Many of us learned a lot during the pandemic. Lots of jobs transitioned to remote work, and will most likely never go back to the way that they were. This is a huge change for many folks, and has big implications for things like commuting to work and transportation needs. For many years my wife and I have had two smaller cars that are great for getting around the city. Yet, even before the pandemic, I started to question having two cars with similar functionality, as I had regularly taken to commuting to work via public transit, or biking. That meant that my car often just sat in the garage or driveway most of the week.
When the pandemic kicked into full gear and we began working from home full-time we shifted to using my car as our primary vehicle for our daily driver. After 9 months I realized that we hadn’t even started my wife’s car more than a handful of times. After a cold snap in February my wife’s car wouldn’t even start and needed a new battery. That’s how little we were driving it.
This got me thinking about what we actually needed for transportation. I considered if we could go down to just one car, selling the unused vehicle. But, I also had to consider what it is that we needed transportation to do. We’ll probably need to do some minimal commuting in the future when the pandemic is over, but we won’t be dependent on two vehicles every day. That leaves our other transportation need… adventuring. Our lifestyle and interests mean that we’re often traveling on weekends, or going to trail race events, or generally supporting a lifestyle of adventure. Unfortunately, despite my VW Tiguan being a great daily driver, it has some failings when it comes to being a full fledged adventure vehicle. There were multiple occasions when I’ve wanted to haul bikes differently than on our hitch rack, or sleep in my vehicle on a road trip without setting up a full campsite. It just wasn’t designed with things like that in mind.
When considering an adventure vehicle I started by outlining my criteria:
- Off-road capability
- Cargo hauling
- Towing capacity
- Sleep-ability (how easy is it to sleep in)
- Gas mileage
- Ride comfort
Needless to say, I determined that this whole affair required a spreadsheet (YAY!). I then assigned weights to each of these criteria and outlined the different vehicle types to consider.
- Small CUV
- Large SUV
- Small cargo van
- Large cargo van
- Mid-size truck
- Full-size truck
I then ranked each vehicle in each category, did some math based on the weight, and came up with some numbers to compare. After a few tweaks and iterations (the original version had minivan and small cargo van merged into one), we had something to go on. During this time, I also was doing a ton of research, and even some occasional test driving of vehicles.
It took a few weeks of research, tweaking, contemplation, discussions, etc.,. but we finally decided that a minivan was the best compromise of all of our different criteria and needs. Despite not being a good off-road vehicle, it ticked many of the other boxes. As luck would have it, one of our local Luther dealerships (we really like working with Luther Automotive!) had a used Dodge Grand Caravan minivan for sale that was exactly what I was looking for.
I’m happy to introduce our newest addition the new Swift adventure van. It’s a 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan, 30th Anniversary Edition, with just over 100,000 miles. It’s also very, very basic with almost no luxury add-ons. That meant that the price was very affordable, and we didn’t need to go in to debt to make this change. Being a used vehicle so I’m expecting a few things will need to get repaired, as well as some alterations like eventually getting some off-road tires, but overall, it has what we’re looking for.
Now begins the design process for a very small, simple buildout of a bed platform. That’s for part 2…