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Reliability & quality of used 4Runner vs CR-V vs Ranger & more

Hello again CarTalk Community -

My recent search has brought me to a few possibilities for purchasing several used cars, seven of which are top contenders for 4WD/AWD that I can rely on to take to the Tahoe snow this winter and hopefully for one or two more season there after! Desired traits are ranked as 1. Reliability 2. Cost of Repairs 3. Price paid vs overall value of vehicle. All of the cars are at major dealerships, toyota, honda, et cetera.

95 4Runner SR5 4x4 80K Miles $7,991
03 Saturn VUE V6 AWD 81,077 MIles $6,981
01 Honda CR-V Special Edition 4WD 91,744 Miles $9,992
02 Ford Explorer Sport Base 4WD 91,142 Miles $5,494
92 4Runner SR5 4x4 65,655 MIles $8,593
98 Ranger Reg Cab 4WD 77,126 Miles $5,991
94 Geo Tracker 4x4 109,698 Miles $3,995

I know this is going to be relatively speculative, as actually seeing the car, test driving it and having it checked out by an independent mechanic are going to provide me with more information needed and most likely give me the best result before buying. In addition, one other small question, I know I should take the car to a trusted mechanic before hand for a PPI. But, is there anything when buying a used car from a dealer within X amount of days, if there are issues or I can take it to a mechanic and if issues are seen, I can return it or have them pay for repairs?

Any help is greatly appreciated, and I will do my best to provide any more info if needed. Thanks!

You are looking at older vehicles whose reliability is dependent as much on prior maintenance as much make. It also depends upon the use. A Ranger can be completely serviceable if used as a light dump trash hauler but, use it off road much in severe conditions and you had better have a 4Runner or Tacoma. You need to stipulate intended use. If you just plan on using it for on road snow travel, look for a used RAV or CRV. If you are throwing all these together, it seems you don’t plan severe use…

I would eliminate the Tracker, base Explorer and Ranger for any thing but third car use because of drivability issues. You get what you pay for and better vehicles will be more expensive. So buy a car with use in mind and even a budget Tracker can work for very occassional use.

doubt if you can get any meaningful information based on the make model and year without knowing the maintenance and usage information.

While knowledge of the make and model are good to know and are important, they are not as important as knowledge of the kind of care and driving it has had.

I suggest you decide what car you want, then look for the one that has had the best care.

10 grand for a 12 year old CRV?!
8 for an 18 year old 4runner?!
9k for a 21 year old 4runner?!

I want whatever medication those people are on. That’s some mighty fine “medicine” they got there.

@powpow
I suggest that you check prices on Edmunds.com , nagaguides,com, and autos.msn.com. See if these vehicles are priced appropriately for San Francisco. If any of them are, then test drive them. If you are still interested, get a pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic that you trust. If you don’t know any, maybe your friends and coworkers do. If you have a vehicle that runs the gantlet and passes all tests, consider buying it. Anything on your list might be the one. But it has to have been maintained very well throughout its life to be that car. But I’m especially leery of the Toyotas and the Track given their ages. Even the Ranger is 14 years old.

IMO, the CRV is likely to be the most reliable of the bunch, assuming it has been maintained. Be sure to take it to a trusted local mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.

Dagosa: I would mainly be using it as a commuter and if possible, taking it to the snow. But taking it to the snow would just be a bonus, I would just be happy to find something that is reliable to be honest.

JosephEMeehan: This is what I have heard is the best deciding factor. I guess I am just looking for my previous experience from my 90 Celica I got in 96 with 82K miles on it. I got another 100K miles out of it.

bscar2: Well I live in the bay area, CA. So the cost of everything is more here.

jtsanders: I’ve definitely been looking at Edmunds & MSN, I will check out nagaguides. I’ve learned my lesson, so yes I have a mechanic that I fully trust for a PPI, but he is on vacation until Aug 20, so that sucks.

In general to all, do people post their cars for sale on this site? Is there any website out there for better, or more well trusted used cars? What about asking mechanics in my area if they have or know anyone with used cars for sale?

web search for car sales in the Bay Area. Most will probably be on Craislist. Pay attention to the warnings that Craigslist gives you. You might also find listings at large institutions, like universities, government, or big companies. Maybe you know someone with access that could look for you.