We looked at many options for a newer/used vehicle and we kept coming back to either the Dodge Ram 3500 with an extended cab, or the Chevy Express 3500. The pick-ups had outstanding towing capacity, but our family maxed out the seating. The other down-side was that in order to stay within our self-assigned budget we would have to buy something as old as 2004, which had over 150,000 miles on it.
The Chevy Express 3500 offered significantly more seating than we needed, which meant a much more comfortable travel arrangement. Of course going with the van would mean we’d give up a significant amount of towing capacity, but with the 6.0 liter or Duramax diesel engines the van was still capable of a 9700 pound towing capacity, with a 16,000 pound gross combination weight rating. The rigs we’re looking at pulling were around 8700 pounds, which put us well within what we needed. After weighing all our requirements, and examining available options, it was clear what we would need to aim for.
The Duramax diesel is what we desired, but the price point was far beyond our desired limit. The 6.0 was common in the 3500 cargo version, but was harder to find in the passenger van. We found ourselves expanding our search for them wider and being willing to drive further in order to find one. Then, on February 26th, 2018 I pulled up a list of available vans in the area and searched with a higher max price tag. The first van I pulled up checked every box but one that we had on our list:
- Chevy Express 3500
- Towing package
- 6.0 liter engine
- Rust free
- Low miles
- Clean interior (taken care of)
- 12 Passenger minimum
- Meets price point
When we’d look at vans, if any item didn’t meet our requirements we’d rule it out. This van met all of them except the last one. It was $4,000.00 more than we wanted to pay. It was certainly worth what they were asking being $800 below market value at the time, and we could cut a check for it, but it would leave us with nothing extra left. A position we don’t like to be in anymore.
I yelled into the next room for Deb to come and take a look. She read over the ad, and when I told her where it was she said, “We should go look at it.”
It took us about an hour to get a baby sitter, I called down to the dealer and asked them if we could come in for a test drive. After a 45 minute drive to Hastings, we arrived and the van was parked out front waiting for us.
We met up with a salesman, Karl Bollfrass. Karl was outstanding. He wasn’t overly pushy, yet made it clear he wanted a sale. He was honest about the vehicle, which meant he often said, “I don’t know” in response to our questions. As we worked through the process of buying the van, Karl would come to break every used-car-guy mindset I had. He was caring and open. He shared about his family, and his personal life a bit. I even ended up with his cell phone number because he felt compelled to let me know he couldn’t personally meet me at the dealership when I was going to pick up the van for a second inspection by a mechanic of our choice.
We talked with Karl for about 5 minutes. We asked questions mostly verifying information that was posted on website. I traded him my drivers license for the keys, and off we went on a test drive. We didn’t even make it out of the driveway before Deb and I were saying, “I love this thing.”
I drove it for a few miles, then let Deb drive a few to make sure she would at least be able to get comfortable in it. We kept saying, “We should take a day and think on it.” But we knew we wanted it. It had checked every box we had with the exception of the price, and even a few we didn’t. After telling Karl we we were going to look at a couple others, we left the dealer. By about 6 PM that night I was calling them back telling them we wanted it.
Since we had the funds for it, once we had decided we wanted it, we pushed the dealer to move quickly. When we test drove it, we found a crack in the windshield and we wanted it fixed. When I had mentioned it, it wasn’t even a concern. Karl assured us they’d replace the window. I lined up an appointment to come back down and get the van to have it inspected by the mechanic we regularly use. When I asked the dealer to make sure there was enough gas in it to make the round trip, that I’d be driving it roughly an hour one way to be inspected, they didn’t bat an eye. “No problem at all.”
Sparks took a look at it and pointed out a few repairs that would need to be done in the future. All of them were typical repairs for a 2015 vehicle. So with it checked out, we rolled back down and started the paperwork process. The windshield was done Friday March 2nd. We traded them a check for the keys on Friday. All-in-all the experience with Valley Buick GMC was outstanding.
In the end we drove home in a 2015 Chevy Express 3500 Passenger van with a 6.0 liter engine. The van has seating for 12, a built in power inverter for dealing with the laptop and other small electronics, it has brand new tires all the way around, a Class III hitch (which will unfortunately have to be swapped out for a class IV), and a backup cam built into the review mirror. It’s got a couple bumps and bruises, but it is rust free.
Out With The Old
The 2002 Town and Country carried us through the three years of searching and saving. Prior to someone giving me this van I swore I’d never drive a minivan. I ended up falling in love with vans as a result of this thing. I’m very happy to get my new van, and we’ve passed this one along to another individual that swore they would never own one.