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Getting towards decision time

I’m reluctantly concluding its time to start car shopping. My current fleet consists of a 1983 Dodge 4x4 pickup, a 1984 Subaru 4x4 wagon, and a 2002 VW diesel Golf. My eyesight and grip strength is making maintenance less feasible. Somehow, with age, laying in the snow and working in subzero weather is losing it’s charm. So I looking for suggestions on what vehicles to consider. Constraints are, it snows a fair amount, many of the roads are dirt (ground clearance is needed, the Golf has a well used after market skid plate), and I am a cheapsake who considers vehicles an expense to be minimized, not a trophy to be gloated over. The pickup is the most likely to be shed, every time I fill the gas tank, its value doubles. The Subaru is a gem, low miles, 4wd with high/low and get 30 mpg. The Golf is used to commute over a 7000 foot pass daily and give 50 mpg. Is there anything on the market which comes close to matching these capabilities. By the way, insurance for all 3 is under $400/ year.


You need to give us more information. It isn’t clear if you want to replace one, two, or three vehicles. If you want to replace the pickup, the new half ton pickups get much better gas mileage. If you want 4WD, you still might get by with a 6-cyl. Of course, the capabilities will suffer.the 2014 Ram with the 3L6 and 4WD gets 19 city, 29 highway and 22 combined MPG. I’m sure that’s a lot better than what you get now.

It’s unclear to me whether you’re just wanting to thin the herd a bit or send the entire lot off to slaughter.

If it’s a matter of keeping one of herd my vote would be to keep the 84 Subaru 4WD. I have kind of an affinity for that year model as other than a few quirks they’re a very reliable, economical 4WD vehicle that should be capable of 300k miles or more.

It never hurts to have a spare car around; especially one that is not beholden to any bank and cheap to insure.

One other important point is the budget. If you can swing something new, I’d suggest selling the herd off and getting a Tacoma 4X4. If you have kids, the crew cab would work.

The primary reason for disposing of the pickup is not that the mileage is bad; it isn’t. The engine is a 225 slant six. The truck gets 17 city, 26 highway. I don’t consider what can be had (19 city / 29 highway) to be much improvement given over 30 years have passed. The reason for moving on is the insulation on the wiring harness is getting brittle and is developing cracks. I use the truck to take trash to the transfer station and harvest firewood. It does both jobs just fine, as long a nothing else shorts out.

The Subaru is the toughest to consider getting rid of; the old pushrod, flat four is a great engine. Thirty years and oil tight. The feedback carb is the worst part, but it has been tolerable.

The Golf delivers better mileage than the ratings, and, “I’ve heard” it can go 130 mph.

No kids, but 3 dogs.

Money isn’t a constraint, but I’ll reiterate that I’m trying to minimize vehicle costs while maximizing capability. If teleportation booths were available, I’d be happy with a bicycle.

The Hitachi carbs on those old Subarus were a problem; no doubt about it.
Depending upon the symptoms there are a few things that can help the system out a bit and I’ll be glad to fill you in on them if you so desire and decide to keep the Subaru.

So it sounds like your rolling stock is rolling. Why change? The only thought would be to carry a cell phone, join AAA, and be prepared to go out and buy what you need when you need it. The pickup sounds like the most troublesome with its spotty electrical system. Would it be possible to pay someone to replace the electrical wiring that is critical to keeping the engine running?

The only other idea is to sell everything, buy a Subaru Forester and install a trailer hitch, then get a utility trailer for trash and firewood duty. You cover your uses, get a new or reasonably new and reliable vehicle, and get to spend some valuable time reorganizing your garage and fantasizing about restoring an antique motorcycle this winter.

I agree that a Forester might be your best bet for a single vehicle that meets most of your needs. Of other small crossovers the Mazda CX-5 is reasonably priced, drives well, gets great mileage, and is likely to be reliable. It’s AWD system is less sophisticated than the Forester’s, but typical for a crossover and good enough for most roads (even dirt if they aren’t too rough.) The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are justly popular. The Subaru XV CrossTrek is an Impreza with increased ground clearance and a few other improvements. If you prefer something smaller and more like a car, it’s a good choice. It won’t be as efficient as your Golf diesel, but it will be more capable on rough roads. There are a few hybrid crossovers, but most are expensive and not necessarily reliable. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is typical. They also have an Energi plug-in hybrid, but the range on battery power is modest and the battery takes a big bite out of the cargo area. The Fusion is very nice, but not cheap, and it’s not very affordable.

I can’t speak to the issue of snow drivability, but one car that popped into my mind is the Toyota Matrix. It is basically a Corolla – one of the most reliable of the econo-boxes – but built with a more upright boxy body style than the Corolla. Worth a look anyway. A Toyota Rav 4 would be another to consider, as would be the Rav 4’s competition from other car makers.

Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. I’ll be doing some test driving. By the way, I have a 1995 Ural with sidecar that is this winter’s fix up project.

For your needs, the RAV4 or Honda CRV are perfect vehicles. Alternatively, a compact pickup with AWD and extended cab would do as well. My sister-in-law lives in the back country and she loves her Toyota Tacoma with crew cab. Her previous vehicle was a Honda CRV.

Neither vehicle has had any expensive repairs. She does not have to be “cheap”!

I knew it! I could see a motorcycle whacko through your posting. I have 3 Hondas (71 and 72 CL175’s and an 86 Rebel 450) that I’m working on now. I’m sticking with my suggestion of a Forester and a good utility trailer (with tie down loops) and a folding motorcycle loading ramp.

Congrats on the Ural. I like those things and would love to have one but the better half thinks I’ve got too much of this junk now… :slight_smile:

Last time I was at Sturgis I met a guy from England who had one of those rigs. He had come to the U.S. and was spending the entire summer trying to hit all 48 of the lower states on a Ural with the sidehack. I have no idea what his tonnage was but he had everything including the kitchen sink loaded onto that bike.

The reverse and driven sidecar wheel are pretty cool.

For the cost of a new car, you can keep the old ones and pay someone else to keep them running. Even a new vehicle is still going to need oil changes and stuff.