especially not for a long trip into the mountains. It also had small wheels that didn’t seem much bigger than the wheels on my xB, and I wasn’t certain they’d go over the rocks on that dirt road on my property. And to top it off, the kid wanted way more than I think the truck was really worth.

The ’99 Tacoma Prerunner was a nice truck. It had 108,000 miles on it, but it had been reconditioned by the dealer, which was somewhat reassuring. The Prerunners are 4×2 but designed for off-roading, so it would definitely work well on my land. On the other hand, they’re only rated to get 21MPG, which would cost me an additional $30 (50% more) in gas for every trip to my land from San Francisco. The biggest concern for me, though, was that I didn’t feel comfortable trading in my trustworthy xB with 60k miles on it and another 15k miles left on the warranty, with another vehicle that had over 100k miles and only a 3k mile warranty, especially since I had to increase my debt by $2k.

The third truck, the ’06 Tacoma, costs considerably more, but it’s “certified used” and still has 78k miles left on the warranty. It’s the 2.7l 4-cylinder model with an access cab, which gets 24MPG on the highway, and the bigger wheels on them would fare better on my property than the smaller wheels that came on older Tacomas. Since it’s a newer truck, they offered me a longer term financing plan that kept my payments comparable to what I’m paying now. Clearly, this was the best value and lowest risk option.

But at the end, I hesitated. I hesitated not because I didn’t think the ’06 Tacoma was a good deal, or because I couldn’t afford it. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if I really wanted a truck. The xB implies a certain lifestyle, and a truck another. For driving around the city and suburbs, or even plain old highways, the Scion is obviously a better plan. Granted, the way I’ve used my xB might be somewhat unorthodox, since I’m not sure how many people use it to haul lumber, or mount roof racks on which to haul a week’s worth of supplies, including 5 gallons of gas and a generator, into the desert. But, nonetheless, it’s served me well, and its fuel efficiency, compact exterior, and paradoxically spacious interior are all hard to beat. The pickup? Well, it’s big, and relatively speaking, a gas guzzler. It symbolizes the “bigger is better” mentality that I don’t entirely ascribe to. On the other hand, the bed will be big enough for me to, well, bed in. It can get to my hut. I can tow things and haul things. It’s rugged, and it’ll last me ’til the end of time.

So, which am I? Am I a mostly city-dwelling Ryo? Or am I a mostly land-dwelling and occasionally truck-dwelling Ryo? Once I’ve found the answer to that question, deciding on whether or not to actually get a truck becomes easy.

Noting my hesitation, the dealer offered to lend me the ’06 Tacoma overnight on an “extended test drive.” I make my final decision tomorrow.

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