Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Timing your Purchase

A friend of mine asked me about getting a VW bus this past week.  I thought I'd do a little post about what advice I gave.  T and I spent Saturday playing in the snow on Mt Hood, so I'll write a little about that too.

Spring in the Air, Snow on the Mountain
This has been one of the weirdest ski/snow seasons I can remember in the Pacific NorthWest.  We had virtually no ride-able snow until after the Winter Solstice.  SkiBowl wasn't officially open until well after New Years Eve (and they've been closed since the first weekend in April).  After a lame early and mid-season, the late season snow has really been coming on strong.  I'd seen that Timberline had been getting consistent snowfall last week, so after hosting a family friend from Australia and helicopter-parenting C to an 8:AM lacrosse game, T and I spent Saturday on the mountain.  The roads were wet from the steady rain, SkiBowl looked like late Spring and the Summit ski area looked like a spring meadow.  Our expectations for sliding were quite low.  As we ascended Timberline Highway, though, the rain slowly gave way to wintery-mix and then a steady snow.  The parking lots were nearly empty, but the falling snow wasn't sticking... to the asphalt.  It was definitely sticking to the slopes.

The smaller terrain parks on Thunder and Walt's Way had been taken down, leaving just the jumps.  So, while the high-fliers and hard-core terrain riders played on the big stuff fed by the Stormin' Norman lift, T and I had Thunder and Walt's Way to ourselves.  Neither of us had been on the snow much since his concussion, so it was really nice to just feel the snow under our feet and hang out together again.  As the day wore on, the snow got better, and the jumps less scary.  By the last run, we were both getting air (T doing tricks, me mid-air panicking) and sticking landings consistently.  It was a great day to play in the snow.

Pick One
As I mentioned at the start, I was asked about buying a VW camperbus.  I obviously love the idea.  There are 4 viable used models to choose from: splitty (T1), bay-window (T2-called "bays"), vanagon  (T3) and eurovan (T4, T5).  They all have their upsides and downsides.  Splitties look neat, but they are the most under-powered and probably the most rusty.  They can be very spendy as collector cars since they fell out of production in 1967.  Bays were sold from 1968-1979 in the US and were the most widely built/sold around the globe.  They were manufactured through 2013 in Brasil, making part availability unequaled.  Of the 4 styles, these are probably the least expensive.  The vanagon (1980-1990) is probably the most roomy, or at least it feels the most roomy, and is more powerful than most bays.  Called water-leakers by many, the early cooling systems are prone to rusting and failing.  Still, the Synchro (all-wheel-drive version) is really cool, and the camping portion of the vanagon is well done when compared to the bay (especially the early bays).  The Eurovan (T4 1990-2003, T5 2003-current) doesn't feel like you're driving a bus, but the interiors are very nice.  It could be the most reliable on the day of purchase, but also the most expensive to maintain, and it still feels like a standard mini-van behind the wheel.

When to Buy, When to Sell
Once you've chosen a target vehicle make/model, the next most important step is deciding when to buy it.  While this may not seem terribly important, it very much is.  You could considerably overpay if your timing is wrong.  I'm kind of a used-car market geek, trolling craigslist and eBay alot, and I've noticed distinct patterns.  We are entering the worst time of year to buy a car.  Car dealers hold "dad's and grad's" sales, so you'd think there would be excess inventory they are selling off.  In reality, there are lots of buyers in the market heading into Summer, and the car lots are trying to get those shoppers.  Who doesn't want a new-to-them car to play with all Summer?  Lesson to shopper: wait.  Wait until July when the price spike starts to pass.  As Summer wears on, prices drop until they bottom out in October.  By then, anyone who wants to get rid of a car before Winter is willing to take a loss rather than store it.  What remains after mid-October are cars held by sellers who think their car is worth more than it is, or very unusual cars which hold their value, but are only interesting to a niche market.  Over the Winter, the supply is thin so prices stay somewhat stable; not at late-Summer deal prices, but not as high as late-Spring either.  By March, prices start to climb again.  So, if you want to buy a bus, wait until the end of the Summer when the last guy who had that dream has decided he doesn't want to deal with it over the Winter.  Deal for you, and they found a new loyal owner.

That's it for today.  Sorry I didn't have any pictures of us playing in the snow.  We were too focused on enjoying the conditions to record how good it was.  Seriously, there's still snow in them thar hills.  Go play while you still can!

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