Hybrid Closure: Buying a Second Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Somewhere in New York City is a cab driver whose name I never caught who is partly responsible for helping me make this decision. He gave me a ride from LaGuardia into the City in his 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and we spent 35 minutes comparing notes on all the hybrid vehicles we knew. He loved his cab, which already had upwards of 100K miles on it. It started me thinking: I had been concentrating on buying an economical third vehicle, something like a Prius or Civic Hybrid. But was keeping my pristine, under-20K-miles, 2004 Toyota Tundra DoubleCab pickup truck the responsible thing to do? It didn’t even take me a New York minute to consider that question. The answer was: No.
So, if I didn’t have a pickup truck, what vehicle would I need to handle my weekend woodworking and landscaping projects while at the same time allowing me to ferry around kids to soccer games, etc.? Despite having excellent second row seating, the Toyota Tundra DoubleCab is no fun to park or zip around town in. Since my wife bought her 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid last August, I’d taken to using her car on the weekends — when I could get it.
Sitting there on the L.I.E. in the back of this guy’s Highlander Hybrid cab, the answer crystallized in my mind. I have hitch attachments that extend the relatively short cargo area behind the first row of the Highlander (and ply wood won’t lie flat, but it’s not like I usually buy more than four sheets a time). I have a cargo platform (2 feet by 5 feet) that slips into the hitch receiver, giving me a lot more storage space. I’ve also used it to ferry my snow blower and gas grill for servicing. I have a bike rack hitch attachment. The Highlander has a decent roof rack and a fairly long roof line. Most of all, I don’t need to haul big things very often. To be honest, the truck has spent more time ferrying Christmas trees than serious payloads. If I really need a pickup, I can always rent one. In the era of $4 gas, a pickup truck that’s not a full-time work truck is not just a luxury, it’s just plain irresponsible for my needs.
So with that as the lead in, I decided several weeks ago to buy a used 2006 or 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid — the same vehicle my wife owns. I’d already done all the research when we bought her car. It’s the best designed, most fuel-efficient people mover to be had. Owning one for nearly a year hasn’t changed my opinion on that score one jot. There are still 2008 Highlander Hybrids around, but I’m not fond of the newer model, especially because it’s quite a bit more expensive.
In the end, I fell into a lucky deal — a used 2007 model with only 4,000 miles on it that was literally owned by a little old lady who rarely drove it. It’s exactly like my wife Cyndy’s except for color and DVD navigation option. Cyndy doesn’t care for DVD navigation because of a strong preference for analog dials and an absence of glitzy graphics while she’s driving. Even the interior color of my new vehicle is the same as hers. All I had to do was have the dealer add the tow hitch. The Highlander is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, but what I’m interested in is the 350-pound tongue weight for various attachments that lack wheels.
Won’t his and her Highlanders be kinda cute? Isn’t the Highlander a plain and drab Camry derivative? Yes and yes. But it’s the right vehicle for my needs. The hybrid technology will add 10-15 mpg over what I’ve been getting with the truck, plus it’s a lot more enjoyable to zip around in, park, and do all the things that parents with young kids do. And the Highlander will be an adequate vehicle for most of my home-improvement projects.
I take delivery tomorrow.