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Need to buy used 7-passenger Diesel/Hybrid SUV for Ecotour Company - under $10,000

EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
edited February 2016 in General
I have an Ecotour business in the southern Appalachian Mountains. There is light off-road driving on some tours. For the company, I need to purchase a 7-passenger SUV, and it has be diesel, because I plan to purchase biodiesel fuel. (Second choice - it is a hybrid, instead of diesel.) Since we run ecotours, we try to minimize our carbon footprint.

All seats have to be comfortable for the passengers, but I am not wanting to purchase something as large as a Ford Expedition, because most tours will have ~4 people on them.

I am looking to spend no more than $10,000 (and I intend to buy something used, as far back as ~year 2000 with max ~100,000 miles on it).

Any suggestions??? Also, since I need this vehicle to be reliable for the sake of my company, can anybody suggest the maximum mileage, etc. I should be looking for? (With my little knowledge, I assumed 100,000 miles on a vehicle was safe enough.)

Lastly, should I even consider buying something on e-bay or at a car auction? (I think the likelihood of me even finding an SUV with these specifications could be low.) I have only purchased/sold cars via Craigslist and at dealerships.

Comments

  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited February 2016
    Diesel, even the bio stuff, has mostly lost whatever green cachet it may have had.

    I do a lot of forest service roads in my minivan. The Grand Caravans seem to have better ground clearance than some of the others and they are cheap.

    Your best bet may be to try to find something like a 4 door Wrangler conversion, but I doubt that something like that would be within your budget.

    If you haven't already, expand your search to the national used bus services. Most of their inventory won't interest you but occasionally you'll find some oddball vehicle they took in trade.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I wouldn't buy any car "blind" (ebay) that you cannot look at and take a nice long test drive in. So that leaves auctions out as well.

    I'd forget about any diesel in the price range you're thinking. They really aren't that "green", maintenance can be quite high, and biodiesel has its own set of problems.

    A used hybrid can deliver decent mileage and presents a good image I think for your company.






  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    The one hybrid 7 seater I know of is the Toyota Highlander, but I'd be surprised if you can get a good one for $10k. You may need to up your budget, or just go with a Sienna AWD minivan. I'd forget the diesel, no modern ones are set to run 100% biodiesel.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    A Sienna would be more plush for your guests.....
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    edited February 2016
    Thanks everybody. I found two 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrids with <100,000 miles and <$10,000. I am a little worried about guests having to crawl into the third row, which makes the Sienna and Grand Caravan look good. I think I should go with a used hybrid though.

    Thank you for your input, at least so far!

    Here is the link to the two Toyota Highlander hybrids for sale -- I was just checking that I'd be able to find one, once I start shopping in a few months:

    http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/SUV+~+Crossover/Toyota/Highlander/Saint+Louis+MO-63101?endYear=2017&amp;engineCode=HYBRD&amp;engineCodes=HYBRD&amp;firstRecord=0&amp;makeCode1=TOYOTA&amp;maxMileage=100000&amp;maxPrice=10000&amp;mmt=[TOYOTA[HIGHLANDER[]][]]&amp;modelCode1=HIGHLANDER&amp;searchRadius=0&amp;showcaseOwnerId=68341&amp;sortBy=derivedpriceASC&amp;startYear=1981&amp;vehicleStyleCodes=SUVCROSS&amp;Log=0&amp;showcaseOwnerId=68341&amp;captureSearch=true&amp;fromSIP=0AEF03560AE080533C45A3D5A0BC0C8F&amp;showToolbar=true&amp;Log=0

  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    This model year Highlander had a TINY 3rd row - you had better check that out carefully. I wouldn't want to sit there.
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    I'm still stuck on the idea of using biodiesel - the connection with the local, popular biodiesel producer Blue Ridge Biofuels would be good for business. Of course, this would also support cleaner, local oil, and increase the longevity of the vehicle. If the Toyota Highlander Hybrid had a larger third row, I would be sold on that. I'm pretty worried about leaving customers grumbling over their small, third row seat! Any more suggestions, even if I increase my budget to $20,000?
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    At $20,000 the newer, larger version of the Highlander Hybrid becomes an option. You might see what's available, and check out the 3rd seat room.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Maybe you can get Blue Ridge to go in with you - they could logo up the vehicle and write it off. :)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    If you go diesel, be sure to do your research. There are some diesel engines out there that are not all that durable, and unless you are towing heavy loads, for which diesels excel, seems to me the added cost of the diesel engine, the cost of fuel, and the high cost of repair don't justify the application in your particular case.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 130,441
    Don't they make a Sprinter passenger diesel van? Might be pricy, though

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  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    Thank you again - great feedback. I will look into all of this...
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    edited February 2016
    I had really fallen for a diesel Mercedes Benz G class and its potential "third row" seating, but I read that the US DOT hasn't legalized these rear seats, unlike in Europe.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Those would be nice for touring, yep. If your biz does well, might be an interesting conversion, as long as you add seatbelts.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    It is legal to import a 20 year old diesel from Canada. Both the Mercedes and Landcruiser diesels were pretty solid vehicles. Their engines would likely run better on 100% biodiesel.

    http://forum.ih8mud.com/threads/1993-landcruiser-w-cummins-4bt-diesel-conversion-9-000.842703/

    I had really fallen for a diesel Mercedes Benz G class and its potential "third row" seating, but I read that the US DOT hasn't legalized these rear seats, unlike in Europe. <

  • carboy21carboy21 Posts: 760
    edited February 2016
    My college going son has a higher used car budget then your business B)

    At $10 k for a vehicle , you ecotour company will look cheapskate :smile:
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Ah, but he's recycling.
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    Haha, that's right, recycling is part of ecotourism :) We could have a higher budget, but:

    1. I'm reserving it for a hopeful electric SUV in a few years (no joke)
    2. I want to test the waters and get feedback on these driving tours, before I invest over $10,000 on a vehicle I settle on

    I'm so falling for these diesel safari-like Benz's that I might agree on $20,000 for one. I'm having troubles getting clear information on the legality of those rear bench seats! I really like them! I think a couple back there would enjoy them, but how to test if they are legal/safe? Alas...I keep searching!
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    You might consider leasing a new diesel SUV. Complete write-off and new vehicle under warranty. Still an issue running more than B20 I would think. I think the only recent roomy vehicle with diesel is probably the ford passenger van. Friend with 8 kids loves his.

    https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/659267795/overview/
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    edited February 2016

    Those would be nice for touring, yep. If your biz does well, might be an interesting conversion, as long as you add seatbelts.

    gagrice said:

    It is legal to import a 20 year old diesel from Canada. Both the Mercedes and Landcruiser diesels were pretty solid vehicles. Their engines would likely run better on 100% biodiesel.

    http://forum.ih8mud.com/threads/1993-landcruiser-w-cummins-4bt-diesel-conversion-9-000.842703/


    I had really fallen for a diesel Mercedes Benz G class and its potential "third row" seating, but I read that the US DOT hasn't legalized these rear seats, unlike in Europe. <


    Great! I am definitely leaning toward an older Benz/Landcruiser and then converting the rear area into parallel bench seats. I am having troubles finding how to legally do the conversion - make sure the seats are legal, the seatbelts are legal, etc. Any ideas, to make sure I'm not later taken to court?

    Also, that is a good find on the diesel Ford, and I would consider this next year...
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Lost the link but saw a blurb for a 2005ish Gelanderwagen the other day - it was a gas model and the reviewer noted that the back seats were awful. And these were the regular ones, not the flip down airline style seats.

    I have a guide friend up north and they do water trips so there's not much land transport going on. When they pick up guests, they use an Expedition. Not too green but roomy and comfy. You could easily wind up with four big honking tripods along for the ride.

    Leasing would be good as @gagrice suggests - no worries about getting stranded with a load of guests in the boonies. If you wind up with an oddball diesel rig, you'll have reliability concerns and you'll need to have a good shop/mechanic on call. You'd be stuck with a three year commitment with a lease though.

    A stranding happened to me one time - the tour van broke down and we had to cool our heels for over an hour while the operator had another van delivered. Luckily it was a small group and we already knew each other so we could entertain ourselves. But that's the kind of thing that makes your outfit look "fly-by-night" and hammers your TripAdvisor ratings.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    I thought the time requirement to import was 25 years.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490

    Those would be nice for touring, yep. If your biz does well, might be an interesting conversion, as long as you add seatbelts.

    gagrice said:

    It is legal to import a 20 year old diesel from Canada. Both the Mercedes and Landcruiser diesels were pretty solid vehicles. Their engines would likely run better on 100% biodiesel.

    http://forum.ih8mud.com/threads/1993-landcruiser-w-cummins-4bt-diesel-conversion-9-000.842703/


    I had really fallen for a diesel Mercedes Benz G class and its potential "third row" seating, but I read that the US DOT hasn't legalized these rear seats, unlike in Europe. <


    Great! I am definitely leaning toward an older Benz/Landcruiser and then converting the rear area into parallel bench seats. I am having troubles finding how to legally do the conversion - make sure the seats are legal, the seatbelts are legal, etc. Any ideas, to make sure I'm not later taken to court?

    Also, that is a good find on the diesel Ford, and I would consider this next year...
    I would not buy a higher mileage Ford diesel.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    At $10k or even $20k a diesel that seats 7 will produce large amounts of exhaust emissions, particularly particulates (even if using B100). Nothing 'green' about it, in my opinion.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    texases said:

    At $10k or even $20k a diesel that seats 7 will produce large amounts of exhaust emissions, particularly particulates (even if using B100). Nothing 'green' about it, in my opinion.

    B100 is far cleaner than conventional diesel.

    There is a growing body of emission data for biodiesel. Compared to conventional diesel, the use of B100 significantly reduces particulate emissions (PM), carbon/ carbon monoxide (CO and CO2), and hydrocarbons (HC). With respect to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, studies have shown small variations compared to conventional petroleum-based diesel. In comparing B20 to conventional diesel fuel, the changes in emissions are directionally the same, but smaller.

    The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reports that B100 and B20 reduce PM emissions by 30% and 22%, respectively when compared to conventional diesel fuel.


    http://www.crimsonrenewable.com/emissions.php
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    So B100 PM are 70% of conventional diesel PM? For older diesels, which emit a LOT of PM, 70% of a lot is still...a lot.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    The only negative to Biodiesel as far as emissions go is NOx is about 10% higher. All other pollutants and CO2 are much less. And you get good MPG. And most of it sold today is recycled cooking oil. If they ever get algal bio diesel cost effective, it will be a boon to the industry. Think of all those old diesel 3/4ton PU trucks running around with no smog tests or controls. ULSD helped a bunch. Bio could help even more.
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    Blue Ridge Biofuels collects cooking oil from restaurants and has biodiesel pumps all over western North Carolina. I would feel best going with this progressive company as a fuel source. After all of this discussion, I am leaning towards (and am going to see in person) one of these:

    A Mercedes Benz 2007 or 2008 GL320

    For these reasons:

    1. Most roomy third row seating available at this vehicle size, with standard moonroof over the rear seats, to deter feelings of clautrophobia. I can still encourage guests to rotate seats during a tour, but at least the third row on this vehicle seats an averaged-sized adult, with more head room (hence the boxier rear of the vehicle).

    2. Runs on biodiesel

    3. Provides plush experience for guests - lovely interior and standard sunroof

    4. 4WD

    6. $15,000 for used vehicles with 120,000 miles

    Feel free to send me your thoughts! While I think I finally found my dream match, it would be good to stay in reality.

    For example, here is one for sale:
    http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?endYear=2017&amp;zip=33101&amp;listingType=used&amp;listingTypes=used&amp;maxPrice=15000&amp;showcaseListingId=419628653&amp;mmt=[MB[][GL_CLASS[]]]&amp;modelCode1=GL_CLASS&amp;fuelTypeGroup=DSL&amp;sortBy=derivedpriceASC&amp;showcaseOwnerId=76776&amp;startYear=1981&amp;makeCode1=MB&amp;firstRecord=0&amp;maxMileage=150000&amp;searchRadius=0&amp;listingId=419115636&amp;Log=0

    Third row of these:






  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    A friend owned that exact year and model. He lived in Oregon and had a home here in San Diego. He made many trips a year and would always average 27+ MPG with that big heavy SUV. I test drove one that was a year old and could not afford the $75,000 price tag with under 10k miles. I am surprised at that price, for such a nice vehicle. Get it checked out, but looks great.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 130,441
    I like that!

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

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  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    This overview brochure may be of interest (pdf file).

    Mercedes-Benz Biodiesel Brochure
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    stever said:

    This overview brochure may be of interest (pdf file).

    Mercedes-Benz Biodiesel Brochure

    Using Biodiesel can cause problems. When using biodiesel, filters need to be changed frequently as the cleaning properties can loosen up contaminants from fossil diesel use. In this gentleman's case I would get a close working relationship with the biodiesel producer. Talk to people that are using his product. The newer the diesel engine the more likely you will have issues, especially with B100. Around here it is hard to find any biodiesel. Our local electric company uses it.

    SDG&E has utilized a B20 blend of biodiesel for several years. The transition to B20 has been seamless and we’ve never encountered a problem when using the high-quality biodiesel products readily available through exceptional local companies such as New Leaf Biofuel. In addition to compliance and emissions benefits, our use of biodiesel supports the Sempra Corporation’s enhanced sustainability initiatives.

    http://www.newleafbiofuel.com/
  • carboy21carboy21 Posts: 760
    If your vehicle breaks down while taking tourists, you can kiss your business goodbye and open a school bus company.
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    Haha, good tip, thanks.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I think biodiesel has a good history of powering commercial vehicles. Bio-Beetles in Hawaii has been running 100% biodiesel in their rental fleet of VW TDIs since 2006.

    We were told that the new 2009 VWs are not compatable with 100% biodiesl, but they told us the same thing about the 2006s, and we have 13, with virtually NO problems relating to biodiesel. Using biodieslel helps keeps the engine cleaner, thus one must change the fuel filter more often, and if you change to biodiesel from a car that has a lot of miles on regular petroleum diesel, you will have to change the fuel filter a lot as the biodiesel cleans out all the build up from regular diesel, which can be extensive!

    https://mauicarrentals.us/biodiesel.htm

    http://www.kettlebrand.com/about_us/sustainability/
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    edited February 2016
    "The use of diesel fuels containing a higher percentage of biodiesel, (B6 to B20) according to ASTM D7467 as well as straight biodiesel (B100) according to ASTM D6751 may cause severe damage to your engine and fuel system, and are not approved by Mercedes-Benz."

    I'd follow MB's instructions.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    edited February 2016
    gagrice said:

    stever said:

    This overview brochure may be of interest (pdf file).

    Mercedes-Benz Biodiesel Brochure

    Using Biodiesel can cause problems. When using biodiesel, filters need to be changed frequently as the cleaning properties can loosen up contaminants from fossil diesel use. In this gentleman's case I would get a close working relationship with the biodiesel producer. Talk to people that are using his product. The newer the diesel engine the more likely you will have issues, especially with B100. Around here it is hard to find any biodiesel. Our local electric company uses it.

    SDG&E has utilized a B20 blend of biodiesel for several years. The transition to B20 has been seamless and we’ve never encountered a problem when using the high-quality biodiesel products readily available through exceptional local companies such as New Leaf Biofuel. In addition to compliance and emissions benefits, our use of biodiesel supports the Sempra Corporation’s enhanced sustainability initiatives.

    http://www.newleafbiofuel.com/
    Well they have an interest in posting that, don't they? What about impartial and scientific sources of information?

    I realize that Mercedes only specifies BD5 for warranty purposes, and no doubt are being cautious to a fault, but still, Mercedes engineers do know something about diesels.

  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    Well, damn. After looking at this further, anything over B5 in a Mercedes Benz really can cause problems (looking even beyond the brochure).

    ...and the car hunt continues!
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,938
    Me, I'd give that MB more consideration, run B5. You really need a business that can provide reliable transportation. Plenty of other ways to work in the 'eco' aspect.
  • EcotourOwnerEcotourOwner North CarolinaPosts: 12
    I am strongly considering that - running B5 and sticking with this MB model. Thank you!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Some owners claim that they have run B20 in the Mercedes with no problem but I dunno.....
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    The other issue is CHEAP fossil diesel. I don't think you can produce high quality Biodiesel under 2 bucks. It was a short rage when diesel was over $4 a gallon. Not so much anymore. Back to the drawing board to make it from algae.
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