Tuesday, July 12, 2016

...Loaded up and truckin'. We're gonna do what they say can't be done...

After running a few ideas by the wife and running the numbers we may be singing along to Jerry Reed in a few years. I've gone from despair to optimism.The monthly cost will go up a little bit but we'll pay it off two years sooner and with no interest which means we save $2000.

In a bizarre turn of events I've become enamored with the brown (Caribou) paint over my go to blue. I've seen both colors in the wild and the brown is just straight up prettier. It would also match the camper we're considering. These types of things are important to me. I've also figured a few extra options to spoil ourselves won't break the bank so we're going to try to get a loaded (at least for us) truck. This is a big deal for me.

I've taken delivery of a few new cars in my day and they're almost always the base model or very small step up. Hub caps, unpainted mirrors, and manual transmissions have adorned my featureless cars. My last two wagons have had quite a few creature comforts and my current Outback is a step above the base model. Craziness.

We're considering a few campers. The pricey one we really want appears to be hard to come by in the central states so unless we want to pay an arm and a leg and order one with everything we want we'd have to take a considerable road trip to buy off the lot and in both circumstances we wouldn't get to take a good look before making our decision. Ordering one sight unseen is out of the question for me and driving 1500 miles to simply take a look then mull it over for a day or two in a hotel then potentially leave with nothing is not my idea of a good time. Plus I'd much rather have my maiden voyage be a short trip. We've found some slightly less roomy but very viable options. They've even had some with attractive color combinations and features.

My notebook is getting filled with good stuff.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How A Crazy Person Buys A Caravan

My wife loves to plan while I'm more of a seat of your pants kind of person. My wife likes to pour over all of the details and keep a binder when putting together a family Disney trip. This may seem like work for some people but for her it's fun. It gets her excited for the trip. I don't plan much but when it comes to buying anything I like to know what I'm getting.

Here's where I become a crazy person. You might think two years in advance is too far ahead to start planning a vehicle purchase. Yeah, well, how about four years for a camper? I'm doing both. Yes, a large notepad is involved.

Is two years too soon to start planning that vehicle purchase? It's not if you like getting those white whale deals everybody talks about but few get. The MSRP of a vehicle is one thing but what a dealership pays is another thing. I like to see how long it takes for models to sit on the lot versus order and build dates. That way I have extra leverage with the dealer that wants to move inventory.

There are four of those in the area and each one orders different options and sells with different mark ups. I know the dealer that tends to order the options I prefer so now I need to figure out how long trucks sit on their lot. I want to pick one out in March or April and have it still be there in June or July when extra incentives are available for year end model clearance. The name of the game is eating up as much dealer profit as I can. Don't worry they'll make a couple hundred bucks off me so their kids will still have shoes when the school year starts.

I'm doing the same thing for travel trailers. Along with watching dozens of how-to videos and taking notes I'm also working on tracking down dealers that keep the types of travel trailers we want to see how far we'll have to travel for one and if there will be enough of them available to purchase when the time comes.

By the end of it all I will have cork boards with photos, push pins, and red thread all over my office.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Caravan Club 3

Now that I've got a battle plan for buying everything new and magically keeping costs under $1000 per month, I've decided to figure out how to slum it. That doesn't mean I'm going to find a cheap truck with a tow hitch and 100k miles. I still have my family to think about and I'm not about to leave us stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere because my ancient truck broke down. Same goes for the camper. There's a certain level of cleanliness that I require and most of the used travel trailers I've looked at appear to have been used by Walter White before being traded in.

As far as MSRP goes, $20k is substantial but I'm not paying MSRP for a new truck. We're looking at a savings of $8000 for a three year old truck. That gets us a three year old truck with around 30k miles on it. With a lot of TLC, these trucks are good for about 200k miles. It's a fully capable truck for the largest travel trailer we'd buy. The only things we give up are simply creature comforts. Sync 3 with Apple Carplay and the trailer backup assist are not essential but they'd make life a whole lot easier. Seat heaters would be missed on cold days but remote start and a giant gas tank can are not vital since we stop pretty often when traveling.

How much do I save with that used truck? $100 a month or $8400 over the life of the loan. Which seems like quite a bit until you figure in those miles. That's three years sooner that the truck would have to be replaced and three years sooner for a major service. Replacement could be at least ten years down the road and probably then some. The major service is what eats up a chunk of the savings. It's hard to stare down $8400 (plus a little bit more for insurance savings) but at the same time, this is a long term deal so things cancel each other out.

The travel trailer is where I just can't seem to convince myself a slightly used trailer is worth it. RV loans are usually long term so a few thousand bucks over 120 months is about $25 a month in savings. Worth it? No.

In the end, We're looking at maybe $200/month, tops in savings by going used. Factoring in down the road costs like maintenance and fuel costs for the less efficient truck it's more like $150 to $175/month. The question that I'm left with would be how much is convenience worth? I could make up that difference with a few lifestyle changes I'm trying to implement at the moment. Stretching out my wardrobe and abandoning snacks helps. Or we could just abandon the idea altogether and I can get my wife a new car.

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Caravan Club 2

I've been working on the numbers and trying to figure out not just what to buy but when to buy it. The latest and greatest hurdle is what I had feared at the beginning. Trucks are expensive. We're talking luxury car prices here. Yes, they come with incentives so your average Joe can afford one but apparently your average Joe has to settle for a used truck with 100k miles on the clock. My original goal was to do it all for under $500/month. That's truck, camper, insurance, and storage. Can't do it.

I have to buy from the lot to get the "deal." It snows here so every truck is going to be a 4X4 which makes trucks expensive. People in my podunk neighborhood have these expensive trucks so either they're leasing them or taking out a second mortgage to pay for it or they just buy a used one with a shit ton of miles.

I even tried to trim the fat. Originally, I thought, "I'm going to have this truck until the day I die so why not get a few options." I've always gone base model with the exception of my Outback and even that just has a few minor upgrades. Anyhoo, I stripped the truck down to bare essentials. I ditched the beefy engine which means I sacrifice about 2000lbs for towing but now that I know how much this all going to cost it looks like we'll be pulling a small trailer for the rest of our lives. I was expecting to see a calming drop in the monthly payment but alas, it was about $20. You're probably thinking, "That adds up over time." but it really doesn't. In fact, the cost savings is so minuscule it would be silly to not get the few extra features that would make owning and towing substantially easier.

Since sales tax is in the ballpark of $3200 we're going to need to bundle that into the financing which eats up about a fourth of the incentives so I'll be looking to see if I can combine additional incentives to the 25% discount. That would cover the bulk of the sales tax and give us a little breathing room.

Campers come with the same incentives but the camper we want is still going to ring in around $20K. We'll be getting an extra $1000 worth of accessories that we need like weight distributing hitch, leveling supplies, shit hoses and what not. Getting it in under $200 will be tough. In hindsight, getting the truck five years ago would have been a good idea but then the wife wouldn't have anything to drive our son around in.

The whole thing is pretty discouraging. I'm going to put together a backup plan with a used truck to see how affordable I can make this but that eats into the longevity of our plans. I really want to do this and be done for a good 15 to 20 years. That way when I hit my 60's and Henry moves out maybe we'll buy a new truck instead of having to replace a used truck at around the time it's paid off.

At this point it looks like this is going to cost a lot. Fuck.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Caravan Club

For some time, owning an RV and taking road trips and camping was a silly idea my wife and I had. We both thought it would be something we'd love to do... some day. It was always something we'd do eventually when we were older or later. Now that we're pretty much resigned to having just our one child, the few hundred bucks a month it would cost to feed, clothe, and medicate a second child could easily go towards the cost of owning a camper and the massive truck to haul it about.

The original plan was to find the lightest yet roomiest camper that we could pull behind my Ford Flex which we have long since traded in for a much smaller and weaker Subaru Outback because the massive Flex was too big for Jill to drive about and her Sentra was too small and unsafe to drive our child around.

The 175hp four pot in our Outback won't be able to pull anything we could comfortably live in for a week nor would the 256hp sixer in the pricier Outback. Plus the base price of the Outback 3.6r is just a few thousand dollars shy of a 365hp Ford F 150 which will pull about four times as much as the gutsy Outback. Still, that's a lot of money for a vehicle and way more than we've ever spent.

I understand that cars are more expensive now than they were just five years ago. The days of moderately equipped family vehicles around $20k are gone. The day of the $50k truck with massive discounts is the new hotness apparently.

I was initially discouraged because even with the fairly substantial discount I get through my work for new Fords, even the most stripped down truck I could build on Ford's web site still clocked in at $40k and that was for the base model with just essential options. I've been looking at local dealerships to see what they had because there are ways to get better pricing on Fords. I did it with my Flex so I should be able to do it with an F 150, right? Yes and no. Getting those killer deals involves buying off the lot and my stripped down, $40k rig doesn't and probably won't ever exist on the lot. What do they have you ask? A whole rainbow of $50k trucks with all the options I bunch I don't in every color except the one I want unless I opt for the $60k model. Yes. $60,000 for a damned pickup truck. Yes, it's decked out like your average luxury car but we're not luxury car people and I don't make enough money to afford that much truck. Also, they don't offer the crazy discounts on that fancy-ass truck.

So my eyes are fixed to the expensive but discounted XLT with all the bells and whistles that will make road tripping pretty fantastic. The price, with a "model year-end" discount of about %25 off MSRP puts us around $36,000 which is still very expensive and may prove to be too rich for our blood. On top of that, I like my cars blue. I've gotten other colors due to poor selection and I've hated them but the name of the game is getting a camper to and from wherever we go comfortably. I still draw the line at silver and grey. The brown is nice as is the red with the latter seeming to be in abundance on lots with the options I need. We may still go used because we can save upwards of $75/month if we wheel and deal on a used car. The only stinker is that used cars aren't as easy to wheel and deal with and I'm going to try to bundle the astronomical sales tax into my financing which, with $12,500 on the hood, I should have no trouble doing.

Now that I look at it, if I can't find a blue truck I'm going to hate it every day.

That's the truck side. It's going to cost a lot and will take us a solid seven years to pay it off. The camper is pretty much the same deal. Lots of money but hopefully not too much.

This little beauty is actually a bit larger than what we original wanted. Still it's just a tad under 25' and weighs about 5300lbs dry. Add in the family, water, and our provisions and we're probably around 7000lbs which is about 4000lbs shy of what the above truck can pull without breaking too much of a sweat. If we ever decide to go bigger we'll be able to without too much trouble.

It has a slide out section on each side that will give us a ton of living space. We'd option it out with a couch that a murphy bed flops down on when it's time to sleep. Our son would sleep on the dining table that turns into a bed. We'll be quite cozy.

The MSRP is around $27k and we're probably not going to see much of a discount since we'd likely have to order one. Still, the universe owes us a win so maybe it's out there and will be waiting for us in three years when we decide to pull the trigger.

So there it is. $64,000 for a lifetime of memories. I wonder how memorable it would be to stuff all our stuff in our Outback and sleep in a tent instead. I hear poo buckets are getting pretty nice.