I had contemplated getting rid of the 2000 Grand Cherokee I had and spending a few extra dollars to buy a half decent truck. That was a few months ago though and I decided it was best to just use what I had and get the property in Tennessee fixed up, rented out and making me some money before I went and spent more money. If the Jeep would last even one more year I would be in an even better financial situation and could go buy a $15-20k vehicle and even keep the Jeep as a good Colorado snow/mountain/off-road fun toy.
Then life happens:
I had spent the night in Salina, Kansas during the two day trek from Tennessee to Colorado that I do quite often. I had gotten into Salina earlier than normal the previous day so I could get diner and relax a bit before bed. Since I got to be around 7pm, I also woke up early. Towing that trailer, I really preferred to have the solitude of the night to drive, so I was back on the road a bit after 2am.
Around 6:30 am, the sun is coming up and then a deer decides to walk across the interstate. Luckily, The trailer has some great brakes and I am only going around 60-65mph in the 75mph zone. He would have made it across the road, but instead he stopped and sniffed the ground… he will never do that again though. The Jeep had damage, but it was still legally drivable. Headlights were broken, but still worked, blinkers still worked, still drove and the State Patrol wrote up a report for me and I drove the two hours home. Turns out the damage was a death by a thousand cuts kind of issue and insurance declared it a total loss.
Turns out I got a pretty good deal on the Jeep when I bought it a year ago though. After my deductible was withheld, I still ended up getting more than I originally paid and fixed it for (it would randomly shut off while driving when I first bought it).
Changing the plan:
The plan to keep the Jeep for a year or two is obviously out the window, so there’s a choice to be made. I could spend only the $3600 I got from insurance and buy another Jeep, knowing I will have a vehicle that I will basically want to get rid of in a year or two so I can finally buy a nice car in the $15-20k range. Or, I could bridge the gap and put a bit of my own cash into the pot and move up slightly in vehicle quality and get something that will work better for what I am trying to accomplish. I chose to add some cash to the pile and started my search for a truck.
I decided I wanted a diesel so I could tow whatever might be necessary for construction purposes, my 16′ enclosed trailer, and maybe in 8-10 months a 5th wheel trailer if I decide to go nomadic and start full time RVing. I realize the downsides of the diesel. They cost more to buy, more to maintain, they need to be warmed up before driving (especially in the colder climates), might have to plug it in if I even want to get it started.
I started looking around, all over craigslist, autotrader, ebay, etc.. I even discovered Southwest Airlines has $30 flights from Denver to Dallas if I ever wanted to fly down there to pick up a truck. After all… everything is bigger in Texas right?
To start the research I figured out what vehicles would be in my price range. I was pretty comfortable in the $8-10k range and started to feel uneasy around the $14-15k range. Once I narrowed in on what years and models of truck I could afford and then went out to some dealership to actually sit in them and see if they were comfortable for my body type. After all, driving back and forth between Tennessee and Colorado is a 20 hour endeavor, I want to be comfortable if I am going to spend $10k+.
After sitting in different makes and models of trucks, I knew there was really only one choice for me. The layout, arm positions, cup holders, and controls on the Ford’s were my preference. I was actually hoping that the Dodge Ram’s would be my preference because the Cummins Diesels have such a great reputation for durability. After researching some more on the Ford diesels in my price range I could get an F250 or F350 between 2000 to 2006 depending on the specifications.
Doing my research I learned that there was one engine in that range of years that was considered, hands down, the most durable… the 7.3L. So I focused on that specific engine which was only built until 2003. Looking at prices, I found that they, of course, are more expensive than the less 6.0L engine models (even though the 6.0 has more power than the 7.3). So Although I could get a 2005 or 2006 in a 6.0 for my money, if I wanted that engine, I was limited to the 2003.
I have had a truck in the past as my only vehicle, a ’99 Ford Ranger (back then I was stupid and had a loan too) and I now have a ’96 Dodge Ram 1500 as well. So the crew cab model was an absolute necessity for me to have space inside out of the elements like an SUV would provide. In addition I wanted the Lariat package, with heated leather seats, cruise control, and all those all little things that come with the higher end package for those long 20 hour spans across the country.
Ultimately, I found what I believe to be a good deal, a 2003 F-350 Crew Cab Lariat 7.3L with 246k miles for $8k. I am hesitant to call it a great deal until I have it for a few months and know that there is nothing major wrong. It is 13 years old, so obviously it has some issues, but overall it appears to be in great shape. The Carfax I ran on it shows a good history of not being in flood zones or even states that tend to have rust issues like the east coast. On top of that, they guy I bought it from bought it from a large Ford dealer just over a year and a half ago. As much as I avoid purchasing vehicles from dealerships at their prices, I do appreciate it when the previous owner bought it from them that recently since the large name dealers tend to only keep the good vehicles in order to protect their reputations.