Finding Bombadil was a little bit like dating. I went into it knowing that no van (I could afford) was going to have everything I wanted. So I made a list of the things that were important to me:
2005 or newer
less than 130,000 miles
8 cylinder engine
Sprinters were out of my price range and Transits had just come out and there wasn’t any info about their long-term reliability so those were the only 2 models I eliminated right off the bat. I did not want to take on the debt for a brand new van, so I was looking only at used vans.
I would look at any van that had at least half of the “important things” on it, and allowed for the fact that some of those things can be added later if the van was otherwise excellent.
I tried Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook, local papers, local dealerships (particularly ones that dealt with fleets). I looked for more than a year. I didn’t find anything that I was willing to pay the asking price for. I was beginning to think I might have to get a new one.
What finally found me my van was that I had told my family and friends that I was looking for one. My parents drove by a used car dealership that had Bombadil sitting there. They talked to the dealership, test drove it, took it to their trusted local mechanic and had him look it over. Even though they are over 2000 miles away from me, they found “the one”! I bought the van without ever seeing it in person (there were many texted photos however). My parents picked it up and kept it in their driveway for a couple of months until I could fly out and pick it up and drive it back here.
Bombadil came with 4 of my 6 important things, which is pretty good!
So if you are interesting in doing something like this, my advice is don’t give up! And tell people! You never know who knows someone who knows someone, or who sees something you never would.