88 Toyota Tercel Wagon... What will replace it?

Title pretty much says it all. I have one that is nearing it’s last leg.

I bought it about 8 years ago w/180K miles for $1,500.00, and, mostly due to having to have a used transmission put in, I’ve put about that much into it, and another 100K miles.

I like the decent gas mileage, 25-30, I love the space of a station wagon, granted it’s not a big one, and when I spent a lot of time going up the mountains in the snow I loved the 4 wheel drive, although, due to the semi low stature, it doesn’t do well, even w/4 wheel drive, in soft sand.

So, as I close in on 300K miles, I’ve come here in hopes of getting some ideas of what would be a good replacement.

Things I want:

Decent mileage - hoping for at least 25.

Space - I love putting the one of the back seats down, and putting my surfboard inside. My first car was a '68 Volvo station wagon… I lived in it a the beach for a while.

Longevity - This has been huge for me.

Other than the transmission, there was the alternator (No biggy), the fuel pump (No biggy, but took time to figure out where the oil was coming from. Ha!), a couple very minor drive train things at the wheel, I did the brakes, the radiator fan was wired backwards, so that was a long strange trip (Only got hot on hot days, going up hill.)

I am open to a van too, but the mileage is generally not there.

Being a semi-poor teacher, I’m looking to spend @ $3K-$5K on something no more than 7 years old (My back won’t loan me the $ on anything older.), but if you guys hip me to some magic vehicle I haven’t heard of, and it’s over 7 years, I could work w/that.

Thanks, TaylorO

Get the latest Toyota wagon, the Matrix, tons of room, AWD if you want it and Toyota reliability. The Pontiac Vibe is the same car as well. A 2003 with AWD can be had for around $5k.

To me there is little better than a good small wagon. But they are hard to find, esp. among the Japanese brands. There are quite a few Escorts running around out there, and they do tend to go cheap. It might be a little small (I don’t know how big your Tercel was), is only FWD, and you’d probably want to count on putting a rebuilt head on if you got one and it gets up to 150K or so as these tend to drop valve seats and destroy the engines. You can get them ready to install for $250-350 after core charge, and they’re not hard to do on this car. The big bonus with these is that they are very cheap to buy, and other than the valve seat problem pretty solid, cheap to maintain & not bad to work on. (I’ve had one for a long time).

But my guess is that you might want to spend a bit more and find an old Subaru instead - the Imprezas are the smaller versions and will get good mpgs, but they won’t be as plentiful as Outbacks (which will get lower mpgs). Both have AWD (or maybe sometimes 4WD). I’m sure plenty of folks here can tell you what you need to know about Subarus.

It’s a shame, isn’t it, how the auto manufacturers largely abandoned the station wagon market when the SUV craze hit? The Koreans are starting to offer a few wagons, but they will be too new for your price range.

I agree with the Matrix/Vibe suggestion. Good, reliable cars. As cigroller said, Escort wagons can be had for next to nothing, and they are very reliable, too.

If you want AWD Subaru is the way to go. A Legacy or Impreza wagon will deliver 25+ mpg, and the reliability is pretty good. The 2.2L engine in the older cars is less prone to head gasket problems than the 2.5L.

My father in-law had one of the Tercel Wagons, and he loved it. It carried all his tools a pretty big snow thrower, and was solid as a rock. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Would you consider putting $3 to 5K into “restoring” it? The car still sounds pretty solid. A lot of front end steering and suspension parts are likely worn and replacing them would tighten up the steering and help the ride. If the motor is burning oil get it rebuilt. Have the rust taken off the body and get it repainted. A guy in the neighborhood had his older S-10 pick up repainted put new tires and wheels on it and it looks great, almost like new. Just a thought.

You might look at a Ford Focus or Subaru Impreza wagon. Condition is more important than the inherent model reliability for an older car.

Older cars worth a look might be a Camry or Accord wagon. They stopped building those in 1997 for the Accord and 1996 for the Camry.

Nice car…According to relative who owned Subaru dealership, it was “ordered” off the market by Japan govt. until the near bankrupted Subaru could develope a nitch with AWD cars and non SUV wagons. A story I may or may not believe.
I would recommend the Matrix/Vibe too or a used pre 06 AWD RAV4. They are smaller like the Corolla with the very good 2.4 Camry motor with a very flex taller interior and decent ground clearance for deeper snow and sand. Rear seats adjust like fronts and remove in seconds for bikes, generators etc with great no bumper swing door access…don’t back into anything. And they handle very well and ride as stiffly as yours. They will cruise easily at ANY speed under three digits and get a solid 25 mpg doing it.
You sound like a RAV person. My wife who cried when we dumped her Accord says our 05 RAV is the best car she’s ever owned…even though I’m a Subaru fan too, the flexible and roomy interior in a smaller car is without match IMO.

At that price range all I can suggest is to take your time searching and be sure to have any venicle you’re considering checked out thoroughly. In the $3K-$5K range you can’t be picky.

We know somebody who is planning on getting rid of a nearly-new Yaris hatchback soon, and she might be willing to part with it for a low price because she hates it so much. Check the threads titled “Hatin’ on the Yaris” and “Am I Crazy?” for details.

All ? Thanks for the great feed back.
Couple questions:

Ford Escort Wagons: Are there years of Ford Escort Wagons that could be considered ?more? reliable? I?ve liked the looks of the newer ones, and, hearing Ford bought Volvo, I?ve wondered if Ford took any tips from the Volvo engineers. And what about the Focus: Good/bad/other wise?

Matrix/Vibe: Are there any concerns w/the Vibe that are absent in the Matrix? Are there any early years that are better/worse than others?

Restoration: I?ve thought about it ? and, as ?looks? aren?t something I worry about ? I?m still not sure it?d be worth it. I figure the engine won?t keep running well forever, and stuff like the doors, windows, etc. are dying slowly? But who knows? it may look better later.

RAV4: Pre 06? Sounds good too.
Older wagons? Also a maybe? Looking for a little more youth this time around.

Have friends that buy used Honda AWD CRVs with 100K and go to 200k with a little TLC and love them…forgot that as another selection and my first preference in your price range. A standard would be my tranny of choice if only the clutch needs work. IMO they are hands down, one of the toughest used cars you can buy that is closest to what you want in a car.

I can say some things only about the Escorts. Anything from about the mid-90s through the end of production ('02?) would be good. The only serious issue with these is a problem with valve seats dropping out. Do an internet search for something like “escort dropped valve seat” and you’ll find it. This was just one of those stupid and avoidable problems somewhere between engineering & manufacturing that unfortunately tends to wreck an engine if the problem occurs. Legend has it that they start to go anywhere from 120K and up. This is obviously not a small thing, but since you seem willing to get your hands dirty you can toss a new head on for about the cost of a set of good tires. (2.5-3 sets of tires if someone else does it). The only reason it makes sense is that these can be bought cheaply. Otherwise I’d never suggest it.

Hidden bonus to the valve seat problem - no problem finding any kind of good used parts since a lot go straight to the salvage yard after being hit with this problem. (No one has any numbers on the % that drop valve seats btw).

I had a '91 5-speed (hatchback) that went an easy 200K with little more than basic maintenance/wear & tear items.

I now have a '97 wagon that I bought for $3K about 6 yrs ago w/ 95K on it. The body now has 228K - the motor has about 120K - b/c I didn’t replace the head once it started acting up. The rest of the car has been so darned easy to take care of that I will probably toss on a new head at the first sign of trouble (first sign is usually a random/intermittent misfire). There isn’t always warning but this car owes me nothing.

I can say only 2 things about the Focus - they are very similar to Escorts, esp. the motors & have also had the valve seat problem; the early models were full of bugs.

I didn’t see Subaru on your list - not interested?

Good details on the Ford -

I’ll look at the CRV too - I loved the look when it first came out.

Subaru… I’m a bit of a kook, and being in the N.W. parts of Oregon, I feel they are over played… What ever that means… But, I have a good friend who’s been through a couple, and I found them to be a little smaller than they needed to be. And, I feel like I get mixed reviews on their longevity…

Just a note that if the Subies seem small then the Escort won’t be any kind of improvement and you’ll only have FWD.