Author Topic: Vehicle riddle  (Read 2429 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Vehicle riddle
« on: July 06, 2017, 09:11:39 AM »
We have 2 vehicles, money owed, $0, looking to keep that the same, could only spend $5k or so on a car if I had to buy one today:

1. 2004 Mercury Monterey minivan (basically a Ford Freestar), 145,000 miles. This hauls the family (n-humans=6, n-dogs=2) and most everything else I need it to). It's running well, but starting to show its age. Needs new tires, brakes, shocks in rear, passenger window doesn't work anymore, probably more I'm missing. This is still a keeper, though the gas mileage with the old v-6 is pretty bad (around 20 mpg only). Money owed on it, $0.

2. 2002 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD, 175,000 miles. This ones about goner. My dad bought it used, and he built log cabins in ME, plowed, hauled firewood, towed horse trailers, etc. When he died 3 years ago, I bought it from my Mom. It's pretty much been used sparingly except when I need to collect firewood. I work outside of my home only twice per week, and have a commute of about 12 miles (used to be only 6, it recently doubled), so the hideous gas mileage doesn't hurt. However, this thing is rusted to the point of no longer being able to haul firewood safely, so I need to drop it like it's hot. Engine is fantastic, so might be able to grab a grand for it or something.

So the questions is how to proceed buying a vehicle to replace the use of the truck.

My first impulse is to use the Mercury minivan for my needs (a little commuting, a little hauling of heavy things, mostly firewood), and replace the family minivan with a newer, used minivan with better gas mileage, since it's used frequently. My firewood hauling is the concern. I know minivans can haul some weight, but I haul mostly green hardwood, so heavy stuff, being out here on the east Coast. Because we heat our (for now)
uninsulated 1850 farmhouse primarily with the wood stove, we burn through a good 3+ cords per year (if that seems like not much, we keep our house pretty darn cool in the winter, and we're only in South Jersey, so it's not that cold, really). I'd imagine that I'd need to buy some firewood each year if I take this option.

Otherwise we can ride out the minivan, I'd hope for five more years or so, and I can replace the truck with a more sensible (smaller/better gas mileage), newer used truck (ranger, s-10 or something). I'm not opposed to getting my hands dirty to increase the payload of one of the little trucks, but I'd also like to maintain good gas mileage. I'm a pretty smart guy, but everything I do myself on my cars takes a long time since I'm learning from scratch, with no background in fixing cars.

Alternatively I can buy a cheap little car with really good gas mileage and buy my firewood with the savings. Because I commute very little, I could go really old and cheap on this (<$1000, potentially). I would then plan to call tree companies and see how much it costs to get rounds or longer logs dropped off, not seasoned/split stuff. I have a chainsaw and axes to process it myself. People around here are afraid to burn softwood, so there might be opportunity to get it pretty cheap. They don't realize that everyone who burns out west is burning softwood. Anyway, I digress.

If I buy something soon, I'm considering flying southwest and buying something rust-free from hot dry climes. Anybody from the East Coast done that successfully?

We're not well off financially right now, trying to knock down debt (one student loan and the mortgage), fix up a house, and raise kids on one salary. So I'm trying to make the wisest choice I can.


  • Bristles
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2017, 09:42:25 AM »
I don't have an answer to your riddle, EXCEPT to say that I was surprised to read that the 2500 HD was worth less than the minivan.  Out here in the desert, trucks like that hold their value really well. 

Example of one I saw this morning:


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2017, 09:47:16 AM »
First, I would determine what would be involved in cost and time consumed in having wood delivered (seasoned/ready to go and unseasoned+your time and labor).  Based on that, determine if it makes sense to "outsource" the wood delivery.  If it makes sense to outsource the wood delivery, then sell both vehicles for a newer mini van, or only sell the Silverado and run the existing minivan "to the ground" (preparing to replace it eventually).
« Last Edit: July 06, 2017, 09:49:04 AM by frugaliknowit »


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2017, 09:47:39 AM »
Since your heating is a prime number in your equation, it'd make a lot of sense to do the insulation ASAP.
Use the truck to get the insulation.  Then determine your wood needs for the future which will determine your vehicle needs

Some general observations;
Hauling firewood will wear out the minivan rapidly
$5K doesn't buy much of a vehicle (like it use to)
$1K cars seldom last more than a year (if that)
You can not safely give a small truck the carrying capacity of a full size truck

Can you replace the bed of the truck with a wood flat bed?  Doesn't have to be pretty
Can you put a trailer hitch on the van? 
Can you use Uber (et all) for the times you work out of the house?  Bike?  Moped?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2017, 10:06:34 AM »
Thanks for the replies, good food for thought.

Regarding the shape of the truck, as one example I saw (while replacing ANOTHER blown brake line--corrosion) that one of the shock brackets had rusted completely and busted, so one shock is just hanging free. Some of the bed supports are also rusted bad enough to look like honeycomb, or waffles. My truck seems to be a particularly battered victim of corrosion, but it's not uncommon out here for vehicles to go due to corrosion of all the peripheral systems, while the engine ticks along fantastically.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2017, 04:29:58 PM »
We are in a similar place with our full size 2002 truck. We use it for hauling lumber, gravel, etc.  The engine is good, but the body is literally falling apart.  We would rather not buy another pickup.  We are leaning toward the trailer option for future hauling when the old beast dies.  I've been trolling Craigs List, looking for a good used trailer . . .  they are hard to find.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2017, 05:20:42 PM »
You want to haul nasty, heavy chunks?

You've got $5K to spend?  (does that include the cashout on disposing of the Chevy truck?)

Well then, get yourself  Humvee of some configuration or other:


  • Stubble
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Re: Vehicle riddle
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2017, 07:41:03 PM »
Without knowing your spouse's daily routine and children's ages, I would lean towards selling the truck to finance a hitch/trailer for the van to get you through this winter. It seems like a van is pretty imperative for your family size, but maybe two vehicles is not for your financial situation? Then when you get a chance (tax season?) sell the van to others who will also be in the market and pick up a slightly lower mileage van with a tow package to continue to tow your wood supply. Tow smaller loads more frequently by planning them around your commute and other normally scheduled activities. Unfortunately you're not going to get much better than 20 mpg in this class of vehicle and price point, and I don't know if I'd expect better from older compact pickups. You can do the brakes and shocks yourself with loaner tools from the auto parts store, and you have until the snow season to find a good deal on tires.

I'm sure as you've thought about how to get wood in any form to your property that you've considered whether wood prices are seasonal, but it seems like there could be some unexplored options out there. Are there utility companies, municipalities, or developers who would have a wood supply? Would it be possible to line up a whole bunch of wood and then rent/borrow a truck for a day to get all your hauling out of the way at once? What about a bartering agreement where you cut/split for whoever delivers?

Three cords does seem pretty impressive for a sole heat source for a whole winter. Also, obviously don't buy from coastal locations or anywhere near where flooded vehicles would be sold at auction (houston/new orleans) or you'll run into the same issues.


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