Who knows what type of car I should buy?

Hi. My name is Sarah, that’s with an H. I am a 30 yr old in San Francisco who is looking to travel through Colorado, British Columbia and the west coast. I am looking for a vehicle that will last for two years and through all of that terrain and weather. I don’t really want to spend more than 5k. I need to be able to sleep in the vehicle and need 4wd. I’ve had a Blazer and an Xterra in the past. Obviously didn’t like the low gas mileage but I liked the all the space for hauling and sleeping.

Which vehicles should I be on the look out for?

Thanks so much!

if you need 4WD room enough to sleep and something that will reliable 2 years in all conditions with minimal maintenance I think you need to re-think the $5k thing

I agree with what PvtPublic stated, but I think that it is important to add that with a used vehicle, the maintenance that it has received over its life is far more important than the specific make and model. You can transform the traditionally most reliable model into an absolute disaster for the next owner by skipping maintenance, and–trust me–a LOT of car owners skimp on maintenance to the extent that the next owner will have huge repair costs.

So, the OP should be seeking vehicles which come with maintenance records which can be compared to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. My personal policy with used vehicles is…no maintenance records, no sale.

Additionally, paying a mechanic ~$100 for a pre-purchase inspection will help you to avoid a vehicle that will cause your wallet to explode as a result of unanticipated repair costs.

“Additionally, paying a mechanic ~$100 for a pre-purchase inspection will help you to avoid a vehicle that will cause your wallet to explode as a result of unanticipated repair costs.”

This bears repeating for anyone considering a used car/truck purchase.

I would recommend a used minivan; there are lots around. All the roads in British Columbia where you may want to go are accessible by 2 WD vehicles.

Shop around. Minivans are very spacious.

What @Docnick said. No way to get a reliable 4WD that’s roomy with decent mpgs at your price. A used minivan would be better, but your price will still be a problem.

All the roads in British Columbia where you may want to go are accessible by 2 WD vehicles.
@Docnick : It sounds like OP is interested in adventure travel; that she needs something to get her to trailhead parking, maybe a little bit of car camping, etc. I'd be surprised if you could do that in BC in a 2WD minivan; you can NOT do that in Colorado or New Mexico.

Perhaps BC is better-paved than CO and NM; I wouldn’t have thought so, though!

The Subaru Outback and Forester would be worth a look.

I agree with the others that you’re not likely to get a car in great shape at that price. You’ll need to be prepared for breakdowns and repairs.

Definitely get a pre-purchase inspection, which can save you from buying a money pit.

@meanjoe75fan We have camped and hiked all over British Columbia, and the parks system has designated trail head parking accessible from good roads. Of the 85 or so members in our club, 5 have Subarus, 5 have AWD sport utes and the rest have 2 WD vehicles (cars or minivans).

There are some extreme outback locations accessible from logging roads, but I would NEVER recommend a single person, male or female to head that far out.

When we do venture out there as a group, we worry more about bear and cougar attacks than about getting stuck.

We carry walkie talkies and bear spray as well as emergency and first aid supplies in case someone gets injured.

I don’t think your budget and your desires are in the same ballpark. But I wish you the best anyway. I can’t add anything meaningful to the advice you’ve been given except to emphasize that it’s dead-on right.

I really don’t think anyone can make a good recommendation . Only you can decide if the vehicle is hard to load, controls fit your needs or you just don’t like the way if drives. Use a web site like AUTO TRADER and it is possible you might find something that you never thought of.

You might look at a 2003 or earlier Toyota Sienna with AWD. It is likely to have 150,000 miles on it though.

I think you’re looking at something like an older 4wd Toyota Rav 4 or similar. Or a small-ish 4wd truck with a camper-shell.

If you can get by with front wheel drive, which is almost as good in most conditions, unless you need higher ground clearance, folks who like to car-camp here have said the Prius is a good choice. The seats fold down flat so two people can sleep in the back in comfort, and the rear window makes for good star-gazing.

I especially think a minivan is a bust, because they build them so low anymore, so that you can fold the seats flat and not remove them. You might not need 4wd, but to go car camping in the Rockies, you’ll need ground clearance.

Yeah, but no one can buy a newer one for less than $5000, the OPs desired maximum price.

This is a car you will fall in love with.



Quoting @Docnick

'‘We carry walkie talkies and bear spray as well as emergency and first aid supplies’'

That’s interesting. The last time I entered (Alberta) Canada, which granted was 11 years ago, the three things the border guards asked if we had were guns, citrus fruit, and bear spray. We had none of them. Is bear spray permitted now, or are Canadian bears immune to US bear spray so tourists have to buy it there?

Bear spray is legal but you have to get it from a locally approved outfitter, such as Cabela, and register that you bought it. Same is true for fire arms, although hand guns require a special permit which is hard to get.

Bear spray comes in a bulky can, so I usually carry dog spray, which comes in a smaller container. The hiking lead carries the bear spray.

Puzzled why a Canadian border guard would ask about citrus fruits.

When you go the other way, US customs are very fussy about any fresh fruits.

I once drove to California and the border officer there asked if “I had any seeds on me”. I was tempted to answer in a falsetto voice: “What, me?”.

Pests cross borders unintentionally often enough and with bad enough consequences that customs officials have to check. Fresh fruit and vegetables that you don’t eat and end up in the trash could transfer a a pest that could cost the newly infested country a ton of money.

@Docnick if I had bought bear spray from Cabelas by mail order it might have been OK? I guess they would have wanted to see what kind I had, and only denied entry to brands the bears didn’t like. We did see bears in at least three places in Waterton Lakes National Park, but none were near enough to require spraying.

To keep this automotive, the Taurus SHO V-8 I was driving at the time showed 111,111 miles in Pincher Creek Alberta. I used to have a picture of the odometer. I drove it four more years, and sold it with 148K with very little trouble. It was my favorite car of all time, until I got a 2008 Impala SS.