So, where were we. Portland, Oregon. It’s Monday around 12:30 p.m. We’re back at our RV park with a broken Smaug (our tow vehicle) and a rental car. We have six and a half hours before I have to be at the airport. We have five days before we have to move to Seattle and pick up our kids from the airport there. No pressure.
Vehicle Shopping Is Way Fun
As we set out on a lighting fast vehicle shopping tour, we had two options:
- Purchase a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (somewhere in the 2013-2015 range), which we had been planning to do in March 2017 anyway. Pros: Eric had been doing a ton of research and had a really good idea of what he was looking for. Cons: We hadn’t set aside the down payment yet, and we weren’t 100% ready to start making the monthly loan payment.
- Find an old vehicle we could pay for in cash, that would tide us over to when we got back to Texas. The idea was to get a sought-after sedan model (e.g. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord) that we could resell and recoup a decent portion of our investment. Pros: No debt, monthly payments or financial pressure due to having to scrape a down payment together. We would be able to take our time shopping for the right Jeep once we got home to Texas. Cons: We weren’t super excited about having to fit everyone in a sedan during Highland Family Summer Vacation in Seattle, and we still had a long trip down to Austin.
We had scoured the Internet to find vehicles that fit both scenarios. Now, people don’t typically get rid of Jeep Wranglers, especially Rubicons, so we only found a couple in the whole Portland area to look at. One was over-priced. The other we test drove, and it didn’t feel good.
Meanwhile, we found a little, old Camry. It was a 1998 with something like 150,000+ miles on it. For our purposes, it was exactly what we were looking for. Moreover, when we sat down with the sales agent, he was kind, flexible negotiating and actually willing to let us take the vehicle to Everett Street Autoworks for a pre-purchase inspection!
By this time, we were getting tight on time before I had to get to the airport. As we pulled out of the parking lot, Eric and I were talking logistics and trying to figure out whether he could get the Camry to Everett Street Autoworks while I was in Austin. Mid-sentence, I heard an exclamation from the passenger seat. Literally out of the corner of his eye, Eric had spotted a Rubicon at a Chevy dealership as we were passing.
You Know Where This Is Going
We assessed the Jeep as we pulled up. It was a 2014 and the price was way too low. It was so low that I was convinced it had a manual transmission, not automatic. And I refused to get out of the car to look any further.
It had an automatic transmission.
But it was 5 p.m. and we weren’t sure the dealership was even open.
It was. And a super peppy and excited sales agent practically skipped out with keys and we were off on a test drive.
As the story goes, this Jeep Wrangler was purchased in 2014 by a retired man who basically used it to drive his grandkids to school. He had wanted to offroad with it, but instead he kept it garaged and in immaculate condition. Instead of the 36,000 miles that would be typical of a two-year-old vehicle, this one had 14,000. It was mostly stock, but had some nice upgrades like BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM tires (which are currently on a waiting list), sexy hood latches, window shields and heavy duty floor liners. It drove beautifully.
Back at the dealership, it was time for Eric to crawl under the Jeep to see how things looked there. With a friend on speakerphone (thank you, Sean Walker!), Eric took pictures of every inch and texted them to Sean for evaluation. Aside from minor, normal rust, the skid plates and everything else were, again, immaculate. Sean told Eric that, at the price they were asking, we would pretty much be insane not to buy this Jeep.
So we signed a purchase agreement and rushed off to the airport.
Tear-Inducing Airport Debacle
After squealing tires through a Wendy’s drive-thru, we made it to the airport and Eric dropped me off. I had only been to my OBGYN in Austin one time, when I flew in from Monterey, and that was back in April when I was nine weeks pregnant. I skipped my late May appointment with my doctor’s permission, so this was going to be my first time seeing the doctor in two months. I was pretty anxious to learn about my baby and make sure everything was okay.
The plane took off from Portland for Seattle, where I was connecting for an overnight flight to Austin. About fifteen minutes before landing in Seattle, the pilot came over the intercom. Sea-Tac was shut down due to a lightning storm, so we were turning around and going back to Portland.
I was crestfallen. Back in Portland, everything was sheer chaos. I had the option of staying on the plane and waiting to go to Seattle. But there was a good chance the plane to Austin would already have taken off by the time I got there. I was told that if I got off the plane in Portland, I couldn’t get back on. I got off because there wasn’t anyone on the plane who could give me a clear idea of what my options were.
Once I finally got to an agent inside, I found out there weren’t any flights to Austin that would arrive before mid-day the next day. The problem was, my appointment was first thing in the morning. And, more problematically, my flight back to Portland was leaving in the afternoon. Even if I could reschedule my appointment, I would miss my flight home.
By this time, it was almost midnight. I had had the craziest day. I was trying so hard to make my brain work and my mouth communicate, but I really just wanted to cry and pull the pregnancy card on everyone. I couldn’t figure out a solution no matter how hard I tried. So I called Eric, who was in bed, and asked him to pick me up.
New Day With Victory and Loss, But Mostly Victory
We survived to see Tuesday, and this new day held promise. After knocking out our work in the morning, we headed back to the dealer to complete our Rubicon purchase! They weren’t expecting us until the next day, so it took a while to get the paperwork in order, but we gathered some cool information in the process.
Here’s the story. The vehicle had been listed around $42,500, which is already a fair price for a 2014. The weekend before we arrived, the price was dropped to $34,496. When the Jeep didn’t sell, they decided to keep the sale price until the following weekend. So we found this Jeep during the 7-day sale price window…and it was an incredible sale.
The logical question is: why didn’t anyone snatch it up before we got there? Well, Eric did some sleuthing online to figure out how he had missed it. Assumedly because it was a Chevy dealership and not a Jeep dealership, they had listed it as a “Jeep Wrangler Unlimited” instead of a “Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.” Unlimited just means 4-door, so anyone looking for a Rubicon would’ve ignored the listing.
The pieces fell together so beautifully, and we were absolutely confident this was the Jeep for us.
Tying Up Loose Ends
We had passed the turning point and knew we were going downhill at this point. But there were still loose ends to address. From the dealership, we went to return the rental car. That done, we went back to the campground to pick up Smaug.
We decided to take Smaug to CarMax, which we had visited the day before to look at a Jeep. We had never dealt with CarMax before, but the selling process was a breeze. We held our breath while Smaug was evaluated by a mechanic. We would’ve been happy to get $500 at this point because we knew he was not in good shape.
While we waited, we had a delightful time with the sales agent, mostly talking about our RV adventures. When our offer for Smaug came in, it was approximately five times more than what we were hoping to get. We think the assessor went easy on us. But we also know God was looking out for us and helping us recoup our unexpected down payment.
Shortly after, we walked out with our check, which we immediately took to the bank and put back into savings. Four days later, we were in Seattle showing the new Jeep to our boys and Eric’s mom, still extremely grateful for how everything had worked out.
Did I Make It to the Doctor?
Long story short, there was no resolution for my missed doctor’s appointment. The airline was only willing to give me the value of my original ticket price, and “unfortunately” I had found a really good deal. Like you would expect, all flights over the next couple of weeks were exorbitantly expensive because they were last minute…like $1,000+ out of pocket expensive.
Plus, I had purposely tried to avoid a trip to Austin while we had the kids in Seattle, so I wouldn’t have to miss time with them.
Pregnancy anxiety aside, I couldn’t justify the airline expense when I was going to be back in Austin in about a month. I spoke to my doctor, who told me it wasn’t absolutely vital if I was feeling good (though missing the appointment definitely wasn’t ideal).
I really struggled with the whole thing for a week or two. But eventually Baby Nomad started kicking, which was reassuring. Finally making it to the doctor on July 28 at 22 weeks and seeing baby on the ultrasound was absolutely beautiful. Eric and I were so moved to see all his fingers and toes, his cerebellum, and chambers of his heart, and to learn that he was absolutely perfect for his age. We even got to see his face, and I couldn’t believe how cute that little nose was. So while it took patience and trust, everything turned out okay.
What Was It Like to Buy a Vehicle Out of State?
Buying a vehicle out of state was a pain. Not because there was a lot of red tape or hoops to jump through, but because we wanted to be legal and there was no easy way to be legal with multiple states involved. The state of Oregon only gives out one 21-day permit, which goes by quickly for full-time RVers. In Washington State, we found out that we could buy two 3-day permits for a pretty ridiculous price. Considering we were going to be there for a month with family, there was no point. So we basically drove around with expired tabs for more than two weeks.
Our home state of Texas sent us an inspection waiver which meant we couldn’t get in trouble with them. Once back in Texas, we had 72 hours to get a state inspection, which we did. Registration was another story, but that’s for another day. Like all our other vehicle crises, we got through.
We’ve said it before: full-time RVing requires flexibility. The lifestyle lacks a certain amount of stability. You have to expect the rug to be pulled out from under you from time to time, and recovering is not as easy as it would be if you lived in one place with familiar resources and community. But this challenge, like all our others since taking to the road two and a half years ago, had a happy ending. Thanks for sticking with us along the way.