The Auto Question

Rhonni —  July 4, 2013 — 4 Comments

As traveling professionals, our vehicular choices are determined by the specifics of our careers. If I pull a 5th wheel trailer, I have to drive an open-bed pickup truck. If I choose a pull-behind trailer, then I could drive a truck with a cap, a truck with a cab over camper, or a full-size van. I could drive a smaller vehicle if I chose a pop-up camper, or if I had apartments of some sort at each of my stops in my schedule.

Secondary vehicles are determined by parameters of tow-able or not, large enough for supply runs, or not.

Fuel efficiency can seem like an important factor, given the number of miles some of us travel. That is, until you realize how much you spend with UPS in shipping the stuff that won’t fit into your vehicle when traveling from show to show.

When you find that perfect vehicle for your festival business or set of businesses, you stick with it, sometimes through several vehicle changes. You simply get newer versions of the same rig you had before.

But when you make changes to how you do festivals, or the business you own or manage. When your business evolves … your vehicle needs change.

I’m at this juncture right now, and I’m a bit stymied. I dislike car shopping. Whether it is because I don’t want to get a salesperson’s hopes up when I am likely to buy in a different geographic region; or because my income is lopsided to where the times of the year when I am flush with the funds necessary to buy a car, I don’t have the time to studiously shop. It is most likely a combination of the two.

Many of us in this industry spend more time with our cars than we do with our houses. Seriously. I like to picture myself in a vehicle for a few months before I make the leap. Having the perfect vehicle is the difference between “struggle” and “ease” in this industry, so the decision deserves thoughtful consideration.

I’m so lost that I thought I should draft a letter to Click & Clack of the NPR show “Car Talk” … which is now more of a website and podcast situation, but Tom and Ray Magliozzi are seriously the best, so I’m hoping that they, or someone on their team will take pity on my confusion. I welcome input from you readers as well … please share your insights in the comments. Now here is the email I’m planning to send to the Car Talk guys in hopes that they will find the question interesting enough to answer:

Dear Click & Clack,

The Question:
I hate car shopping. I like having exactly the right vehicle for my work life, but I want to find it used, and love it so much that in a couple of years I just trade it in when I get a slightly newer model. (Rather than having to really shop for a car at that point.)

Unfortunately my vehicular needs have shifted since my last car purchase. When I bought my 2006 Chrysler Town & Country (Touring) … that uber-slick Stow-n-Go feature was the perfect thing in my world. I needed a passenger vehicle that could occasionally be a cargo van, without having to physically remove a seat or a seat component in order to make that happen. I do some very long drives, so the extreme adjustability of the driver’s seat was an additional plus.

But my needs have shifted. I only need 2/3 of the cargo space of my old Town & Country. I also need better road clearance, since I spend ¾ of my year on dirt roads. However, I do not have any need for 4wd, as I simply move south every winter.

But while we talk about cargo space, which was the winning element of my current car; something needs to be said about the efficiency of the shape of cargo space. I think that the Rubbermaid Tub people ought to release a rating system for vehicles. How many 18 gallon and 10 gallon Rubbermaid Tubs fit into a cargo space? Because everyone knows that is a clearer explanation of cargo space value than cubic inches. Who cares how much oxygen fits in the cargo space? Tell me how square the cargo space is.

So I am asking for your advice. I *think* I’m looking at a crossover vehicle, because I want the road clearance, even though I don’t want 4wd. My vehicle needs to ride like a car rather than a truck, because our other vehicle is a Ford E350. My vehicle is the road trip vehicle when we are not using it for work, which means that both a 5’4″ woman and a 6’6″ man need to be able to be comfortable behind the wheel. So what are my best options? Volvo XC90? Volvo XC70? Chrysler Pacifica? Toyota Venza? Ford Flex? Honda Element? Mazda5? Any type of Jeep? (Surely Jeeps all ride like a truck.)  There are so many different makes and models in that general range, it is overwhelming.

The Backstory:

You can totally skip this is you want, I know you are busy people, but the reason I am so concerned with getting this answer right is because I just about live in my car. I mean, not really, but I spend more time with my car than I do with my house. My husband and I own restaurants and other businesses inside seasonal theme parks. Consequently, I live in Atlanta in the spring, New York in the summer, Houston in the fall, and then I go home to Rockport, Texas for the winter, to rest until we start it all over again. When I say I occasionally need a cargo vehicle, it’s because I’m relocating my office, and my pantry, and some clothes 4x every year. We have permanent apartments at each location, so actually the clothes consist of a single suitcase and a few hanging things. (If you ever think about complaining to your wife about the state of her closet and her wardrobe purchases to fill it … remember that I have 4 closets, and the most understanding husband on earth.)

So Festival Prose Readers,  … that is the letter I’m sending to the crew at Car Talk.

I’d love to hear your opinions and advice about your favorite road vehicle and how it fits what you do.How many Rubbermaid tubs can you fit into your cargo space? Please let us know your thoughts in the Comments.

Rhonni

Rhonni is a blissciplined serial entrepreneur, who has crafted a life in which she is surrounded by people who do what they love. She curates http://festivalprose.com and you can see the internet version of her business card at fools-cap.com.

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4 responses to The Auto Question

  1. A crossover vehicle is comfortable and versatile. I still think vans are really practical and you can get luxury features in them, too – as well as plenty of room.

  2. Al Craig

    I think the town & country is hard to beat for all the reasons that you gave plus they are a very comfy drive and ride. Also if you can find a low mileage 2012, they have a Mercedes engine in them.

  3. Nothing to add, but I do hope the Car Talk guys respond and that you post the link for us to listen!

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