Trust Issues and Space for Dogs

I’ve been idly contemplating ditching my Avalanche for something different.  The first thing that put this thought into my mind was last year’s blown transmission.  Since then it’s developed two annoying, but not fatal, problems.  First, at seemingly random intervals, the climate control system decides that the driver’s side needs full heat, despite being set in A/C mode.  Stopping and restarting the engine resets it, though.  Second, also at random intervals, it decides that it doesn’t want to unlock the rear doors.  What makes these problems especially frustrating, though, is that there is no way to force them to happen, so I haven’t bothered to take it into the dealer yet.  If it can’t be recreated, the dealer will just likely say to come back when it happens again. 

The other major factor in my mind is that the Avalanche is not optimal for carrying a dog.  Boots gets in and out well enough, but she’s still young enough to jump into the back seat (although I worry about the strain on her front legs from jumping down).  But she doesn’t fit in the seat very well.  She’s big enough that she can’t lay down without stretching out across the seat (which means that if there’s anyone in the back with her she generally ends up laying across their lap).  I’m thinking that some sort of regular SUV would be better than the Avalanche for her.  I could fold down one of the seats to give her access to the cargo area and put down some sort of bed there.  This should also keep all the dirt and fur out of the seats (right now I keep a cover on the back seats in the Avalanche).

When I bought this Avalanche I was intending it to be something that would last for a long time, hence the upgrades from the previous Avalanche (i.e. from cloth to leather, added a sunroof, premium sound, etc).  I was driving fewer miles and thought that would let me keep it well beyond when it was paid off.  Also in favor of getting the current one was the fact that the previous Avalanche had more than double the miles of this one and had ZERO mechanical issues.  All of this gives me a lingering doubt as to whether this Avalanche is a good idea in the long run.  I’m starting to think it’s better to dump it before the extended warranty runs out.  I’d hate to find myself having to get another transmission at that point (a $2K to $3K repair).

I did some checking online and found that mine is worth between $3K and $6K more than its payoff value (depending on how you evaluate it in the calculator; I factored in the mechanical issues into the lower estimate, thereby letting the dealer handle it for me, rather than having to deal with it before trade in; regardless of the small mechanical issues, the low mileage really helps).  With that amount of residual, I could use the trade as my down payment and not have to spend any money out-of-pocket.

So, that leads me to have to make some choices.  The first, and most important, is whether I give GM another chance or whether I go to Toyota (which seems to have the best reputation for reliability).  GM has some good deals on the 2007 Tahoe right now, and 0% on 2006 models.  Feature-for-feature, the Tahoe could be configured to most closely match what I have now on the Avalanche.  And combining the trade-in value with the specials I would end up paying less (overall and in monthly payments).  However, *ALL* of Chevroloet’s SUV’s and trucks use the same transmission as the Avalanche and also share the majority of the other systems (such as door locks and A/C).  That’s a big demerit against GM for me right now.

On the other side, Toyota has the best reliability ratings, but they don’t offer anything exactly comparable.  But for what I need, perhaps something like the 4Runner would fit the bill.  From a pure style perspective, I like the FJ Cruiser, although it might be a bit small.  Both the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser are listed as either the top or second most reliable mid-sized or small SUV’s (the 4Runner came in second to the Toyota Highlander Hybrid for 2007; interestingly, the Tahoe was fourth behind three Toyota models in the large SUV segment).  I suppose a test drive will be in order to see how well I fit into these SUVs as well as to see how they actually handle.

I’m not in a huge hurry, and I probably won’t even bother going to look at anything until late this month.  I’ve got a new CERT class starting this week and I’m traveling on business next week, all of which precludes fiddling with trade-ins and dealerships.  In the meantime, perhaps those with experience with any of the above-mentioned vehicles could comment. 

But note that buying used is not an option for me.  Seriously, I don’t play the used game.  For those that feel morally superior for buying used, step back for a second and think about where your used vehicles come from.  Someone had to buy them first.  I’m the one who supplies you with vehicles that have been well-maintained (I have all regularly scheduled maintenance done at the correct intervals) and that haven’t been dogged out all the time.  In this one instance I would feel a little bit bad about foisting off the Avalanche on the used market, but still, it’s low-mileage and hasn’t been abused, so perhaps it could find a good home with someone.


  1. doug says:

    I bought a 2007.5 Chevy Duramax a couple of weeks ago, after problems with the Suburban, I didn’t think I’d give GM another chance.

    Nicest truck I’ve ever owned.

  2. Kevin White says:

    Might also look at the Honda Pilot.

  3. crystal says:

    A- I got my first Toyota two years ago and love it. Now I know why they are so highly rated in Consumer Reports. Not one problem and it was 4 years old when I got it. I have a Rav-4 but I would recommend the FJ Cruiser for you. They look cool and I like the fact that they don’t have carpet- they’re truly a utility vehicles.

  4. Crystal,
    The lack of carpet has its pluses when it comes to the dogs.  Although I suppose I would need to put down some sort of pad for them to sleep on. 

    On the other hand, if GM gets desperate next month, I’m hoping they might extend 0% to the 2007’s, which puts the Tahoe back in the running.

    Oh well, I won’t have time to get over to the dealerships until late in the month, so no big hurry.


    I sort of considered the Honda, but it just didn’t do anything for me in the style department.


    You can definitely understand my dilemma.  I like big SUV’s (being a big guy, I need a bit of space), and the GM’s seem to offer it.  I also like the looks of the 07 models (especially the Avalanche).  But trust is a big issue for me, since I only have one vehicle and have to rely on it for all of my transportation needs.