CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Sporty Used Mini Ute for under 10k

Hello Everyone,

Last week, I sold off my 1998 Volvo V70. It had 200k miles, loved leaking fluids and was on it’s last legs. Since I still have a job to go to, I’m in need of a vehicle. I loved my Wagon since I could throw snowboards in and go skiing with 4 friends, and I’ve grown accustomed to the space.

I’m looking to spend a max of 10k. I’ve been looking at the Escape, Equinox, and Forester. I live in Michigan, so I’d be in home territory with the domestic vehicles, but I’m not incredibly impressed by the fuel economy of the Equinox or Escape. I like the Forester, since it gets about 27 mpg highway, but I’m not sure about maintenance, and I’ve heard about cylinder heads that blow.

Any recommendations? Am I forgetting any vehicles that I should consider?

Well, I’m of the opinion that when it comes to AWD, Subaru is hard to beat (4WD is better, IMO, but that’s another story).

But for most of Michigan (from personal experience), FWD is fine, in which case, you’re not really looking at better mileage in the Forester for older vehicles. For new 2012s, in fact, the Forester is worse than the FWD Escape or FWD Equinox. If you go back several years, this wasn’t the case, though - and I suspect you’ll have to go back to 2006 or older to get under $10k, in which case the Forester and the Escape are roughly equal and the Equinox markedly worse, simply because it was the only one of the 3 not to have a 4 cylinder option.

A sporty AWD suv for under $10K in this economy is a difficult find. I’d lean toward the Escape; I liked the one I drove they seem to be a bit more reasonably priced. The RAV4 is a bit more sporty, but 10K will only buy you a pre-2005model, which is kinda small. The mid-2000s Hyundai Santa Fe is a decent vehicle utility-wise, but it’s shockingly ugly and drives like garbage.

Subaru cylinder heads were only defective for a certain run of years (I’m sure someone else here knows which). If they’ve been replaced on the vehicle you are considering, it may not be a concern anymore. If they haven’t, its a good reason to bargain the transaction price down, since used Foresters are overpriced anyhow.