In August 2018, I bought my very first car at 28 years old. In July 2020, I traded it in and bought my dream car at 30 years old.
If you ask most people what my dream car is, they would tell you an Audi R8 or an Audi Q8. Not a day goes by on Twitter that I do not bemoan the terrible absence of an Audi in my driveway. However, I also acknowledge and accept that it is an impractical car for my current lifestyle and future plans. Subsequently, it’s not my practical dream car.
I’ve loved the FJ Cruiser since 2006 when the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser went on sale. Somehow, Red Bull either acquired one or paid to vinyl wrap one in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I remember walking down Saint James street to the bus stop after school and seeing it flying around the streets, playing loud music every Friday evening of my senior year.
If you have ever seen an FJ Cruiser, then you know firsthand that this is a one-of-a-kind vehicle. The fact that they are discontinued and, therefore, in limited supply, makes them even more special. When you see them, it’s impossible to mistake them for anything else.
Samson is an Iceberg White, one-tone model, but most FJ cruisers have a different colour body and a white roof. In my opinion, the two most iconic colours are Sun Fusion and Voodoo Blue.
These body-on-frame trucks might be ruggedly handsome, but the MPG will make you ugly cry. I got up to 38 MPG in my Hyundai Accent. Now, I’m looking at around 18 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway — at best. The good news is, I don’t have a daily commute and this is right in line with most off-road vehicles in its tow-rating bracket.
From Impractical To Practical
Now, you might wonder why on Earth an FJ Cruiser would become a practical vehicle for the streets of Atlanta. Well, it’s not. It became practical when I decided Atlanta was not the city I wanted to call home. Until then, the FJ Cruiser sat right there with the Audi R8 and Audi Q8 as impractical vehicles I had no business buying but liked to look at.
If you’ve been following my blog for the past year or longer, then you know, I’ve had my sights set on moving out west. I was supposed to leave in May. My plan was to drive my little hatchback to Vegas, purchase an RV and get the truck a year later. As long as you stay parked up as a long-term resident at one of the dozens of RV parks in and around Vegas, there is no reason for you to tow an RV.
However, COVID-19 forced me to reconsider a lot of things, such as the size of the rig (RV or recreational vehicle) I wanted to buy or tow. It also made me realise that boondocking away from civilisation might be safer from a health perspective than potentially being parked up next to a 70-year-old retiree who thinks he has a God-given right not to wear a mask.
The Laundry List
Once I decided to go smaller, stay mobile, and tackle dirt roads in the desert, I realised I needed an SUV that met the following requirements:
- Boasts exceptional reliability ratings
- Looks aggressive and is built like a tank
- Provides high ground clearance
- Features built-in A-Trac and rear-lock differential
- Offers a towing capacity of around 5,000 lbs
- Does not look like a soccer mom van!
Needless to say, my FJ Cruiser ticks everything off on this list and then some. It even has a built-in 400-watt inverter. For the not-so-off-grid-savvy people, that means I have house power (known as AC power) in my truck and not just 12-volt power (like a USB port or cigarette lighter). In short, I can power a fridge or other small appliances via the outlet in the trunk.
The Hunt and Barter
My original Vegas plan always included me paying off my Hyundai after taking out my RV loan. However, when I didn’t move and now didn’t have an instalment loan to replace it, I decided to hold on to that loan to protect my credit score. I waited until I got a credit builder loan and then paid off the last $1,500 on my car in June.
At the time, most FJ Cruisers in and around Atlanta were selling for upwards of $20,000 before tax and fees. I knew I wanted to buy cash, so I didn’t think I would be able to get my hands on one until the end of the year. Then, one popped up for $17,000 with tax and fees. I spoke to my dad, expecting him to chastise me for wanting to spend the down payment for my unbought tiny home on a vehicle.
Instead, he said, “Well, isn’t it technically going to be part of your tiny home on wheels? I say you should go for it.”
My mom was also supportive and offered to loan me some money toward the purchase. I fell in love with the vehicle at first sight and was in deep by the first test drive. Even my dad loved it, which is saying a lot because we NEVER agree on vehicles! I scheduled a mechanic for my pre-purchase inspection, waited for his green light, got my cashier’s check, traded in my baby Seth and bought this big boy in cash.
Just in case you’re starting to think I must be either loaded or irresponsible for blowing tens of thousands of dollars on vehicles in just two years, the FJ Cruiser tends to hold its value and even appreciate. In fact, many used FJ Cruisers sell at or near the original cost of buying one brand-new back in the day! So, it’s a good investment as far as vehicles go. And … I still owe my mom a gran. 😅
The Next Step
In the past month or so, I invited a handful of people to reach out to me via email. Some people either didn’t see or ignored my invitation, but most of you got back to me and I am eternally grateful. Those of you who did already know what’s next.
The news is constantly changing, so there is no way to plan with certainty, but a changeable plan is better than none at all. As I explained to my mom, at this rate, I would rather waste $5,000 on a sleeper-camper (literally an RV you only sleep in) than have a regret worth $20,000 upward by purchasing a full-size RV.
I can always size up later. So, I plan to pay my mom back, finish repairs on Samson, save some more and purchase the camper next. From there, I can monitor the situation and wait until it’s safe enough to drive across.
Because I’ll have a camper, I won’t be staying in hotels or Airbnbs and I can isolate. All I need to do is stock up on food and cleaning supplies, stay hydrated, and dump my cassette tanks (removable wastewater tanks) at truck stops.
So, when will that be? I have no idea. It could be the end of this year and it could be next spring. I have no choice but to be as patient as I am vigilant and to take the advice of people residing in the states I need to drive through.
In the meantime, I’d like to say a million thanks to everyone who already opened their driveways, backyards, and acreages for me to camp on their properties — including people who aren’t even on the way to or in the Great Southwest!
If anyone else would like to offer up a spot, you can send me a message here. Ideally, there is room for us to maintain a safe distance. I don’t need electricity or sewer hookups, but an outdoor faucet for my water hose would be awesome! 🙏
Naturally, I won’t be accepting offers from “new visitors” to my website, unless you have an established campground where I can book a paid camping spot. Personal offers are only for my real MVPs!