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BP’s ‘giant’ find in Mexico eases my new purchase guilt

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Fuel Guage

Several weeks ago I made an important ‘family’ decision. I decided it was time to start looking for a 2nd car (I’ll spare you the boring details, we just needed a second vehicle). Living in the Caribbean, a region of the world susceptible to extreme weather conditions; a place where a hurricane or sporadic heavy rainfall can leave you wading through several feet of water in mear minutes, you will find a large volume of citizens choose to drive SUVs. A sensible off-road choice, (currently) not a sensible financial one.

Today I bought a 1996 4.0l V6 Ford Explorer XLT.

This used beauty spans the width of three continents, weighs in at a scale-busting 87,000 tonnes delivering a (non)face-shattering 210bhp resulting in a majestic 12 (yes TWELVE) whole entire city miles to the glorious gallon.

That should keep Greenpeace happy.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for fuel economy, lowering greenhouse gases and reducing my carbon footprint. I love a great deal on fuel prices too. When I lived in the UK I would have email alerts sent to me daily from and would drive to the next service station because they offered unleaded for a penny less than the other gas stations in my area at that particular time. So why am I buying a hulking great gas guzzler then?

Sure the CRV is less thirsty when it comes to fuel consumption and yes you can run the thing in to the ground and it will refuse to die. But with a bit of TLC and a foot not made of lead the Explorer can more or less compete too.

Island Life

Living on a small Caribbean island dramatically streamlines your automotive purchase, rather it makes it much easier. Mainly due to used car prices and lack of choice. Here in the Cayman Islands the used car market is forever buoyant. Cars and trucks hold their value due to the difficulty and expense of importing new ones. Earlier this week I saw an ad on a Cayman classifieds website for a 1988 BMW 3 Series. This dream ride can be yours for just CI$1000 (about US$1200). That said, I fail to see how the market and it’s consistent buoyancy is not supported by at least a little owner induced artificial inflation. Still, it keeps the market healthy and buying a used or indeed new car here can be looked upon as an investment of sorts.

The Ford Explorer is a popular car round these parts, probably more popular than it was/is in the United States. The island is literally flooded with them so buying a used one makes finding one easy and negotiating the sale even easier. The price difference between the Explorer and it’s nearest island competitor, the Honda CRV, is the tipping point. The deal clincher if you will. In Grand Cayman you can land yourself a reasonably tidy, mid-to-high mileage Ford Explorer circa 1995-1998 for between CI$2000-CI$4000. A CRV with the same specs will set you back anywhere between CI$3500-CI$7000.

It’s a Honda. It won’t die

Sure the CRV is less thirsty when it comes to fuel consumption and yes you can run the thing in to the ground and it will refuse to die. But with a bit of TLC and a foot not made of lead the Explorer can more or less compete too. From an ex-pat point of view that means I can get myself a Ford Explorer (a car made in the USA meaning parts are more readily available and cheaper than for Japanese vehicles) for a lot less than a Honda CRV. I can maintain and repair it for less and with a lighter foot I can get (still horrendous) reasonable fuel economy from it.

Plus as the owner of the world’s most excitable dog (also the world’s most car sickness prone), I am blessed with a trunk space the size of St Paul’s Cathedral and additional air vents in the rear to not only keep passengers cool but also prevent my pooch from overheating when it’s 90F+ outside (basically every day of the year here in the Tropics).

Going it alone

Taking your vehicle to a professional is not cheap anywhere, not just Grand Cayman. That is why I have decided to go it alone for the simple stuff with the Explorer purchase. Not only because it is an older vehicle and I don’t want to put too much money in to it (besides the stereo which is coming out of it’s current home asap to be replaced with something that will provide at the very least an auxiliary hook-up to my iPod, and hopefully soon a Zune HD) but also because I want to use it as an opportunity to learn something, at the very least the basics of car maintenance and servicing.

As soon as I can get my hands on one I am getting myself a Haynes manual. I already have one minor repair job to undertake; replacing the hood struts. Easy enough job it would appear from what I have read but I would still like the trusty Haynes book to help me out.

Incidentally it was while browsing the Haynes website that I actually came across a very useful page containing a variety of free videos and podcasts that demonstrate simple routine maintenance techniques. I think any complete novice would find a video detailing a basic oil change procedure to be very useful. Take a look, there are lots more free videos available. Save yourself some money!

An acceptable SUV (sort-of)

I find myself writing this article almost as a defense of my SUV purchase. Maybe it’s hidden guilt. I never thought I would find myself driving a big All-American SUV. I’ve never wanted one. Nor did I think I would use the ‘excuse’ that my dog fulfills the need for extortionate boot space.

When you find yourself jotting down a list of reasons why you would want to buy such a vehicle in an age where vehicles today are vastly different than they were 13 years ago, not only in design but for economical reason for ownership, you can find no justifiable reason for owning a vehicle such as this.

Unless you live somewhere as unique as the Cayman Islands.

And it is for the exact reasons outlined in this article that the knot in my stomach as I drove my new SUV home has disappeared and the overwhelming sense of guilt at owning a ‘gas guzzler’ has more or less fallen by the wayside.

If you find yourself at a gas station on Thursday and you are wondering why the cost of fuel just sky-rocketed, please accept my most sincere apologies. It’s my Ford Explorer’s fault, not mine.

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Written by The Editor

September 9th, 2009 at 7:00 am

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