As you may know, my Jeep was giving me lots of problems over the course of the past year. A couple of these problems were fairly normal: dead battery and a bad sensor in the fuel injection system. A couple were known problems that Chrysler (who owns Jeep) is not acknowledging:
* A broken gear shift. There were over 200 on back order when mine broke and none were being made at the time. By the time Chrysler started making more and shipped it out, it had been over a month since the shop received my Jeep. I was unable to drive it that whole time. Luckily, it happened at a time when I was out of town for two weeks and the rest of the time Scott and my work schedules were close enough that we could drive in together.
* A violent shaking of 'something' in the front end which made the steering wheel and then the whole vehicle start to shake. After doing some research, I discovered that this has been a known problem in Jeep's for at least two decades. It even has a nickname: the death wobble. Basically, it can be anything to do with the front end. I read about quite a few people who would fix one thing, it would go away for a little while and then come back, they'd have to fix something else entirely; it just turned into a never ending problem.
After discovering the death wobble, I had a very tough decision to make: do I begin trying to fix it or do I sell it? I lovelovelove my Jeep, so this was a very difficult decision to make. Ultimately, I decided that the amount of time and money it would take to maintain it wouldn't be worth it when I could get something else with a much better reliability record that would hopefully last me longer with no problems at all. After I emotionally came to terms with having to get rid of my beloved Jeep (not only a very fun ride, but she was also my first car), the real kicker was that it was already paid off and getting something new would bring yet another monthly bill. Luckily, Jeeps don't depreciate much, so I had a nice down payment in that.
After some searching on Consumer Reports and the Kelley Blue Book, I decided to start my search with Toyota: their reliability ratings are off the charts. I definitely wanted to stick with an SUV which led me to the 4Runner (it's at the top of it's class and the perfect size to fit my tent and misc. other craft show and faire accoutrement). My second choice was a Nissan XTerra: it rated well, not as well as the 4Runner, but above average; and I really like the look of it.
I went to the Jeep dealership where I bought my Jeep to have it appraised. They took it out for a test drive that lasted less than five minutes and didn't even look under the hood. Then I dealt with a manipulative, sexist dealer who assumed that I didn't do my research or know what I was talking about. When you buy or sell a car, do your research or you will be taken for a ride!!! I knew they weren't offering me what it was worth and the guy was feeding me a load of crap. When I called him on it, he just tried double talking me. I had no problem walking out the door of that dealership without looking back. Next stop was Carmax where Scott got his truck (Toyota Tundra). They took it for their 121 (or some other number) point inspection and test drive. They looked it over for an hour while I shopped for a 4Runner or XTerra on their lot.
I test drove both. The 4Runner felt like a well built machine and had a very, very smooth ride. After being in my Jeep for so long, it actually felt like a luxury vehicle. The XTerra handles very similar to the Jeep, which I loved, but it didn't seem as well made. I ultimately went with the more reliable vehicle: the 4Runner. The problem wound up being finding one used that fit the bill: affordable (even used, the majority of them were a bit more than I could afford), a V6 (I don't need the V8 and it would just use up more gas), an '04 or newer (the '03 was a model redesign, so I wanted to go later in case there were any bugs to iron out). I discovered that they are such well made machines that when people buy them, they usually don't get rid of them until they die, thus making them very hard to find.
I signed up for daily search alerts from Carmax and just a couple days after my test drive, got one that pretty much fit the bill - I even liked the color. It didn't include any extras: everything on it was standard, but I really didn't need anything more. It was in the next city over, so I had to have it transferred. I got there, checked it out, and made the ultimate heartrending decision to go for it. I was so upset at losing my Jeep, that I didn't get to enjoy the thrill of getting a new car. I cried when they drove my Jeep away. Literally cried. I spent a good week or so after buying my 4Runner feeling like I was cheating on my Jeep.
But, here I am, nearly a month later (and now that I've finally gotten my seat comfortable and am getting used to just how different it handles), I'm really starting to enjoy it. I finally moved all of my stuff from my Jeep into it and although she doesn't have a name yet, it's starting to feel like home.
If you stayed with me this long, you get to see the pictures! =)