Comparitive mechanical upkeep on sm SUVs?

Hey folks, I’m wondering if any of you have owned one or another of the small crossover SUV’s in the past few years and can give me some real world feedback on mechanical pros and cons you’ve experienced keeping up the maintenance?

Since Dad died last year I’ve been gradually working on fixing up a long neglected house. I’m at the point where I need to start bringing home large items from the hardware store fairly often and am finding that the trunk of the Impala, albeit large, is too short in height and also difficult to load and unload heavy and/or bulky items over the high back lip of the trunk. So I’m actually thinking of trading the Impala for a small, basic SUV such as a Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Pontiac Vibe, Scion, etc.

Obviously, I’ll do all my homework and lots of test driving to find what works best for me. (As in, it can’t have too high a step in height because of my bum knee.)

But what I would appreciate is info any of you have about how easy/difficult, moderate/expensive it is to mechanically maintain one or another of these? Keep in mind that I do not/cannot do my own repairs so will have to pay a shop for any such work.

Just part of the homework as one factor to consider. Several years reading here has taught me that some car models are easier and take less time to work on due to design and therefore would tend to cost less to have service and repairs.



The Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide, available at your local bookstore, is IMHO the best reference out there.

Remember, the cheapest repair is the one that never needs to be done. Reliability is key.

Hi Mountainbike.

Oh, yes, checking Consumer Reports, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,, etc. is all part of the homework, just like when I bought the Impala. So yes, reliability is a huge factor.

But I’ve noticed commentary here in the past about how particular makes and models of cars fit or cram the engine into the front end space differently and how that and other mechanical access design can and does make a big difference in ease of servicing for normal maintenance work. So I thought I’d plumb the depths of experience here on the board for feedback.

Of course, since I’d have to give up my bench seat with the column shifter and perhaps get lower gas mileage, I may not swap the Impala anyway. I’m just busy thinking of possible ways to get done what I need in the most economical way possible.

Thanks again. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

…still reading, still learning

My neighbor teaches school and has been driving the same Honda CRV for nearly 10 years now. Her previous car was a more expensive Volkswagen Passat, an unreliable money pit.

The CRV has been bullet-proof and has cost her very little in upkeep. She’s planning to buy a newer one when this one reaches 10 years.

If you want low operating cost, avoid all wheel drive, go for the front drive only. The Matrix, Vibe and 2 wheel drive CRV are all very durable and have low maintenance costs.

The Scion is alternative lifestyle version of the Matrix; it’s a Toyota as well. Any of the above will give you many years of trouble-free service.

Have you thought of a small utility trailer for your Impala? You can carry at least as much weight and far more items easily using one of those.

Alternatively I would suggest looking at a used Minivan. They have incredible cargo capacity, easy egress and many other pluses. If you buy domestic you will get a incredible bargain in the used market, enough to make up for potential repairs vs a higher demand vehicle like the CRV, RAV4, Vibe/Matrix which absolutely pale in cargo carrying ease/flexibility.

As a general rule rear wheel drive vehicles are easier to work on. When comparing FWD vehicles, 4-bangers are easier to work on. In addition to a V engine configuration taking up more room, the rear bank can be tough to access and peripheral stuff like the alternator, the AC compressor, the power steering pump etc. needs to be stuffed in any available space. A large V6 FWD vehicle can be pretty packed under the hood.

The easiest thing to work on IMHO is a 4 cylinder 2wd pickup.

Exactly the type of info I’m looking for, sir. Great feedback. Thank you!
…still reading, still learning

Actually, I hadn’t until now. Biggest problem is that the subdivision indentures do not allow such trailers to be kept and stored visible anywhere on the outside of the property. I’d have to rent space to keep one or rent one each time I need it. So I’m more likely to either get a different vehicle or just make do with what I have and impose on friends and neighbors who have trucks, although that is proving problematic to work out mutually agreeable schedules for such favors. I hate to impose too much.

But, I will look into the trailer idea and see if I could fit it into the garage if I rearrange things.

Thanks, this is the type of info feedback I’m looking for.

…still reading, still learning

A factor to consider regarding small SUVs, as well as with other types of vehicles, is whether a vehicle uses a timing belt or a timing chain. Having to replace a timing belt automatically imposes an extra maintenance fee of anywhere from $400.–$600. on that vehicle’s owner at…pick one…60k, 90k or 105k, depending on the vehicle.

So, Marnet, I would strongly suggest that, when you are considering a vehicle for purchase, find out whether you will need to replace a timing belt on that vehicle. Some vehicles utilize a timing chain–which rarely needs replacement–whereas others use a timing belt. And, as you may or may not be aware, car sales people are NOT good sources of accurate information on the cars that they sell, so it would probably be a good idea to verify this type of information on this site, rather than trusting what the salesperson tells you.

If you are considering a new vehicle, the CR-V and the RAV-4 have both used timing chains for several years, thus saving their owners future maintenance costs. By contrast, the Subaru Forester, despite its status as the top-rated small SUV, continues to rely on a belt that must be replaced at 105k. Others can comment on whether the Matrix/Vibe twins, the Scion, and other small SUVs use a timing chain or a timing belt.

Oh I’m glad you reminded me of the timing chain vs. timing belt factor! I never knew about that at all until reading here on the board over the past few years. But I must admit, this had slipped my mind.

Y’all are giving me just the type of info/feedback I need. Thanks! (Even though I’ll likely end up keeping the Impala. After all, I’ve only had it two years which means it’s hardly broken in yet!!! Just looking at possibilities.)


The easiest thing to work on IMHO is a 4 cylinder 2wd pickup.

Instead of trading in the Impala, why not keep it for everyday use and get something like MB recommended. A Ford Ranger would be the obvious choice, but I’d opt for the V6 model instead, but that’s me. A model from '05 would cost about $7500

How about just renting a truck for those days that you need the space. That is if the Impala is otherwise serving you well. I think this would be the least expensive route.

Just an idea for you,check out how cheap full size pickups are now.

I get 16mpg around town in my 2004 F150,72,000 miles not one breakdown,not even a minor one. Private party blue book $4100 $4500.

Would handle the large material transport easy,it is a full size pickup,they used to be king of the hill.

Good idea, bet the $$ come out ahead. The Lowe’s near me rents a pickup for $20/hr, would takes lots of rentals to pay off a new CUV. Pickup also lets you bring anything - CUVs aren’t THAT big inside.

I was going to suggest the exact same thing. Home Depot does rentals too, at least in my area.