kilted_monkey New Reader
June 4, 2015 8:36 p.m.

Last fall I asked you all for advice as I was shopping for a car to take me on a road trip around the country. I had a lot of fun with the search, the thread, and in the end, with the road trip. I have put 33K miles and counting on the '03 330i ZHP that I wound up buying. I have many praises for the car, and only the most petty and obvious of complaints: the top doesn't go down, and BMW parts and labor is a might spendy. Shocking, I know! But much as I have enjoyed driving the car, it is now up for sale as my needs are changing, it really ought to be in a garage that I don't have, and some of the money tied up in it needs to go toward fixing up a house.

The excuse for the road trip was to visit a long list of schools where I was considering returning to college after 12 years in the Air Force. I have (nearly) settled on Evergreen State in Olympia, WA. Home-of-record is in central Ohio, so that's where I and all of my stuff are currently parked. Since my last two military moves were to and from Korea following on the heels of a divorce, I (happily) don't have a huge amount of stuff to my name. So it is all (saving perhaps an excess book and bicycle or two) going with me to the far coast. I just have to decide how.

One option is to buy cheap, fun transportation (NA Miata or, more likely since I can get less-rusty Miatas on the west coast than I can in Ohio, a motorcycle), and pay U-Haul for the equipment to move everything, vehicle included. Or even more hands-off, pay someone to move the stuff and enjoy the trip.

For no good reason aside from the appeal of being self-contained, I am leaning more toward buying a vehicle that can, with the aid of a small trailer, take everything (and, perhaps also a motorcycle). Total weight of stuff is roughly 1200lbs. Could be reduced by leaving a bookcase or two worth of books with family. Heaviest bike I am likely to consider is a KLR 650 at a bit shy of 400lbs. So call it 2000lbs at the outside of stuff to be carried between vehicle and trailer, plus the weight of the trailer itself.

Being a dutifully brain-washed lurker in these hallowed fora, I went off to see whether any of The Answers would work. Rough calculations suggest that a properly set-up XJ Cherokee could do the job, but that I might be wise to leave off the bike and some of the books, and/or consider the less scenic (flatter) routes to the coast. I haven't run numbers on a P71, because even that cavernous trunk isn't big relative to a stack of moving boxes. An AWD Astro/Safari with tow gear should be quite sufficient to the task.

Of course, it seems like all the Astros mentioned here are picked up for $500. The ones currently on the local cl range from $3K to $4.5K. This first one seemed over-priced to me, but KBB has them right on target. It is definitely the nicest one at hand:


Took a look at it today and it is quite clean, with the only real rust I saw under the front lip of the hood. It is a wallowing beast to drive after getting out of the E46, but (to my not-very-van-savvy senses) it seemed to do what I asked in a reasonable manner (brakes possibly a little weak?) The 'missing' rear bench seat has apparently deterred a few interested families, to me it is an upside.

My one direct question in all of this blather: many folks here are very high on Astros when they can be had cheap. Are they still worth considering at actual market value?

On the cheaper end of the spectrum, I also looked at this:


20K more miles, definitely not as clean, but not terrible (aside from an oddly VERY rusty spare wheel attached to an otherwise decent looking undercarriage. A few more squeaks and rattles. 2/3 of the asking price.

Sales guy pointed to the 2nd Gen Odyssey also on the lot and asked if I had considered them. Said they were rated at 3.5K lbs towing.


Took it for a drive and it is definitely 'carlike' relative to the 'truck' Astro. Very pleasant to drive, better mileage, disappearing rear seat is nice, no AWD advantage.

...and on getting home, when I go to verify the towing capacity claim I discover the transmission issues that generation of Odysseys is subject to. (Also, not really getting warm-fuzzies about towing the weight I am looking at. At least, not any better than the XJ?)

For the sake of completeness, a couple of the XJs I was looking at:


This search is at least as open ended as my last one. Any and all ideas and commentary welcome. Since this trip will be in the middle of summer, this time I probably will be camping and/or sleeping in the vehicle. I don't have a precise budget in mind, though if it isn't a good bit less than what I sell the E46 for, the whole exercise is a bit moot.

jstein77 SuperDork
June 5, 2015 8:26 a.m.

Take a look at the '06 and up Kia Sedona.

Brokeback Reader
June 5, 2015 8:59 a.m.

Rent moving truck; invest price difference in non-rusty vehicle when you arrive to the land of rust-free vehicles.

Not helpful really but that's what I would do; no underneath photos in those ads but I guarantee they will be rustier than stuff out here.

G_Body_Man HalfDork
June 5, 2015 9:01 a.m.

Apparently you can drop a 350 in an Astro Van fairly easily.

lnlds Reader
June 8, 2015 8:49 a.m.

Buick Roadmaster wagon?

June 8, 2015 8:55 a.m.

Rent a truck. Pay a guy to drive it and buy his plane ticket home.

Ride the KLR across the country.

BoxheadTim UltimaDork
June 8, 2015 9:08 a.m.

I wouldn't buy a truck or van for a single move unless you know you're going to use it at the other end afterwards. Especially when you're moving from the rust belt.

I kinda like GPS's suggestion.

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