Wellington and Me

Wellington and Me
My rolling home!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Switched from Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to a Smart ForTwo

Being a full time RV'er in a class A motor home, I tow my car behind the RV when I travel.  I've seen some RV'ers who travel with multiple people actually opt to not tow and have one of the people drive the other vehicle, or iv they need more than one vehicle when they are parked in the RV. I however live alone, and even if I didn't it's far more enjoyable to share the road, conversation and even the driving if you are a couple on the road.

When I first sold my house and moved into my RV I had a beautiful "mango tango" colored 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that I'd recently purchased.  I read and heard that Jeeps are one of the easiest vehicles to rig and tow behind an RV so I figured I'd start out with that (I already had so many changes happening in my life, I didn't need that change right then as well).

So I had some friends help me mount a Blue Ox tow plate on the jeep. (Ugh, that was an all day install project, but saved alot of money doing it ourselves.) And I bought a Blue Ox tow bar to tow it behind my Pace Arrow.

I towed it behind the RV to the coast a few times, and all was fine. However I could definitely feel the difference having it behind my gas RV.  At about 4600 pounds, it was near the 5000 pound weight limit for towing behind my 2003 Pace Arrow, and I could feel the drag and could practically hear the gas being sucked out of my tank.

I was so thrilled by the savings I was getting off owning my former house and all the required (utilities, insurance, taxes, etc) and optional (seasonal decorations, knick knacks, etc) expenses that I started looking at other ways to save.  I couldn't ignore the car payment, insurance payment and gas required by the Jeep.  At average of about 16 mpg, the jeep wrangler is most definitely a gas hog by today's standards.  I started thinking about a smaller vehicle to tow behind my rv and that would save me on car payment, gas, and gas on the rv when towing.

I saw the Smart car when I was in Europe in 2005 and fell in love with them.  So cute, compact, easy to drive and park, I started investigating them.  I had seen them being towed and researched them to find that their unique automatic transmission that actually works somewhat like a manual shift allows this to be the case.

NOTE that not every car can be towed.  To tow 4 down (all wheels on the ground while towing) the transmission must be able to be fully disengaged.  Jeeps can do this via the 4wd shifter into neutral, but most of your average cars CANNOT be towed 4 down.  So if you're considering this you must find out of the specific car/year/model that you are considering can be towed.

I found a 2008 Smart ForTwo for sale from the original owner with only 30k miles on it.  He'd babied it, had died and his wife was selling it off. I really liked them and them me so it was a great match. I got it for a great price.  Oh and also, it's a cabriolet, so at the push of a button the top rolls back to open up the sky.  I LOVE it.  It's fun to drive, can park just about anywhere, and sips gas.  It's a fraction of the cost of the jeep so this greatly reduces my debt as well.

I knew already that Blue Ox had a tow plate for the Smart car, so I purchased one, had it installed along with the wiring harness so when RV brakes and turn signals are applied the lights on the car will appear as well.  I had it all set to tow!

So now to sell the Jeep.  I thought this would be relatively easy since Jeeps are so popular. The color of mine (beautiful burnt orange) was loved by everyone who saw it and not common on the road. Even maybe selling it to a fellow RV'er since it was already rigged for towing!   Unfortunately this wasn't the case.  I kept listing it on Craig's list, had signs on it and parked it at my local shopping area, etc.  Then I didn't notice while sitting in the rain that the "freedom" top (3 piece hard top with removable sections) had developed a leak so the interior got very wet, developed a bit of mold, and I had to dry it out, clean all the mold with lysol and get the top sealing again.  UGH.  Weeks later I got it all clean and dry and decided to take it to a consignment lot for them to sell it. They felt confident they could sell it at an amount that they could then give me what I needed to pay off the loan and still make a profit themselves.  Great!  No dice.  Months went by and no sale.  So I finally picked it up, took it back to the dealer where I'd bought it and they offered me an amount that gave me ALMOST enough to pay off the loan. I kicked in the remaining $560 to pay off the loan, and I'm free of it.

Nice thing... I am able to cash in the extended warranty I'd purchased on it which still had about 3/4 remaining on it.  So I should get about 1/2 or 2/3 of that purchase price back.  That will help.  Then I'll be saving about $250/mo in car payment, about $80/mo in car insurance, and I'll channel those amounts into a car maintenance budget line item to make sure I have enough stored away there for work or repairs that might be needed on the Smart, since I don't have an extended warranty on it.  

GOAL:  Saving money, reducing debt.  By downsizing my vehicle, and buying a bit older car, but in like-new condition, I was able to reduce my debt overall by about $15000.  I reduced my monthly expenses with car pmt, insurance and gas by about $400/month, plus the saved drag and fuel expense in towing it behind the RV.

LESSON LEARNED: Never assume a car will be easy to sell. Especially when it's on the newer side.

TIP: Make sure you OVER budget for car and RV repairs.  Keep socking away money into these budget lines because you never know what might come up, and vehicles always need to be maintained and will eventually require repairs.  Better to have the money waiting to be used, than have to put it on a credit card and service that debt after the fact.

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