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Roadtrip Across America


I am going on a 8,000+ mile journey across America, starting in Boston and ending in San Francisco. I am looking to buy a used car that has the following features:

1) Is dependable and won’t break down on me

2) Has high resale value - I want to sell it when I finish my trip, and not lose a lot of money

3) I should be able to potentially sleep in the car (I also will have a dog traveling with me, so big enough of a space where we could both sleep)

4) Gets good millage (i.e. above 25 on the highway)

My price range is flexible, but I would prefer something under 5000. What cars do you think I should be looking into? Some people have suggested Honda CRV and Subaru Outback, are these really the best makes for my needs?

Thanks a lot!


Isn’t this a re-run?

just trying to get some more info on whether the subaru outback and the honda crv really are best for my needs.

Anything for under 5,000 will be somewhat of a gamble. Consult Consumer Reports Used Car Guide. What do you think will satisfy your needs?

Any CRV or Outback for under $5,000 will probably be pretty beat up.

anything that gets 25+ on the highway, won’t be a problem to sell in SF and most importantly - won’t break down during the trip.

A Crown Vic or a Grand Marquis…You will be lucky to make it across the Mississippi in a Outback…Travel in comfort and safety.

If you enter the word “Subaru” into the search window of this board, you will get over 3000 threads containing the word “Subaru”…Most of these words are NOT complementary…

Regarding #2, just take your time buying the car from a private party and you should be able to sell it for essentially the same amount. What you really need to be looking for is a car that’s going to be in high enough demand that it’ll sell quickly. I think your best bet for this would be a Honda Accord or Civic or Toyota Corolla or Camry.

You should be able to pick up a reasonably reliable example of one of these for $5k and, while I would argue you get more for your money buying a used domestic car, you’ll have a much easier time selling a Honda or Toyota. Most of the other “high-demand” cars are in high demand for reasons other than their reliability (i.e. the Outback), and so are probably not going to be good bets in the 5k price range. The same generally goes for the CRV (or the Rav4)-- they’re fine cars and should sell reasonably quickly, it’s just that they’re worth more and so it’ll be harder to find a good example in your price range.

The most comfortable, reliable, economical cars with the highest resale value are the Camry/Accord, choice by personal preference. Both are large enough for the two of you.
When you start talking under $5000, you start compromising reliability due to age and mileage. $10000 is my financial lower limit for a reliable safe car.
The real key is to buy the car months before the trip, and use it to work the bugs out and all potential repairs it will need. If it proves reliable for several months, you’ll have more confidence in taking it x ctry.

This trip should be nowhere near 8,000 miles unless you’re visiting Alaska on the way.

Neither the Outback nor the CRV is probably roomy enough to sleep in comfortably. Have you test driven these vehicles? I wouldn’t want all-wheel drive. This just adds more expense, less MPG, and more things to break-down. You don’t need all-wheel drive to drive cross-country.

What are you driving right now? It’ll probably make it to SanFran.

I recently went for a ride in my uncle’s Crown Vic, and according to the dashboard computer, he averages less than 20 MPG. He lives in the country and drives mostly on highways. Are you sure you can get more than 25 MPG with a Crown Vic or a Grand Marquis?

It’s 2708 miles air miles. I’ll take poster at their word and “sight seeing” can easily surpass 8K. I agree that, unless the trip includes winter travel, a $5000 limit vehicle with awd is begging for more problems.

Do you own a car now? Why not just use it? Buying a car for the trip and then selling it is likely to cost you more in the long run that just using what you have. It also would mean you would be buying an unknown (used) car vs your known car. I would not want to head out on a cross county trip with a new to me used car.

I own 3 Crown Vics. Two are former cop cars (P71 models) and the other is a '92 LX model. At a steady 70 MPH, the cop cars get 23 and 24.5 mpg respectively. The older, lighter LX with its 2.90 rear axle gets 26-27 under those conditions…They all get around 18 mpg around town. If you push them faster than 70, the mileage falls off quickly but never less than 20 mpg…

Mishy could drive from Boston to SanFran, SanFran back to Boston, then Boston back to SanFran in a little over 8,000 miles. That’s a heck of a lot of “sight seeing,” adding 5,000 miles onto a 3,000 mile trip.

For reliability, decent space, and resale value after the trip I’d look at Honda Accords and Toyota Camry’s. They both cost more than other used cars of the same year, but you’ll get that back when you sell the car.

You should be able to sleep comfortably in the back seat and the dog can sleep in the driver’s seat at night. These cars have big trunks, rear seats that fold down and are comfortable for lots of road miles. They can get in excess of 25 mpg on the highway and should be closer to 30 mpg for the interstate parts of the trip if you keep your speed at about 65 mph.

Any used car in the $5,000 price range could have problems so have your car pre-sale inspected by a mechanic. Plan to spend some money on tires and repairs while you own the car. The miles you put on the car shouldn’t decrease the value much and you should be able to sell an Accord or Camry for what you paid for it at the end of the trip.

I think a used Subaru for $5,000 will be a money pit for repairs, I’d recommend against it. A CRV should be ok but you won’t get very good gas mileage (25 mpg at the very best) and the 4WD system is more prone to mechanical problems so more repair costs than an Accord or Camry. If you are limiting yourself to one of these two vehicles, the CRV is better by far than the Subaru.

If you’re wanting something to sleep in, you’re gonna want to look at a mini-van or full sized one.

I agree, but if the idea is to sight see than the destination is incidental. Friends over a 4 week period added nearly twice the straight line distance to Colorado from Maine in mileage to their truck one way, sight seeing without trying too hard. I don’t see the problem. When I was a teen and gas was cheap, I could put many miles on a car and “not go anywhere.”

I’ll second the minivan if you go higher than $5K.

You need a 2003 Honda Element. The only problem is it’ll be slightly more expensive than what you want to spend. 2003 was the first year of the Element

None of the other cars mentioned can even come close. You can buy this car for less than it would cost to fix the air conditioning in an Element…