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Subaru Impreza Outback Sport?

Hey there Car Talk guys (or staff who replies to emails)! College student (without family), bike commuter living in pacific northwest wants cheap used car with ground clearance for potholes, bike rack friendly non super gas guzzling ride for hiking, weekend trips and the occasional walmart, winco load up (yes, again savvy money saver). Thinking Subaru Impreza Outback sport might be okay, but was wondering if you had any better ideas. Want as small as possible, cheap sturdy ground clearance, hopefully running, and will continue to do so when up in isolated mountains, and maybe under $7000? Impossible? Help?

Thanks, Hope to hear from you soon :slight_smile:

Tom & Ray don’t generally show up here, but there are a lot of readers who can offer help.

As for your question, Do you plan on heading up to the mountains during snow times or hit the back logging roads when they are mostly mud? If No then there is little reason to consider 4WD (or AWD etc.). But I would look for that ground clearance.

Sorry I don’t have any specific recommendations, but keep reading and you should get a number of suggestions.

Best buy is a used 4cyl 4wd compact PU truck; if you can stand the ride. If you frequent winter trips, there is no substitute for the security of awd/4wd with good tires.
My second recommendation would be a use CRV/RAV.

Older Subaru’s can have issues. Due to the AWD they are very sensitive to matching all 4 tires all the time. If a previous owner didn’t run the correct tires (many don’t, especially as the cars get older) that can result in very expensive repair bills on the AWD system, can you say new center differential?

Also many Subaru’s models have engines prone to head gasket failure. Another very expensive fix. If you find a Subaru you like, keep about $2,000 of your budget for repairs and reconditioning in the 1st year or so you own it. Also before buying any used car you should have a mechanic you select do a pre-purchase inspection for you. They can tell you stuff that is important. Such as doing a compression check and leak down tests to see if the head gaskets are intact.

Personally I’d stay away from Subaru’s. There are tons of Subaru posts, use the search feature to check them out.

A standard car with FWD and good winter tires can take you just about anywhere you need to go. It is the winter tires that will get you there and back.

Subarus are good choices, but I prefer the Legacy/Outback over the shorter wheelbase Impreza/Sport series. Also, check out CRVs and RAV4s. Hyundai Santa Fe/Tucsons are a good deal as well.


2003/2004 Ford Ranger with 4WD. You can get it with a regular cab or extended cab for less than $7000. There are other small pickups, but they will be more expensive. The Nissan Frontier is nice, but you can’t get one newer than 2002.

Honda CRV meets your criteria. I recently got a 99 with 105K for 4200 in the Portland area. The main drawbacks are it’s very noisy on the highway and the cruise control/auto transmission are extremely annoying in operation. On the plus side it is roomy has good clearance and can drive anywhere.

Note that 4WD will mean poor gas mileage regardless of vehicle. The Outback Sport is tiny but gets no better mileage than the Legacy Outback. And the back seat in the Sport is TORTURE. Cargo capacity is also lacking in the Sport.

I agree… the Outback Sport is just a faux pas SUV. Trimmed out only. Not as functional as the raised legacy OB. I too am a big used CRV fan for the money.

Ford Escape