How to get there

As of this writing we have been going between Seattle and Eastern Washington every weekend for three years. During this time we have arrived at a list of requirements that our vehicles need to meet to support our lifestyle.


The car needs to be super reliable. It's really cold outside in winter. It need to start and also not stop somewhere on a rarely traveled road with no cell reception in -20F weather.


This is a long drive - for us, it is 3.5 hours one way minimum - if the weather is great and there are not too many police officers enroute. The car needs to be really comfortable. This means seats first and foremost, but for us it also means the audio system. We listen to a lot of audiobooks going to and from the farm.

If it is a truck, consider the comfort level of the rear seats. Unfortunately, this is often in conflict with the hauling capabilities - see below. Longer trip would be a nightmare for people sitting in the second row of seats in the short cabin.

Snow handling

The car should have great traction control. Many roads in Eastern WA are packed snow in deer country. If the car does not drive - and especially stop - well in the snow, this would be a problem.

Stopping part is by far the most important - there been a number of cases over the last three years where suicidal deer jumped in front of the car and I had to brake hard on the snow pack. If not for the modern traction control which automatically righted the spinning car, I would have ended in the ditch more than once.

But driving part is critical too, and it excludes all rear-whell drive cars. I have an RWD truck and in winter it can't even make it up the driveway. That's not just me being a bad driver - UPS trucks struggle a lot with their Amazon deliveries.

You will need winter wheels - either studded tires, or Blizzak, which I am told is the better option. I recommend buying the entire wheels, rather than just the tires, because of ease of mounting. Replacing wheels is super easy to do on one's own, and most tire companies would do it very quickly and for free, unlike mounting and remounting the tires themselves.

Towing and hauling

The car need to have a decent towing capacity. This is a very expensive requirement.

Ideally you want it to be able to tow your tractor. A 100HP tractor will weight around 6000lb. A trailer capable of towing this tractor will weight another 2500lb. So you are looking at 8500lb towing capacity.

Cars that have this towing capacity are (a) very few, (b) very expensive, and (c) have terrible fuel efficiency. Trucks remove (a) as a limitation, but make (b) and (c) even worse (see below on costs).

If you compromise on 10000lb towing, options expand. A lighter tractor and most equipment can be towed in 7000lb range. For example, a couple of tons of hay plus a trailer capable of towing it would together be about 6000lb.

A typical SUV has 4000-5000lb towing capacity. Our Jeep Grand Cherokee with the the towing package can do 7200lb. This is sufficient for towing snowmobiles, hay, a UTV, or a small tractor.

However, every time you will need to maintain or repair a large tractor, you will have to do it yourself, pay someone to tow it, or have a dealer pick it up. You might want to ask your tractor dealer if a pick up service is something they provide. Ours does, and it's $225 for the roundtrip for two machines.

Below 4000lb your options go down. Hay, for example, is sold by ton. So are wood pellets, and many other things. A trailer that can handle a ton weighs roughly half a ton, so the combined weight of the trailer and the payload is 3000lb. If the vehicle cannot comfortably handle that, it's useless on the farm, which puts the absolute minimum towing requirement at somewhere around 3500lb.

If you do end up buying a truck (or if you already have one), the towing capacity will almost always be sufficient (but do check!). There is an additional consideration here which is the length of the truck bed.

As a rule, tucks come either with comfortable cabin capable of carrying 4 people, or a long bed, but rarely both. A shorter bed coupled with a lavish cabin would be 5.5', and the longer bed typically coupled with either 2 person cabin, or a cabin with very marginal rear seating, is 8'.

For the work on a farm anything below 8' is grossly insufficient. A short bed will simply not fit things like 12' beams, nor any appreciable amount of feed, nor most three point implements. You will have to tow a trailer most of the time, even for reasonably small things. And this negates the advantage of owning the truck in the first place.


Traveling from West to East side involves a lot of driving, and driving is expensive - not just in terms of your time, but also in terms of the wear on your car as well as the cost of gas.

Allow me to illustrate.

Let's say you've bought a $50k truck, say, Toyota Tundra. The truck is reliable, so over its 200k miles range you pay for consumables - 4 tire changes, 3 brake changes, 20 oil changes, and nothing else. So with taxes and consumables it costs roughly $60k.

Tundra's oil economy is not fantastic - about 15MPG, so over these 200k miles it consumes 200k miles/15 mpg = 13k gallons of fuel. Or at $3/gallon, that's $40k. So the truck plus the gas is $100k for 200k miles, or roughly $0.50/mile. 500 miles weekly roundtrip from Seattle to Methow Valley would be $250.

The economics of our Jeep Grand Cherokee is not dissimilar. We paid $45k including taxes, if we really luck out and just have to pay for the consumables and nothing big breaks, let's say we will spend $50k total. Jeep's fuel economy is just above 20 mpg, so it's another $30k for the fuel. The total works out to $0.40/mile, or $200 per trip.

By the way, 50 trips per year at $200 per trip is $10k, nothing to sneeze at. It would have been $12.5k in a Tundra.

Putting it all together

As you have seen below, there are many contradictory requirements. A large truck is fantastic for the farm work, but it is expensive and inconvenient on the long commute to the farm. An SUV is better suited for a long commute, but falls well short of towing needs for hauling farm equipment. A sedan is far more economical to driving to the farm, but is largely useless on the farm.

The best - though not the cheapest upfront - solution involves two cars. One specifically optimized for high mileage and comfortable driving to get there, and another for farm work while there.

Consider, for example, a Tesla Model 3.

We don't have enough data on its true longevity, but Musk claims that the body will last for a million miles, and the battery pack would last 500k miles and cost $7k to replace. Mechanically, it is an extremely simple machine which requires almost no maintenance and does not have nearly as many moving parts as a gasoline or diesel vehicle. So the million miles claim is not ridiculous - it might just work.

This means that the cost of the long range Model 3 is 48k + 7k = $55k plus tax for the vehicle, and let's say another $30k for consumables (tires, brakes) for one million miles. The cost of charging it is $6 per recharge (250 miles), or $24k for the million miles.

So the total cost of operating a Tesla Model 3 for one million miles is roughly $115k, or $0.12 per mile. The 500 mile roundtrip cost is now under $60 and the cost of operating it per year is $3k.

And let's say you have a Toyota Tundra truck for work on a farm.

Your truck will be barely driven (low mileage insurance far away from the city is super cheap, by the way), so its longevity is now going to be measured in years, not miles. Tundra is best in class in reliability, and should easily last 25-30 years, which makes ownership cost about $2k a year.

So even though the initial outlay for two cars is twice the cost of the single car solution, a cost per year is half of what it would be if you were to just use a truck or an SUV to get there. And you get a no-compromise solution of best in both worlds - working ability of the truck and driving efficiency of an electric car.

You don't have to go all the way to Tesla and drive it for 40 years to get the two-car solution to work well, however. Though not as efficient and not as long lasting as Tesla, there are many sedans that would work quite well for getting there.

I ran the numbers for the cost of operating a (top model) Prius, and I got just under 7k per year - this does not include the truck. Adding the truck as above makes it $9k per year, still quite a bit cheaper than the truck alone, and you are not stuck with Tesla for the rest of your life.

There are further compromises. UHaul sells its out-of-rotation box trucks for approximately $10k for a 14' model with 100k miles on it. These are RWD and are difficult to drive in winter. In summer, though, they can tow and haul anything for a modest price.

Coupling it with an SUV capable of towing a trailer - even a relatively small one - gets most of the requirements of getting to and life on the farm covered.

An SUV with relatively good mileage and on the higher end of towing capabilities - such as Jeep Grand Cherokee - covers a lot of the requirements, and can be an acceptable compromise.

Finally, the cheapest up front solution that would still get most of the things done is a cheaper Subaru sedan plus a UHaul surplus truck. Total upfront cost is around 30k and it is probably as low as it can get.