The Executive Summary
The other prospects I’d lined up in Oregon evaporated, but I’d found a couple further south. I was about to get on a plane and head down to L.A. when I thought to take a look at Portland’s Craigslist ads one last time before I decided to head out. As luck would have it, a local used car dealer had just posted a Sprinter not more than one hour earlier. I drive down the following day to take a look at it. It was perfect! It was everything that I’d been searching for. After a brief inspection and a short test drive, I bought the van and took it home.
I’d passed on the van in Seattle, but I still had a few prospect in Oregon. Or so I thought…
The one I was most interested in was down in Drain, OR. So I called the owner to ask them a few questions about the van. Unfortunately, I was told that the van wasn’t starting and that they’d taken it to a mechanic to get it looked at. The seller wasn’t sure when the van would get looked at or what the problem was. So it wasn’t looking good for that one.
The second one was less ideal, but I was willing to settle a little at this point. It was owned by a younger guy out in Bend, OR; a couple hours drive from Portland. In his Craigslist as he said that he’d already been living out of it. I felt like that was a good sign, seeing as how I was planning on do that very things with it. Unfortunately, the seller would only communicate via text message and was less than responsive to my inquiries. I certainly wasn’t going to drive two hours out my way for someone who couldn’t even answer a few text messages. There was a third one listed in Gresham, OR, which is right next to Portland. However, the seller mentioned that then engine had been rebuilt once already and so I wasn’t eager to buy a van with a rebuilt engine. Why did it need to be rebuilt? Who rebuilt it? How are their mechanical skills? Too many question marks.
I flew out west with multiple prospects and it felt like they had all dried up, almost overnight. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I had two weeks away from the office and an account full of airline miles. I didn’t care if I had to jet set around the whole damn country. I was going to find myself a van!
After taking Sunday to reassess my situation, I was beginning to think that I was going to have to change my criteria for what I was willing to buy or change my price range if I was going to get what I wanted. There just weren’t that many Sprinter vans on the market with super high ceilings and extended cargo bays. With this in mind, I began searching again.
I didn’t find anything new in the Portland area, but I did manage to find a couple down in L.A. I also found a couple in Phoenix and one in Las Vegas. I figured the three cities were close enough together that I could fly down to one and drive to the others. I could just keep bouncing around until I found a van that I was willing to purchase. I had a friend in Vegas who offered up his couch (thank you, Eric) and so I thought this would work out perfectly! So after I had finished working on Tuesday, I went online to book my flight.
I was just about to book a flight down to L.A. when I thought that I might as well take one last look at Craigslist, just to see if anyone in Portland had posted anything. After all, it would be much nicer to buy a van in Portland and get to spend some time working on it with my dad. So I took one last look and to my surprise, a Sprinter had been posted only one hour prior! It had the super high ceiling that I was looking for and the extended cargo bay! It had been listed by a small used car dealer in Eugene; only an hour and half away. So I called up the dealer immediately to run through my usual gamut of questions.
The vehicle sounded extremely promising. The salesman I spoke with was quick to email me over the history report. Everything looked good and so I told them I would be down the next day to take a look at it.
I arrived at the dealership the next day. The salesman walked me over to the van. It was red! A stark contrast from the traditional fleet white. Having looked at a few now, it was getting easier to size these up. I felt like I knew pretty well what to look at and where to look by now and this van was in great condition! It had been previously owned by a local coffee company, Boyd’s Coffee. They had been the only owner of the vehicle and it appears that they take very good care of their fleet. Trying not to let on my excitement to the salesman, I asked for the keys and took it for a test drive.
The van drove great! It handled well, the engine felt good, all the accessories seemed to work. Before returning to the dealership I found a closed business to pull into and inspect it further, as I’d done with one of the past vans. I double checked the wipers, turn signals, break lights, heat, a/c, radio, and everything else I could think to look at. I was feeling really good at this point. And so I drove it back to the dealership and, within 10 minutes, told the salesman that I’d be willing to buy it.
The asking price on this van was more than the others that I’d looked at so far, and it was more than I had originally budget for. But as I mentioned before, I was already thinking that I may have to come up on my price if I was going to find something that matched all of my criteria. This van looked and felt so much better than any others I’d looked at though that I would have happily paid asking price. After some negotiation, I got them to knock $500 off the sticker and we shook on $9000.
I had never purchased a car before. It was a new experience for me. I chatted with the salesman as we signed the required paperwork, still trying to contain my excitement. I got the dealer to agree to let me put the purchase on a credit card. This helped me to recuperate most of the airline miles that I had used on the flight out there. Once the paperwork was complete, he helped me return the rental car, handed me the keys to my new van, and I was off!
I had an hour and half drive back to Portland. I had been high on excitement for the first half of the drive, but as time went by, it had dawned on me. I just spent $9,000! Aside from my house, I’d never spent anywhere near that much money on anything. What had I done?! I was actually planning to drive this thing back across the country by myself. I was planning to live out this van. What the hell was I thinking? Did I make a mistake? A small bit of panic began to creep over me. But I managed to calm it with the thought that the van could always be resold for a similar price. What was I so worried about? This was the beginning of a new exciting journey!