Why We Love Our Truck

A few weeks ago we talked with Jim’s brother about an upcoming road trip. You might have read our Fiat 500 story two years ago about renting a car instead of taking our truck on a 1,000 mile jaunt? Upcoming was another opportunity to avoid piling expensive miles on the truck. Or was it?

The possibility of saving money and saving our truck caused Jim to run an analysis of life-cycle costs for our truck and see if we made the correct decision last week. We decided not to rent a car for a week-long trip to North Carolina. The truck gets almost 16mpg highway (not towing), is trouble-free, very comfortable, and we don’t have to support a rental company’s O+P if we use our own truck. We’ll get back to the rent decision in a minute.

We love our pickup truck. Full-timers, maybe, maintain a closer relationship to their truck than some folks. If the truck doesn’t go, we can’t either. Bought to tow the Airstream trailer, this truck has met or exceeded all our expectations. The truck just turned 140,000 miles and has towed the Airstream approximately 100,000 miles since July 2006. Below are the new truck’s story and some numbers.

Over eight years ago we bought a new truck. The old Ford 4X4, while fine for the 22′ RV, wasn’t enough to stop or pull our new 25′ RV. The Ford was tired when we bought it. Pretty, nice paint, comfortable, but a worn-out engine. We needed a new truck and were brand indifferent.

What mattered more to us than brand was the right arrangement of features including gas engine, bucket seats, extended cab, 4X4, no sunroof, and some others. We had bought the new Airstream and needed a more capable truck. Ward Williams came to our rescue. Thanks to Williams Buick-GMC in Charlotte, we were able to find a good deal on the right Chevy Silverado 2500HD. The truck apparently was languishing at a dealership in Virginia.

Big Red Truck

Big Red Truck

His buyer found us a truck meeting 5 of our 6 criteria. He called us one day and asked, “Can you go with a red one instead of blue or green?” Once we looked at it we were all in. The truck is a deep red called “Sport Red Metallic” by Chevrolet.

Jim owned three other trucks before this one, all purchased used. And between us, we’d bought, traded, and sold dozens of cars. None of those previous trucks and cars came close to the comfort and technology represented in this 2006 Chevy. No, none of them cost close to the truck’s purchase price.

We’ve never experienced a failure or breakdown of any type. The truck has found no hill too steep, even towing the trailer up or down 15% (that’s really really steep) grades on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia. The engine temperature doesn’t vary more than one degree. It’s a little hard on batteries but, really, that’s more Jim’s fault for accessorizing the truck with 12v appliances like ham radio, cb radio, air compressor, trailer tire monitor, and chargers for Apple mobile products.

Folks often ask, “Why didn’t you put a camper shell on the truck?” We thought we were minimalists, having emptied a 3,000 sf house and moving so much less stuff into a 180 sf travel trailer.

We thought you might appreciate seeing some of the numbers we’ve developed on this great truck’s performance. No, nothing like 1/4 mile or 0-60 stuff. These are life cycle cost numbers. Bottom line, we thought we could save the rental cost and at least break even using our truck. See what you think?

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

Here’s how it worked out when we ran all the numbers for rental vs using our gas hog truck:

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

The $195 saved by not paying tires, oil, maintenance, and gasoline on our truck would be close to breakeven once we paid the fees for renting a subcompact car. Our truck is roomy, comfortable, has XM radio and ham radios, and we like it. According to these numbers, we did okay on our decision. Not great, not saving the world by reducing carbon footprint and fuel usage, but for our pocketbook, we at least broke even.

We made over 15 mpg overall, the best we’ve done since ethanol cut our gas efficiency. We were ready with 4-wheel drive in case those New England/Canadian storms brought snow into our path. Best of all, we enjoyed 1,300 miles Interstate driving together in our big red truck. What a nice way to spend Valentines Day!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
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5 responses to “Why We Love Our Truck

  1. Nothing beats a gasoline HD truck except a diesel HD truck (F-250 diesel owner here!) :-)

    • Bob,
      No argument from me, it’s hard to beat the ease of towing with a diesel truck. Our fuel mileage isn’t as good as a diesel truck, and our engine won’t last nearly as many miles. On the other hand, we pay less for fuel, less for maintenance, and our first cost was $5,000 to $7,000 less than the same truck with Diesel engine.

      We are cost-driven and our trailer is small. We planned on driving 12,000 miles yearly. The truck’s interior will wear out before the engine does. One of our friends pulls trailers commercially so piles on miles – he’ll put over 500,000 on every truck. We’d have to keep our truck thirty-one years to get to 500,000 miles. Diesel just never made sense for us.

      By the way, all our friends with smelly noisy trucks agree with you. The new diesel trucks are getting better and better. Our next truck may be diesel-powered. For now, we’re grateful this truck has worked out and hope it keeps on…

  2. Jim and Debbie,

    Welcome back to sunny Florida! Glad you had a safe trip. Enjoyed your truck and driving cost analysis. That’s a good point your interior will wear out before the engine. Our motorhome has the same 8.1 liter gas engine and the motorhome chassis manufacturer estimates reliable engine life at 200,000 miles. We’ve driven it 102,000 in it’s first ten years and the interior and exterior is showing considerable age, yet we’ve only used up 50% of our engine life. The upholstery, seat cushions, carpeting, appliances, furnace, coach A/C, dual pane window seals, and other systems won’t come anywhere close to lasting 200,000 miles. So in our motorhome case it’s wouldn’t matter if our engine life expectancy was 200,000 or 500,000 miles.

    • Herb,
      I heard good reports this morning on Hamcation in Orlando, wish things had worked for us to be there. Hank, Preacher Gene, and Charlotte all chimed in with reports. Hank said he spent $17 at the Hamfest and it wasn’t all for ham radio.

      We’ve had cars well worth spending some to replace seats or a little interior trim. On at least one car we repaired and painted all four fenders and bumper corners (might have been the car our youngsters drove?) In all cases, the cars weren’t high mileage and didn’t need drive train help. The cars were worn from getting in and out and from being around entirely too many other cars too often.

      Since the Chevy truck’s seats almost always both are in use at same time, both seats will go at the same time. The ink on some dash controls is slowly going away. The backlighting in some dash controls is gone. Finish is wearing thin inside and out. 100,000 mile service was over $4,000. Fully worth it, the truck rides great, pulls great, still looks great. Our gas engine will last fully as long as we need it to.

  3. Thanks for the report and analysis of your great truck’s performance. It has surely worn itself into your heart as an all time favorite. We feel almost that way about our Yukon. When we come to the place of selling our 25′ Airstream, we have talked about getting a smaller automobile. But the Yukon has us feeling safe, secure, comfortable, capable and ready to go down the road — you know that road, down which we keep talking about seeing each other.

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