After almost ten years of not owning a car, my job is relocating to the 'burbs and I find myself browsing used car listings. I only want a few things- I want a wagon, so I can throw my bike in and get in a ride during lunch; I want reliability (duh) and I want excellent highway mileage (duh). My price range is under $5k. I see a lot of people recommending Taurus wagons b/c they are typically undervalued, but I’m not seeing any deals. On the other hand I am seeing a lot of late-90’s Subarus in that price range. I’ve never bought a car of that, ahem, vintage, so I’m not really sure what I’m getting myself into. Any and all advice appreciated.
Do you need a lot of passenger room? If not, I would highly recommend a small pickup.
Unfortunately, the bicycle is a very akwardly shaped thing and even with a largeish wagon it’s still a hassle to get a bike into, and darned near impossible if you need to put more than one in. With a truck, you just toss the thing in the back and you’re set. You could also just get a regular car and a bike rack-- the hitch mounted ones with the rubber straps are really nice for being able to quickly mount and unmount your bike.
In some areas theft is a concern. If you use a rack, make sure it can secure all the interesting parts of your bike. A pick-up with a cap might be an alternative. A small crew cab pickup will seat 4/5 and still have plenty of room in the back for the bike.
When I was doing a drive-then-bike commute for a while (bad parking situation!), I would always lock the bike to the truck by using a cable-style bike lock wrapped through the post holes at the top of the bed. That way the bike would be at least as secure as it was when it was just locked to a bike rack (assuming they didn’t just steal my truck!).