New used Vibe or other wagon -suggestions?

I have an old 94 Corolla wagon that is starting to get a bit unreliable (high repair costs lately). I’m thinking of a newer used car/wagon. I drive lots of highway miles (200-300+ per week), less in city. Would like to get over 30 mpg. Outdoorsy lifestyle - space needed for kayaks, pets, and gear. Prefer to spend under $10K but can go higher. Reliability and mileage are important. Prefer under 90K miles.

Here’s what I like so far:

*Pontiac Vibe, but hard to find manual transmission.

*Matrix - meh.

*2004-plus Prius, but don’t know about reliability once they are aging, expensive.

*2003+ Rav4

*Mazda wagons - don’t know much about them. Assumed mazda unreliable in past.

*Subarus - ok, but don’t like lower mpg.

Your comments, please? Thanks.

Why do you prefer the Vibe over the Matrix? You should consider them the same, because they are the same.

The Prius should be fine as it ages. Same with the Mazda.

I would consider adding the Honda Fit to this list.

I assume you have a rack for that kayak on your current ride?
Mazdas are pretty reliable from what I’ve heard, I’d just steer clear of the used “MazdaSpeed” versions. I dunno if you’ll be able to fit a kayak inside them though. Only Mazda I can think of would be the MPV/5, which is just a larger wagon with van-like qualities.
As with all used cars, previous owner care is more important than who makes it. You could find an 05 Taurus wagon for under 10k if you looked hard enough. But it’s rated for only 23 hwy mpg.

Frankly, its hard to beat those old Corolla wagons. Most folks who owned one wish they had never sold it and would love to get it back. If the body is in good shape I’d reconsider the decision regarding further repairs. This is a car that just keeps going and going as long as you are willing to fork up the bucks for repairs.

The only reason to crush one of these old wagons is that it just got too rusty to be safe anymore. If I had it I’d put in a rebuilt motor, a new transmission (assume yours is a manual), new steering rack, whatever and just keep driving it.

If you are interested in the Prius (aut trans only), why do you care whether the Vibe or Matrix has a manual transmission? You are most likely to find the manual transmission in the sport model, and it gets worse mileage than the base 1.8L auto.

One more thing… The Prius is the most reliable of all the Toyota models.

As a Corolla fan, I don’t feel you could go wrong with either the Vibe or the Matrix Reliability and economy wise. The RAV4 pre 06 has a very flexible interior, great reliability but only fair economy in AWD. We enjoy our 05, but find it a little road noisy for long trips. Friend’s Mazda wagon is well liked overall. Our Subarus rode and handled well, were very reliable, but were fuel efficient on the level of the RAV4 and not as spacious.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of your choices. The RAV4 is far and away the “most outdoorsy” practical and in AWD if you winter travel too. I would suggest you test drive each as you would over time after you own it so there are no performance surprises.
I would never recommend a Prius, though given the right circumstances, I would buy one in a heart beat.

Ok, thanks for the info re: Vibe/Matrix MT. I had gotten the impression that the base AT Vibe gets only 30 mg Hwy with AT, which is not all that great. I’ll do more research on that.

You’re totally right, and I had two previous Toyotas that went well over 225K. But I had a fabulous mechanic for years who perfectly maintained them, also at a reasonable cost. If I were a mechanic, that is the way to go… but I’m not.

Now in a city, labor rates are $95/hr, and I have gone thru several bad or dishonest mechanics. Finally found 2 trustworthy ones, but still pricey. For example, clutch needs replacing, survey of 3 shops estimate ~ $850, and that’s only the basics. If flywheel needs resurfacing and so on, then more. It’s just costing a fortune, and it’s at the age where things are breaking down. Haven’t found anyone who does good preventive maintenance, and I hate breaking down away from home.

I may keep the Corolla for awhile yet, but maybe something else is out there with fewer miles and lower maintenance.