Quandry: Car Shopping-Need Suggestions/Advice!

Have a 98 Subaru Outback that I will be replacing (live in Colorado). Have driven and loved the car for 13 years. Would love a “sportier” car, but also have decent ground clearance, good in snow and dirt roads for hikes/camping (on occasion), not outrageous repair costs (eliminating VW, Audi), good gas mileage, and enough cargo for bike & trips, and when on occasional grandma duty, have room for the car seat and stroller. Dislike the standard SUV’s-too big, and the high front ends on many vehicles (as the Ford Escape). Will probably purchase new for the warranty, or CPO. Mini Countryman (looks very fun!) but repair costs are rated high, and wonder about safety and if cargo too small. The Impreza gas mileage and reviews seem to be low. Will test drive the XTrek & 2014 Forrester. Suggestions?!

Forget the Mini Countryman (too little ground clearnace, BMW repair bills). The best car-based unit would be the new Subaru Forester; the new one is much larger than the old one. Others would be Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4, both very good vehicles.

If you want a more rugged machine with more ground clearance a Toyota 4Runner SUV is good size and can handle any terrain. I would not advise any Jeep products; the quality will disappoint you after having had an Outback for 13 years.

An Impreza hatchback at 25 MPG city and 33 MPG highway seems like a winner to me. The Xtrek mileage is identical. Pick between the two based on other capabilities.

Thanks! I like the Rav 4 & CRV, but they are big front end-SUV style. Probably because I’ve been in a low-riding Sub for so many years! Have been comparing autos online, and the ground clearance on the Impreza and the Mini Countryman is 5.7-5.9", pretty much the same which surprised me (my ‘98 has 7.3" & the new Xtrek & Forester are over 8" clearance). What is your opinion on the 2014 Forester with all the “new” features? I’ve always heard to steer away from the first years’ model with big changes to allow any glitches to show up. Was thinking of going wild and crazy and detour from a Subaru -after having one in the family for 30 years.

Fine to try something different (but the new Forester would be my first choice), however, the Mini is more show than go for your needs, I think. How about the Mazda CX-5 with the 2.5l engine? Would seem to meet many of your needs.

Forgive me for saying this, but I’m amazed at how many questions we get like this. Is shopping for a car really that hard? How did people find and buy the cars they wanted before the Internet was around? Maybe some of these people who need help making up their own minds should try going old school by going to the dealerships and looking at the cars.

@Whitey–I think some people who drive a car for a decade or more are overwhelmed by the process of car shopping. My wife “volunteered” my services to a family friend who hadn’t bought a car since 1996. Her 1996 Ford Taurus wagon was “totaled” when someone backed into the left side. The car is still drivable, but the cost of repairing the damage exceeds the value of the car. I loaned her all my Consumer Reports magazines for the last year so she could get some idea of what she wanted. She initially thought she wanted a Honda Accord, but had as an alternate, the Honda Civic. After testing both cars, she decided that the Civic fit her needs better. Now that she has the Civic, she decided to keep her Taurus wagon as well for hauling things. She found a body man who is going to do some work on the doors of the Taurus wagon. I advised her if he puts on a used door of a different color not to paint the door to match the car–the car would be more unique with a different colored door.

It took me a few years to find the right car for me. I know I asked several questions on this board during that time. Mostly it was needs changing over that time, and being very picky about it.

Buy a new Subaru, just pick the model that appeals most to you. Subaru worked hard to improve mpg in it’s new ('13 and soon '14) models.

Thanks for your suggestions. And, yes, shopping for a car really is that hard. The cost alone is overwhelming! There are more choices than there were 15 years ago with many more features and gas cost is higher, mpg is a bigger factor now; & it’s time consuming (live far from dealers). And, Whitey, I am in the process of the “old school” - having been to many dealerships, but getting advice and input from other’s experience can be helpful, don’t you think? (As I share my opinion on an older Subaru - to help someone else out unfamiliar with them). Dare I ask another question?
Opinion of Kia (Sportage) and Nissan (Rogue)?

Just saw an article on this-there’s 50% more models today than there were just 15 years ago. So yes, it can be overwhelming. That’s why the Consumer Reports car buyers guide can be so useful-lots of comparitive info in one place.

You have to be systematic. Recently we bought a new car for my wife. She wanted a small car, red, automatic, A/C, and it had to hold her sporting stuff, skis, etc. We looked at compact hatchbacks and narrowed it to Kia, Hyundai (Touring and Elantra), Toyata Matrix, and Mazda3. There is no Civic Hatchback, and the Fit was too small. We did not consider any VW models due to their poor reputation. Simlarly we skipped and Detroit 3 models. We don’t need AWD so the Subaru Imprezza was out (poor gas mileage, higher ownership costs).

The rear visibilty of Elantra and Kia were poor, the Elantra Touring was “too boxy” for her, and she did not like the Matrix (I didn’t either, we had previuosly rented one for a week). So we got the Mazda3 in “velocity red” with 6 speed auto, air, cruise, and power windows. She’s very happy with it, the performance & handling are great, and the gas mileage is excellent.

The whole process took about 2 weeks.

You started to narrow the list, but there are still too many SUVs on it. You should stay away from luxury SUVs if you don’t ave a specific desire for them. That would still take Audi off the list, as well as Lexus and Infiniti. Set a dollar limit and see what’s available. At some point, you might also want to put a lower price limit on it if you want features that the least expensive SUVs don’t have. And speaking of features, you need to determine what you want. You might be able to cut the list down a lot by doing this. The only way you will know what is offered is to look at on-line resources or print resources. Consumer Reports used to have a new car guide in print, and probably still does. Buy it at the news stand or see if your public library has it. On line resources include Edmunds.com, autos.msn.com, (my faves) and a few others. I could provide a list of small and medium SUVs that interest me, but you can create the list better than I can since you know, or soon will know, what you want. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it. A big (huge) bonus is that when you go car shopping, you will know as much or more than the salesman does about his SUV and about the competition. That puts you in the dirver’s seat in more ways than one. Knowledge is power in car buying as well as many other areas. Do the work and feel the power. I do every time I buy a new car. And if I can do it, so can you.

Thanks! Great advice on the Consumer Guide - will get that. Have been looking at Edmunds, etc & have been putting together “spreadsheet” with features and specs on models with pros and cons and have narrowed it down. With the cost of the car & planning on driving for a lot of years-the time invested now is worth it. I liked the Mazda 3 & the Fit (very roomy!) but decided would go with AWD; driven some others & eliminated some (the Matrix was one). I’m more educated as have been doing this research myself, and then will have my husband go with me for final test drives. I know Subarus, pretty well, it’s branching out into the new frontier and whether to go that route. Will look at Consumer Reports-and will let you know what the winner ends up to be for me.

Yeah we hadn’t bought one for a while either and we procrastinated for a couple years. Went to the auto shows etc. but just so many different models, nothing popped. Finally just stopped at a dealer and bought something. For us it didn’t help when GM dumped Olds, and the Riviera.