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The Hitch in Our Gitalong

We’ve had our Dodge Durango for almost a year now, and I’m willing to say it’s the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, in my 45 years of owning vehicles. I described the purchase experience (via CarMax) here. The CarMax people were very impressive. We gave them a list of must-haves, can’t haves, and nice-to-haves, and their sales rep did the logic and found us a car. We didn’t get the color that we wanted, and we didn’t get the tow package that we wanted, but it was less than a year old, a V-6, and had tan seats and the all-important power liftgate. I was told that I could order a tow package kit from a Dodge dealer and have it installed for about $750 total. We bought the car, and we love it.

This past week, I decided to get the tow package installed. We are thinking of driving a one-way trailer rental down to our new house later this year, because we’ll have four dogs in the hold and want to bring down certain items (like Carol’s plants and some 95-year-old crystal) that we don’t trust with movers. The idiots who moved us here from Scottsdale in 2003 destroyed a couple of our lamps and were throwing boxes around with unwarranted abandon. A trailer would allow me to rest a little easier with things like my grandmother’s crystal, my Icom IC-736 (which I bought as a review unit from ARRL and assume was hand-picked at Icom for perfectness) my telescope mirrors, Aunt Kathleen’s mogul lamp, and a few other fragile items.

I ordered the tow kit from the closest Dodge dealership. It cost me about $350. When it came in, I picked it up and took the Durango over to our mechanic to have the tow kit installed, along with the usual periodic oil change and lookover. He called about three hours later and told us the car was done.

Carol drove us down there in the 4Runner, and when we arrived, Vince was grinning. He took us out to the Durango, took off the tow hitch cover, and showed us the tow hitch. Cool. Then we looked in the back of the vehicle.

The tow kit was still there.

“The vehicle already had the tow kit installed,” he told us. Evidently he’d gotten the vehicle up on the lift, dropped the spare tire, and shazam! There it was.

As best I can speculate, the CarMax people never bothered to look and see if the car actually had the tow packge. Getting the hitch cover off isn’t rocket science and requires no tools. I assume most people take it off and never put it back on, and you can see the hitch right there in the middle of the bumper. So if the hitch cover is still on, they assume it’s just there to plug the hole and that there’s nothing behind it.

Feeling like an idiot, I drove back to the Dodge dealership and told them my story. Even though there was supposedly a 15-50% restocking charge, the dealership gave me a full refund for the kit. I wasn’t perpared for that level of courtesy, especially given the gnarly experiences Carol and I have had at car dealerships.

Bottom line: Dodge is a class act.

Lesson: When you’re buying a used car, do more than kick the tires. There May Be Surprises. Fortunately, ours was a good surprise.


  1. Bob Fegert says:

    What a wonderfully happy car tale.

    Be careful towing a trailer!
    It’s a scary thing towing something if you have little towing experience.

    My sister and brother-in-law had a frightening time towing a trailer a few years back and are lucky to still be among us. The hitch broke while going down a hill and the trailer actually ended up passing them before crashing into the guard rail.. Oy Vey!

  2. Jack Smith says:

    The ARRL purchases equipment for review anonymously to avoid receiving specially tweaked equipment.

    One of my friends in the ham radio manufacturing business had a product reviewed a few years ago and told me it was sold to someone with no known connection to the ARRL.

    1. I didn’t know that ARRL bought their review units anonymously, but that’s precisely how I would do it. That actually makes the IC-736 as a product even better, because it is a screaming fine radio, by far the best I’ve ever used–and it wasn’t hand-chosen off the line as “best of build” or something.

      Reviews were the bane of my existence when I ran the magazine, and I wish I could simply have not run them at all. I don’t envy any organization that has to do them.

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