Buying A New Vehicle is Work - Part 1

It will be great to get back to "normal". The past couple of weeks I have really been focusing on buying a new truck and have not bothered attempting to blog much at all.

The wife and I had sort of decided that it was time to start looking for a new truck. My 2011 Ford Ranger was getting pretty long in the tooth and while we just had it checked out last week and it was in great shape, it is nine years old and it was going to be a matter of time before the repair costs were going to outweigh the costs of ownership.

The old Ranger on its way to get new front hubs, it got me home though every single time.

Between the age of my old Ranger, the salt, sand, calcium chloride and whatever else they use on the roads up here in winter, it does a great job of eating vehicles for lunch eventually. So it was time to do my due diligence on a new vehicle.

However, buying a new vehicle sure as hell is not like it used to be. At least in today's world, you don't have to go to each dealership crawl around the vehicles, talk to the salesperson about the pros of each vehicle and then listen to the cons of the competitor's vehicles from those same salespeople. If you were really ambitious you could buy a Consumer Report magazine, or some of the car/truck magazines and watch their carefully constructed ads on television or in the newspaper.

What this usually meant was that I would get tired of the repair bills or need to get rid of a vehicle that no longer fit my lifestyle at the time, not do any research, go to the dealership nearest to where I was living (usually Ford) and get taken to the cleaners and then drive off with a nice new payment plan for the next few years.

This time I figured it would be the last truck that I will be buying (I think it should last 8-10 years and in my 70s a truck probably ain't what I will need) and it was important to know what we really needed for our next vehicle versus what we thought we needed and also to not be unprepared for the dealership's sales tag team tactics.

First things first - how did I use the Ranger over the last 7 years?

Hauling stuff to the transfer stations

Moving furniture around for us and others
Getting stuff from hardware stores for home projects
Moving firewood around the yard
Commuting to and from wherever we were going
Bad weather chauffeur - primarily snow

Carrying kayaks

Traveling to New Hampshire or Boston a few times

What I never used it for:

Towing - never even bought a hitch
No off-road time (I don't hunt, fish or go four-wheeling anymore)
No mud runs
Plowing snow - we didn't buy a plow for it.

Really, I use my truck more for driving around with an empty bed than I do anything else. I have just enough use of the truck bed that I want, more than need a truck and realistically could probably get by with the van for most of that stuff and rent a truck for anything else.

However, we both figured that a truck is what we would be getting. I am pretty predictable at times and I do like the versatility and not needing to depend on somebody else's vehicle to get stuff when I want to get it.

After thinking about what is more important to me now - I want my truck to be reliable, good in snow and if we decided to take it on a long trip, that it would be a nice ride, not a buckboard.

After a LOT of research - reading, watching videos, going to actually look at the vehicles we were considering, it came down to the Ford Ranger and Honda Ridgeline. We didn't need a full-size truck and the towing, plowing or off-road capabilities didn't really mean that much to us.

The biggest issue that I had with my 2011 Ranger was how cramped the cab felt with us and our gear in it. I always had a bunch of stuff packed in behind the seats. There just was not enough room in the cab for us and everything I wanted to keep in my truck, along with a spastic dog.

With all that in mind, I test drove a 2020 Ranger XLT 4 door pickup. It was a lot better riding than my old one and seemed a lot more modern. However, even with the 4 door model, I still felt as though the person sitting beside me was just too close and even with the extra room behind the seats, I could see that quickly filling up with my junk again. Plus I didn't think that my two step-daughters would enjoy riding in those back seats all that much, especially with a dog in the truck with us.

However, the new Ranger was a nice vehicle and would do everything that I wanted from a 4WD mid-sized truck.

However, was it what I wanted?

Three things really stood out in my mind as negatives, putting four adults in the vehicle, plus a dog, where would I put all the stuff that I carry (I know don't carry as much stuff) and the height of the tailgate to put things on - yeah this last one was a big deal.

Where we live allows 3 five-gallon buckets sand from the sand house after each storm and while I can lift them now without too much problem up to chest level, higher than that with my bad shoulder, it becomes an adventure in discomfort and with the height of the 2020 Ranger's tailgate, even though I am 5'7", well it would be an adventure each time I go to get sand. Plus at 62 years young, I am not a puppy anymore and the idea of lifting those heavy buckets up that high as I get older each year was not something to look forward to.

I know, I know suck it up buttercup, but if I do not have to and can work smarter not harder, that is a better way.

Another huge positive factor for the Ranger was the Ray Haskell Ford dealership, which is where I get the Transit worked on and I believe they are one of the best Service Departments I have ever used - that goes a long way with me and how I see things.

Next up was the Honda Ridgeline.

When I test drove the Ridgeline on Saturday, I was pretty much blown away. It rode like a very comfortable SUV and did not have the truck rear-end bounce after hitting bumps in the road. It was a lot wider than my old Ranger or the new one that I test-drove and it just felt solid and very responsive to drive. However, I am not a fan of leather seats and know that the electronics start at the front bumper and end at the back bumper, so it is not something that I or some backyard mechanic are going to work on too much. However, the storage trunk in the back was amazing and the dual-action tailgate made things more easily accessible

After test driving both vehicles, I went back to do some more research about problem areas for both vehicles, did some research on the dealerships, got familiar with the different models, options and ballpark pricing on them.

They were comparable in a lot of areas, but the interior room and storage areas were a significant difference, plus the ride in the Honda was much more comfortable. So I had pretty much decided which direction I thought we needed to go.

The more I thought about things and what were my priorities, the more I actually preferred the 2019 Sport model, which was not a top tier model, it is closer to a base, but with enough gizmos and gadgets to keep me happy. The 2020s had more standard equipment (toys and distractions) and fully opening rear doors would have been nice but the price was a bit more too. Plus I am not a fan of their new 2020 gear shifter.

The next step was to talk to Mary and get her opinion.

That Sunday we had to go into Augusta so we stopped by Charlie's Honda, while they were closed and we walked around some of the 2020s on the lot and they had two 2019 left - a black Sport and a RTL-E that I had test drove the day before. She hadn't realized just how big the Ridgeline really is and the extra storage compartments for all my junk would mean it would not be in back of the front seats. The actual room for all four of us was another improvement.

She seemed intrigued, so the next morning we made an appointment for 1:00 PM to test drive together a Ridgeline.

End of Part 1.