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The Geo Tracker:
A Prince Among Toads
Rina Neiman
August 2003


Note: We quickly learned that in the RV world, the vehicle you tow behind you is affectionately called your "toad" (as in your "towed vehicle"). Just as quickly, we've adopted this term for our new car.

Before we got into RV-ing, our primary vehicle was a little silver Miata. It was cute, it was zippy, it was fun, and we loved it. Love, however has its limits.

Once we decided that we were really going to buy this RV and hit the road, after much research and soul-searching, we finally acquiesced to the fact that we could not tow the Miata. Technically, if we had a dolly that could carry the car off ground, we could bring her along, but everyone we talked to said that it was much easier to have a car that you could tow with all four wheels down.

The search was on.

The first thing that I did was find a list of recommended vehicles for towing. A good resource for this can be found at www.motorhomemagazine.com. Check their "dinghy" towing lists.

The next step was to decide on a budget. We knew that towing could be hard on a vehicle and we wanted to be able to buy something outright so we wouldn't have any payments, so this ruled out new cars for us.

We came up with a budget of $3500. This pretty much limited our buying power and our choices.

The next step was to cross-reference this recommended "toad" list with the best bets for used cars from Consumer Reports. You can access this information from their web site at www.consumerreports.org.

We also had some additional criteria. We wanted a car with 4-wheel drive, and, having gotten used to living with a convertible, we wouldn't have minded that either.We also wanted something cute.

 

 

Basically, this narrowed down our search to a 94' or 95' Geo Tracker. This car is highly recommended by Consumer Reports and it's also recommended for towing four wheels down (meaning we didn't need any kind of tow dolly). It has 4-wheel drive, a removable roof and is pretty light, which is a consideration when you're towing a vehicle. The Kelley Blue Book on this car is almost $4000, but we figured we might find one for less.

It's also cute, which met the last criteria.

 

I started searching for our future toad on the Internet. We saw pictures of some really great vehicles, but many were physically located too far away, or just out of our price range.

During my searches, I discovered a group of Geo Tracker enthusiasts who soup up and modify the vehicles, creating some real works of car art. But I didn't find my toad there.

Both Wally and I kept searching, online, in the classifieds and at used car lots.

 

 


Then, one day, EUREKA! We found a 94' Geo Tracker on eBay! Not only that, but is was fuschia-metal-flake and was located in Phoenix, (not too far for us to travel for the Princess of Toads). The write-up on this particular car was great. She had a lot of mileage on her, but she was in terrific shape, had no rust, and her details sounded impressive.

I did some research on the dealer, Arizona Dealer Trades. Arizona Dealer Trades is a car liquidator. They sell lots of vehicles on eBay, and put each car through a thorough inspection. I read the feedback other buyers had left about them on eBay. Out of about 100 reviews of the seller, 96 were positive and only 4 were negative. What also impressed me was that the dealer had responded to every negative review, and in each case, had tried to rectify each complaint.

We figured, what the hey. If we don't win the auction, we don't lose anything, and if we do, well, we'll hope for the best.

The bidding had started and the auction was ending before we were planning to leave San Francisco. We put in our bid of $3500 and had eBay automatically up our bid if anyone overbid us up to our pre-determined limit.

The suspense was building. We'd check the auction once, sometimes, twice daily (OK, a lot more some days). Then one day, just like that, the auction closed and we'd won! Not only that, but we got the car for $1000 less than we had budgeted!

 


I had to call Arizona Dealer Trades and give them a $500 deposit via credit card within 72 hours. We then arranged with them to hold onto the car for a few weeks while we made our way to Phoenix. Once we got to the dealership, we test drove the car, paid the balance, got our temporary Arizona registration, and were cruising the Arizona desert in about 20 minutes.

I highly recommend purchasing a car through Arizona Dealer Trades. If you can't get to Phoenix to pick up your car, they can arrange for shipment to you (for a fee, of course).

So far, we absolutely love our Tracker. She's been problem-free in the four months that we've had her. True, she's not a sexy silver Miata, but she's got lots of character all her own. And she's cute, which is what we like. As a friend of mine said, "You just exchanged one toy car for another toy car."

Cute. Real cute.


Note: To Toad or Not to Toad?

For a short while we thought about not towing any vehicle. But, after having to park a 35' rig on a city street and drive through a crowded mall parking lot, we definitely decided to find a car to bring along. It's just too hard to have to drive the rig to run errands. Plus, many parks are on the outskirts of cities, so they are not necessarily walking distance to many, or any, amenities.

 

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