Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

I need a new car. What's good for an active 25 year old?

Hi everyone,

My 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback recently died (I think I’m still in mourning), but I need to start thinking about a new car. I live in Boston, so most of my day-to-day driving is in the city, but I also drive down to New York and up to New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont pretty regularly. I bike a lot, hike even more (all seasons, which means a LOT of gear in the winter), and like using my car as HQ during expeditions. At the same time, I want something that would be city friendly (so nothing too big), has modern features, and won’t guzzle gas. On top of this, I’m looking to spend between $8K and $12K, so I think i’ll definitely be buying used. My immediate thoughts were another Subaru. Maybe another Legacy, or Impreza hatch-back. I’m not really sure what kind of similar offerings exist from other car manufacturers these days and, for my money, I’m not sure what year car and what mileage I should be expecting.

Given my above conditions what make/models do you guys think might be good options and what year/mileage do you think I should expect for what I can afford? I’ve condensed my needs below.

Space for bikes, hiking gear, and people
To be rugged enough to handle the above
All wheel drive or good performance in bad weather or back roads
Good mileage
Modern features (never had a car newer than 1999)
Cost between $8K and $12K

I’m not a big fan of Subaru’s as used cars. If the previous driver(s)/owner(s) didn’t handle the tires properly the AWD system can be damaged and require expensive repairs. There are also cylinder head issues with used Subaru’s. If you must have one, just be ready for some repair bills, perhaps mega repair bills.

I would steer to check out a Chevy HHR.

Definitely open to other manufacturers. Just not sure what’s out there!

I’d recommend a Tacoma or Ranger in 4x4 configuration for hauling the gear around(put a cap on it and you’ll be good to go). Just depends on how many people you need to lug around with the gear

A used RAV or CRV is worth looking at.

RAV4, CRV, Sportage (Kia), Ford Escape comes to mind.

Like my son, but lives in Seattle near Udub. He bikes to work, ski in winter and hikes-camps in the summer. He drives our 97 Camry CE, 4cyc, stick. He declined the new studded tires and went to cable chains when the going gets tough in snow and he doesn’t do rough roads other than the established logging roads and trail heads. ( I get to pull the studs so that he won’t feel gulity in rutting the roads.) He’s had the Camry for 4 years and it is still strong but at 250k and 15 years, I have warned him to prepare for a replacement car. I’d be interested in your search.

Son looked at Subarus, but thinks the AWD is overkill when we rarely have a bad snow or ice.

Maybe this opinion comes from left field but have you considered a Jetta TDI? Look for a relatively low mileage late model 06-07 can be had in your price range. Roof rack for some gear and the rest fits in the good sized trunk. You’ll get fantastic gas mileage, the longevity of the Diesel engine, European handling, very nice overall driving experience. With routine maintenance it’ll last 300,000 miles.


I like the CR-V idea, or really anything in that segment, I just prefer Hondas.

Buy another Subaru Legacy Outback. You didn’t say why you’re not doing this. It’s the obvious answer.

Chevrolet SS that will replace the Pontiac G8. Nice highway driving car and plenty of power. There is a post elsewhere here on Car Talk about it. I drove a relative’s G8; liked it a lot.

Sure if you own a gas station by all means purchase a 415hp V8 powered behemoth like the new SS.


If you are 25 year old male and unmarried, you major cost will be INSURANCE! I remember a young soldier, under 25 and single, at an army base who won a Lamborghini in a draw. He found out the insurance was $12,000 per year!!

Being of a practal bent he just drove it around a bit, had his picture taken and then sold it for nearly $200,000. Then bought himself a sporty Mazda for about $25,000. Invested the rest.

If you can afford a $200k car, you can afford $1k/month insurance for it

how about a 1987 olds cutlass supreme with rear wheel drive or is that too cavalier for boston?

sorry, I thought that would be amusing.