Gather around, children, and let Uncle fhrblig tell you a story. A story of love and of loss. A TALE AS OLD AS... no, wait, sorry. It’s just a story of why I bought a truck and took it back two days later.

Quick recap: my Optima got rekt by a high school kid in a Chevy Sonic, I waited 3 months for gap coverage payment, and I spent those 3 months looking at all manner of vehicles.

I have these parameters in mind; I want to stay under $6k, I want a term of 36 months or less (no more than 48 for sure), and I want a payment of $175/month or less. Other than those, I have no restriction of what type of vehicle. Well, my partner did say ‘NO MINIVANS!’, but that’s it. One thing, though, is that if I keep my search within the last ten model years which is what my credit union prefers, I can get a $1000 credit to my loan if I finance through them from the gap insurance.

The gap payment finally hit my bank account on Monday, so I went and arranged pre-approval through the CU. I told them $6000, but she recommended I go with $7500 to make sure there’s enough room for taxes, etc.

I revised my search to under $7k, because I have some cash for a down payment if needed and wanted to see if anything interesting popped up. There it was. A silver 2011 Ford F-150 XL with 131k miles for $6990. RWD, 3.7 V6, Auto (boo, but they stopped making manual ones long ago), but very base model with the rubber floor, manual windows & locks. I didn’t know much about that engine, but I do know Fords pretty well and I thought it would be reasonably reliable for the small amount of miles I would be putting on it.

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I wasn’t really thinking about a full-size truck, but that’s only because I didn’t think I’d find one newer than 2007 and under 150k miles even close to my range. This would be perfect though. I miss having a truck.

We go and look at it that night, and it was definitely a work truck. It had lots of scratches and dents. There was a long scratch most of the way down the passenger side, and the tailgate had a big dent at the top. The kind where some knucklehead was loading a long pole or beam and dropped it. But the tailgate still opened and closed fine. The interior was in good shape except for what looked like some drops of paint on the driver seat and the fact that it reeked of smoke. Like they paid an old lady to sit and smoke in it with the windows rolled up whenever it was parked. Basic as hell, though. AM/FM only with no AUX jack, no cruise, no keyless entry, nothing. Weirdly, it had the really nice five-spoke chrome wheels that I think were on the FX4 models, and it had brand-new tires that looked like they’d handle winter pretty well.

I drove it and didn’t notice anything overtly wrong with it. It ran and drove fine, stopped well, didn’t pull in any direction. It made nice noises from the engine, and felt like it’d be a fun truck. I hadn’t made up my mind so I told the guy I’d sleep on it. It did come with a limited but decent warranty (90 days/unlimited miles) and they have a if-you’re-not-happy-bring-it-back guarantee as well.

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Later on that night and the next morning, I found myself really wanting it. And I started to worry someone would snatch it up right away because on paper it’s a decent deal. So I called the sales guy back and told him I’d be back for it that night (Tuesday). He got it ready to go and we did the paperwork, spent only about 90 minutes all told, and then we left to have dinner. On the ride home I turned on the A/C and it comes on fine. Then I press the vent switch and I hear BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG from inside the dash. Sounded like the blend door was broken. I was a little irritated, but it has a warranty so I can get it fixed.

The next day, I took my partner in it to go get dinner. As we come to a stop at a light, the transmission bangs slightly. It did it again as we took off from the light. At regular speeds it was fine and shifted like you’d expect. Just when slowing down or taking off. That did not make me happy, but the warranty did cover the transmission and I thought if I got a free transmission out of it that’d be worth it and one less thing I’d have to worry about down the road. So we have dinner, run a couple of other errands, and come home.

Yesterday when I got home, I decided I’ll take it for a shakedown drive and see if any other problems crop up. Yes. Yes, they did. I started it and now the ‘check engine’ light is on. FUCK. It’s running normal, but I take it to O’Reilly’s up the road and have them scan it. It’s P2610. ECU/PCM Internal Engine Off Timer Performance. I’ve never seen that one before, but anything with the computer scares the hell out of me after dealing with a Buick LeSabre with computer problems about 13 years ago. DO NOT WANT. I call the dealership and speak with the sales manager and tell her everything that happens and that I want to bring it back. She did say she was willing to do that but wondered if I would wait until the tech saw it in the morning to try to figure out what’s happening? I told her I guess we could but I’m pretty much leaning toward calling it off. She said she understood and I hung up.

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I get in the truck and head toward the dealership, and I won’t lie... even after all of this crap part of me was still thinking like “well, maybe they could fix it, I do really like it...” Just then, as if the truck read my thoughts, the airbag light came on.

NOPE. We’re done here.

I tell her about it when I get there, and that I’m not waiting but to just cancel. She said she totally understood and that she’d take care of it. I don’t want to identify the dealership because reasons, but they did not push back at all. The return experience was way less stressful and much easier than I could have hoped for. Everyone was exceedingly polite and I wouldn’t rule out buying something from them eventually, but glancing at their inventory they don’t have much that I’m looking for at the moment.

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So, yeah. I’m back at square one again. It’s my fault. I let the idea of having a big cheap truck cloud my judgement. I should have taken it on a much longer test drive. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever even turned on the HVAC system or I would have heard the blend door issue right away. Now I’m gun shy about everything. I’m going to probably end up looking at a cheaper car that I can get a warranty on and that will have a lower payment, and that I can be a little more sure of reliability. I’ve already spotted a Rio and an Elantra that are less than $5k with relatively low miles. There’s a good chance that my partner may be switching jobs and taking a substantial pay cut, so I don’t want to take any chances that I’ll have to spend a lot on repairs.

Dammit, why do trucks have to cost so much?