Like reminiscing about where you were when Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon or the day you graduated high school, ask any Cruiserhead and they will say that they can recount with vivid memory the first Land Cruiser they purchased. It’s a special moment in a Cruiserhead’s life. Even if they don’t realize it until many years later when they have fallen madly in love with their chosen mode of transportation. And so I present to you the story of buying my first (and only (so far)) Land Cruiser.

It was the summer of 2008, a hot one as I recall. I had recently started graduate school and had no business buying a car because I had no money. So this is also a tale of a bad financial decision that I have to say I don’t really regret 🙂 I had a two-door, two-wheel-drive, manual transmission, 1998 Ford Explorer Sport. This wasn’t a car I chose, but it was a car I was thankful to have because it served me well during the time I owned it. I decided it was time for me to get a car I really liked. I have always liked 4×4 SUVs so I started looking at options. I consider new cars like the FJ Cruiser, Hummer H3, or four-door Jeep Wrangler. I realized quickly that even though I had taken out more student loans than I would probably need I still couldn’t afford a new car. I also realized that I was okay with that because I liked older cars better anyway.

During my research the FJ60 really stuck out for all the reasons I ended up loving this car. I was also really interested in FJ80s. I kept my eye out on Ebay and Craigslist for 60s and 80s in my area. Finally good looking one popped up at a car dealership about an hour away. I gave the dealership a call and made an appointment to go take a look. It turns out that one of the owners of the dealership was a Cruiserhead and was selling his personal FJ60. This guy owned several cars and almost never drove this one. He was the second owner.

I should stop here and say that I new nothing about buying a used car and it cost me as you will see.

I arrived at the dealership excited about the possibility of driving this car home. The owner came out and introduced me to the Cruiser and told me how wonderful it was and that he had previously swore to himself he would never sell it. I carefully looked all around the car and under the hood. I checked for leaks and rust. I didn’t see any of either. I took it for a test drive and the A/C worked great and it was fun to drive. So, I decided this was the car for me. To be honest, I had probably already convinced myself to buy the car before I even left my house, which was a mistake.

I thought the Cruiser was in great shape and had low miles for its age (124K if I remember right).  The owner (car salesman) assured me there was nothing wrong with it and I could hop in and drive to Colorado today if I wanted. Anyway, I started negotiations. He wanted 12K for it. I told myself that I wouldn’t pay more than 10K. Keep in mind that this was before the economy tanked in 08-09 so 10K might have been on the upper end of reasonable at the time. We went back and forth, but like I said, I had already convinced myself to by the car. I was also a horrible negotiator. So I told the guy if he could get me out the door for 12K, including tax which would be about $800, I would take it. And so we made a deal

We did the paperwork and I drove the car home (my then girlfriend, now wife, was there to drive the other car home and to see me get my ass handed to me in a negotiation.)

Did I mention I didn’t know anything about buying a used car? Everything was fine for a while, but it turns out that when a car is almost never driven for a long time and then starts to be driven on a regular basis bad things start to happen. To my knowledge nothing in the car had ever been replaced. Everything was all original under the hood. So, as you can imagine, as I started driving it more, more things started to break. First, the A/C compressor died, then the smog pump seized up, then the power steering pump started leaking and needed to be replaced, the fan clutch had to be replaced, the master cylinder had to be replaced. one of the front brake rotors, drive belts, I couldn’t pass inspection because of emissions, and finally, the head needed to be rebuild because the valves were burned up. This was all in a matter of about two years, maybe less. And remember, I was in graduate school living off of a part-time job and student loans. In other words, I accumulated a bit of credit card debt.

So, in summary, I paid too much for my FJ60 and then had to spend a massive amount of money fixing it up. Honestly though, I don’t reget this experience. it has been a great vehicle since I got it fixed up. I learned a lot and still have my Cruiser and I hope to keep it forever.

That’s the story of buying my first (and only (so far)) Land Cruiser. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t get overly exited about buying a 60. Wait until after you have found a good one and purchased it to get excited. Ask the right questions to the person trying to sell you the car. And finally, take the car to a knowledgable mechanic and have him or her look over it before you make your final decision to buy.