COAL #39 2006 Toyota 4Runner – Lesson Learned

After selling my Land Cruiser and S60, I decided that I was missing something I’d already owned. You may remember the accident in my 07 4Runner; I had wanted another one, but was just never able to find one. I had kept my search open, but either the ones I found had too many miles, or were too rough around the edges. One day I stumbled across this 1-owner 2006 Limited with the V8. It had everything that my old one had, and lower miles than my 07. The seller was a Toyota dealer in Missouri, who had it marked down considerably.

Now, before I get too ahead here, readers of the COAL on the 2007 seemed a little upset that I bought it thinking I had expected it to be trouble free. As with any car, I knew that there is the potential for problems to arise, after all it is a car, and it had high miles (183,000). We joked that the 2007 was a fickle bitch, because of the check engine light that would pop up just as soon as I fixed it. As with the 07, I made my way up to the Toyota dealer in Missouri equipped with a OBDII scanner to take a look at this 2006 4Runner.

The dealer was a small dealer really in the middle of nowhere Missouri. It had recently been “facelifted” and looked really nice. I met the salesman that I had called earlier to make sure it was still there, and he directed me to an indoor delivery area. I took a look at the car, and agreed it was what I was looking for, I just wanted to take it on a test drive. He gave me the keys, and said take as long as you want (I guess this is an appeal of living in a small town). I took the 4Runner for a decently long test drive, even stopping a few times to walk around it, and check under the car for leaks once it got up to operating temp. Once I was satisfied that it was the car I was looking for, I made a deal, and went on my way.

I usually am a little hesitant about buying cars of this age from dealers like this because, the salesmen don’t always know the back story behind the car, or have any types of service records. Sometimes cars of this age are taken in on trade, and tossed to the side of the lot waiting for auction. One thing I have learned is Toyota dealers are not so quick to shy away from keeping older 4Runners or Land Cruisers, because they usually are taken care of, last for a long time, and have a cult following. Like I mentioned above, this one was marked down considerably, because it had been at the dealer for awhile, and no one in the small down was biting. Also, the dealer was able to provide me with every service record since the car was new, showing it had always been serviced there. The salesman was also able to provide me a back story on the car, saying it was the dealer owner’s son-in-law that had it since new. He recently traded it in on a new 4Runner. After hearing all of this, I felt confident in buying this car.

The car was incredibly clean, and extremely well take care of. The previous owner never skimped out on service; I guess when you get your maintenance done cheap or free, why not? It did not look like there had been anyone ever in the back seat, and it was definitely not abused. Like my other 4Runner, this Limited was top of the line with leather, navigation, 4WD, and back up camera. The V8 was about the only must that I wanted when I was looking. It really makes it peppy in terms of SUV standards. The 4WD was really great, with the V8 it is always in 4WD, but you get the option to shift into 4-LOW. Of course this didn’t help with gas mileage, but if you are getting the V8, I doubt you care about gas mileage.

Note the replacement seat bottom. It’s common for these 4Runners to have ripped seats at higher miles. Toyota leather just doesn’t hold up well.

Nothing really happened during my ownership of this car, so you are probably thinking why I even bothered to post about this car. Well, everything happened after I sold the car. The ownership of this car was actually great. I had really enjoyed my 2007, and missed the power and ride of the Limited V8. Unlike the 07, the 06 never gave me one ounce of trouble. I had known I was going to sell it one day; 4Runners like this usually sell quickly in my area. It’s another car that is often seen roaming around in Fayetteville.

Before we go into the big mistake I made, I realize that it was very stupid of me, so don’t roast me too hard. So, after owning it for a while I decided I was ready to move it on. I listed it for sale at right in the middle of what market value was. I always figure that gives me some negotiation room, and if I don’t sell it, no big deal. I am never in any rush to sell, and just let things happen. Surprisingly it took 3 weeks to find a buyer who was willing to show some interest. He stated that he was from Dallas and was looking to come up on a Friday during the day. I told the potential buyer what the lowest I was going to take for the car, just as a heads up. I did not want him to drive 6 hours one way for him to be surprised that he wasn’t going home with the car. He agreed, and told me that he had been in an accident recently and insurance just paid him out for his old 4Runner (this is a key part later in the story).

Friday came around, and like he said he made it up to Arkansas. I had told him to meet me at my work, and I was going to only have an hour for him to look at the car, and make a deal as it was the middle of the work day. So when he showed up at my work, we met, and he wanted to take it for a test drive. I jumped in the car with him, and off we went. He took it around the block and pulled over to take a better look (the car was parked in a parking lot where there was not much room to really look at the car). He agreed it what was what he wanted, and asked if I would take $100 off what the lowest I told him was. A little aggravated I asked why, and he said “for gas up here, usually people negotiate off the lowest they would take”. At this point I had wasted 30 minutes of my hour, and said “no thank you, but that really was the lowest I was taking”. He rolled his eyes and said “ok, but I will need to go to the bank”, so he jumped back in the car and proceeded to go to a bank. My first thought was “why would you ever drive 6 hours without the cash to buy the car?” After all, I knew he had the money because he told me that he just got an insurance pay out. I felt trapped at this point because I did not want him to take my car alone, and we were far enough away from my work where his car was that he assured me it wouldn’t take long. On the way there I asked where he banked and he said “Wells Fargo”. Now around here we do not have any Wells Fargo banks, just financial advisors. I tried to tell him this, but he just kept pointing to his phone saying “it shows one”. Once we got there, of course they said they do not have money there, so I asked to be taken back to work while he figures it out. He basically drove 6 hours planning to buy a car without cash, and without calling ahead to places to see if he could get cash. Keep in mind, this guy was in his mid 50s and should have known better at this point.

So the buyer returned to my work at almost 5 with a cashier’s check somehow. He was able to get a local bank write him one by showing funds at his Wells Fargo. I made sure to call this local bank and verify the check he gave me, and get a picture of his driver’s license. It all checked out, I signed the title, and washed my hands of it all. Or so I thought.

I realized that night in all the mess that I forgot to get the license plate off the car before he left. How could I be so stupid? I called the buyer and asked him to please send me the license plate once he got home; no problem he assured me. Well, weeks came and went and nothing. Until I got a letter in the mail. It was from the city of Garland with a red light ticket in the mail. Great, he was still roaming Dallas with my license plate AND running red lights. I called the number on the letter and explained my issue, and they told me it happens all the time I just needed to provide the bill of sale, and any other documentation I had. Luckily, I also had a picture of his driver’s license to send them as well. They cleared me immediately. Another week went by, and I got another red light letter, this time from Dallas, then another, and then another. After seven total traffic violation tickets, and numerous calls to the buyer, I was furious. Not at the buyer, but at myself for being so stupid. I called every department to see if I can get the license plate expunged off my record, and as expected there was nothing that could be done. I finally took matters into my own hands; let’s just say you can make it to Dallas in one day and back to retrieve a license plate.

After this entire ordeal, I learned a very important lesson, take the stupid license plate. From this day on that is the first thing that I do. It will save a lot of headaches in the future. Needless to say, I was done with my 4Runners for a long time. It was a great car, great learning experience, but bad seller.