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Need help with choosing next car

Hi I’m in the market for a new car and was wondering if anyone can help.

Some info:

-I live in Los Angeles. I know.

-For the last three years I’ve been working for my family’s farm which is roughly about 100 miles north of LA, in the city of Arvin.

-Thankfully, I am not a daily commuter (I stay at the farm during the week and come down during weekends), but I still drive a lot. And, I really do mean a lot. I average about 500-550 miles on a weekly basis.

-I currently drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris and it’s on it’s last leg. Great on gas mileage but semi trucks, trucks, and tractors can never see me. It gets pretty dicey out here sometimes.

-My current budget is 30K-35K. I can possibly stretch to 40K but rather not, as I am still paying off my student loans.

-And before anyone suggests getting a Prius. Don’t. 95% of my driving during the week is on dirt roads or gravel. I’ve been stranded on the farm due to rain that have turned the easements into muddy rivers. I’ve also experienced driving through ice/snow on the highways. And if anyone is familiar with the i5, the grapevine is a daunting trek.

-I also have no interest in getting a truck. I may be a farmer but I’m still a city girl at heart and thinking about trying to parallel park one of the work trucks in downtown LA makes me nauseous.

I’ve been looking at Subaru and Jeep (especially the outback and grand cherokee). Any suggestions?

I would say save your extra money and pay the loans back. Buy a CPO, 2-3 yr old gently used Camry or Accord. If you want good handling, look at Mazda 6; Hertz has a lot of rentals that sell bellow market value.

I did not see where you mention you need AWD or a high clearance car. So I will forget the Jeep. The Subaru might be an option, but the AWD adds complexity that you probably don’t need.

I’d look a little cheaper than those. The Grand Cherokee is nice, but too expensive and the gas costs will be substantial. It’s long-term reliability is still unknown, too. I like the Outback OK, but the Forester is just about as roomy and nice and cheaper. I’d also look at other compact crossovers like the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The newly redesigned Nissan Rogue is also very nice, much improved over the old one. These are all big enough to be useful and visible on the freeway, but small enough to get OK gas mileage. They’re also likely to be fairly reliable. Other decent choices are the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, as well as the larger Hyundai Santa Fe (3 row) and Santa Fe Sport (between other two in size.) Consumer Reports really liked the Santa Fe in a recent test. Most of these can be had in the $25,000 and up, depending on equipment. Any spare cash can pay down the loans and these are such nice vehicles you won’t feel deprived.

@MarkM has a lot of good ideas. One I’d check out is a FWD Mazda CX-5, which is relatively good on gas. Forget the Jeep.

Agree with the others. Skip the Subaru and Jeep for the reasons mentioned.

I would also consider a used Honda Element. Has AWD, great cargo space that is rugged and easily cleaned out. The rear seats are specially designed to fold up against the walls. Good for urban farmers! You can get a decent one for $10k.

Gas mileage is not great, but by spending $10k instead of $30k you’ll have plenty of gas money left over. And to pay off your student loans.

Just curious here, how is your Yaris on its last leg? We have a 2007 Yaris sedan and have taken it on all kinds of road trips and local commuting. It’s always been a great car without problems.

I’d stay away from new jeeps. The grand Cherokee is likely out of your price range, the ones I’ve seen at dealers are more in the 50k+ range.

In-laws have a new Mazda CX-5 and are very pleased so far. Take a look around a Toyota dealership as well.

Thanks a lot! I’ll definitely look into all the suggestions.

To Fender, my Yaris is at 165K. I plan on driving it until it craps out on me which i feel it soon because even though I keep of with the maintenance, the roads on the farm are super bumpy and I can feel it’s tired of taking the beatings.

Spend as little as possible until your loans are paid off. Just about anything is an improvement on the Yaris. A Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid will give you the best mileage at 29 city, 33 highway and 30 average. but it starts at a little under $27,000. It does have AWD if you need it for off road driving. The best gas mileage without a plain old gas engine is the Mazda CX5 at 26/32/29 MPG. If you want 4WD, the mileage drops to 25/31/28. Iirc, you can’t get HOV passes for hybrids in Cali anymore, can you? That might be a reason to consider the Crosstrek. The CX5 Sport starts at about $23,500 with 2WD and $24,000 with AWD. The Crosstrek has 8.7 inches ground clearance. An Outback starts at about the same price as the Crosstrek and has the same ground clearance.

As for the Yaris, it might not be near death

Probably just need struts, strut mounts and sway bar bushings and links

But it’s not appropriate for those dirt roads

How about a new Explorer 4x4

I hear they’re pretty nice now, because they’re finally unibody

Agree. A compact SUV and there are a bunch to choose. They have decent ground clearance for dirt roads and people can see you coming. Enjoy the search.

@‌ I’m going to have to disagree with you on the Camry/Accord recommendation for 2 reasons, 1 she says she drives on dirt roads on the farm, and got stuck when it rained, so she needs ground clearance. And 2, a CPO nearly new Accord/Camry will probably cost about the same as a brand new one.

@citykidfarmer If you’re going to be doing a lot of parallel parking, I’d suggest looking into a backup camera to help. Most newer vehicles, AWD doesn’t give that big of an MPG penalty. Rav4, CRV, CX-5, Tuscon all come to mind for small-ish SUVs

IMHO the hardest question anyone ever asks is “what kind of car should I buy?”.

I’d suggest stopping by the local bookstore, picking up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide, choosing some that look good to you, and setting aside time to do test drives. The CR will show you everything that’s currently available, give you good comparative analysis data, and allow you to chose from the entire field.

And, as a sidenote, if your budget is $30K but you have loans to pay off, try to find something you like for $20K. Then use the extra to pay off the loans.

It used to be easier to give advice as there were fewer good cars. Now in some classes, like mid-sized sedans and compact crossovers, almost everything sold is pretty good, few are duds, and many are outstanding. Compact sedans & hatchbacks & subcompact hatches are also mostly as good. Large cars impress me less and luxury cars vary quite a bit, but I think that reflects the variety of luxury car buyers. There isn’t anything drastically wrong with a Cadillac XTS (it looks very stylish), but it’s clearly not for me. Nor are most Asian luxury cars, or even many Germans. The poor reliability of most of these cars is a big negative, and the reliable ones (Lexuses, mostly) are so dull. I used to like the Infiniti G, but the new one looks worse.