Austin runs a home remodeling business. He is looking for an affordable ride that can act as an advertising canvas but is also fun to drive. He has a modest budget of around $15,000. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
I own an exterior remodeling company, mainly roofing. I need to buy a car that I can wrap to take me to and from sales appointments. I don’t want a boring Ford Transit van. What car should I buy? In terms of requirements, I just want something fun and reasonably good on gas. I am coming from a 2000 GMC Sierra so anything would be better! A manual trans would be preferred and I can spend up to $15,000.
Budget: Up to $15,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Fun, good mpg, advertising platform
Doesn’t want: A big, boring, box
Austin, I can totally understand not wanting to be stuck behind the wheel of a contractor van as practical as they may be for hauling equipment. I imagine you already have dedicated work vehicles, so you want your daily driver for managing client consultations to be somewhat enjoyable and of course, keep fuel costs to a minimum.
That being said, in order to splash an effective ad on a wrap you would need a car that has a lot of paint real estate and therefore a boxy-ish look would be ideal. I would suggest you go with a Kia Soul. These are funky enough to be a bit different than a standard compact, but would also act as a pretty good canvas for whatever wrap you want to put on.
There are plenty of Souls available in your region with reasonable miles and even a number of them have three-pedals on the floor. Here is a nice one that is well under budget.
Let me take five seconds here and just:
That worked out better than I thought it would! America almost criminally undervalues vans, and you can get amazing stuff if you extend your search to it. This Ford Econoline from 1966 is the many-window model (everyone is happy to see a van that they can also easily see into) and it’s two-tone in fun colors.
The seller is only asking $8,500, which is wild considering how classy this thing is. If this was a VW Bus it would cost three times as much if you’re lucky.
We spend so much time and money buying van-like vehicles like the Soul above. Just go full out!
I’ll admit, my first gut reaction was to go for some amazing old Corvair Greenbriar van, like this one, because I’m a sucker for a good old air-cooled, rear-engined van. But I realized Raph’s Econoline would look and feel about as good, and was a bit cheaper, too. And neither is that great on gas or even has a good, blank, flat area for your wrap and branding. Then I realized that there’s something that does do exactly what you need: a Nissan S-Cargo.
Well, really, our own Max Finkel suggested it, but he has to go get a colonic or something so I’m stealing this suggestion because it makes so much damn sense.
The S-Cargo, gleefully weird as it may seem, is actually a coldly rational commercial vehicle bastard when you get right down to it. It’s small on the outside for parking and maneuvering, big on the inside for all your stuff, and has a huge blank area on its sides that was literally designed to showcase logos and branding.
This was designed to be a fun, eye-catching commercial vehicle from day one—of course it’ll do exactly what you need!
Plus, it’ll get great gas mileage from it’s little four-banger (30s to 40 MPG easy), it’s comfortable and airy, and the fact that its RHD means you can easily use it to shove advertising flyers into mailboxes.
If I was looking for a roofer to finally dislodge that half a telephone pole from my attic, and I was picking between two roofers, I’d take the one that drove the fun S-Cargo, no question.
Our pal Gary Duncan has one for a reasonable $11,900. The 1.5-liter engine is basically the same as the one Sentras used, so mechanical bits are not even hard to get.
This is an easy choice. Drive a big snail.
Oh yes, I’m finally free from this prison I’ve been trapped in for years, and it feels good! Patrick George, beloved former Jalopnik editor-in-chief, banned me from recommending Jeeps in “What Car Should You Buy” articles. But now Patrick is gone, and I’m free to finally recommend the correct automobiles for the job. And in this case, it’s pretty obvious that you need a Willys Wagon.
The key to the success of a small business is getting the company’s name out there. That means, whichever vehicle you drive sporting your company logo is going to have to stand out. Tom’s Kia Soul suggestion ain’t going to cut it, and though I think Raph’s van suggestion and Jason’s snail-car will probably do you well in that area, the van is creepy as hell, and the snail’s parts availability won’t be great.
What you need is a vehicle like the Willys Wagon, which people tend to associate with surfing at the beach—it’s fun! No, it won’t get great fuel economy or comfortably go highways speeds, but it’s got lots of space, has a nice three-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive, and uses the same powertrain as pretty much every Jeep from the 1940s and ’50s, so finding parts won’t be hard. The one above is only $3,500, though it needs work. Really nice, complete examples can be had for 10 large.
It’s the perfect machine for the job, and yeah, it’s a Jeep. J E E P. Man, that feels nice.