By now many readers will be picking up a pattern of my car purchases: new car catches my eye, new car negotiation ensues, old car is traded in (probably at a loss), new car is fun for a while, something else catches my eye, rinse and repeat. This week’s installment is no different, although the resulting purchase stayed with me for a good while.
Even though I grew up in Ohio in an area that still had a rural character, my family was never pickup truck material. The only experience I had as a kid with pickups was when my dad asked a co-worker to do some repairs on our beat-up Delta 88 coupe that were somewhat extensive. The co-worker lent my dad his ’72 Chevrolet C-20 regular cab pickup so we could have a vehicle (the 88 was our only car). Four of us crammed across the vinyl bench seat, no air conditioning or FM radio – our 88 wasn’t exactly a Mercedes, but this seemed like a major step backward. (The fact that the co-worker had put a “bald is beautiful” bumper sticker on the truck that my dad didn’t notice until he’d been driving the truck for awhile was especially amusing.) Pickup trucks were great for work, and I didn’t see a need for one for myself (and the Ford Ranger test drive I mentioned several weeks ago reinforced this).
Then I had the opportunity to ride in a friend’s 1999 Chevrolet Silverado extended cab truck and was amazed by the experience. (Well, amazed may be a strong word, but you get the idea.) Roomy comfortable cab (even in the back seat), all the amenities of a car plus the capability of hauling stuff, and ride and handling that wasn’t punishing or scary. As we were beginning to do a lot of home renovations on our 1960’s ranch house and having to haul a lot of bulky stuff home from the local hardware store, a truck could be handy. Maybe I could be truck material after all – but not this truck, as it was way too big for my garage.
That probably would have been it for my truck thoughts but for one thing: around the time of my Silverado drive, Toyota announced it would be replacing the T100 pickup with the Tundra, a truck that was in between the compact pickups like the Tacoma and Ranger but not as large as the Silverado or F-150. A brochure was acquired and some quick garage measurements confirmed that a Tundra would fit in the garage (mostly, as we will see later).
This was around the same time that a no-haggle superstore that the CC readership has discussed at some length in previous COAL entries purchased one of the local Toyota dealerships, and it happened to be the next closest one to me (the closest one was the one where my Camry was purchased, and there was no way I was going back there). As I had been pretty happy with the used car buying experience from that store with the Accord, I felt pretty confident about going with them for a new Toyota.
Of course, there were some difficulties with this purchase, as there were with many others I have done. I was buying the Tundra very soon after its U.S. introduction, so the trucks were in short supply. I definitely wanted the “access cab” version, and the mid-range SR5 trim was in my price range. The V-8 engine, CD player (still optional at that time), and the convenience package (power windows, locks, and mirrors and a few other items) were also must-haves. Where I ran into trouble was in wanting a 2wd pickup – in our area of Maryland, we don’t get that much snow so I felt that 4wd was just an added expense. That limited my options for in-stock pickups to exactly one within 150 miles of my dealer. However, that pickup had a lot of extra options like fog lights (could take them or leave them), running boards (expensive but could be worth it), bed liner and bed cover (handy items to have), and a trailer hitch (not useful to me).
The problem with all these extra accessories was in the way Toyota calculated lease residuals at the time. High residuals are good because they make for lower lease payments. Toyota boasted about the high residuals for their vehicles but failed to mention that these residual percentages were applied only to the base price of the vehicle for their lease calculations. So the residual value for the Tundra was something like 70% or so, but that was only on the base price of the truck. Some options on the truck I was considering, like the CD player and the V-8 engine, were simply added on to the residual as fixed prices (and were more like 40-50% residual for these options). Virtually all of the accessories, like the running boards, bed liner, and trailer hitch, added nothing to the residual. So, in this case there was at least $2000-$3000 in options that I had to pay for completely within the 36-month lease. As a result, the lease payment was significantly higher than I had expected. However, by now I’d talked myself into really wanting this truck, so I was stuck with the higher payment. (I did consider telling the dealer that I’d be keeping all the accessories when the lease was up as they belonged to me, but that wasn’t necessary).
As I noted, our garage was not huge even though the house had been built at a time when 1960’s American cars were 17+ feet long. When I brought the Tundra home I found out that the width numbers in the brochure were the width of the truck body itself, not the mirrors. Luckily, there was just enough extra width in the doorway to fit the truck through without folding the mirrors…barely. The truck was long enough that I couldn’t open the manual garage door from the inside because I couldn’t stand behind the truck and get at the center-mounted door handle. I had to mount a second handle toward the side of the garage door to get the door open temporarily while I had automatic door openers installed. You can see how tight things were in these photos below.
The truck didn’t disappoint as a daily driver. The 245-hp V-8 engine enabled 0-60 times of less than 8 seconds, according to the brochure, and the seat-of-the-pants meters confirmed that this truck was one of the faster vehicles I had owned (the 0-60 times of the Thunderbird SC weren’t a lot faster, as I recall). As one might expect, this came at a cost of fuel economy that I hadn’t seen since my Monte Carlo days – 15 mpg was the best I could do around town. The ride was good and the truck was only really disturbed by bumps that went across the whole road as they made the solid rear axle hop a bit. The interior was as well-appointed and comfortable as our Camry, with supportive front seats and a full complement of gauges. The access cab doors were plenty wide for getting into the front and back seats, although since the cab was a bit smaller than the Silverado the rear seats weren’t quite as roomy or comfortable (but they did fold up to reveal hidden storage bins for tiedowns and other small items).
I did have a bit of trouble with those doors, however. The front door opened normally and the rear access cab door opened suicide-style, so the front door actually latched onto the rear door as there was no pillar to obstruct access. This was all fine unless the rear door wasn’t quite latched, as sometimes happened. The door would seem to latch but if something leaned against the door or a sharp curve pushed the door out, the doors would both open just enough to trigger an open door warning. Since Toyota had an interlock with the ignition switch to prevent locking the doors from the inside with the key in the ignition once a door was opened, the doors would then unlock and be impossible to lock again while you were driving. I had several instances on trips where something in the back seat would shift and push on the door and cause this problem. I just had to get used to packing the truck so that nothing leaned against the door.
The truck was great for hauling stuff, too, with an on-paper payload (people and cargo) of almost a ton. It hauled home many bulky items like interior doors, bathroom vanities, baseboards, a $75 upright piano (getting that out of the truck was the biggest problem), and even a rocking chair (sourced from an Amish furniture store in Ohio). I did get caught one time being overly optimistic about the truck’s capabilities as we were buying some landscaping wall stones. We were in the big-box home improvement store putting stones on a cart individually when an employee asked how many stones I needed (a bunch) and if I had a truck (yes, I did). He said he could just use a forklift to put a partial pallet of the stones I needed on the truck, and that sounded like a good idea to me. A good idea until he lowered the pallet into the bed and the truck went immediately to the bump stops and stayed there. Whoops, I guess I didn’t do the weight math correctly. Luckily, the store was close to home so I could get home quickly and get several friends to unload the truck.
I really liked having this truck, despite the considerable appetite for fuel, and kept it through the full 3-year lease. I wasn’t the only one to like it – when it was coming up to the end of its lease my dad asked me to sell it to him instead of turning it in. He was really happy with it as well. I only wish I’d have been as happy with what replaced the Tundra, though…