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Lesser of the evils...Old Jeep, Old Mazda or unkown?

I will soon be embarking on a cross-country road trip departing from Georgia and driving to A) Texas to drop the kid and his stuff off at college, B) Denver to visit friends and drop the cats off, and C) to Northern California to do some camping and hiking. My return route is TBD but I’m not fond of cold weather, so likely will take me back through the Southwest. The initial trip will begin in August and last through October.

I could take my son’s 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with apx 185k miles. It isn’t 4WD - but I don’t plan on driving off road or in the snow! It runs fine, but the exhaust sounds horrible…like it’s going to fall off. Very rumbly and loud. The A/C could use a service and I have to use my phone for a radio. Gets about 18mpg in town. New tires. Cargo space would be a huge plus - plenty of room for the two cat carriers, my camping gear, son’s school stuff and I can sleep in it if I have to!
OR, I could take my 2003 Mazda6 that has 125k. All systems work great. Also has new tires. Cargo and sleepability leave much to be desired. And it’s red…which seems to attract some attention on the highway! Gets 24mpg in town.
OR I could try to trade them both in on something with less mileage but unknown mechanical issues. I don’t have much cash to add to the deal.

Thoughts?
Thanks!

Take the Mazda. Ship all you can and enjoy the trip.

Take the Mazda6. You can get a cargo carrier for the roof if your trip cargo and your son’s stuff won’t fit in the car. If you don’t need for the rest of the trip, maybe you you could leave it with the cats at your friend’s house. I assume that you will pick the cats up on the return trip, and you can pick up the cargo carrier at the same time.

Agree; take the Mazda. Board out the cats. Buy a rooftop carrier to hold anything you can`t SHIP.

Thanks all! I think I KNEW that was the best option…but for some reason kept trying to talk myself into taking the jeep! I hadn’t thought of the roof-top carrier, but I do like that idea! Cheers!

I vote also for the Mazda. Roof top carriers have some downsides. At high speeds they ruin the aerodynamics of the vehicle. This means about 5 mpg less in fuel economy so you will spend a lot more for gas. The extra wind resistance puts more strain on the motor, transmission, and cooling systems. The extra work can result in a roadside breakdown, or at the worst kill your transmission.

Find a way to pack and ship as much of Jr’s college stuff as you can. Roof top carrier is last resort. A flush of the cooling system and refill with fresh coolant, and an auto transmission fluid and filter change would be good sometime between now and the start of your adventure.