Trade 04 VW Golf for 3rd gen 4Runner?

I have a 2004 VW diesel Golf that I bought in Seattle, and now live in Jackson, WY. While it was awesome for my commute (35-37 mpg) and tight parking places in Seattle, it’s a little iffy in the winter with 2wd and low clearance. Otherwise, it’s still awesome for getting around town and the occasional road trip home. It’s in ok shape, no major mechanical issues, just some cosmetic dents, the AC doesn’t work, and the power window function is spotty.

My question is, is it worth it to sell the Golf and buy a used 1999-2002 3rd gen Toyota 4Runner? I know the gas mileage isn’t comparable, but will it be worth the money and safety in the end to buy an older car? Folks say those cars are very reliable and the engines regularly get past 300,000 miles. Wondering if it would be an investment, just a side step, or a money pit.


You can’t expect any brand of vehicle that old to be reliable . Replacing this VW makes sense but only if you move up many years or even new .


If you are concerned about driving in the snow, but 4 winter tires on a second set of wheels. Your car will cut through the snow like a mountain goat.

4wd only helps traction, not braking or handling. Plus if the 4Runners tires are not winter tires, your FWD Golf will run rings around it in the snow.

Plus it is never a good idea to trade to an older vehicle, especially one this old.


I think I know what you’re saying but in my mind, traction can affect handling in a number of cases. Having driven wheels front and back is a noticeable improvement in certain handling situations where lack of traction or a propensity to spin up one wheel faster than any others leads to sliding out of control. I can feel the difference quite readily when I switch between modes on the expressway for example. You know those times you get one relatively clear tire line but the rest is snow covered? Keeping a driven wheel front and back on that clear line is noticeably more control than if you switch to 2WD. It all comes down to traction in the end but how do you separate that from handling? Interested in your thoughts in that regard…

I drove an '83 GTI for 12 years in Anchorage, never got stuck. I had a set of good winter tires on rims that I’d swap out in October. If you’re sticking to paved roads, getting a set of great winter tires on rims would be the way I’d go, along with a thorough maintenance check on your VW.

I agree with the others. A 4Runner that old could easily have issues. Winter tires on your current car will make a big difference. Also, your car is probably more rust-free than the used ones you’ll find for sale in your new location.

Thanks all for the feedback. I hear the advice about the snow tires and not buying such an old car.

I usually put a set of Toyo snow tires on, and it does remarkably well in most snow conditions on paved streets. I suppose my issue is just with clearance, as there are a few (only a few) days each year when I get high centered on the street plow berm outside my driveway. In the summer, there are plenty of trail heads I’d like to get to but can’t because of the same clearance issues. The reason why I’m looking at such old cars is that I’d like to avoid a car payment and my price range only allows for about $6000 cash.

What do you all think about options for upgrading clearance in this price range? Or, just living with the fact that I just can’t get everywhere in my Golf (that’s ok too).

Any vehicle that old - maintenance is the key. How well it’s been maintained is going to the key to how long it will last. Personally I’d look for a newer vehicle.

Find a neighbor kid who will make you a path for 5 or 10 dollars . And 6000.00 just will not get you much of used vehicle these days.

If 2" more will help there are kits available for this platform.

That 2" lift kit might just get you stuck further off the beaten path…

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You might call Jackson, public works and see what they think. They might do a great job on the roads you drive on.

Anything that is 17 years or older is not a good idea. At that age, anything could go wrong and it would just be a maintnenace issue. That’s one of the problems with old cars. Reliability is a function of how well it was maintained and not what brand it is. I don’t know what your money situation is. If you can afford a loan, get one for a vehicle with good ground clearance in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. No one wants the monthly payment. If you need to drive for work, you will need to spend some money to earn your living.

Only if they are well maintained.

I don’t know what the market in Jackson is for 4Runners, but here in the Seattle area, $6,000 dollar ones already have 200,000 plus miles on them.

To quote a TV ad from the late '50s…
Why trade a headache for an upset stomach?


Thanks everybody! Good perspectives. Sounds like it’s not time to give up on the golf until I’m ready throw down on a loan.

I drove a VW Rabbit as a daily driver when I lived in Colorado. Lots of mileage on snow covered roads. Including a fairly steep road accessing a ski resort. W/winter tires, never a problem. I kept tire chains in the trunk but never had to use them in Colorado. The chains came in handy once in a while here in California though. If it were me I’d keep the Golf, and save up some money for a new or nearly new car later. Not much need for AC in Jackson Wyoming, another way to save some loot.

Count one more vote for putting either All Season or Snow tires on the VW. Actual performance on snow and ice varies a lot between brands and models, best to check the Consumer Reports tire ratings as these are based on independent testing, not manufacturer’s hype or consumer opinion. Have consistently had good snow/ice results in the Sierra with Michelins, good recent results with Pirelli (but they wore out fast) and family in Maine report good results with Continential All Season tires.

When U replaced my 05 4runner with my 14 Highlander it had over 300k miles. But I maintained it well. As I said - maintenance is the key. If you know for a FACT it’s been well maintained…then maybe.

I used to have a 1984 GTI bought new and it was great in the snow. Wish I still had it.