Where Your Author Makes a Quick Purchase (and a Long Trip)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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where your author makes a quick purchase and a long trip

What happens when specific used car requirements combine with some old fashioned encouragement from TTAC staff?

A one-way road trip spanning five states, that’s what.

The car and the price seemed right, but the location was not quite down the street. For those regular followers of these pages, you already know the story here. The decision to sell the decade-old Infiniti M35x was accompanied by a narrowing down of its replacements and a decision in favor of the 2015 GS 350. It was almost inevitable, given the rather strict specifications I’d put on the car search, that I’d end up purchasing a car somewhere far away.

After suspending the search for a couple of weeks due to life’s distractions, I returned and scoured eBay, AutoTrader, and Cars.com again. At the end of another search, I had seven tabs open on Chrome. Those were narrowed down to two GS 350s — both of which were already on the spreadsheet I’d made weeks before. Combined with a third option that was still available, every GS ended up roughly equal. They were all white and similar in specification, price, and miles. One was in Florida, and the other two in Texas. One of the Texas dealers was the first choice, as their car was the only one I found with the desirable Luxury package and Mark Levinson audio. They turned sketchy relatively quickly, so I moved on.

The other two choices lacked the Luxury package and optional stereo. One had a light grey interior while the other was flaxen. Both the Tampa and Austin dealers were communicative and answered questions quickly. Neither of the two were willing to move on price, which is apparently a thing in online car sales these days. I started to lean toward the GS in Austin — it had a slightly better CarFax history, and was wearing nice new Continental tires. The figurative distance between Austin and Tampa grew as the Austin dealer informed me it did not charge any fees for out of state customers, other than a $50 inventory management fee. The car located in Tampa was slightly more expensive, had a few more miles, and the dealer layered on a non-negotiable $349 documentation fee. I had a winner.

Meanwhile, I’d requested shipping quotes from Austin to Cincinnati. The quotes poured in, and all seemed to be in the $650 to $800 range. There had to be a better, cheaper way. The TTAC Slack channel piped up last Wednesday:

“Go fly out there and get it!”

That’s when I learned that discount airline Allegiant flew direct from Cincinnati to Austin a couple times a week, and for $92 all-in, I could be on the ground in Austin on Monday evening. Flight booked, deposit on car placed, PTO request approved.

After a turbulent flight, I landed in Austin to find the Uber I’d been sent was… not there. It arrived 20 minutes after it was supposed to, and was a different car than stated on the Uber app. Whatever. Every road in Austin seemed to be ripped up or shut down entirely, and I arrived at the dealership well after closing time. The car was ready, and so was the paperwork. It could’ve been a bit cleaner. Though someone rinsed it off and vacuumed the interior, the leather was far from spotless. In the 600 miles the car had traveled since arriving at the dealership in September 2018, it seemed 520 of them were with someone wearing slightly dirty pants in the seat. The service department was closed, and I was told “It’s hard to keep light colored leather clean.”

Not really, says I.

After a test drive in the setting sun, all seemed well; the slight seat filth wasn’t enough to put me off. I signed on the line and wrote a check (which felt archaic) for the balance. The entire exercise was running behind schedule, and I didn’t hit the road to the overnight halt until around seven in the evening. At least the dealer provided a full tank of fuel. About five uneventful hours later, I’d pressed every button in sight and adjusted the driver’s seat about 15 times to get it right. The overnight stop was the second-finest hotel in Texarkana, according to TripAdvisor: the Country Inn.

Day one complete.

The next morning, your sleepy author climbed out of bed with five hours’ sleep and contemplated the 772-mile drive which lay ahead. A quick breakfast and fuel stop, and I was on the open road to the northeast at 8:30. That day, the GS accompanied me through five different states, and around Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville. The weather for most of the day was in the low to mid-80s (like the speed of travel), and sunny.

I noticed several things about the GS over the next few hours. The quantity and coldness of the air moving through the vents at low fan speed settings impressed. The ventilated seat did a nice job of moving air around most of the seat bottom and back, seemingly even pushing a small bit out against my neck. It took a while to get used to operating the mouse for the infotainment system. Overshooting icons was a common occurrence, and the pointer would sometimes land at the next icon on the wrong part of the screen. The navigation did a nice job of displaying junctions and exits along the way, and offered to reroute me a couple of times when traffic situations arose ahead.

It gave about a 20-mile lead time on issues, which was enough time for me to second-guess it with Google Maps (the car wasn’t wrong). One irritation with the various screens of information was how the system would return to the map page after about 30 seconds of inactivity. Happily, there’s a setting for that deep within the menu — of which there are too many. The seat was firm and comfortable for several hours before noticeable soreness set in. There’s no sunglasses holder anywhere but the center console; seems like an oversight. The former button drawer from the 2006 GS is still there, except now it’s empty and lined with velvety material.

Hours and states passed by, with the drive seemingly interminable. In case you aren’t aware, it takes a long time to drive in a northeast direction across the entire state of Tennessee. And Memphis has really crap road quality. The roads were on my mind when I passed by the glass pyramid Bass Pro Shop. Traffic issues around Nashville meant I was headed through Louisville around six in the evening, but I got lucky with traffic there.

After the fourth major city, the finish line was in sight, the roads more familiar. One more fuel stop after reaching Cincinnati city limits, and the bug-splattered GS carried an exhausted traveler into the driveway shortly after eight o’clock Tuesday evening. The GS was a good long-distance companion, and felt plenty familiar after the longest road trip I’d ever taken. After 1,125 air conditioned miles at about 80 mph, the trip computer relayed 29.2 miles per gallon. Not too shabby. I kept track of the budget too, since that prompted this whole voyage.

Airfare $92.00

Lodging $89.27

Fuel $75.74

Food $18.09

Grand Total $275.10

You can save a bit of money with Do It Yourself Shipping, LLC. Just be prepared for a bit of back and leg pain when you’re finished.

[Images: Corey Lewis / TTAC, Google Maps, CarFax]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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2 of 113 comments
  • Cpthaddock Cpthaddock on Apr 14, 2019

    How delightfully anachronistic!

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Apr 14, 2019

    Good going Corey! I've done a few long ones. Longest was San Antonio to Maine for my '01 Range Rover. I did Oklahoma City to Maine for my '00 Saab 9-5SE V6t wagon - that one had the most adventures along the way (but the only car issue was a bad battery). I bought a Volvo 745T in Birmingham AL and drove it home. A short one was my second '91 318IS in Philly. Most recent was my '91 Volvo 940GLE 16V last year from San Antonio to SW FL, after a friend drove it from LA to SA. Best way to get to know a new-to-you car. I will admit, I totally wussed out on driving my Peugeot 504D from Sacramento to Maine back in about '98 - I had that one shipped. But I bought it on a business trip, turned in my rental car and drove it all over San Francisco before dropping it at the shippers - still an awesome trip! I am luckier than most for this sort of thing - from work travel I have bottomless FF miles and hotel points, and for both my current and previous jobs I get a ton of PTO and my schedule is largely up to me. Makes it almost too easy to do stupid car tricks, LOL.

  • Parkave231 I'd rather they remember how to manufacture the things they have before adding more trims and options.
  • SCE to AUX "as if 775 lb-ft of torque in a pickup isn’t enough"Exactly. How about doing something hard instead, like getting your electric truck to meet 'truck' expectations first? That would sell better than a Raptor-like truck.
  • Akear They sell only 20,000 Mustang EVs a year. They better keep the current Mustang!
  • Jkross22 We're thinking about the 500e all wrong. This is a 'new' old car. All of the tooling and R&D is done. Easy way to move an 'Italian' car up market and boost fleet MPG. Plus... dealers can move all unsold models into demo/fleet usage so when Jeep and Durango owners come in for service, they can use this as a loaner.
  • Namesakeone Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. A light truck coming from Ford. We have never seen anything like it. (This is me trying to sound like I'm excited.)