Brit seeks US car advice

I’m a Brit moving to New Hampshire and needing to buy a used car. Budget around $12 to $15,000. I think I will need 4 whell drive (all that snow) and want something that a dog can ride in without messing up the seats. I know almost nothing about US cars, can anyone advise me of suitable models to look at? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

Subaru Legacy or Outback station wagon (shooting brake, if that helps). You don’t want 4WD, you want AWD (All Wheel Drive), which is superior to 4WD. SUPERIOR, yes, I’ve said it and it’s true.

People will tell you,“You need 4WD,” but they are misinformed. You don’t need 4WD. What you need is AWD, and the Subaru AWD system is as good as it gets. There is not a better AWD system on the planet.

I have a Subaru Legacy station wagon, in which I transport Great Danes, regardless of the weather. If my car can transport Great Danes through snow storms, which it has done, a similar vehicle will serve you well in New Hampshire.

Best of luck to you as you enter the US. Most of us are not crazy.

You really don’t need a 4WD. They get lots of snow, but they also have lots of snow plows.

In general 4WD is good for getting out of the ditch you slid into. It is absolutely no good at keeping you out of that ditch or keeping you from sliding into the car in front of you.

You best bet is to get a set of FOUR winter tyres. They keep keep you from loosing grip and sliding off the road or into another car. You can stop faster and straighter. You get better traction to pull you through the snow.

I will pit my FWD car with winter tyres against any 4WD car on any city or highway snowy road any day.

If AWD/dogs is your criteria take a look at 2005+ Subaru Legacy/Outback wagon(2001-2004 okay avoid 2000 & prior). I believe this car was on Top Gear a BBC show as near perfect car to their wacky staff. Other good choices are Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV both small SUV’s. Your criteria of dogs means a small SUV or wagon which sadly limits choices in US.

I live in Seacoast NH where plowing is excellent but still own a 05 Subaru Legacy GT wagon. I find the AWD gets you out of places that FWD’s even with winter tires cannot get you out of.

The other poster is quite right otherwise that a FWD equipped with winter tires will stop & turn better than an AWD equipped with all-seasons. FWD with winter rated tires and you will be able to master 90% winter conditions safely/not getting stuck. AWD gets you through the other 10% which you may encounter every storm (dependant on locale/driveway) or never.

If the vehicle needs tires I would suggest equipping any car with Nokian WR or WR G2’s. The only all-season tire that is also rated as winter tire. This means no change overs but incredible traction in the winter. Otherwise check out for winter tires.

I am a firm believer in winter tires as the safety margin is great.

Just to clarify the difference between 4WD and AWD:

4WD, which is typically found on trucks and on some truck-based SUVs, is great for getting out of a ditch or for going off-road. However, the nature of 4WD is that it can actually push you into a skid on the highway, due to its “quality” of making all 4 wheels rotate at the same speed. As you are probably aware, your differential normally allows each of the 4 wheels to turn at their own rate, appropriate to the situation. However, this is defeated by locking in the center differential of the 4WD mechanism, thus making it not appropriate for highway driving. Those who are unaware of this charming “quality” of 4WD are the guys who we so frequently see upside down on the side of the road following a snow storm. Perhaps that experience teaches them that one cannot drive at high speed on a snow-covered surface, no matter what drive system one’s vehicle has.

That being said, you do want AWD because it is unexcelled for driving in slippery conditions on highways and roads, and as someone already stated, Subaru has the best AWD system in the business, with the possible exception of Audi. However, Audi’s tendency to a high breakdown rate (particularly for electrical components) and the outrageous repair costs for that marque make it impractical, IMHO.

So, my suggestion, like others who posted, is to get yourself a Legacy or Outback wagon (shooting brake). If it is of the 4-cylinder variety, be sure to get from the model years 2001 or newer, due to a tendency for head gasket problems on the '97–'00 4-cylinder engines.

The 6 cylinder model, of which I am a very satisfied owner, is an incredibly reliable engine and it imposes a gas mileage penalty of only about 1 mpg, as compared to the 4-cylinder model. And, while the 4-cylinder model has “adequate” power, it can feel a bit anemic if you are driving in hilly terrain. The 6-cylinder model has very good power, over a wide rpm range. Overall, I average 22-23 mpg on my '02 6-cylinder Outback, and I used to average 23-24 mpg on my earlier 4-cylinder Outback. Subaru is the only brand of car that I have purchased more than once, so that should tell you something about my level of satisfaction with that brand.

And, for an extra measure of safety, I equip my Outback with 4 Michelin X-Ice tires during the winter. Besides outstanding snow and ice traction, this tire features very good dry-road handling and better tread wear than any other winter tire of which I am aware. And, remember that winter tires are very important in terms of reducing the length of your stopping distance on a slippery surface, so while someone can “get by” with so-called all-season tires, a set of 4 winter tires can be cheap insurance against a collision.

As with any used car, be sure to have it inspected by a mechanic of your choice prior to purchase.

Hi, just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have offered such good advice - sounds like a Subaru is a good idea! Thanks !

These guys gave you good advice; I would also add the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CRV (with AWD)to the list. By all means, do not buy anything with the name LAND ROVER on it. That vehicle will cost you at least twice as much to own as those mentioned and be considerably less reliable!

NH does NOT get LOTS of snow…Only the mountains do…I think the record snow fall in NH is around 100". Areas like Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo NY AVERAGE over 120"…And areas north of Syracuse AVERAGE over 200".

4wd is NOT needed in NH. My wife gets around fine in her Accords and now Lexus…fwd vehicles.
The only thing I suggest is you learn how to drive in the snow before you hit the streets…Find a parking lot that has now in it and get a feel as to how the vehicle is going to handle. The best advice I can give you is SLOW DOWN…You want to drive a LOT slower and keep much more distance between you and the car in front of you when driving in snow.

One more thing…we drive in the RIGHT (CORRECT) side of the road over here.

come on guys have you been reading the questins on this site how many subaru peoblems have you seen. I have many friends with hyundai
santa fa 4wheels suv and never had a problem. how many problem have you seen on this site . the hyundai is higher big and more room for the dog. . toyata has big suv now and is great for snow .

I will have to take a look at those vehicles. However, I can’t find a dealer who sells Toyata vehicles. And my search fails to reveal any Hyundai model by the name of santa fa.


Seriously, however, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a nice crossover SUV, albeit one that does not get very good gas mileage. While the earlier ones were not especially reliable, the more recent models have been good in terms of reliability. And, the fairly steep price depreciation of Hyundais might allow the OP to buy a late model Santa Fe at a decent price–as long as he doesn’t mind the poor gas mileage. Personally, I would recommend the Hyundai Tucson rather than the Santa Fe, based on comparative reliability.

As to Toyota, their “big” SUVS include the Land Cruiser and the Sequoia, both of which get abysmal gas mileage. Great vehicles for those who don’t mind paying a few hundred $$ per month for gas, however! The low price depreciation of Toyotas would mean that the OP would have to buy a fairly old “big” Toyota SUV in order to come in under his budget. And, once you are dealing with an older vehicle, even a Toyota may not be very reliable–as my brother found out with a Camry that he just got rid of.

Subaru problems are concentric around 2000 and prior mainly due to headgaskets in the 2.5L(most popular engine). Notice very few posts about 2001+.

Lastly Subaru & VW owners are most likely owners to use internet in recent survey. That is another simple reason the traffic comes to this board.

After working for 3 different Subaru dealers over the years I can say they definitely have their fair share of problems, and not just head gaskets.

Unless you’re going to be living up in the White Mountains (or visiting frequently for ski trips), you definitely don’t need 4WD. Even then, AWD + good winter tires (you might as well learn 'merkin spelling!) will usually be better. If you will be down by the seacoast (Portsmouth/Seabrook) or the Massachusetts border most of the time, even AWD might be overkill. You’ll get more rain than snow in the winter. FWD + winter tires should be adequate in that case.

Look at a Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe (same car). They are FWD small wagons and will give you good mileage. Both were also available between 2003 and 2006 with AWD.

After purchasing a vehicle, 2WD or AWD, make sure it is equipped with 4 good winter tires. I would also take winter driving course, given by many Autombile Assiciations and some Colleges. Your driving skills on slippery and snowy surfaces will be more important than the vehicle you purchase.

After purchasing a vehicle, 2WD or AWD, make sure it is equipped with 4 good winter tires.

Decent all season tires are fine for NH…unless the vehicle is rwd…then I’d recommend snow tires. Wife has NEVER HAD snows on her Accords or Lexus and it does GREAT in the snow.

Moving is one thing however lateral traction and stopping is another. Winter tires are plain superior in winter conditions over old school snow tires or all-season tires.

GREAT is only relative to what you know. It also really depends in NH where you live and the frequency and quality of plowing.

OK4450–My impression, from earlier postings, is that you worked at those Subaru dealerships more than 10 years ago. In the interest of full disclosure, please tell us how long ago you worked at those dealerships.

Moving is one thing however lateral traction and stopping is another. Winter tires are plain superior in winter conditions over old school snow tires or all-season tires.

Never said winters weren’t superior. I said that NH doesn’t get enough snow to warrent getting snow tires. Maybe in the Mountain areas…but NOT where 80%+ of the population lives (Concord and South). In this area we average about 30"/yr…That is NOT enough snow to warrent getting snow tires on a decent fwd vehicle…If you read my comments I did say that winter tires may be required in the Mountains.