Step 1: Acquire a Capable Vehicle

My winky eye matches Gerald’s dirty headlight.


Overland culture is exploding, more so even than I was aware when Chris and I started brainstorming for this blog. Even though I consider us somewhat a part of this community, I’m still learning about it every day, and one of our big goals is to showcase how overlanding can be a fiscally accessible hobby/lifestyle. While we definitely spend a silly amount of time lusting after cool gear and gadgets (some of which we’ve bought, like this Napier truck tent), at the heart of our journey and every overlander’s journey is the rig, and below is the story of how I purchased mine, and for quite the deal, too. You don’t need a brand new 4Runner or JKU to enjoy this lifestyle.

In the summer of 2017, I was in a really bad car accident. Long story short, I rear-ended a semi truck that didn’t think tail lights were a necessary safety feature. I was very lucky to limp away with only some broken bones, but my beloved Honda CR-V, Clarence, got his wings and passed on to the big parking lot in the sky (in all seriousness, I cannot recommend the CR-V enough if you want a daily driver that is super, super safe). This left me not only without a vehicle, but without the ability to drive as the impact had shattered several bones in my right foot. I put off getting a new vehicle for quite a while, but then Chris and I started to discuss what our next move would be.

I’ve wanted a truck for the past 10 years, and I’ve wanted a Tacoma for at least the past 5, but I had always talked myself out of it every time I was considering a new vehicle. Why?

  1. They hold their value. Any truck enthusiast knows that Tacomas hold their value like crazy. When I’ve looked for a decent used one before, they’re as expensive as a new or lightly used truck in the same size category.
  2. The gas mileage. While Tacomas perform better than some other trucks on the market, I was used to getting 30+ mpg in my comfy little econobox, and my day job requires quite a bit of driving.
  3. The features. I’ll admit it–I was a bit of a snob on this one. My CR-V was the first nice, new car I ever bought and it had leather, heated seats, bluetooth, remote start, the whole shebang. Tacomas weren’t even made with leather or heated seats in the US until 2012, and a new Tacoma with these features that has actual off-road capability will run you at least 35k.

In reviewing this list, you’re probably asking yourself, “well geez, why did you buy one then?” and I wondered myself if I was making a mistake–with my payout from the insurance company, I could afford to buy another econobox. Why spend just as much on an older vehicle with fewer bells and whistles?

  1. They hold their value. There are two sides to this coin. While I paid more for an older truck, should I ever decide to sell Gerald, he’s worth more than other trucks in his class even with higher miles. This makes spending money on upgrades and after-market mods feel significantly less wasteful.
  2. I can go off-road with minimal mods. I wanted a truck that could get me to most places with limited aftermarket tinkering, and the Tacoma has yet to disappoint. Not to say that tinkering plans aren’t in the works, but I wanted a truck that I could use stock as an ORV.
  3. That beautiful, under-appreciated manual gearbox. I truly prefer driving manual, so when Chris found my Taco (whom we affectionately named Gerald after the elderly pipe tobacco-smoking man we imagine previously drove him) in a tiny town in West Virginia, we were quick to make the trip out there.
  4. Features, schmeatures. My truck has heat, A/C, power locks and windows, a working radio, an auxiliary port, and even a tiny backup camera in the rearview mirror. Everything else except perhaps the heated seats I can add in later at a fraction of the OEM cost.
  5. Commitment to our lifestyle. Perhaps the biggest reason I pulled the trigger on my Tacoma was some sage advice from Chris. “You’re young, and this may be the last car you buy without having to factor in children. Buy what you want while you can, and we can enjoy it together.” My Taco is an investment in our future, our hobbies, and in living the life I choose.

Yes, I miss my 30 MPG. Yes, I miss my butt warmers (especially up here in Northern Chicagoland where temperatures frequently rival the Arctic). But Gerald is so much more fun to drive than an econobox, and he takes us places my poor little CR-V could never have dreamed of going.

Chris found Gerald at a small used car dealer in West Virginia. We had both scoured the internet for Tacomas that fit my very specific wish list: manual, second generation (preferably 08-2015), TRD Off-Road trim, under 100,000 miles, from a warm climate (no salt damage to the frame) and under 20k. It felt like filling out a profile. Gerald was one of only 3 Tacomas nationwide that fit the description, so after a quick deposit (“so at least if y’all don’t show up down here I can buy myself a steak and a few beers”) we flew one way to Columbus where we rented a car and used my PNC Visa Signature Points to book a hotel room for the night.

The next day we drove to West Virginia, bought Gerald, and then drove 8 hours to Nashville to see Chris’s friends from high school, spent a day there, and headed home to Northern Illinois, all over a 4-day weekend. We spent over 20 hours in a vehicle together during our first adventure together, and it showed us that this was something we could do easily together and for very little money. Really, buying Gerald is what started this blog.

Since then, Gerald’s received a few cosmetic upgrades. Chris was kind enough to paint the rims after I bought new Goodyear Duratracs. Look how shiny he is! As I said above, we have plans for Gerald…a front spacer, light bars, lift kit, roof rack, new grill, running boards, ARB bumper & winch, head unit, and leather seat covers, to name a few. However, the point of all of this is that Gerald is 100% capable of being our off-roading/overlanding vehicle without any of the extras. He proved this to us time and time again during our Thanksgiving trip to Big Bend National Park, which will be featured in our next few posts, so stay tuned!


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