Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Putting the Van in Vangabonds

June 13th, 2012 | Posted by Ian in How To
We crossed a major item off our list this weekend. The “van” has been purchased. Out with the old and in with the new. Check that.  Out with the old and in with the older is more accurate. Pictured below is our old ride on the left and our new ride on the right:
Our New Ride
The process was a lengthy one. Start to finish it took nearly four months. Of course, we had visions in our head of a VW Microbus or a Vanagon, but those came crashing down to reality when we thought about the distance we plan on covering and the quality of roads we will traverse in order to so. A few things were certain. We would be looking for a small SUV or a light truck, and we didn’t want anything that was too new or would turn heads. In lands where petty crime rates might be higher than American suburbia, the last thing you want to do is be flashy or show indiscretion.

Step one was to lay out some priorities. In no particular order, the most important criteria were:

  • AWD or 4WD — For every well-paved highway and picturesque cobblestone street, we expect a potholed, gravel, mountain road in the middle of the rainy season.
  • Fuel efficiency — Over umpteen thousand miles with fuel prices heading ever skyward, the difference between 16 MPG and 24 MPG adds up.
  • Ground clearance — See comments on AWD/4WD.
  • Reliability — We’d just rather avoid breakdowns and repairs as much as humanly possible.
  • Commonness — When the inevitable does occur, it would be great to be able to find parts quickly and find a mechanic who had seen our kind of vehicle before.

Secondary criteria included:

  • Width of vehicle and turning radius — Anticipating narrow highways and tight colonial streets, the less room we need to maneuver the better.
  • Gas tank size — Distance between gas stations might be unpredictable at times, so a higher trip radius could come in handy.

With these factors in mind, we headed to our local library branch to pick up a copy of Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide, which we used to make a preliminary list of some possibilities in a spreadsheet. Next, using, MSN Autos, and the aforementioned Consumer Reports as references, we proceeded to fill in our criteria for each model, one of us starting at the top of the list and the other at the bottom. You can find all of our handy work on this Vehicle Model Search page. There were many immediate losers and a few also-rans, but two finalists emerged. Both the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 met all of our most important criteria.

So the search began. Ideally, we hoped to find one of these models from the late 1990s or early 2000s with low enough mileage to last awhile (90-120K) in good mechanical condition with just enough cosmetic issues to both help us blend in and keep the cost down. After some time getting to know the market, we started to get serious, making calls and setting up test drives.

And now it’s all over. Our ride has arrived. It’s a ’98 ultramarine CR-V with 119K miles. The vanity mirror is smashed. The clock doesn’t work. There are a few stains. But he/she (we are undecided on the gender) hopefully has a lot of miles left and the back seats fold all the way down if we need to crash (figuratively) for the night sometime along the way. Plus there’s a picnic table that folds up under the cargo area, so we’ve got that going for us.

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2 Responses

  • Amelia Howard says:

    Yea!! So excited for you guys. My parents have had CRVs since I was in middle school; they are great. Like the blue color as well, very stylish.

    • Brianna says:

      I don’t know why he didn’t list color as the “above all other” criterion. What good are mpgs and reliability if you’re driving a car that’s an ugly color, like say… wildcat purple?

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