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SemoreJugs

What Car do you drive?

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I am looking for some auto suggestions to get me to the mountains and for road-tripping (not road-living in a gypsy wagon). I want to spend less than $13,000.

 

I want something that is:

-Passable on washed out, rough forest service roads / able to handle snow, but don't really want an SUV.

-Room for extended road-trips, ease to add roof boxes, bike racks, kayaks, etc.

-Decent gas milage

-Ability to sleep in the car horizontally (I am 6' tall), and decent comfort would be nice.

 

All of these requirements seem to point toward a Subaru Outback, but maybe not. This would also be my only car.

 

IF you own an Outback, what is your model year/trim and experience? Especially, what are the repair issues to look out for? Is it a money pit? I've heard head gaskets are a problem in the pre 2005 model years. I have also heard that the standard H4 engine is underpowered without the turbo. Is this car just a trap for REI-going yuppies, or does it get the job done well? It seems like I see more of these in Seattle than any other car. Maybe because I am looking for it.

 

Is there another car anyone else might suggest?

 

Thanks for your time!

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If you're looking for an Outback there is a lot of information on this page and is where I get my Subaru serviced.

 

http://allwheeldriveauto.com/

 

They are awesome and know their shit. I'd even call and tell them you are in the market for a used Outback, ask some questions about which year, and have them do an inspection before purchase.

 

 

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This may be bad info but I heard the Subaru's really don't have the clearance you may be looking for. Anyone disagree with this? Let me have it.

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I have a 2007 Subaru Outback. It is my second Subaru, the first one was totaled when a teen aged driver decided he needed to put his SUV where my Subaru was. The Subaru is awesome in the snow, great for road tripping, 29 mpg on the highway, very easy to drive. So far ground clearance has not been an issue, but there are some roads that I have driven my high clearance truck on that I would not want to have taken my Subaru on yet seen Honda Civics at the trail head. I guess it just depends upon how you drive maybe?

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I have a 2007 Subaru Outback. It is my second Subaru, the first one was totaled when a teen aged driver decided he needed to put his SUV where my Subaru was. The Subaru is awesome in the snow, great for road tripping, 29 mpg on the highway, very easy to drive. So far ground clearance has not been an issue, but there are some roads that I have driven my high clearance truck on that I would not want to have taken my Subaru on yet seen Honda Civics at the trail head. I guess it just depends upon how you drive maybe?

 

So far maintenance of both Subarus were/are very reasonable, far, far less than the low mileage VW Jetta they replaced.

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I have a 2003 outback and it has been a good car. In fact, I'd say it has been great for the kind of all-around purpose you describe.

 

I am 5'11 and can sleep in the back, it has pretty good cargo capacity, and it drives very well on gravel roads and on snowy roads. Clearance is not huge and it hangs over pretty far in front of and behind the wheels so there is some limitation when it comes to rough roads and water bars and such, as Larry is undoubtedly referring to. Gas mileage is not great but it's certainly better than an SUV.

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I haven't ever owned a Subary but I know many who do, and I've talked the idea over with a few mechanics.

 

They are a nice, comfortable, convenient platform for all of the uses you mention. The post-2005 outbacks have quite good ground clearance and the electronic awd systems work quite well. My Aunt's 2008 outback with studs all around is the best snow-and-ice vehicle I have ever driven.

 

The 2.5 litre engine has a reputation for the head-gasket problem at around 100k miles, which tends to be very expensive to fix. Otherwise I've mostly heard good things about Subaru's engineering. The "underpowered" issue is really an issue of preference, they will all do 70 on the freeway, some will accelerate and climb hills faster than others. Reports are that the 2.2 litre engine was much more reliable, but it is extremely rare. The older Subaru's that you could put in 2wd were known to get a bit better mileage.

 

In the 90's Toyota built a small number of Corolla wagons with all wheel drive that have a great reputation. They are tough to come by though. I've heard good things about the Volvo wagons, the certainly look roomy and comfortable, some are 4wd and they aren't supposed to be bad on fuel considering.

 

To a certain extent little cars can get by with less clearance than bigger vehicles, since you can usually figure out a way through the rocks without touching anything. I think that's how civic's end up in such interesting places. The driver tends to be the most critical part of the operation in a lot of cases.

 

I think that a 5-speed standard is a good choice for mountain driving. AWD is nice but tires or chains make the most difference in the snow, particularly on the down-hills. I think clearance and good tires are more useful on the rough stuff than 4wd.

 

You might also consider Toyota Tacoma, Honda CRV, and an AWD min-van (not cool those small vans, but useful as all get out). Personally I've found that the freeway and the fuel pump are usually the crux of the driving, and my recently acquired Tercel handles both fairly well.

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1997 suburban w/ 170k. I get ~20 mpg since I took out the back seat. It sleeps 3-4 plus gear when the 2nd row is folded down. Great clearance on any road, 4WD. Did a trip with 5 pople + gear and 4 crash pads Pretty class. Want it?

 

PS it has a fancy new "sunroof"

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I owned a 2000 impreza 2.5RS for a number of years. My second subaru. First was a '97 Legacy wagon. IMO, nothing beats the AWD on a subes in compact snow and ice. Even in my newer 4x4 now, I was jealous of the little subarus zipping around in our recent "snowpacolypse."

 

The head gaskets on the 2.5L engines between '97 and '01 go bad around 75,000 miles. Mechanic said they tried a new material/design, and it just doesn't hold up. Mine lasted till 95,000. The repair was around $1800. My experience on both subes was that above 100K, they are not the cheapest car to maintain. Some of this is due to the AWD. This is compared to something like my wifes '97 Camry, which we spend almost no money on.

 

As I sold it (to my brother), the catalytic converter was on its last legs. This necessitated replacing the oxygen and knock sensor every year or two, and constantly staring at the "check engine" light. From what I've heard, very common with subarus to have the check engine light on. Usually has to do with sensors related to emissions , so not necessarily critical, but sort of annoying none-the-less. The mechanic would just tell me, "bring it in when it is actually running bad. Until then, just deal with it."

 

I'd get 19 mpg in the city, and 25ish on the highway. AWD eats into your mpg's quite a bit. A 2.5L engine will too.

 

The 2.5L engine put out 165hp, and was plenty powerful. As much power as you'll see out of similarly sized engine. Very zippy. I had a sedan, so can't comment on the bigger outbacks.

 

I feel like subaru gives you a lot of car for a relatively small price. It seems like most of their value is in the drive train, and less in the creature comforts and more polished feel you might find in a toyota or honda. But what do they offer in the same price range with equivalent performance? Definitely not a yuppie-car. Yuppies would much rather buy an Audi. The subes has a true mechanical limited slip differential, strong engine, good size, average mpg, and time tested reliability. A solid buy if you choose to go that way.

 

What about an element? Kind of funny looking, but lots of room.

 

Good luck--N

 

 

 

 

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you might look into a toyota matrix, they offer it in awd as well, the awd system is not nearly as good as subarus but should give you very reasonable traction

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scion xa/xb/xd of all years are a bit smaller and lower ground clearance than the matrix but would still haul a lot of crap

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+1 for the Outback, as well as AWD Auto in Kirkland. I have been very pleased with them.

 

I have owned a '97 Outback wagon since spring 2008. Bought with 164k, now at 200k, hoping to get at least 280-300k. I have a 5-speed manual, standard 2.5L H4.

 

Major service it has required: timing belt, ac compressor+receiver, brakes, cruise control module. Other than that, it has just needed stuff replaced as is wears out, such as rear hatch struts, tires, plugs/wires, cracked front drive axle, window switches. I got a great deal on mine, but have bought it 3 times since in maintenance. Still worth it IMO.

 

As far as your requirements, I had similar criteria when shopping for a car (which happens to be my first car). So far my Outback has fit the bill well. Adequate power, but a turbo would be better and more fun. I can still get up to 85mph to pass easily enough, and am fine with downshifting to hold speed over mountain passes. Clearance is great - I've never had a problem on dirt roads, and can make it up the Hyalite East Fork road without much hassle in snow. The only time I have put on chains was in Seattle last week, and I have put in a lot of snow miles (with just good all season tires).

 

I'm 6'3" and can sleep diagonally in the back quite comfortably, but I fit exactly and use a mummy shaped pad. I recently built a plywood platform with a pullout extension so that I can sleep me+a lady in the back with the hatch open. Always plenty of room for gear.

 

Gas mileage: 16-24mpg, highway at 75mph full of gear is usually 22mpg. And thats a "sporty" driving style. The manuals run at slightly higher rpms than the automatics due to lower gearing. I have driven a friend's Forester with an automatic, and I much prefer the manual. With an automatic they can feel underpowered, but it's really an overdrive issue. I think the 2.5L is adequate power, but a turbo would be nice. They were only available for the 2005-2009 model years, and are rare. The new 3.6L Outbacks are supposed to drive great.

 

The Outbacks are very tough cars, and the engineering behind the Subaru AWD system is solid and proven over many decades. Bottom line: there are other cars that can do better at certain tasks, but for one car, all seasons, all uses, the Outbacks are the best option.

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Just to play devils advocate. I have a '91 Toyota Pick-up (essentially the tacoma). This replaced my 92 Ford Escort (quite the upgrade).

 

I built a nice set up for the bed (already had a canopy), which allows two people easily sleep in the back and have room for skis, bins, boots etc underneath. I am 6'1" for reference.

 

Anyway, long story short, a pick-up of this nature will easily suit all your needs but can suffer in the mpg area. On the other hand, how bad of roads are you planning on driving on? Heavily snowed roads? If so, a truck is a big difference maker. I can drive (comfortably) on unplowed and undriven roads, etc, etc.

 

On the other hand, my good buddy David, who posted above me, and his subaru has done great, but I thought I'd throw in some food for thought.

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I own an '06 Jeep Liberty CRD (turbo diesel). Good truck so far with 85,000 on the clock. Passable on forest roads and getting into the Ghost in the CDN Rockies. 25-30 MPG for a full 4wd capable vehicle ( depending on conditions, diesel quality, hills etc), biodiesel compatible.

 

Interior space is limited, but I can almost stretch out diagonally with the back seat down.

 

Good for going to Hyalite with decent mileage and not sweating snow drifts.

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2001 Volvo XC 70 wagon. AWD, 27-28mpg on the highway and 21 on mountain roads. Enough ground clearance for most logging roads. HUGE amount of space in the back, a roofline low enough to make loading kayaks and canoes quite manageable. I bought it two years ago with 100000 miles for $10k. Plus you can sleep in the back in a pinch. Reliable. Comfortable. A great used car for the $.

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I'm driving a '94 Subaru Loyale wagon, the last of the old boxy ones. It gets 30mpg all-around, and I just got 36 on a round trip to Portland (with a few tricks). The lighter weight helps (2600lbs vs. 3600 for the outbacks), as does the part-time 4wd. It's FWD until you push the button, then it's 4wd with a locked center diff and open front and rear diffs. The older ones, pre-1988 I think, had 4-low.

 

Of course, it doesn't have airbags, side impact beams, ABS, cruise control, or cupholders. Sleeping in the back is doable, but not roomy. They need new timing belts every 60K miles, but if one breaks it won't ruin the engine. And they're cheap, $2k around here.

 

As my only car, it's a great compromise between highway MPG and utility for every-weekend climbing/skiing/backpacking/biking trips. I'm always taking 3-4 people to the hills, and it's just barely big enough (slow & light?).

 

I could afford a nicer / safer / bigger car, but this one gets the job done, so I'll keep it for a while.

 

2429406229_be7539a9cb.jpg

Edited by dennyt

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned a Chevy Astro Van. They come in AWD, as a socker mom van or cargo van. I drove one for 5 years and put 150k on it. I beat the shit out of the thing and it kept running.

 

It might not rally as fast as a Suby in the snow but is has a bit more clearance. As well as way more storage. They are also very easy to come by.

 

When I got my Astro I started out in the low to mid 20's but once I put some bigger nobbier tires and filled it full of mine and my lady's shit I got around 19.

 

I upgraded to a Dodge Sprinter as i needed even more room for my gypsy life but if I spent more time in one place or had a house I wouldn't hesitate to get another one.

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what about a regular truck? I have never had a 4wd truck and never really needed it. (it was real nice though when buddies have it in the winter) But if you are thinking of mostly non winter climbing and ski area access (chains on worst days), a largish 2WD truck with a canopy will handle all that you want. The 2wd helps with gas mileage and a 7ft bed is the best for sleeping in. Sleep in a subbie? get real.

 

Your first requirement is the toughest one to fullfill. How rough of a road do you want to drive on. My t-100 has better clearance than a subbie. How bad ass snow driving do you want? A subbie is better than a 2wd truck.

 

my truck mileage = 20 mpg wifes subbie forester is 28 mpg.

 

Nothing is easier for a road trip than a truck with a canopy. No stupid roof rack.

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This car is definitely not in your price range, but you can find them used. We have 2000 miles on a new 2010 Rav4, v6, 4 wheel drive. We put 4 hakka 5 studded tires on it. It gets 25 mph in mixed city and highway, has a ton of extra power. It is very stable in ice and snow. Coming down from Paradise last weekend it was chains required, and our rav4 never slipped (no chains)...though that might have just been the good tires. There is a lot of room inside, the most of any mini suv on the market, 5 seats. I was also tempted by the Subarus, but I decided that Toyota had a slight edge in quality, despite the recent bad press.

This is me in my new homemade goretex bibs, by the Rav with our tele skis.

 

blue-bibs2010.jpg

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Wow! F@#$ the cars. Where can I get me a sweet pair of bibs like that? Really dig the double suspender action as well. :)...

Edited by SemoreJugs

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