Poof! Just like that there's a new van in my life.
I spent the last couple of days researching used cargo vans on Craigslist, eBay, and other online sites, keeping the search local to this area. Vehicles are cheaper here because there is less employment here. I'm kind of lucky (and kind of strategic) that I make my own work.
Once I had a good idea of what is reasonable to spend, I decided to visit three used car dealerships and see what I could come up with. I did not expect to buy a van today, but it wasn't out of the question, either.
I got a good idea of what I was looking at from visiting the first two places and realized that there was a great deal staring me in the face at the third place. They agreed to take Pearl and even give me some money for her, even though she has a broken odometer which makes her impossible to sell except for parts.
Here's the list is things that I wanted to fix on Pearl to get her though another year:
- Replace the heater blower so that I can clear the windshield of ice or fog and drive safely. As it stands, I have to use a towel and then drive as best I can to let the engine heat seep in.
- Replace the windshield washer pump so I can clean the outside of the windshield without stopping on the side of the road and pouring water (or wiper fluid) from a bottle while the wipers run.
- Replace the faulty plexiglass and single-pane homemade windows with real, latching windows so that I can lock her when she's parked on the street. My insurance company might not honor a claim of merchandise loss if they found out that she didn't really lock.
- Service the transmission. It's overdue and could have killed her if it was not done.
- Replace the tires. They are all bald, leading to the final episode of drama this last weekend.
- Replace the passenger's side mirror. The current one just flops around, pretty much useless.
- Tighten up the steering. It's loose, and beyond the limits of adjustment without replacing the whole gear box.
- Fix the turn signal. It won't signal right, and needs to be manually turned off after signalling left.
- Finally replace the leaky water pump gasket. This is pretty expensive because of the labor to get the whole thing removed.
These things all work correctly in the new van. The asking price was far less than the total of these repairs, even if nothing else went wrong with her. As a bonus, I also got the following features:
- Cruise control. On long drives, this reduces one element of the complexity, allowing me to focus on the rest of the job of driving and preventing me from speeding by accident.
- Antilock Braking System. This helps make up for human error in a panic situation.
- Air bags. My best friend was in a pretty bad accident recently, protected in part by his airbags. Now I have them, too!
- Protective walls. There are steel barricades between the people and the cargo. In an accident (or even just a sudden stop) the driver and passenger will not be impacted by flying items from the cargo area.
- Brand new transmission. This new van included a recent invoice for a transmission overhaul. That's one bit of maintenance that I won't have to worry about for a while.
- Air conditioning. I probably won't use it much because it reduces gas mileage, but it's good to know that it's there in the few cases when I want it.
And here are the factors that I considered in making the decision to purchase this vehicle right now.
- How much do I expect to pay for the upgrades that I want on the old van?
- What are the risks associated with NOT performing these upgrades?
- Lost time manually working around the problems. ie: pulling off the road every exit to clean the windshield when driving on salty roads.
- Lost opportunity if I miss a show because of a delay caused by these or other problems.
- More lost opportunity when the word gets out to other show organizers that I am not dependable as a vendor.
- Lost money if I have to file an insurance claim and have it denied.
- What other risks exist?
- The van probably has other mechanical problems that I haven't discovered as I've kept her patched together. She's ooooold, and falling apart.
So I decided to replace her, but why right now?
- The odometer is broken, which means that I cannot legally sell her, except for parts. Maybe a friend would buy her under the table like I did, but could still lead to legal problems if we get caught. If a dealer would offer me money in trade, I'd take it just to be rid of the hassle.
- For the level of vehicle I'm considering as a replacement, I can pay cash. If a dealer would offer me a substantial discount for bringing them actual cash and saving them credit card fees, I'd take it.
After trying three places and not being enamored of any vans that I saw for sale, one of them jumped out at me as perfect. They offered me a substantial amount for trading in Pearl, and took even more off the asking price when I offered to pay in cash. So, I was off to the bank and driving home in my new van about 30 minutes later.
I still kind of can't believe it, but I know that it's the right choice. I filed a title transfer and DMV registration today. I'll change over the insurance on Monday.
The new van drives to the first show in a week and a half.