Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Truck is Dead; Long Live the Truck

So, Tuesday, after three years of workmanlike service, delivering everything we asked of it, (which was sometimes more than we reasonably should have); our truck died, hard.

Specifically, the self leveling suspension crapped out completely. The rear suspension has collapsed; and in terms of ride quality roughly resembles a buckboard. It is drivable, but only in the broadest sense.

Ooooh boy...

Cost, to repair... about 2 grand give or take.

Value of the truck in absolutely perfect condition in a private sale... about 4 grand give or take.

Trade in value of the truck in absolutely perfect condition... about 2 grand give or take.


I should note, Mel is starting a new job next week; and we're definitely going to need both cars; or rather we definitely need a car and a truck, and we don't really have time to wait around.

As it happens, we were considering purchasing a new vehicle anyway, and have been looking for the last few months. We did our research, and test drove a LOT of trucks, then wrote it all up.

The Situation:

Back, in January GM was offering up to $15,000 incentive to buy a truck, that's how bad things had got; and people STILL didn't want to buy the damn things.

So my wife and I headed down to the dealership in early February, to test drive a Tahoe hybrid; figuring that the additional 8+ mpg (or even more around town under 45mph, which is most of her driving) might be a nice bonus.

Unfortunately, the Tahoe is a bit smaller than we need. With the third row seat in place there is NO cargo space; and even with the rear seats flipped forward, it's not that great.

Worse, I literally cannot fit in the SECOND row of seats, never mind the third row. My head has to be cocked to the side 45 degrees to fit under the headliner. On top of all that, the legroom is minimal.

Our Expedition on the other hand, I'm actually quite comfortable in the middle row seat, and there's tolerable headroom (barely, and no legroom) in the third row.

There's even enough space behind the third row (which we generally leave in the house to give us more cargo room) to take a few days worth of groceries home. Of course a bit more room is to be expected, because the Expedition is a bit bigger than the Tahoe (though not as large as the Suburban).

So, we really liked the Tahoe, great power, great interior (my God, GM actually figured out how to make a modern interior. It only took them from 1973 to 2007); it's just a little too small... and honestly we didn't think it was a very good value for what you got.

Maybe if you don't have two kids (and at least one more to come within the next five years), two dogs, a bunch of friends, a bunch of guns, and a bunch of tools, it would be good for you; but we do.

We own a big SUV because it's the best vehicle for what we do, not because it's a status symbol, or because my wife thinks station wagons are uncool. Actually, she really LIKES wagons, and so do I; they just don't have the room, and cant go where we like to go.

Sheets of plywood, long boards, and several hundred pounds of tools and gun gear regularly get loaded up in the truck; never mind the thousand pounds worth of people we frequently toss in there. We've got the extra heavy duty towing and suspension package, and the self levelling air suspension (which effectively makes the thing into a 3/4 ton instead of a half ton); and we've maxed out the load on the thing more than once.

Dirty, messy tools, dirty messy dogs, heavy weight, offroad... Not exactly wagon territory.

Minivans won't do it either. We tow utility trailers, and want to in future be towing camping, atv, and horse trailers. We take this large amount of gear into places where a high ground clearance and a trucks ability are necessary; and 4wd would be better over 2wd.

We keep cars a long time (basically until they are a poor economic propoisition to keep). We are planning for what we'll need two years from now, and five years from now, and even eight or nine years from now.

In the next couple years we plan to move where offroad and roughroad conditions are combined with ice and snow. We need a combination work truck, people hauler, and towing truck. In fact, I'd like a vehicle that can mount a plow if necessary.

The Proposition:

The Expedition is only worth about $4k, even repaired. Edmunds and KBB both say a high of $7k and a low of $4500; but a real private sale in todays economic conditions will get me $4-$5k.

In order to be saleable I need to essentially replace the entire rear suspension (air bags, shocks, air lines, bushings), which will cost about $2000. Also, it could use about $2k worth of additional work (new brakes all the way around, including calipers, rotors, and the master cylinder; plus some other stuff). The brake work isn't critical; we could get by with pads, some seals changed, and a system bleed.

The fact is, the truck is almost 9 years old (it's a 2001, made in late 2000), at 120k miles, and just isn't worth fixing at this point.

It might cost us more in the short term to buy a new vehicle; getting under warranty coverage on a new, or newer used vehicle will help protect against the catastrophic maintenance costs that may be right around the corner on our almost 9 year old truck.

Now, normally we would not even consider new vehicles, because of the generally poor value vs. short term depreciation. However, with the incentives currently being offered by dealers desperate to get new trucks out of inventory, and with new longer warranties, and lower interest rates on new vehicles (a 3 point difference actually); the new vs. used equation is looking much more favorable than it was a year or two ago.

I'm not happy about taking a $10,000+ depreciation hit in the first year, but if I'm going to get $7k off the front end price to begin with, and save $7k on the loan...

The Conditions:

So we decided that the Tahoe was out, as was anything not appreciably larger; dropping the Durango, Toyota Sequoia and Land Cruiser, and Nissan Armada out of the running as well; leaving only the Suburban/GMC Yukon XL, and the Expedition in SUVs.

Ford dropped the Excursion some years ago, and we aren't even considering paying a premium for a rebadged version of either the Expedition or the Suburban (they want almost $20k extra to call a Suburban a Cadillac... yeah, I don't think so).

On the other hand, we decided to seriously consider crew cab pickups. Given the room, and the comfort offered by modern crew cabs, they are a very viable option for a do it all family, haul, work, tow vehicle.

Also, crew cabs can be had with diesels. We LIKE diesels (for so many very good reasons).

In the rest of this post I'm going to refer to the Chevy version of the GM side of things, the Ford version of Ford, and the Dodge version of Chrysler; but they are all substantially identical to their corporate siblings versions, with some trim differences (we actually prefer the look of the GMCs to the Chevys).

I did an analysis of all the major half ton, and 3/4 ton crew cab trucks, and the two available large SUVs; configured as close to the same way as their trim packages and options allowed. I tried multiple configurations with multiple trim packages and options to come up with the optimal configuration for each model.

The features used for comparison were:
  1. 4x4
  2. Crew cab (or bigger if available), or large SUV
  3. Short bed (several had longer beds available) or large SUV
  4. Highest power engine available
  5. Maximum towing package with maximum hitch
  6. Heaviest duty suspension available
  7. plow and trailer wiring kits if available
  8. Cargo organizer system, bedliner, and tiedowns if available
  9. Leather
  10. Power everything
  11. Heated seats (if available)
  12. Captains chairs front, with center console
  13. 60/40 folding split bench rear
  14. Whatever interior cargo storage options are available
  15. Full climate control (auto if available)
  16. Navigation system
  17. CD/DVD changer with handsfree bluetooth speakerphone, and aux input
  18. Rear DVD
  19. Backup camera if available
  20. No sunroof (it cuts 2" out of the headroom)
I included all the prices, current incentives, power and torque, fuel economy towing capacity and payload, locking diff or not, bed length or cargo area length, and front and rear head and leg room.

I only included one diesel, because in all cases Diesels added approximately $7,000 to the cost of the truck, but were only offset by incentives on the Dodge. Otherwise the new diesels were simply too expensive (bringing the trucks into the $60,000 range).

The Numbers:

The spreadsheet I used to tabulate my research numbers is shared here: Truck Analysis

Unless you feel like paying $5,000 extra for the name, I would drop the Toyotas from your consideration entirely. We found that in all cases (all models of large truck and SUV), for equivalent features, the Toyotas were $4,000 to $8,000 more expensive than the other brands.

In general, I found that Dodge offered exceptional value in both 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton models; that Nissan offered just about as good value as Dodge (but with not quite as much in the way of features, and of course in half ton only), that Ford and Toyota were both relatively overpriced (more so for the Toyota), and that Chevy was around the middle.

Also I found that in general you got more for your money (better relative value) with a 3/4 ton. On average they only cost around $2k more, for double the payload, and 30% more towing capacity.

Downgrading from 4x4 to 4x2 generally saves about $4,000; and if you don't need it, deleting it reduces your maintenance cost, improves your fuel economy, your payload, and your towing capacity. However, after five years, it cuts your resale value in half; and in general reduces the utility of the truck.

I've gone on record before saying that I think that for most people, 4wd on a full size truck or SUV is a waste of time and money; and I still believe that.

Most people who buy 4WD never really use it. Also, unless you're very experienced and carry recovery gear around with you; when you do try and use your 4 wheel drive seriously, the only difference is that you're going to get stuck further, harder, and deeper in, than you would have if you only had 2 wheel drive.

However, if you live in snowy climates (especially snowy hills and mountains), drive a lot on rough roads (especially with heavy loads), or have to deal with mud or sand at all; 4wd is a lifesaver, and as I said, also improves the resale value of your truck considerably.

Now, you'll note in the conditions section above, we REALLY loaded up the options, including some that most truck buyers wouldn't really bother with; because this is our family vehicle in addition to our work/tow/haul truck.

Selecting navigation and DVD adds between $3,700 and $8,000 (the Toyota was ridiculous) to the price of each vehicle; and you can save a considerable amount leaving them off, and going for a standard stereo (with standard CD changer systems running in the $500-$1500 range).

Most other interior options were all relatively low cost and deleting them would have minimal impact. If you wanted to save money, removing nav and DVD would be the first place to start; with most vehicles costing $4000-$5,000 or so less without them.

Also, in every case, the backup camera was either included in the nav and DVD package, or was a $500 to $700 extra that can be easily deleted.

We found that it was hard to locate a loaded truck without a sunroof; but if you don't want one (and we don't. They cost 2" in headroom, and reduce the efficiency of your heater and air conditioning), you can save yourself $1000

The Experience:

After going through the analysis, it was time to actually drive the vehicles.

Based on the numbers we excluded Ford, and Toyota entirely; and decided to focus on Chevy and Dodge (because when we started this process Chevy was offering MUCH larger incentives than they are today, and Dodge is offering HUGE incentives).

We seriously considered the Nissan Titan as well, given that it is as roomy inside as the Dodge 1500, and moreso than the Chevy; and has the best payload, and the lowest cost.

However, with the smallest towing capacity and second least power of the bunch; at just about the same price as the Dodge (given the current incentives anyway), we decided to make it our third option.


The first thing we did was check out the Suburban, and my wife really liked it a lot. She likes the room, the power, the cargo space, and the look of it. It's just a great truck.

I should note, I rather like it myself, but not as much as she does. It's a little short on headroom for me; and while I think it's a good looking truck (especially the GMC version), I'm not in love with it.

Even better, the cargo room behind the third seat is great; and with the rears folded, it's as much as our Expedition with the rear seat out.

Oh, and I can fit in not only the second row (just), but the third row (though it's not exactly comfy); though if there's a sunroof I can't even fit in the drivers seat, never mind the rears (the sunroof pulls out 2" of headroom).

So, we like the truck, and we go back to start talking about pricing.

Now as I said, in January GM was offering up to $15k incentive to buy a truck. Well, apparently, now that they've got the gubmint bailout money, things have changed.

It's no wonder GM can't sell a damn vehicle.

List price on the 'burban with the options (3/4 ton 4wd, LT2 package, heavy duty tow package, navigation and entertainment. Not the LTZ which is $7K more, and not available on the 3/4 ton) we want is $56,000.

Let me repeat that.


Now let me ask you something. If you could afford to buy a truck for $56,000 would you be buying a suburban?

No wonder GM sales are down 58% this quarter.

Well of course, no-one pays MSRP. Right now, the deal is that everyone pays invoice less incentives. Invoice on the model we want is about $49,000 (that's a heck of a markup to MSRP, aint it). Ok, that's still a lot of money, but with a $15k incentive that's only $34,000... and that's not bad. That's actually pretty good, and very doable...

Only now that GM has the bailout money, the incentive isn't $15k anymore.... It's $2k


Ohhhh, I don't think so.

Now, take a look at the exact same truck, same options, but in the 2008 model year (there's four left unsold in the state apparently; all up in or around Flagstaff) and the invoice is $2k lower, and the incentive is still $7k.

Ok, maybe one of those. That brings it to $40k... not as good as with the $15k incentive, but possibly doable...

Until you look at the used price for a 2008 with 12,000 miles on it, equipped the same way... $30k to 33k.

Or a 2007 with 24k miles... $25k to 28k. And that's in absolutely perfect condition, with 5 years left on the warranty.

And those are full retail book. No-one pays retail book. Their resale value is about $8k under that; and you're likely to pay somewhere in between those two numbers.

Even at book though, that's about $25,000 less than MSRP on the new one, and $16,000 less than the actual sale price.

Who on earth is going to spend $54k or even $44k on a truck that will be worth $16-25k less in a year or two years?

Don't even get me started on the Escalade ESV (the Cadillac version of the suburban). They charge $20k more for the EXACT SAME TRUCK, with the exact same equipment; and 2 years later, its only worth $5k more than the Chevy. More than 50% depreciation.

This simply reinforces my long held opinion that you have to be an idiot to buy a new car without a huge incentive; and that goes double for a fully optioned up new car, or a new "premium" car.

But more importantly; it reinforces my opinion that GM is utterly clueless. They take the bailout, and then jack up the price of their trucks, that weren't selling at the LOWER prices.

Here's a hint for GM execs. Guys, if they weren't buying the trucks at $39,000, they aren't going to buy those same trucks two months later, for $11,000 more. We didn't get the bailout, you did.

Oh and not that Ford is much better.

The equivalent Expedition EL is smaller than the Suburban, doesn't have quite as much in the way of features, has 50 less horsepower and 50ftlbs less torque but just as bad fuel economy, isn't available in a 3/4 ton (though the heavy duty suspension package and heavy duty towing package give just a few hundred pounds less towing capacity); and prices out at just over $55,600, with an invoice of $49,800 and $4000 incentive.

Smaller truck, less power, less features, same price... Don't think so.

We also test drove the Crew Cab 1500, and 2500, Silverado; and liked them, though not as much as the Suburban.

The 2500 suspension was a bit harsh, and both trucks were somewhat unrefined. Though the interiors were very nice in the LTZ, and optioned up LT2 models, they were still a bit plasticky and work truck like (especially in the 2500, which had some funky switch gear). Also, the interior accoutrement weren't quite as nice as in the Suburban (you'd think they'd be exactly the same, but they aren't).

Surprisingly, the Suburban also handled better than either truck. Even though it was heavier, it felt more settled, and smoother (probably the weight, combined with passenger tuning rather than load tuning). With the 6 liter in all three, the 1500 clearly had the performance advantage however. That said, non of them were exactly sluggish; the 6 liter offers great power.

I don't want to leave the impression that these weren't very good trucks, they were; they just weren't as nice as the Suburban. I did however think that the Silverado was a bit nicer than the 2004-2008 Fords that I have previously driven (I haven't driven the 2009).

Of course they were also $6,000 MSRP less than the Suburban; which is a consideration. Surprisingly however, invoice was only $4000 under MSRP (on the 'Burban it was $7k under), and the incentive was only $1000 for the crew cab (it's $2000 for every other 1500).

The way they were, I wasn't exactly thrilled with the final pricing, at $44k and $46k for the 1/2 and 3/4 ton respectively.

We decided to move on to Dodge, and wait and see if a used 'Burban came into stock somewhere with the equipment that we liked.

Also because the numbers were so out of line on the 'Burban, and the Expedition; we decided to focus on the crew cabs, and we pulled them off the spreadsheet.


The numbers indicated that the Dodge was going to provide far better value, with their Employee Pricing Plus Plus Program (yes, that's really what they call it); giving a $7000 discount from MSRP, plus an additional $2000 in incentives.

Well, we test drove the 2500 diesel, and the 1500 hemi the week after the Chevys.

First things first, both are spectacular trucks. Far better than the Chevys that we drove the week before, or the Fords that I've driven over the past couple years. Even on the 2500, the interior was nicer, the amenities nicer etc.. and the in cabin storage is brilliant.

We drove the 2500 MegaCab diesel first, and liked it very much. The torque is amazing, and with no traction control (the diesels have stability control but no traction control) that motor will break the rear end loose any time you feel like it. That said, it's also smooth and quiet; not just for a diesel, but for a truck in general.

The only thing I didn't like about the power delivery is a little more delay in the kickdown than I'd like; but they do that on purpose, because with so much torque, and especially if you're hauling and towing heavy loads, a rapid downshift would be very hard on the transmission.

But for just one second, let me give a shoutout back to the torque monster. That is one hell of a motor.

The MegaCab interior is brilliant. It's a crewcab with an extra 4" of legroom, and 10" of space behind the rear seats for storage. That allows the 60/40 split bench to recline, and to fold forward into a more than 20sq foot flat load floor.

Combined with the doors that are 8" longer than normal crewcab doors (with HUGE windows that roll down completely), and you can esily fit a 3 foot square box, or a number of half sheets of plywood into the back.

With the huge double console, and cubbies everywhere, there is no shortage of storage and family room in this truck. The front seat console also folds up into a third seat, with a shoulder belt; that is good for a child, or a booster seat (and yes, it's car seat safe if you so choose; though it doesn't have car seat anchors).

The rear seats on the other hand have more than enough hip, shoulder, and leg room for three full sized adults. I can comfortably sit in the middle seat (yes, really); and with the front seats pushed all the way back, I have over 4" of room between my knees and the seat back.

Overall we were impressed with the 2500s handling; and it's lack of harshness even over poor pavement with no load. It did have slightly soft, long travel brakes, that stopped very well but didn't have great feel. The steering, was very sharp and responsive, but the turning circle on the truck was awful (49.7 feet according to the magazines), and reversing into tight spaces worse.

Happily though, even engaging 4wd low, and locking the diff, didn't worsen the turning circle or reversing circle (which I was surprised by. In most trucks, including the Chevys, there's some driveline backlash, and the turning circle widens slightly in 4 low with the diff locked).

So we were just about sold on the diesel, but wanted to drive the 1500 for comparison.

There is no comparison. It's a completely different truck.

From the minute you get into it, you can feel it's a completely different truck. The 2500 is a "really nice truck", but interior wise it definitely feels and looks like a truck. The 1500 has a completely different interior, and getting into it, the immediate impression is "luxury car".

I really didn't think it was possible they could be so different, but they are.

The 1500 is so much more like a comfortable car than a truck, it's hard to describe. The controls are designed and positioned better, so that nothing is a long reach (not the case with the 2500. All that room is great, but the reaches can be a bit long). The climate control is perfect, the audio/nav system positioning is perfect; and the seats are actually better than the seats in my caddy (and that's saying something).

That said, this is still a damn truck; how does it drive?


Firstly, the power. Yes, the diesel has more torque, but the absolutely instantaneous power delivery of the hemi is unbelievable. 390hp and 407ftlbs of torque with 225+ ftlbs available from 1500 RPM, and peak torque at 4000rpm, means fast off the line, responsive, fast passing and roll on. The feeling of instantly available power with this truck is great.

There is NO highway hop, no wheel hop in hard acceleration (the hemi does have traction control unlike the diesel) no harshness on any surface even with no load, and even in tow/haul mode (which stiffens everything up, and changes the shift program on the transmission).

Quick transitions are accomplished smoothly and with no drama, including accelerating and decelerating rapid lane changes; which usually throw trucks off balance. There is far less body roll in sharp corners than I would expect for a truck; in fact better than a lot of cars.

The 1500s turning circle is considerably better than the 2500 (about 28 feet). On the 2500, I had to three point in a narrow cul de sac; in the 1500 I was able to make full lock circles in it, even in 4wd low with the locker engaged.

Basically, this truck is in all ways far superior to the Chevys that I test drove last weekend; and the 2004-2008 F150s that I have driven before (I chose not to test drive the 2009s, because they are several thousand more expensive for equivalent features).

We went into the test drive expecting to like the 2500 more, and came out of it likeing the 1500 just as much; but for different reasons.

Although you give up a lot of towing capacity and payload with the 1500, and a good bit of room; the road feel, comfort, and manners you get back in exchange make up for it; at least for us, who are primarily using this as a family vehicle, not a work truck.

Now if they only made the MegaCab, with the 1500 interior, and the 1500 handling....

Actually, the 2010 2500/3500 models are getting the interior and exterior facelift the '09 1500s did; though of course they still wont have the independent suspension etc... but that's not what you want for a towing/hauling vehicle.


So, we went down to one of our local Nissan dealerships, and drove the Titan, and the Armada.

First thing, one salesguy took the up, I explained to him exactly what we were looking for, that we wanted only and exactly that; and that we wanted to talk specifics.

So he says "ok, let's go drive one" and he takes me out front, and immediate starts trying to downsell me "Oh, well, why don't you put the nav in aftermarket, it'll be cheaper". Then he says he doesn't have a 4x4 that I can drive. I tell him "look, I'm only interested in a 4x4" and he tries to tell me that I should drive the 2wd, it'll be just the same.

At that point I was rather irritated. I said to him "Look, I don't think you're taking my business seriously here. First you try to downsell me, now you're lying to me. You and I both know a 4x4 and a 2 wheel drive are going to feel, respond, and handle a lot differently. The suspension and drivline are different, the weight is different, the rear end is different... they are NOT comparable, and don't try and pass it off like they are just because you don't have one out here for me to drive. I think I have to go to another dealer".

At that point, he got kind of pissy and defensive, but he asked me to talk to his manager. I relayed exactly what was said, and the manager got me somebody who actually knew the trucks in question, and the product line; and knew what was in inventory.

So I found out from the new salesguy and manager that they haven't been getting any 4x4s with leather or nav from Nissan lately; and that they've had a hard time getting Titans in at all. That said, they did have an all leather and nav 2wd that we could check out the interior on, and they had a 4x4 we could drive.

I said OK, I'm still willing to give you my business, and I appreciate that they're ready to try and accommodate what I want.

So we drove the 4x4 with the crap interior; and we set in and played around with the optioned up interior.

We liked the Titan, but it's not as nice as the Dodge. Not nearly as much power, and the interior, though nice, isn't AS nice. That said, even with half the incentives, it's just as low priced as the Dodge (actually with current incentives, very slightly cheaper. You can get a loaded Titan for under $40k right now).

The wife however liked the Armada a LOT. We had looked at the numbers and decided it was too small initially; but actually sitting in it, and playing with the seats and cargo area, told a different story. It had substantially more room overall than the Tahoe, including more cargo area; and more headroom than the Suburban; as well as a more clever seating configuration that folded into a flat load floor behind the drivers seat (not long enough for plywood of course, just under 7ft; but useful enough that you can take a bungee with you and still pick up the wood)

So we decided to talk numbers about the Armada with the guy, and he finds one equipped like we'd like at an affiliated dealer in California.

Great, let's talk money.

So he goes out to do the manager dance and comes back with a printout for me, with a "market value" (note, not MSRP) listed $3k higher than I know the price is from the 'net.

Then he takes off $3000 in "savings", which is really just taking out the inflation he just put in; and the $4500 incentive.

Ok, that's at least a working number. Not a final number, there' more to come out of that "market value", but we can work with this.

Then there's a line item of $1894 for "accessories and value adds", which if you look into another section of the printout shows as "dealer prep" and "Arizona auto arrangement", on top of which he adds a $399 "documentation fee" and another line item of $1,009.80 in "fees".

So there's a $3200 line item for "Extra Dealer Profit".

Now I've just spent two hours with this guy. I've told him exatly what I'm looking for, exactly what I've done with other dealerships. He knows I know how much the thing actually costs. He knows I know what the options are. He should really know better than to start negotiating from this position... but he puts it down in front of me anyway, and says "So, can we make a deal?"

I literally laughed in his face, looked down at the sheet of paper, and said "not at that number, not even close".

Then he pulls out a sheet that he "can't let me keep" which supposedly shows his invoice and option cost (appx $5k less than the quoted "Market Value", but still $3K over what I KNOW the actual number is), and I laugh again.

The way he had the deal worked, the Armada was actually costing $4,000 more than the Suburban, which lists for more than the Armada, and has less than half the incentive and "savings" right now.

Yeah, I don't think so.

The deal that didn't happen:

So, we found a couple trucks very similar to what we wanted; but nothing exactly right.... or rather, whenever we found exactly the right truck, it would get sold before we could grab it.

It isn't so much that our option choices were selling like hotcakes; it's just the particular configuration we wanted was extremely rare. To order it would have taken 8-12 weeks, and in the mean time the incentive programs and pricing could change, and you can't lock in a price until the order is built... so that really wasn't an option.

We finally found two trucks very close to exactly what we wanted; a 2500 diesel laramie, and a 1500 hemi laramie. Both had nav and leather, but no rear DVD; and the 1500 had a sunroof.

The diesel listed at $57k but has $13k incentives on it, bringing it down to $44k. The 1500 listed at 52k, but had $11k in incentives, bringing it down to $41k.

We actually managed to squeeze'em down to $42.5k and $39.5k plus TLT.

Unfortunately, we just couldn't come to a deal. We never got to the point where the price, tradein, down payment, and rate made us happy; so we walked away from both and said we'd revisit things in a few months; when they'd be trying to get rid of unsold '09s to clear the way for the 2010 models.

Meanwhile I got to dealing with more fraud on my credit report, to help fix that rate issue.

Inflection point:

So that was six weeks ago; and the Expedition died on Tuesday.

I went back to our truck analysis, and looked at exactly what we wanted and needed from a truck:
  1. 3/4 ton preferred, but 1/2 ton acceptable
  2. Crew cab (or dodge mega cab, which is a crew cab, plus an extended cab grafted on) required
  3. 4x4 required
  4. Diesel preferred, gas acceptable
  5. Heavy duty suspension, with offroad package if possible (most dont let you get both)
  6. Towing package required
  7. Leather preferred, but cloth acceptable, if good and power
  8. Nav sytem preferred but not required
  9. Rear seat DVD preferred but not required
Also, I knew that the absolute maximum I could make things stretch would give us $5k for a down payment; and that's really cutting it tight for the next couple weeks.

$4k would be better, which gives us a price range of between $20k and $40k (getting financing today requires 10% to 20% down unless youre at 750 or above). Sadly, with the prices of trucks today, that means used to get what we want.

S'okay, as I said above I think used generally gives you a much better value.

So, we did a quick search on the net for trucks locally, found two dealers who had a number of trucks that were close, but nothing exactly matching the list.

The OTHER deal that didn't happen:

The first dealership had two decent trucks, but not really what we were looking for.

They also had a brand new old stock 2008 Expedition EL (that's the logn wheelbase version) King ranch edition with the tow package. We drove it, and liked it, so we decided to talk numbers.

Now, the truck originally listed at $47k. I told them right off the bat that I wasn't interested in paying anything near that. Also, I owe $6200 on the expedition, which will cost nearly as much to repair as they would give me in trade for it; which means we'd have to finagle the numbers to deal with that as well.

They offered me a great deal on it, but not great enough. They wanted an out the door price of $45k, including the underwater trade.

Now, normally speaking, I'd call that a good deal; but I know something. As of next month, any unsold 2008s will be reclassified for finance purposes by the banks as if they were used vehicles.

The wholesale used value on a 2008 Expedition EL King Ranch with 100 miles on it (it had been test driven a few times obviously) is $30.5k. Assume the Expedition is a total loss giving me a $6200 negative equity, that's $37k, plus TLT on the $30.5 brings me to just about $40k.

As it happens, the wholesale new value on the truck is just at $40k; which is probably what they've got in the truck; and in a month, the bank is going to write it down to $30k.

So I set a hard line, my out the door would have to be $40k. I said to him right off, "look I know you're losing money on this deal, but in a month you're going to be losing even more. This truck has been on this lot for 24 months (why didn't they auction it yet?), and absolutely no-one but me wants to buy an Expedition EL. So the question isn't are you losing money, it's how much money are you willing to lose".

They came down to $43k, but I wasn't interested in a dollar over $40. I told them as much, and said that I'd be looking at other trucks, if they were interested in dealing they had my number.

Yeah, I would have been skinning them blind, if it werent for the fact that I knew that truck wouldn't sell for the next month; and that if they hadn't auctioned it off (for the same loss they'd take with me) I would get the deal I wanted next month.

Found It:

The second dealership was a local truck specialty dealer here. Normally I don't like niche dealers (they tend to overprice a bit, and have iffy service); but we figured if we were going to find exactly what we wanted they were a likely choice, and their internet stock had some promising items.

We got there, and the internet trucks were good as promised, but we saw something else right away...

A big, black, badass of a truck, with chrome grille, chrome HD wheels, chrome bumpers, completely debadged (which looks great) and limoblacked windows.

It was debadged, but I could tell right away it was a 3/4 ton 4x4, megacab ram. Then I walked around back and saw the 4" tailpipe.


A 3/4 ton, megacab, 4x4, 5.9L Cummins diesel, in pearl black, with the heavy duty suspension, forged aluminum heavy duty wheels, chrome package, PERFECT spray in bedliner, tow package and lockers.

Exactly what we were looking for.

Unfortunately, it was an SLT-G (the upper middle trim package) instead of a Laramie, it had cloth instead of leather; and no nav system. Otherwise, it was fully optioned up. Power everything, perfect interior... I LOVE the megacab...

Yaknow what, we can live with that. Especially since the 3/4 ton diesel, is actually a 1.5 ton (max payload of 3220lbs, max towing 12,500lbs); and that diesel is going to be going strong long after I die (325hp, and 610ftlbs torque is a nice thing, never mind what Banks, King, Bullydog etc... can do with it).

That megacab is the best thing I've ever seen in a pickup.

The same truck, brand new, lists at $52,000 ($5000 less than the one with leather, nav, and DVD) though right now there's $10k in incentives available on it (less incentives than the Laramie as described actually).

This one is 2-1/2 years old with 45,000 miles on it; but it looks like showroom new; and they wanted $35,000 for it.

Seriously, there isn't a scratch, dent, chip, or spec on it; including the undercarriage. It's showroom new in and out. I would think it was a respray considering how good the undercarriage looks, but I know what to look for, and it's PERFECT. The bedliner is perfect except the rail caps are lifting up at the ends (that happens, They're only stuck on with doublestick tape). Even the floormats were perfect.

I did some quick internet research and found out that low wholesale on the truck was $27k, and the retail book was $37k. I offered $28k, $4k down, and no trade. They countered with $28.5k and $5k down, and they'd take the trade and wrap it in.

I made the deal.

They also took my truck in at $2500, which is honestly more than it's worth given the suspension repair required; but it was what they had to do to get the loan values right, and they were good with doing that.

So we're thrilled. This is a damn fine truck. It's gorgeous, it's almost exactly what we want, and it should last forever.

Now I need to get some steps/running boards for it (it really is high); a bed extender, and maybe a cap.

So take a look at this beauty:

The reflection in the tailgate is Mels old truck (now ceded back to her father as an airport/work truck), a '76 Chevy C10 longbed, I6 with 4 on the floor, with a granny and no overdrive.

One, I am not that fat (or that short), the tailgate is like a funhouse mirror. Two, the paint really is that shiny.

We're trying to figure out what to call it. Behemoth and "the beast" were rejected out of hand; but the wife liked Satch' (big, black, with a big mouth, deep lungs, and a deep gravely voice... very fitting).