Can't Figure Out Whether to Buy Compact Truck/SUV, etc. - HELP!

I’m seriously considering purchasing a new vehicle, but I’m overwhelmed by all the information I’ve been reading on different small pick-ups, compact SUV’s, etc.

I need help.

I don’t have unlimited funds, & will be paying cash. I don’t want to spend over $20,000. I have a 2003 Ford Taurus SES (47,600 miles on it) for a trade-in - I’m very annoyed with Ford over a passenger-side water problem, so will very likely end up not going with Ford.

I go camping a lot, so need the cargo space. I had a 1994 Ford Ranger for 10 years (bought new) - didn’t like suspension (very unstable), there was no space to put things inside other than passenger seat, & gas mileage was crummy. Otherwise I liked it.

I’ve been looking at some compact SUVs, but I don’t know if I want to go that way or not. I’ve looked at some vehicles that are hatch-back types, but I doubt they have enough room in them (as I usually end up bringing some firewood along with the camping gear).

I’m also bummed out about the gas mileage of most small pickups (even 4 cylinder ones). I feel I need the extra height (clearance) since I go on forest roads. I don’t need an off-road vehicle though, & don’t really care about 4wd. I realize an extended cab would be best for me if I went with a truck.

Can someone help me weed through a few of these issues, & make some suggestions? The more I read, the more confused I get.

P.S. I also hate the colors of most of the vehicles I’ve seen for this year (as I was wanting a dark green). Black is good, except I’d die of heat exhaustion.

The trouble is that the crummy on-road suspension handling and (relatively) lousy gas mileage is part and parcel with trucks like your Ranger and truck-based SUV’s like the 4-runner or the Xterra or the Ford Sport-Trac. On the other hand, you get a lot of payload and a vehicle that will genuinely handle rough (or non-existent) roads.

On the other hand, you’ve got car-based SUV’s like the Cr-V, Rav-4, Escape, Highlander, etc. These usually get better gas mileage and probably have somewhat better clearance than a car, but they’re clearly not off-roaders and driving a lot on nasty forest roads (like the ones with vertical numbers) will take a toll on the car-derived suspensions.

It sounds to me like you’d probably be okay with a car-based SUV. If you find the ones like the CR-V or Rav4 too small look at the bigger ones like the Highlander (or I think there’s some larger GM car-based SUV’s too). One other thing I was thinking of was maybe a Honda Element-- they’re essentially a compact SUV with a somewhat bigger interior.

You sound like some one who should at least consider a Honda Ridgeline. I know several who have gone to them from both PUs and SUVs and love the carlike handling and passenger room and sane fuel economy while actually having a functional compact truck. I highly recommend you try one out and put it through the routine you normally do daily. Get back to us and tell us how you liked it. Otherwise, extra cab Toyotas in 2wd and 4cyl get excellent economy and come standard with limited slip.

i just looked at the honda site, & the starting cost of those (over $28,000) is way way over my budget unfortunately.

i meant to add that i want to buy new due to the bad experience i had paying extra for my current taurus (certified, 1 year old upon purchase), & feeling like i got ripped off, especially since i’m having problems now. i want a warranty right from the beginning.

You need to buy a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide available at many newsstands, and at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores.

In that one compact magazine-format book, you can see capsule reviews of everything on sale in the US market, including price ranges. Pros and cons are listed, along with gas mileage figures and historical reliability information on each model.

As to color, you can’t choose what does not exist. Once you make a decision regarding which models to look at, you may have to make a compromise on your color preferences.

would i be really dumb looking at the toyota tacoma 2wd, 4cyl - but with regular cab? i had regular cab when i had my ranger, so i know what it’s like as far as putting stuff out in the rain… but it seems to bring the price up so much when you add the access cab.

toyota would be a better bet than most domestic models, right?

p.s. sorry - i put this in the wrong place… it wasn’t a response to the last response… don’t know if/how to move.

I hear your insecurity, but I’ve been happy for many years buying two to three year old vehicles from dealers. Obviously you need a dealer you can trust. But with the right homework, which you need to do with new purchase as well, you can get a reliable used car (Ridgeline or other) for your price limit. Buy a more reliable brand to begin with as VDC in following post implies. CR gives you good car buying strategies as well.

i just can’t buy something w/o a somewhat long warranty… i’m female & can’t deal with car problems. i do understand that with some vehicles, there wouldn’t be the issue, but i have a friend who bought a new toyota & has had some issues with it (even under warranty). i guess the dealer in town here isn’t that great - but not sure how far i want to drive to get a car. if you buy from out of town, can you have warranty repairs done in town? guess so, huh?

The difference between Toyotas and Rangers which are currently 10 to 15 year old designs is night and day. You can get used, extended cab Toyota 2wd for 15K or less and have complete confidence in your purchase if you do the research.
BTW…everyone has issue of some way or another with cars unless they have unlimited funds. You just need to minimize the issues through good dealerships or independents you can trust and reliable models. Make no mistake, Toyota(and others) makes more than 50% of their profit on after sale service. If you can’t do work yourself, you will always be paying someone else income.
After re reading your post…a used Toyota extra cab 2wd 4cyl is my recommendation.

Warrenty is false security if the car breaks down still and puts you at risk regardless of who pays for it. Buy a reliable make to begin with…
Warranty items are generally not the items you must pay to have repaired in the first 100k regardless. You’ll still pay for brake repairs etc.

Or, pay a couple grand more and get a brand new Ford Ranger. Though, if you haul firewood, a V6 wouldn’t hurt, in any small pickup.
A Sport Track, Ridgeline, or Avalanche sound like the perfect vehicle for you, but cost a little more, new, than what you’re wanting to spend

well i don’t haul a huge load of firewood… i meant only enough for like a couple fires at a time, w/other camping stuff. i was gonna get a new ford ranger, but i’m unhappy w/ford overall (which is why i’m looking at other options).

You also might look at a Forester, might get a base one for 20k with a tradein.

yeah, i’ve also been checking into foresters since i’ve always liked them.

Also, the Outback has very good reliability and SUV-like ground clearance with station wagon fuel economy.

Ford in general does pretty well for fuel economy in their pickups, and you aren’t likely to see any better in any comparable truck. If you want really good fuel economy in a truck, get an early 80s Toyota 4 cylinder diesel truck. Those could do 40 mpg.

You’d be surprised what you can fit in a car, even a sedan. How many people and how much camping gear are you wanting to carry? I figure I could fit a tent (depending on its packed dimensions), two or three coolers, a couple backpacks, and a trunk full of firewood in my Accord, and still have room for a passenger.

If you don’t want to play Tetris while packing your car, you could get a roof rack, or a small trailer. That way you aren’t driving around a vehicle you hate or more car than you need whenever you aren’t camping. It also means you can stay under your budget while buying new, because I don’t think there are any new wagons in your price range.

Oh, and another thing: you may be stuck with Ford, GM, or Hyundai (or Chrysler if you decide to go with a Jeep. They have nothing else for you right now). The dollar is really weak against the yen and the euro right now, so for the most part Japanese and European cars are pretty expensive right now, save those built in the US with high US parts content. The won is down in the toilet with the dollar, so Hyundai and Kia are still cheap (and Daewoo, but you don’t want their cars…so no Aveo).

And you’re right, it doesn’t look like there are any dark greens in current wagons and hatches.

You may want to go used. Subaru used to have probably the exact color you’re looking for, on the Forester, Legacy and Impreza.

i thought about getting another car (irritated about my taurus tho), or going with something like kia for the warranty. yeah, i thought about getting a trailer although those can be expensive in themselves, & then finding the storage spot for one could be tough, since i have a very small/tight garage (& my vehicle needs to be in there in the winter around here).

i had considered the kia sportage (think that’s the name) but for some reason i had my mind changed by what i read.

for one minute, i’ll be thinking one direction, & then after reading something, i’ll be going another direction, & on & on. there’s such varying opinions out there, even on toyotas! they say consumer reports has downgraded their reliability in the past couple of years, so i just don’t know…

mpg is a concern, especially since (i feel) gas is expensive now & may get worse. i hate low gas mileage, but i have not been able to fit all the stuff i want in my taurus, even with a large trunk. so many times, i think i want another small truck, with or without extended cab.

i dunno, just feels like i’m constantly back to the drawing board.

Is your vehicle part of the windshield recall, and has it been fixed yet? The Ford recall number is 03C03. You can view it at

Click on Safety Recalls on the right side. The recall affects all 2003 Taurus cars built before April 27, 2002. You can find the date of manufacture on the label on the driver’s side door frame.

"Your search - 03C03 - did not match any documents."
was there something else i was supposed to add?

i was told by ford that my car was not part of the recall… even tho other 2003 taurus’s were a part of the windshield recall (which could cause leaking among other things).

the (non-dealer) mechanic got the TSB for the passenger-side leakage (which turned out to be very common, from what i’ve seen online - & ford paid 80% of the repair for some) - i had the part of the repair done that was supposed to stop the leak. i refrained from having the fan motor/resistor changed. well, on christmas (not long after this repair was done), my car was parked at my sister’s outside & it was raining, which is very unusual for this area. when i got home, i pulled back the passenger side carpet, only to find wet padding. so the TSB for the leakage problem did not work, & i paid for NOTHING!

ford has only told me to keep receipts in case it turns into a recall, no matter how many times i’ve bugged them. maybe you can understand why i’m not too hepped up about getting another ford.

can’t find a date there other than 02/03 (not sure where exactly to look on that tag, but as i said below, ford has said more than once that my car’s not part of any recall - even with the sickening water leaking problem)

i was searching around that site & found some pdf files related to that windshield leakage, which they CLAIM was only during one shift at that atlanta plant (they did not test windshields of later dates in 2003).

their response was despicable, as far as i’m concerned:
"…, Ford is excluding reimbursement for costs incurred by owners for repairs of this problem as Ford’s original warranty program would have provided for a free repair of the problem." [unless of course the person did not know about it or it did not show up until later] ford also did not make any statements to the media.