I occasionally get emails from readers, wondering what is happening in my life. Apologies for not answering them – I keep meaning to do so, but, as you can now see, even a quick summary takes a long time to write! I’ve decided to amalgamate all the deserved personal replies and thanks into this public email, which I hope is not impersonal.
As for the question – what is happening – I sometimes wonder what is happening in my life, too! I’ve been wanting to share an update with you for some time, but I’m approaching my new life with the same dedicated single-mindedness as I did my former life, and that leaves very little time or mental energy over for other things.
If you missed them, you can see my earlier fitful attempts at providing some continuity of contact with you on the website home page. So I’ll largely skip over things you might already know, other than to quickly provide context and also some further background.
This email – I can’t really call it a newsletter – is very self-centered. I feel awkward about that, but it is offered in response to the questions from readers – perhaps better to say friends, because that is what you have become over the decades we’ve been sharing experiences. So, a bit like the “annual Christmas letter/update” that some people enclose with their Christmas card, here’s a lengthy update on and from me.
Please note also, near the bottom (The section “The Future Part Two”), an invitation to you to participate in the next phase of my new life.
The Past Twenty-Something Years
To start at a beginning of sorts, the Travel Insider was founded shortly after the 9/11/2001 events. Reaching even further back, I had sold my travel company in 2000, and spent a year or so mulling over what to do next, including unsuccessfully looking for opportunities to return to high-tech. My sense of timing was terrible – the dot com boom, if you can remember back to the heady days of the late 1990s, was rapidly turning into a dot com bomb, and many of the crazy ideas that had been extravagantly funded were crashing and burning, and investors were shying away from new projects.
During that time I wrote a novel. I eventually published it on Amazon. It was not a best seller. I then decided to switch and write a book on travel.
I forget exactly what the working title was, something like “How to Book and Buy Travel – Tips Traps and Tricks from a Travel Insider”. I was much of the way through that when 9/11 occurred, and it became plain that no-one would be interested in traveling or books about travel for a while subsequently. My then-wife and I actually went on a Mediterranean cruise just a few weeks after 9/11 and it was stunning to see how deserted everything and everywhere was.
So, and encouraged by long-time colleague and friend Joe Brancatelli, I decided to transition to a blog and newsletter on travel matters, and that – The Travel Insider as it became known – was to be my passion and vocation for the next 21 years, until April this year.
What an interesting 21 years those were. It was a period of enormous change for the internet (not so much for travel!). In 2001, many people were still discovering the internet for the first time. The concept of a free weekly newsletter was enormously popular, and I’d sometimes have 500 or more people signing up for it in a single week. At its peak, there were way over 20,000 people getting the newsletter every week.
Back then, longer and more detailed content was also more appreciated. But there’s been an enormous change in what people expect and want on the internet over those 21 years. We’ve gone from in-depth and long-form content to superficial and terribly-short sound-bites. The initial 140 character limit of tweets on Twitter revolutionized the expectation of how to share ideas and how to communicate, and blogging became increasingly commercially focused and more a vehicle to carry advertisements than a means to share concepts and ideas. Sensible commentaries from credible experts have been replaced by vapid idiocy published by equally vapid “influencer” idiots.
At the same time, people were becoming less responsive. Well, more people were buying more things on-line, but in different ways. To parrot Ross Perot’s Presidential Campaign, the “giant sucking sound” was Amazon, and less obviously Google and Wikipedia. As hard as it is to believe these days, but in the mid/late 2000s, my website scored in the top three or four or five results on Google for all sorts of popular and important search phrases, and the website as a whole was among the thousand most visited in the entire world according to one website rating/ranking service. I was making a decent living out of the advertising on my webpages – pennies or less per visitor, but when you have a five figure number of people visiting every day, those pennies quickly add up.
But in the late 2000s, things inexorably started to change. Wikipedia and a few major commercial services came to dominate Google’s first page search results for most things, and Google became so good at presenting relevant search results on its first page of results that there was almost no measurable value at all if your site was shown on the second or third page of Google’s results. When did you last go to a second or third page of Google search results? My web visit numbers plunged.
Plus Amazon – remember it was originally a seller of books only – came to dominate the entire world of e-commerce making it very difficult for small sellers to compete against them. Many small sellers instead started selling through Amazon rather than directly, and you’ll not be surprised to learn that Amazon’s share of each transaction usually leaves precious little for the actual seller. Indeed, a year or so back, I did some research for a client who wanted to sell honey on Amazon. It proved impossible to do so, because Amazon’s own honey brand (yes, Amazon now even sells honey as part of its in-house empire) was available for sale at a price way below the price my client would have needed to sell at even just to break-even.
Add eBay as another source, and then the Chinese sites that still take advantage of subsidized (by the US!) postage rates such that you can buy a product from China and get it shipped/delivered to the US for less than the shipping cost alone of the product if you shipped it within the US, and my previous forays into selling things via my website (does anyone remember the SIM Savers and emergency battery chargers?) became impossible. Plus, with the growth in new websites outpacing the growth in new web visitors, advertising rates dropped due to the over-abundance of pages to host ads.
Yes, it was a “perfect storm”. Fewer page views, less money for each page view, and fewer other ways to monetize the website. And then, on top of all that, my long-form core newsletter and commentary content became less popular, with a slow but steady loss of readers every week. The early days of growing 500+ readers a week transitioned down to weekly losses of 10 – 20. Not a huge amount when looked at over a week or two, but annually, the numbers were dropping by a thousand each year.
I was not exaggerating in my annual fundraising appeals when I spoke about how things had changed drastically, and my income reduced down to contributions from people like you, and a bit of profit from one or two tours each year. I was burning through my savings at an accelerating rate. Something needed to change, which brings us to the big “pivot” earlier this year.
Changing from Travel Insider – But to What?
It was increasingly obvious for some years that I needed to change from the Travel Insider to something else. I was slow to accept this inescapable financial fact, but hoping against hope for a miraculous change in fortune was not a successful strategy, and so I started to consider what other things I could do.
There was one thing I utterly could not do, much as I wanted to. And that was work for another company. I applied repeatedly, but the perceived negatives of being “too old”, or even “too experienced”, to say nothing of having been self-employed for over 30 years created concerns about being able to fit into a corporate environment and happily work for a boss who as likely as not would be ten or twenty years my junior (and also someone with massively less experience). Every application I sent off went nowhere. Most were unresponded to entirely, and others never progressed to a short-listing, let alone an offer.
So, yet again, it seemed the only person willing to employ me would be myself. I needed to find another opportunity, another business for me to create or buy and build. I looked at various travel-related businesses, all around the country, particularly in the form of accommodation – small resorts and interesting distinctive hotels that would cater to leisure rather than business travelers.
In some cases I got close to purchasing a business, but buying a business is very different to buying a house. The market is not “efficient” and there can be enormous gaps between what a seller hopes their business might be worth and what a buyer perceives its value to be. Plus, home sellers typically need to quickly sell because they are moving. Business sellers are usually less time-pressured.
And then, of course, Covid hit, and all travel businesses went into an awful hiatus of uncertainty, extending of course to their present/future valuation, and it was hard to see the good sense, with the open-ended nature of Covid, of buying any travel/tourism business, other than at absolute bottom dollar. Sellers decided to simply wait until things and valuations went back to normal, so it became even harder to find appealing business opportunities.
I decided to write a book about Covid. I’m not suggesting you should buy it (although I see it is now being remaindered off at $6 – I have no idea how that works, because the cost to me of each book printed and sold is almost three times that!) – in the two years between its publication and now, a lot has changed. That was an interesting project, and I’m proud of the final book, but while it sold well for a while, it was not really at all financially impactful overall.
One day I found myself looking at buying a motel in a small town in Montana. The motel wasn’t enough, by itself, to make a decent living for me and I wondered if there were other businesses I could buy locally as well. That caused me to find a radio station also for sale in the town, which brought a flash of deja vu to me. I come from a radio family; my father rose to the number two position in New Zealand’s national radio broadcasting group, and my early memories as a child were of him managing small-town radio stations, and sometimes allowing me to go in to work with him and marvel at all the electronics, knobs, dials, and so on.
A lot has happened in the radio industry between those days in the mid 1960s and now, of course. But the more I looked into it, the more I could see new opportunities for radio. Whereas many of the older generation of radio owners/operators saw the internet and new technologies as threats to be shunned and ignored, I saw them as opportunities to embrace and adopt.
Thus started a new search – for a radio station or stations that would be viable, which were available at a fair realistic price, and which had opportunities for further growth. That search took me far and wide, and eventually I ended up making offers on stations in Montana, Arizona, Wisconsin/Michigan, Florida, and Texas.
Which brings me to the next part of this narrative.
Becoming a Broadcaster
Surprisingly, shifting from The Travel Insider to my new incarnation, as a radio broadcaster, is not as great a shift as it may seem. Not only is it, in part, a return to my past, but it is also an extension of my present. I’ve been keen to help people, to educate, inform, and entertain them, for a very long time. Those three objectives, in a nutshell, were the goals of The Travel Insider, and continue as my goals now.
The only two differences are the medium, and the editorial focus. Even those differences are smaller than they may seem – radio is increasingly shifting to use the internet as much as the radio waves for distribution, and it is entirely likely that I’ll start to offer listeners some form of regular newsletter, although I’m not sure yet what its primary focus might be. I also expect that before too long, I’ll be inviting listeners to join me on international touring, much the same as I have with you in the past (and of course, you’ll be invited too when I return to international touring).
Clearly, my offer to buy radio stations in Texas was the one that was accepted, although, to be more detailed, my first offer was to buy some stations in a different part of Texas, and did not proceed. It was a very complicated process to secure three stations, from two separate buyers, in the Bay City and El Campo area, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, but eventually that was completed and here I now am, with three FM radio stations – KKHA “Happy Radio”, KIOX “96 Country”, and KBBB “K-Bay”.
Is it what I expected? Partially yes, and also partially no. Hearkening back to my father’s era, he had a single station in a town the size of either El Campo or Bay City, and it employed 30 full time people. Contrast that with now. I have three stations, and in total, the three stations employ two full time people (that includes me), and three part time contractors. I have more radio stations than I have full-time staff!
Automation has transformed radio, to put it mildly, and the disruptions of Covid hastened the shift from radio stations being based in traditional studios and offices to now being operated out of people’s homes, with no need for formal offices at all.
FCC regulation has also enabled a huge shift in how radio stations are operated and managed. No longer do you need full time managers and staff on duty, no longer do you need a public store-front/office in your city of license, and the ownership restrictions that made it very difficult for one person/company to own multiple radio stations have been greatly relaxed.
Corporate entities have used these changes, together with technological enhancements, to buy large numbers of stations then “save money” and centralize a lot of their operations. But I feel those moves to be wrong. Radio is necessarily a local medium, limited by the range of its signal. It can provide a local presence in a way that networks can not do and have no interest in doing, and it is the local presence that wins the loyalty of local listeners and local advertisers.
The collapse in the newspaper business has made the opportunity for local radio even greater. By way of extreme example, here in Bay City (where I live) we still have two local papers. But one publishes only once a week, and the other publishes twice a week. Neither are really newspapers at all. They print historical records, not fresh current news. A few weeks back there was a murder in Bay City – something that happily is a rare and therefore newsworthy occurrence. But neither paper reported on it at all. It was like the murder didn’t happen.
I have an abundance of ideas about how to build my three stations and make them more viable and hopefully profitable too. But my ideas have crashed up against an unexpected and seemingly impenetrable barrier. The lack of staff, and my inability to recruit additional staff.
I am gaspingly desperate to hire more sales people. Sure, there is almost no money to be made at all, these days, as a regular small-station radio announcer, but finding announcers is not so much the current problem. I buy 24/7 programming from a source who provides me with the music, the play-lists, and the announcing too, all for a total of $650/month per station (plus allowing them to sell one minute of advertising on each station, each hour). It is the advertising sales people, who typically are paid a 20% commission on all the advertising they sell, that can make good money, ranging all the way up to even six figures if they are very good.
If my stations don’t sell advertising, they obviously don’t make money, and even with low programming costs, other costs are substantial. I pay the best part of $10,000 a month just for electricity for the three transmitters, licensing fees see money flooding out every which way, and maintenance varies but at times can be cripplingly high – I need to spend a six figure sum on urgent equipment replacements at present – not optional or planned improvements, but replacing essential and unexpectedly failed equipment.
I have plenty of available time on the three stations to run advertisements, but I need sales people to go out and get the advertising. I’ve advertised for staff on my radio stations (of course), in local newspapers, and through on-line companies like Indeed, but I just plain can not get anyone who in any imaginable way has any possible chance of selling radio advertising. I continue to try.
This was a totally unexpected problem. As you probably have inferred from just looking at the Help Wanted signs everywhere, somehow there has arisen an enormous labor shortage where companies of all types are struggling to fill vacancies of all types. The entire success of my business is at risk because I can’t get the people I need to allow the business to continue, let alone to grow.
And then I look at other countries, with vast numbers of people eager to move to the United States and work. While we continue to welcome illegals through our porous southern border, and immediately place them on welfare rolls and help them avoid the need to seemingly ever work at all, quality immigrants who could help our massive national labor shortage, and who wouldn’t be a further drag on our welfare system and government spending, find it totally impossible to come and help. It is even worse than that – in many countries now, the waiting time just to apply for a US temporary visitor visa is far on the other side of a year! We are being totally let down by the very government department(s) that are supposed to be in place to help us.
Having said all that, I am loving my new life, challenges and all. I really like being able to make a positive difference to the communities my stations serve, and to both the people and the businesses and other organizations within them. We might be seriously constrained in terms of adding advertising sales people, but I’m sure doing a great job of giving advertising away for free to local non-profits at present!
A typical day for me involves – well, there is no typical day, really. But in any 24 hour period I’m likely to be doing some on-air announcing, interacting with listeners, advertisers, and community organizations, working to fix technical problems that keep cropping up in abundance, being “out there” and participating in community activities and events, doing remote/outside broadcasts, attending to the daily administrivia, trying to plan for and implement future ideas, and so on. I’ve participated in the live broadcast of football games (something I know utterly nothing about!), and currently am arranging some coach-hire to transport bus-loads of fans to football matches (an activity that is of course quite familiar, drawing on my travel roots). I don’t spend nearly enough time working on our five different websites, but need to, along with so much other work in marketing and branding/imaging.
One particularly challenging day recently involved doing 12 hours of broadcasting, plus adding weather and “community calendar” bulletins for other stations, plus 3 1/2 hours at a high school football game live broadcast, plus a business group breakfast meeting at 6.30am and another business group lunch, plus – oh yes, how could I forget – not just one but two power cuts, one of two hours duration (which finally caused me to complete the deployment of a new standby generator for my home studio, which is where I do most of my work from), the other not so long. And all the other “normal” stuff that fills up a day, too. Phew!
But – and here’s the key thing. I really feel I’m making a difference. Increasingly, I was unsure that my Travel Insider writings were making any difference at all, to anyone. But I know I am making tangible differences – and not just differences, but positive uplifting improvements – in the communities my stations and I serve. That is a wonderful feeling to have, and a wonderful gift to be able to do such things.
I’m also loving Texas, and I’ll allow my daughter Anna (now 18) to express her thoughts about Texas (expressed in careful form as part of an essay answer in a college application), thoughts which I would echo and amplify.
“So, what did you think about Texas?”
Expectant eyes would stare at me, and I wavered before replying. I sensed an expectation to answer in certain ways: “You wouldn’t believe what the people are like down there,” or “What a crazy place”.
Maybe this reflected my own preconceptions. Born in an affluent cosmopolitan area, I thought that life in rural areas was stagnant and limited, with few opportunities for success, a small circle of people you would spend your entire life with, and escape was difficult. The multicultural environment I grew up in seemed at odds with the homogeneity of Texas. I was curious – and wary – to see if this was the case in Bay City, Texas, population 17,890.
My expectations were shattered. What greeted me was a vibrant and more developed sense of community than at home. I observed passionate loyalty to family and friends, generosity toward strangers and an eagerness to help. Face-to-face connections were prioritized, and business meetings were preferred to be held over lunch. At home, meeting online or simply emailing was the norm, even before Covid. I became aware of the more distant, impersonal culture at home.
Coming home, I noticed a comparative lack of connection, fellowship and strong community ties. Even my neighbors are mostly strangers. In Bay City, I was dining with neighbors within days of my arrival.
I agree with all Anna’s comments, and to add to them, I feel that after little more than six months, I have more personal and local friends here than I amassed in three and a half decades of living in the Seattle area. That is of course not entirely Seattle’s fault – part of it is surely mine – but it is still a definite fact. I’m comfortably at home here in a way I never was in Seattle, in a social environment that surprisingly reminds me of the New Zealand I left behind in 1984.
One other excerpt from Anna’s application :
In the summer of 2022, I was able to experience another dimension of my interest in relationships, motivation, and communication. I interned at Bay and Beyond Broadcasting, a company with three radio stations in Texas. I was in charge of scheduling all advertising, billing clients, expanding the company’s online presence, and designing the logo for their newest station.
I also established and managed an online community calendar for the company, which has become a comprehensive single-source hub for people to find local events. I researched local events and connected with community organizations and nonprofits to help them take advantage of this source of free publicity.
This was connecting with others on a much larger scale than my middle school class, and was incredibly rewarding because I saw the direct impacts of my work: one of the events I featured on the calendar was for a local fundraiser which subsequently managed to sell out all their tickets a month ahead of the event! A local blood drive on the calendar received so many volunteers that they reached their blood donation goal plus more.
What I learned from this experience was I really enjoy work that has a positive impact on people. The radio business relies on its community for listeners and support, just as the community relies on the radio for news and getting their word out there. I was able to develop this special and almost symbiotic connection between the community and the radio stations by helping the company efficiently manage the “back end” of its business, as well as developing the “personality” of the business through public relations and branding.
Unlike most college applications which tend to be boastful and to overstate one’s accomplishments, Anna necessarily had to hold back on fully detailing her role with my three stations for fear of it seeming to be “too good to be true”. She has become my “right hand man”, and these days – to my equal chagrin and delight – is showing herself much more adept at mastering some of the complicated computer programs that run the stations. She is the single most essential ingredient that keeps the stations operating, and rather than just being a summer intern, she continues to work remotely from Seattle every day, and contributes vitally to our smooth functioning.
And, yes, I am proud beyond words as to the wonderful young lady she is becoming.
The Future? Part One
One of the most personally enjoyable elements of The Travel Insider was an extension of a thread that has run through my life all the way back to the early 1980s. Putting together and sharing international travel experiences. Traveling around the world with hundreds of my readers over the last two decades has resulted in many strong friendships, and much shared pleasure and enjoyment.
I am keen to continue this, both with you and now also with listeners to my radio stations – the three at present and the more that may follow (see on, below). But I remain hesitant to get too ambitious with travel while the world’s uncertain relationship with Covid continues to evolve.
There’s also the new wild card of global instability, potentially triggered perhaps by a Russian escalation in Ukraine, or the Chinese making good on their increasingly aggressive threats towards Taiwan, or some new Muslim terrorist attack on western countries and institutions.
Add on top of all of that the economic uncertainties surrounding inflation, interest rates, asset values, and energy pricing and availability, and 2023 could veer off in one of a number of unexpected directions.
Will 2023 finally allow a resumption of distinctive Travel Insider tours? I desperately hope so, and the appeal of the strong dollar and therefore lower costs of international travel is very alluring.
I will start to make some decisions on this at the end of 2022 (now getting quite close!). I’d love to be able to offer tours a long time in advance, but I wonder if the winds of uncertainty, blowing so strongly at present, mightn’t require shorter lead times.
I’ll keep this mailing list, and will reach out to you, of course, as and when any future travel plans become real.
The Future? Part Two
If a time traveler had told me, a couple of years ago, that I’d now be living in a small town in Texas and operating radio stations that play country music and “adult contemporary” (modern pop) music, I’d have laughed at them for making such an impossibly far-fetched prediction. One of my greatest loves is classical music, primarily of the nineteenth century, and that’s about as far removed from country and pop music as is possible.
But there is possibly method in my madness. I am learning a great deal about modern radio and how best to stream broadcast radio to smart speakers, to phones, and over the internet in general. Today’s “radio station” is no longer limited to just its local broadcast area, and can now serve the entire world. This opens up enormous possibilities for “niche” type entertainment such as classical music, which is no longer limited by having only a very few potential listeners within radio range of its station transmitter.
I am close to being ready to launch a classical music internet-based service that will have little or no regular radio presence. As many people listen to music on internet type devices as they do on radios these days, so there is no appreciable loss of potential listeners, just a huge potential gain, by doing this.
I am looking for people to help me. I need people who would like to become announcers, and people who would like to be involved in the music programming (by “programming” I mean deciding which pieces of music play when, not anything to do with computer-type programming). Both announcing and programing/scheduling can be done anywhere, at any time, and without the need for any special equipment other than a computer and internet connection, and possibly a microphone, headphones and simple sound mixer.
It would help if you knew a bit about classical music, of course, and equally of course, you’d have to have something of a “radio voice” for announcing. I don’t mean like some awful “DJ”, but simply good clear intonation and diction and speech patterns, a reasonably neutral accent because of our national and international audience, and an ability to be both likeable and interesting while introducing pieces of music.
The music programming side of things, while not so public, is essential and a key to the service’s success – coding up the attributes of each piece of music (currently I’ve identified 1500 pieces of music we’ll play, and many more to add) to allow a selection system to create playlists of pieces in forms that “flow” and “fit together well”, and playing pieces neither too regularly nor too infrequently, and so on.
I can not offer any money to start with; this will be more a voluntary labor of love than a “get rich quick scheme”. But, if the project grows to a sustainable point, as I hope and believe it will, there may be a chance of “fame and fortune” in the future. Please let me know if you’d like to play a part in this.
The Travel Insider?
I failed to appreciate just how much time and effort I had been putting into generating a weekly newsletter. The reviews and special articles were reasonably straightforward (and also of course took up time), but the newsletters proved to be more time and focus consuming than I’d realized.
To put out a good newsletter, I needed to be up to date on all aspects of the travel/tourism industry, including many things that I’d seldom/never write about, because those other elements of the total subject-field gave me context to what I should write about, helped me identify important issues and trends, and allowed me to comment on them from a broader knowledge base.
I can not find a way at present to split my focus into two halves. My radio stations and plans for their future are consuming 110% of my time, and in the past, working on The Travel Insider was similarly an all-consuming passion. Most of all, it is not a job I could do acceptably well on a part-time occasional basis, much as I wish I could.
So I do not foresee a return of The Travel Insider in the obvious future. Yes, there will still be “David Tours” using whatever name I might select, and I’ll reach out to you (assuming you don’t unsubscribe) about those, if, as, and when. But not weekly newsletters.
It was a truly great 21 years. Thank you for being part of it.
Oh, and most importantly, please. If you were one of the many kind people who created ongoing regular contributions to me, please cancel them. Well, that’s not essential, of course! But I no longer deserve your money, because you’re getting nothing in return, so best if you stop your support. As you might have gathered in reading through the preceding paragraphs, it absolutely truly did make a huge difference to me, particularly in the last five years or more. Thank you again.
I feel I’m at a very exciting point. The intense learning – and many blunders – since moving here in April have taught me a huge amount about the radio industry, its present strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I am learning what hardware, software, programming and services is needed to make an efficient operating radio station, and where/how to source it. As I mentioned above, I can put a complete radio station “on the air” for the cost of just a single computer, an internet connection, and $650 a month to get all the programming and all the announcing to make it a “real” station. Plus, of course, all the related costs of a transmitter and tower, other infrastructure, etc.
My point is that the cost of operating a radio station these days is way less than it used to be, and I’m creating a “template” (or, ahem, franchising model) to allow people without special radio skills to become radio station owners/operators, all the more so if I provide some centralized administrative type services. Once I’ve completed validating the business model with my present three stations, it can then be credibly duplicated elsewhere around the country, with only moderate startup costs, and a quick path to fair profits.
I’m very excited at what the future holds. On the other hand, the future also holds unexpected risks. For example, a transmitter unexpectedly failed a week ago, as a result of a problem with the coax transmission line. I’ll have to replace both the line and the transmitter. A new transmitter? Probably about $140,000. And the coax transmission line that goes from the transmitter and up the tower to the antenna? Probably about $15,000, plus maybe half as much again for the cost of running it up the side of the tower – just for a 450 ft piece of wire! Well, yes, this is very special wire. It is 3 1/8 inches in diameter, with a hollow core that needs to be pressurized with de-humidified air or nitrogen.)
I will struggle to absorb an unexpected cost of that magnitude. But assuming no more similar unexpected disasters, the future looks positive. I’ve very few regrets about this next stage in my life.
I do most sincerely hope that all is very well for you and yours, too. And, it bears repeating, my thanks again for your readership, your support, your tour participation, and your friendship.
Postscript : The Sad Loss of an Old Friend
Do you remember the articles I wrote about whether you should repair or replace a vehicle? They were promoted by ongoing angst as to what I should do with my aging Land Rover.
I ignored my own advice and kept the Land Rover for longer than I should. This indulgence became unsustainable after moving down here – whereas in Redmond, I had a wonderful privately owned service/repair shop nearby that took great care of the lovely old vehicle, there is nothing like this in Bay City. The closest place is over 60 miles away, and the closest franchise dealership even further away.
After some very expensive repairs shortly after arriving in Texas, the vehicle worked reliably for a while, but then totally failed one night in a torrential downpour. It seems water had somehow penetrated into some of the vehicle electronics – oh yes, and was also coming in through the sunroof at such a rate the sun roof may as well have been fully open! I kid you not – when I opened the door, accumulated water rushed out.
To my surprise, it appeared this qualified as covered “water damage” in my car insurance policy. But that’s where the good news ended. My insurance company (Safeco) and probably all other companies too, is doubtless adept at responding to typical collision damage claims. But a water damage claim? They towed the car to an collision damage assessor, and then after three weeks, an assessor looked at it and could find no “damage”. But there wasn’t any visible damage to see, and the assessor apparently didn’t even turn the key in the ignition to see if the engine would start or not!
The insurance company agreed to then tow the car to a Land Rover dealership for further evaluation. I arranged with a dealership to inspect/appraise it, telling them clearly it was a 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE. After the car had sat, unloved and ignored, at the dealership for over a week I finally got the person I’d arranged this with to agree to go and at least make sure it was somewhere on their lot. He called me back a short while later. “Oh”, he said. “I didn’t realize it was a 2006 model. We no longer have the computer gear to diagnose vehicles older than the 2012 model year.”
He didn’t explain (and I didn’t ask) why he’d agreed to do exactly that in the first place if it was impossible.
So, I’ve ended up with a car with engine computer damage which no-one can assess or appraise, but which the insurance company will do nothing about until an official assessment or appraisal is received.
I had no choice but to buy a replacement vehicle, and ended up getting a semi-sensible 2020 Ford Edge. I say “semi-sensible” because it is a bit of a stealth vehicle. It looks plain and ordinary, but is their special sports version and is stunningly fast, much faster than my Jaguar sports car. Great for overtaking, even in small gaps in oncoming traffic!
As for the Land Rover, it is currently sitting, forlornly, in my garage at home. Obviously the insurance company at one stage planned to write it off, because they cut the registration plates off the vehicle (yes, literally cut them off) while at the assessor’s lot. I’m not sure what to do next with it, and as nice as the Edge is, I have to say that the 15 year older Land Rover, while not as fast, is massively more comfortable and pleasant to drive in and ride in.