Thom recently took a job as a distributor for a South African E-Bike company. He has to travel a lot to visit various dealers and needs a comfortable ride that is good for transporting bikes and gear. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario -
I recently became the US distributor for an e-bike company based in South Africa. Part of my job includes developing a dealer network, which will involve a lot of travel to dealers and trade shows while carrying at least two bicycles and display paraphernalia for the shows. This also needs to be an adequate daily driver with seating for at least three adults and a large dog. I shouldn’t need seating for more than two people while hauling bikes and trade show equipment, I don’t mind folding or removing second-row seats as long as it is a fairly quick and simple process.
I would like Reasonable fuel economy- I’m okay with a hybrid. Comfortable for long drives. Room to carry multiple bicycles without much disassembly. Able to handle unmaintained roads, not a serious off-road vehicle, but able to access trailheads on gravel or dirt roads.
Also I spend 3-4 long weekends a year doing volunteer trail maintenance, I don’t NEED to sleep in the vehicle but I could be handy. I have a Siberian Husky who sheds an amazing amount, easy to clean interior is a plus.
No full electric vehicles. Nothing that requires more than wheel removal to carry 2-3 bicycles locked inside.
I have a budget of up to $35,000
Budget: up to $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Lakeview, OR
Wants: Space, comfort, decent MPG
Doesn’t want: Something too small or too thirsty
One of the frustrating aspects of this car market is when folks do all kinds of research and come to a conclusion that a certain model is best for them only to find out that sourcing that car at a competitive price isn’t really achievable.
In your case, it seems the Toyota Sienna is a perfect fit. It has a standard hybrid powertrain that gets up to 36 MPG and comes with all the space and comfort you would expect from a Toyota van. A base model LE has an MSRP of $36,555 including destination so it’s probably worth stretching the budget. However, good luck finding any Sienna on the ground near you that doesn’t command a big markup. There is a chance you can wait for an order but that will be several months.
If you want to score something in the short term, the Ford Transit Connect is likely your best bet. I recently attended the NJ/NY Abilities Expo to look into an adaptive E-Bike for my wife, most of the wheelchair/bike vendors showed up with Transits and similar “commercial” style vans. A Transit “passenger” version will give you a bit more flexibility toggling between people and bikes and still get a respectable 28 MPG highway. New units are a challenge but here is a low mile used 2022 model right in your zone.
Reading through your requirements, what I really see is that you can get away with owning a cool car, then handle your job duties with a trailer. It’s how I’ve owned over 20 motorcycles with nothing more than a Smart Fortwo as a daily driver.
For your requests of a family hauler that can hold the pooch while still netting good fuel economy, I suggest the W124 Mercedes-Benz 300TD. This is a classic car that still has some modern tech like a multi-link suspension. The feds say that you can expect to get 25 mpg on the highway but in my experience, they actually get closer to 30 mpg.
The cost of diesel may make this one a difficult sell, so be sure to check local diesel prices.
But wait, what about the bikes? Well, check out that tow package on the back of this one. Get yourself a small trailer and you’ll be good for whatever life throws at you. And at just $7,600 you can go and spend the rest of your well-earned cash on other things.
Thom, I promise not to recommend this diesel Mercedes-Benz R320, which was my first thought because MPVs are criminally underrated. The M-B R-Class is better suited for your passengers and Siberain Husky than your e-bikes. And something suited for the e-bikes would be a big Nissan NV Cargo Van, which would be neat but would blow the gas budget! Still awesome and appropriate!
So I suggest a 2022 Nissan Frontier. I think a new Frontier with a long bed (6-foot) would balance long trips, daily driving and reasonable fuel economy while still giving you decent cargo and passenger space. I’m thinking of a ’22 Crew Cab Long Bed SV, which can be optioned either as a 4x2 or 4x4 model.
The caveat is that the Frontier 4x4 long bed is over budget, starting at around $37,690. The 4x2 starts at $34,690, which is a barely under budget before any dealer shenanigans. But if this is going to be your home away from home and the vehicle you’ll rely on for a budding business, something newer is best!
Look, for the practical option, Tom got it right. A compact van is what you really need. But what do you want? Do you want to be bound by the shackles of mundane practicality your whole life, doing only what’s sensible and recommended and smart, or do you want to live?
I present: a Frankenstein’d 1971/1969 Chevy El Camino on 38.5" mud tires. It’s got a bed out back, that will fit at least three ebikes, and there’s more than enough room in the interior for even the biggest of dogs if you pull out the passenger seat.
The El Camino has the ground clearance for your unmaintained roads, and it makes a statement when you roll up to the trails with your selection of ebikes in tow. How much easier will a sale be when everyone already wants to talk to you?
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