So, now with a stack of £20 notes and a car hunt under way, in earnest this week, its the perfect storm. Speaking of which, this is the first car hunt, I have ever undertaken, where the weather (other than how often I'll get the top down) and terrain are to play a major role in the decision making process.
But a gas guzzling, combustion engined, monster - that's not part of the sustainable, eco, back-to-basics life I have been promoting and encouraging others to follow, right? And, where we are going to live has no road, does it? Well, yes, but... However we look at it, the car is an essential tool for the life we are trying to achieve. It will sit across the loch (or at the end of the path) for a good proportion of the time, so will have a lot less impact on the atmosphere than one commuting every day. But it will be well used on those days where supplies are needed, livestock require transporting and when we want/need, to come back south, to visit family and friends - if they don't disown us for moving so far away from them.
So, it a necessary purchase. And I'm sure other 'adventurers' have had the same dilemma, on what to go with. Any comments or suggestions, would be greatly appreciated, but my "it must be sorted immediately" personality, is already in full swing; so I'll probably have something, by the time I read the comments!
Criteria for choosing the new carriage are many and varied, and totally different to previous purchases - which were mainly "I want it to be flash, with as many gadgets as possible!". Now, its "Will it start after a couple of weeks standing?" or "Will it still get through three feet of snow on that windy and steep mountain pass?". There's also the issue of it being big and practical enough to be useful for supplies, small livestock and even to pick up visitors from Inverness (Train Station or Airport). Lastly, there's the thorny obstacle of running costs. With a full-time salary and a short (but frustrating) journey to work, MPG wasn't so much of an issue. Now, though, an intermittent income, prospective long journeys (its 500 miles back to 'here') and generally trying to save the planet, MPG is a very big factor.
So what we need is a large 4x4, with a small engine, that is reliable, comfortable, practical and capable of climbing Mount Everest. Oh, yes, and the budget is £2,000. The moon on a stick... And there is, of course, no way of obtaining some amazing hybrid or electric powered "planet saver", to feel good about my 'green credentials', as you need to own a planet to be able to afford one!
Bearing all the above in mind, what has made the short-list? Well, almost all Land Rovers are out of the picture. They are just too expensive. The amount of times I have seen the 'right one', only to find it has a million miles on the clock. The only contender, in this 'family' is the Freelander but, within our price range, only the 1.8 petrol comes close and I've had enough MG's in my time to avoid an engine "prone to Head Gasket failure".
Land Rovers out. Where next? Having a soft spot for Americana (my Aunt used to send a box of presents over every christmas, full of Pringles, Reeces Peanut Butter Cups and Fruit of The Loom underwear) I do like the Jeep Grand Cherokee very much. It fulfils much of the brief. However, only the 2.7 diesel is really anywhere near 'economical' and that one tends to be premium priced. Somehow a 4.7 v8 petrol version may upset those of us trying to save the planet. And would upset my wallet, at the pumps, even more!
"Buy Japanese", many have said. Reliability, reasonable running costs and capability. I agree and have been looking at Suzuki Grand Vitara's, Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin's and the like. The biggest problem here is finding a good one 'locally'. Back in the day, if you wanted a car, you got the local paper (free, not for £1!), trawled through the classifieds at the back and found a one (elderly) owner beauty, with no miles on it and walked around there, had a nice cup of tea and beat them down from £100 to £60 for it (in my dreams anyway). Nowadays its all online and faceless. Oh, that one looks nice; ah, its 235 miles away and from a dealer who "doesn't have a showroom, so viewing by appointment" - read, a guy who 'does up' cars, on the road outside his house. A familiar scenario, which worked great when you were on the 'other side' of the situation.
Lastly, there's the "boxy but good' Vauxhall Frontera. I've found one that is both economical (in context) and roomy; cheap and easy to repair. A 2.2 diesel 3 door with only 65,000 miles on the clock. Lets have a read of the owners reviews... Oh dear. half of them say they are "the best car I've ever owned", the other half say "they are the spawn of satan" and not to go near them.
My head's in a spin on this one. I was expecting to come up against decisions and challenges, such as when to plant tomatoes, or how to milk goats. But finding this such a conundrum (on something I thought I knew a bit about), has surprised me. Its also rather important as it'll be what I load up and head for the hills in.
So keep checking back and, maybe next time, I'll be telling you what amazing steed I decided to ride off into the sunset in. If it was just on name alone, the decision would be made as there is a: "Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard" in existence! And lets hope its not a "Mazda Scrum Wagon"...