In my haste to move from Northern Virginia to the Greater Detroit Area, which happened roughly seven months ago, I didn’t have the time to talk about my latest acquisition – a 1996 Toyota 4Runner.
Earlier in the year, I accepted an automotive journalism position in Michigan, forcing my girlfriend and I to pack everything from our beloved apartment and make some difficult choices as to the items that would be coming with us on the nearly 600-mile journey. After a long, thoughtful discussion, we decided to sell the ’92 Mazda Miata in favor of something more winter-friendly.
After scouring forums, Craigslist, and eBay, I settled on a 1996 Toyota 4Runner. The only problem was that I was running out of time, as I had already agreed to start the job in two weeks. That didn’t leave a lot of time for me to sell my Miata and find a SUV to take its place. And since we were in desperate need of a larger vehicle to ferry large items for the move, I had to purchase the only 4Runner I could afford.
Unfortunately, as I will go into greater detail later on, I wasn’t able to get one in superb condition. For one, it’s a ’96 with 138K miles on it. The front seats are completely mangled, the rear wiper motor and window don’t work, the tailgate is from another 4Runner model, and there’s something wrong with the SUV’s electrics. Other than that, it’s mint!
After I bought the SUV, I put my Miata on Craigslist for $2,500, which is $300 more than what I paid for it roughly a year ago. The antique sports car sold within two days for $2,300. While that’s not as much as I was hoping to get, I didn’t have the time to find the perfect buyer and I was happy to get $100 in my pocket.
Saying goodbye to something is always difficult and it was the same for the Miata. I’m not going to lie, I shed a tear for the orange machine. And my wallet shed a few more tears when I started to work through all of the 4Runner’s problems. The Miata was an amazing car and it will be missed.
So why did I buy a SUV? Well there are a few reasons.
The number one reason why I bought a SUV, despite the vehicle representing everything I hate about the automotive industry’s move to crossovers, is because of a little thing called snow. In NOVA, we didn’t see that much snow. In fact, I used my Miata throughout the entire year, including the few months where the slippery substance accumulated on the roads. And it ran fine. Apparently, winter is a lot different in Michigan.
When we visited Michigan, a few homeowners took some time to tell us how winter is in the north and it sounded terrifying. Looking over some data, last year wasn’t so bad, but the year before that, the Grand Rapids (northern part of Michigan) saw 114.2 inches or roughly 10 feet. Yup, there’s no way the Miata’s going through that.
The next point is that the roads in Michigan are utter shit. I’ve complained about Washington, D.C.’s roads before, but they’re as smooth as a freshly shaved face compared to Michigan’s. Immediately after entering the state, drivers are welcomed to insanely bumpy roads with massive pieces missing – and I should remind you that this is the state’s major highway. It feels like you’re riding on horseback, until your tire goes into one of the craters and then it just feels like your car and body are falling apart.
It’s not just an isolated thing. Roads, even in the “best” part of town, are horrendous. If you value your car, then you shouldn’t bring it to Michigan. Because the state’s awesome roads will tear it apart.
Thirdly, Michigan has the worst drivers in the entire country. No, I’m not kidding. Before moving to Michigan, I would say that that the area around Washington, D.C. is home to the worst drivers. After experiencing the drivers in the Northern State, the ones in the Greater DMV could give Nico Rosberg a run at the Formula One title.
This isn’t just a bold claim, as I have some facts to back my claim up. Michigan is one of the few states in the country that requires drivers to get specific insurance coverage. Michigan is a “no fault” state, which means no one is at fault in an accident. The no-fault insurance plan covers drivers for up to $1 million for damages done to houses, vehicles, or property. There are so many accidents here that the state has decided to let everyone drive around like bumper cars.
Thawck. “Oh, hello there. Uhhh sorry, I ran into your car. Good news! You’re alive, I’m alive and even though I was clearly catching Pokemon on my cellphone, it’s not my fault. Eat it.”
That, I’m guessing, is the typical conversation that goes down when two drivers get into an accident in Michigan. And yes, it is that ridiculous. Care to guess what else is ridiculous? The insurance rates. Since so many people get into accidents here, getting no fault coverage on a car is downright ludicrous. For my ’96 4Runner it wasn’t so bad – a bump of $20 per month. But one of my coworkers stated that she drives a relatively new Mazda3 and it runs her in the neighborhood of $250 per month.
That’s a car payment to just insure the freaking car!
You know why the insurance rates are so high? Well for one, it’s because the roads are completely idiotic. The state has gone out of its way to create its own system of roads, which contain “Michigan lefts.” In order to reduce traffic, Michigan has taken the regular left turn lane out of its roads for a “Michigan left.” This type of left, essentially forces the driver to make a U-turn. Yeah, you should’ve seen my face when I first encountered this monstrosity.
The specific Michigan left lane is supposed to reduce traffic by allowing drivers going straight to bypass traffic lights. While this makes sense, it’s stupid. The U-turn lanes, depending on what county you’re in may have a yield sign, a stop sign, or an actual signal light. Being from Virginia, we actually follow the signs. For instance, if it’s a stop sign, we stop. If the signal is red, we stop. Michigan drivers do not. Drivers go side-by-side in the single U-turn lane and, if there’s no oncoming traffic, pay no attention to the sign. They just freaking go!
Oh yeah. And every driver is doing something. When stopping at a red light, it’s clear to see drivers search for something, using their phones, eating, or attempting to multitask. This wouldn’t be an issue if drivers stopped when driving, but they don’t. As soon as the light turns green, Michigan drivers floor their cars – even if it’s a Dodge Neon that’s falling apart – and continue to multitask.
Lastly, Michigan has one of the weirdest mixes of nice cars and extremely crappy ones. I’ve seen everything from a Lamborghini Aventador to a Dodge Grand Caravan that has enough rust to make the underside of my 4runner blush. Vehicles are literally falling apart on the road and owners refuse to fix them. I have never, ever seen so many cars with major damage on the road. And that boils down to the state not requiring vehicles to get inspections.
This may sound like a lot of complaints about Michigan. And it is essentially that. But there are a lot of good things about the state. The food, for instance, is delicious and well priced. Car leases are incredibly affordable, if you work for one of the Big Three, and, besides the occasional jerk wad, the people are relatively friendly, Eminem-loving individuals.
Amazingly, there are also some gorgeous landscapes to ogle at. You have to drive a few hours away from Detroit to get to the scenic parts of the state, but boy is the drive worth it. I haven’t had much time to enjoy the state’s prettier sides and with winter breathing its bitter breath upon the state, it’ll be a few months before I do any more exploring.