A Final Accounting

For those of you who’d like to know the gory financial truth behind a cross-country trailer trip like this (even without the car repairs), here’s my ~6-week trip by the numbers. It’s been a while since my last post.  I’m back to reality, work, and it’s a little painful to look back on the “breakdown” portion(s) of the trip.

I didn’t keep track of meal expenses, but when we had the trailer, they were very reasonable (as you may remember, thanks to my ailing Saab, I abandoned the trailer at my parents in Washington halfway through the trip).

40 day trip (39 nights)
$406.74: 17 nights camping
$403.72: 6 nights in motels
$0: 16 nights w/relatives
$810.46 total lodging

As you can see, swapping the trailer for motels tripled the nightly cost. And I stayed at the cheapest motels I could find.

8,000 miles (DE-WA-CA-DE)
$1,386.29
 – total gas (premium)
23.7 MPG average (19.8 MPG towing, 31 MPG w/o trailer)

The wild-card in this trip was the breakdown expenses. I’d had my Saab 9-3 convertible for five years with no breakdowns. I’d towed 10,000 miles, and had no reason to assume I’d need anything more than an oil change and check-up… I even had the car checked out mid-trip when it just “felt” wrong. No error codes were found, and the 20-year Saab master mechanic thought it drove normally (it broke down 3 days later…).

$436.99: 7/27/11 Autobahn Specialists (Tacoma, WA): no error codes, new crank sensor, oil change
$0: 8/4/11 Scania Auto Service (Walnut Creek, CA) no error codes, says seems to drive normally
$575.76: 8/8/11 Scania Auto: new fuel pump
$1,497.03: 8/12/11 (Salt Lake City, UT): new throttle body, direct ignition, fuel filter, spark plugs.
$2,509.78 Total

Each of the three Saab shops came highly recommended and had a Saab senior technician with 20+ years of experience working on the car. I belive the parts they replaced really were broken, but even after the 3rd shop, I felt the same problem I brought to the attention of the first mechanic. At no point in any breakdown did I get any dash-light warnings or error codes. No smoke. No lost fluids. Just expensive, expensive parts that on a 119,000-mile car will only get worse. A few days after I returned home, I traded in the car on a better and newer tow vehicle (blog post soon).

I have AAA RV Plus RV, which includes four 100-mile tows. In order to find suitable Saab knowledgeable repair shops, each of my three (!) tows were more than 100 miles.

$96: Vic’s Towing – 112 miles (12 over 100 @ $8/m) Sonora to Walnut Creek, CA
$22.50: Lostra Bros. Towing – 105 miles (5 over @ $4.50/m) Elko, NV to W. Wendover, NV
$40: Mr. Tow – 120 miles (20 over) W. Wendover, NV to Salt Lake City, NV
$158.50 Total

337 total towed miles (10% of my return trip was on a flat-bed truck!)

Had I not had all the Saab woes, this would have been a fairly reasonable trip, considering it was six weeks long and 8,000 miles. I would have paid a bit more for gas (I had budgeted $2k), but less for lodging and food.

3 thoughts on “A Final Accounting

  1. I definitely think the problem was the Saab
    Consider F150 or some sort of smaller SUV?
    I have been towing my T@B with our V F150 for allot of miles and never have had any issues. Drives like a big sled that just keeps on going.

  2. Sounds like you’re now where I was. Now you have a much bigger tow vehicle; why not step up and get a bigger trailer? One with a kitchen and potty, maybe.

    We bought a T@DA because my research indicated that our 6-cyl van would tow it. When we learned otherwise (and traded the van in on a Jeep Grand Cherokee), I said that if I knew we’d have a Jeep, I’d have bought somebody’s bigger used trailer. We recently sold the T@DA and bought a beautiful used19′ trailer with 2 ea. propane tanks and house batteries, shower, tub and oven(!).

    Cute only goes so far. Functional is much better when you’re trying to actually camp.

    Best wishes!

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