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.
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.
search was on.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wally and I kept searching, online, in the classifieds and at used
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
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.
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.
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
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.