What car should I buy?

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Jan 4, 2015
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Looking for some advice on vehicle selection as it relates to backcountry adventuring. My '02 Forester is begging to be put to pasture, and I'm not quite sure what to replace it with.

Must-haves:
  1. 4WD or AWD
  2. Long enough to sleep in the back (I'm 5'7"ish) - I can build a sleep platform like I have in my current car
  3. Adequate ground clearance for those crappy roads to the trailhead (Cedar Mesa, Escalante, etc)
  4. Practical enough to be driven on an everyday basis. I don't have a super-long commute.
I'm thinking something in the crossover-small SUV family. Not a pickup - that's a little too much vehicle for my needs. I'm probably looking for something in the 5-8 yrs old range.

Anybody else have similar needs? What vehicle did you go with?





In action: #crappybeatupsubarulife. Eagle-eyed folks will spot the BCP sticker.

20190109_161625.jpg
 
we have a newish Forrester, I think it's a 2017, that's quite nice. haven't really pushed it to any difficult trailheads but it has decent clearance and should do fine. also I rented a rav4 a couple of times back when I used to rent cars and liked them quite a bit. again, never pushed one on a bumpy road but seems like it would be ok too.
 
we have a newish Forrester, I think it's a 2017, that's quite nice. haven't really pushed it to any difficult trailheads but it has decent clearance and should do fine. also I rented a rav4 a couple of times back when I used to rent cars and liked them quite a bit. again, never pushed one on a bumpy road but seems like it would be ok too.
I'm not a huge fan of the new Foresters, just because it's all big and round and much less space-efficient than my old Forester. But it might end up being the best choice still. I'll definitely look at the new RAV-4. The old ones had a really short back, but that car's been completely redesigned if I remember
 
I'm facing a bit of a similar situation with my 4runner getting pretty long in the tooth and has had more stuff failing the last couple years. not in love with any of the stuff that's out there, ugh. wish they still made the 2003 Tacoma!!
 
I'm facing a bit of a similar situation with my 4runner getting pretty long in the tooth and has had more stuff failing the last couple years. not in love with any of the stuff that's out there, ugh. wish they still made the 2003 Tacoma!!
What kind of mileage does your 4runner get? I know a lot of them (at least the older ones) are pretty guzzly.
 
I have a 2000 4Runner Limited. Great vehicle & has a rear locker. I get 20 MPG on the hwy. They are hard to find.
 
I'm not a huge fan of the new Foresters, just because it's all big and round and much less space-efficient than my old Forester. But it might end up being the best choice still. I'll definitely look at the new RAV-4. The old ones had a really short back, but that car's been completely redesigned if I remember

If you aren't crazy about the new Forester, what about the Outback (Rick asked) ?
Subaru Outback Build out video here
 
I had a very similar question about a year ago; you can see the resulting thread here: https://backcountrypost.com/threads/what-vehicle-should-i-get.9002/

It didn't take me long to narrow it down to two options: Outback and 4-runner. I ended up getting an outback. I am tall (6'3'') and wanted a car I could sleep in, so I didn't seriously research the RAV-4, which is shorter (at least in the years I looked into). I believe the newer Subarus also have a few inches additional clearance vs most of the other crossovers as well. I would have considered a pickup more seriously if I didn't have kids that I sometimes need to fit as passengers. I really wanted the 4-runner but just couldn't justify the gas mileage since I live in Denver and would sadly only really need the high clearance 4wd once or twice a year or so. If I lived elsewhere (e.g., Utah) I would have gone with the 4-runner. Used 4-runners are very expensive but are also very reliable and have insane resale value, so the deciding factor for me was the poor gas mileage.
 
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I had a very similar question about a year ago; your can see the resulting thread here: https://backcountrypost.com/threads/what-vehicle-should-i-get.9002/

It didn't take me long to narrow it down to two options: Outback and 4-runner. I ended up getting an outback. I am tall (6'3'') and wanted a car I could sleep in, so I didn't seriously research the RAV-4, which is shorter (at least in the years I looked into). I believe the newer Subarus also have a few inches additional clearance vs most of the other crossovers as well. I would have considered a pickup more seriously if I didn't have kids that I sometimes need to fit as passengers. I really wanted the 4-runner but just couldn't justify the gas mileage since I live in Denver and would sadly only really need the high clearance 4wd once or twice a year or so. If I lived elsewhere (e.g., Utah) I would have gone with the 4-runner. Used 4-runners are very expensive but are also very reliable and have insane resale value, so the decided factor for me was the poor gas mileage.
Ha! Your needs were quite similar to mine - minus the height thing. Out of curiosity, are you able to lay "straight" in the back, or do you have to sleep on the diagonal? And do you pop either of the front seats forward?
 
Toughen up buy a truck with a shell.. my 5.3 Silverado gets 19 mpg minimum
 
Ha! Your needs were quite similar to mine - minus the height thing. Out of curiosity, are you able to lay "straight" in the back, or do you have to sleep on the diagonal? And do you pop either of the front seats forward?
I'm able to lie down completely straight. When I went to the dealer to check out the car, I think they were surprised that one of the first things I did was test to see if I could lie down straight in the back. I haven't tried sleeping two in the back yet, but I think it would fit me on one side plus a shorter person (like one of my kids) on the other side. That setup probably won't be very comfortable though and it really works better with just one.

The trick is to shift the front seat forward, then recline it back all the way (after pulling out the headrest). Then just fold the back seat down so that it lies flat. I then throw a few yoga mats and foam sleeping pads on top, followed by my thick car-camping sleeping pad. I prop a few pillows under my head (since my head would otherwise go down at an angle where the front seat meets the back seat), and it is quite comfy and flat. Here are a few photos:
1607411191730.png
1607411264085.png

The back seat folds forward completely flat, which is very nice. My old Outback was shorter, so you had to sleep at a diagonal, but it also didn't fold completely flat like this. I think I only slept in the back of that a couple of times in my 10 years with the car. I have already slept in this new one a handful of times, because it's much more comfortable. The one downside is that while it's quick and easy to make it completely flat, it's not completely level. You can see in the photo that I use some tire leveling things which are pretty quick and easy to use. Between using those and just parking in the proper direction relative to whatever incline the road/surface has, I've had good luck getting a level sleeping surface.

I didn't personally consider a Forester because I wanted the longer car for sleeping in the back, but if I were a little shorter I would have considered that. I think the approach and departure angles are slightly better, and I think they have slightly better visibility. I sure love the long back of the Outback though; it's also nice for throwing a bicycle in the back, which I do all the time.
 
Gonna put in another vote for the Outback. Our 2017 Outback (purchased in June 2016) hasn't had a single issue aside from a small passenger door issue covered by our warranty, and it's gotten us everywhere we've needed to go. I'm 5'7" and have slept in it. Didn't have to go diagonal (but also if I were a few inches taller, I would have had to).

That said, I eventually want to get a small truck or something similar for the additional off-road capability on more difficult mountain roads. Was going to replace my Civic for one next fall, but the Civic crapped out on me a few months ago and I didn't have the funds for the truck. So I got an Impreza.
 
That said, I eventually want to get a small truck or something similar

Small truck is worst of everything to be honest. Cost nearly as much as a full size while offering less of everything that makes a truck a truck. I had a GMC Canyon for a couple years and was just constantly irritated by everything it couldn't do, couldn't haul, couldn't fit in the bed and the thing was so crippled to achieve 'good mpg' stats it may as well have been a car.

Full size is the way to go if you're going to get a truck imo.

FIGHT ME TACO OWNERS!!!
 
Small truck is worst of everything to be honest. Cost nearly as much as a full size while offering less of everything that makes a truck a truck. I had a GMC Canyon for a couple years and was just constantly irritated by everything it couldn't do, couldn't haul, couldn't fit in the bed and the thing was so crippled to achieve 'good mpg' stats it may as well have been a car.

Full size is the way to go if you're going to get a truck imo.

FIGHT ME TACO OWNERS!!!
Hahah. I actually think you're probably right, and I appreciate hearing it from you. You can get a full sized truck used for a lot less comparatively than a small one used too. I was actually very slightly considering used Silverados, Sierras, and F-150s before I got the Impreza.
 
Small truck is worst of everything to be honest. Cost nearly as much as a full size while offering less of everything that makes a truck a truck. I had a GMC Canyon for a couple years and was just constantly irritated by everything it couldn't do, couldn't haul, couldn't fit in the bed and the thing was so crippled to achieve 'good mpg' stats it may as well have been a car.

Full size is the way to go if you're going to get a truck imo.

FIGHT ME TACO OWNERS!!!
Lol... Also have a nissan frontier since 2006. Goes anywhere, including most 4x4 trails in Moab, hauls anything I want to haul and I can sleep in the back.... Have many times .. you must be taller than me. Don't have a camp trainer to pull ...
 
Former Taco owner. Loved it, took it everywhere, put a shell on the back and could sleep in it with tons of room, later put a small pop-up camper on it and lived the life of luxury. Never any mechanical problems. But now they're too expensive.

I have an FJ cruiser and love it, but not for urban anything because of poor visibility out the front/side. Can't tell you how many times I've almost pulled out in front of a car I didn't see because of the thick posts and huge side mirrors. I now look a bunch of times before pulling out. Have 230k miles, only minor repairs and have camped in it so many times I've lost count. It will go anywhere.
 
I'm able to lie down completely straight. When I went to the dealer to check out the car, I think they were surprised that one of the first things I did was test to see if I could lie down straight in the back. I haven't tried sleeping two in the back yet, but I think it would fit me on one side plus a shorter person (like one of my kids) on the other side. That setup probably won't be very comfortable though and it really works better with just one.

The trick is to shift the front seat forward, then recline it back all the way (after pulling out the headrest). Then just fold the back seat down so that it lies flat. I then throw a few yoga mats and foam sleeping pads on top, followed by my thick car-camping sleeping pad. I prop a few pillows under my head (since my head would otherwise go down at an angle where the front seat meets the back seat), and it is quite comfy and flat. Here are a few photos:
View attachment 94551
View attachment 94552

The back seat folds forward completely flat, which is very nice. My old Outback was shorter, so you had to sleep at a diagonal, but it also didn't fold completely flat like this. I think I only slept in the back of that a couple of times in my 10 years with the car. I have already slept in this new one a handful of times, because it's much more comfortable. The one downside is that while it's quick and easy to make it completely flat, it's not completely level. You can see in the photo that I use some tire leveling things which are pretty quick and easy to use. Between using those and just parking in the proper direction relative to whatever incline the road/surface has, I've had good luck getting a level sleeping surface.

I didn't personally consider a Forester because I wanted the longer car for sleeping in the back, but if I were a little shorter I would have considered that. I think the approach and departure angles are slightly better, and I think they have slightly better visibility. I sure love the long back of the Outback though; it's also nice for throwing a bicycle in the back, which I do all the time.
This is detailed and excellent info - thank you! One of my "nice-to-haves would be a sleep setup where I can still use both front seats without having to change anything around. Right now I can kind of do that - but the front seat has to be slid all the way forward so whoever's riding shotgun ends up eating their kneecaps.

I'll have to check the extra length on the new subes to see if it's enough of an improvement over my old one. The not-laying-flat thing drove me crazy for a while, until I finally built a platform. After that it was gloriously comfy - except when someone needed to ride shotgun.
 
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