What vehicle should I get?

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
Messages
183
I may be in the market for a new (used) vehicle.

What I care about:
  • Reliable
  • Drives well in snow
  • Seats fold down in the back with enough space to sleep 2 6-ft-tall people side-by-side (or if it's a pickup, enough length in the back to be able to sleep comfortably)
  • High-clearance 4wd preferred (capable of getting to many of the 4wd trailheads in Southern UT)
  • Fits 5 people not too uncomfortably (we have a minivan, but we will occasionally need to fit the family in the other car). This will probably rule out smaller pickups.
  • Good gas mileage
  • Not bigger than I need it to be
What I don't care about:
  • How it looks
  • How "fun" it is to drive (how fast, how nimble, how quickly it can accelerate, how quiet, etc.)---I mostly just want to be able to get from point A to point B
  • Modern bells and whistles. I would prefer to have cruise control, working A/C, and power windows/doors, but none of these are absolutely mandatory, and I don't need any more modern features.
  • Interior comfort. I just want the car to get me where I want to go without any major problems; I don't care how fancy it looks/feels on the inside.
  • Power---I don't need to haul a boat or a trailer or anything with this; as long as it will drive me around the city and on some kind of rough roads, that's fine.
  • I don't really need a pickup for hauling stuff, so I'm leaning away from the pickup option.
I'm frugal, so I would only want to spend a lot if I can convince myself that it will be a good financial decision in the long run. I would like to minimize the total amount I spend over the years of ownership, where
total amount spent = initial price + repairs over the years + gas + my time spent hassling with repairs/replacement​
I imagine this will mean I spend somewhere between 6k and 20k, but I'm not sure exactly where in that range.

Anyway, the 4runner stands out to me, except that used 4runners are very expensive. My current vehicle that I am replacing is an Outback, which has been good for me, but I would prefer something with higher clearance and 4wd, and with a little more room in the back to sleep two people in (my 2003 Outback isn't quite long enough to fit me comfortably in the back). Any suggestions?
 

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regehr

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Mar 28, 2012
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1,224
4runner except I can't think how to sleep two 6-footers in the back. I think you'd likely need to remove the rear seats instead of just folding them down. there's a lot of material out there on sleeping in the back of a 4runner, a plywood platform seems to be a common element. I've never slept in my 4runner but keep meaning to try this out, had been assuming I'll need to sleep diagonally as well as everything else (I'm 6' also).

my '06 4runner has removable 3rd row seats but at least some of the newer models have these in there full time, which eats up some space. not sure how hard it is to remove the built-in ones.

a friend recently grabbed an old '95 4runner, those seem to have quite a bit better clearance than later ones, but then he ended up dropping more money than he had intended to make it into something he thought would be reliable.

Xterras seem nice too. No longer made, so perhaps looking forward there may be issues finding parts. But perhaps not so pricey as the 4runners for the same age vehicle.
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
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Xterras seem nice too. No longer made, so perhaps looking forward there may be issues finding parts. But perhaps not so pricey as the 4runners for the same age vehicle.
unfortunately, in Xterras you can not sleep comfortably if you're tall. I'm only 5'4 and have to sleep diagonally because the back with the collapsed seats is not long enough. The Special Edition is a few inches longer but if you're tall it will still be a problem. Otherwise, a great car but it will be my last one after they are discontinued.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
Messages
183
Thanks for the quick replies! Sounds like Xterra is off my list for now (I was planning on looking into those); I do really want to find something that I can sleep in the back of. I love driving to trailheads here in CO the night before a hike and just sleeping in the back of the car; I actually use our minivan for my backpacking trips more often than my Outback for this reason. It would be ideal if the seats just fold down flat like my minivan, but it's not a deal-breaker at all if I have to remove the seats (as long as that's not too hard) or put in a platform.
 

Wanderlust073

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Pickup truck is great for most outdoor activities imo. Not as nimble as a jeep but checks a lot of boxes, especially around hauling gear and people, that a jeep doesn’t. 5 (or 6) people fit inside comfortably. If you want to sleep in the bed, get a longer bed.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Messages
183
Rockskipper---looks very nice, but probably older than what I'm looking for.

Wanderlust073---yeah, I haven't ruled out the pickup option yet. I'm leaning towards a 4runner if I can find a good deal and if I can verify the "sleep 2 in the back" part, but I'm also considering a pickup or even something like a Subaru (cheaper and better gas mileage, at the price of worse clearance and 4wd). If anyone has any other suggestions, I'm all ears.
 

Yvonne

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Rockskipper---looks very nice, but probably older than what I'm looking for.

Wanderlust073---yeah, I haven't ruled out the pickup option yet. I'm leaning towards a 4runner if I can find a good deal and if I can verify the "sleep 2 in the back" part, but I'm also considering a pickup or even something like a Subaru (cheaper and better gas mileage, at the price of worse clearance and 4wd). If anyone has any other suggestions, I'm all ears.
have you ever looked at the Hertz Rent to Buy options? They often have 4 - Runners or something similar to what you're looking for. That's how I got an amazing car in Hawai'i where cars are ridiculously expensive. I would do the same thing anytime again in the future if all other options would fall through.
And my next car will probably a 4-Runner as well
 

Stephanie B

Steph and Blake
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How about a Tacoma with the 6 foot bed and a cap? Very reliable, less spendy as compared to a 4Runner, can seat 5. We see them all the time in the backcountry. You can build out the bed with a platform to get you sleeping above the wheel wells and leave you with plenty of storage under the platform. If you’re ever near Grand Junction we’d be happy to show you how we built out our F250.
 

Bob

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unfortunately, in Xterras you can not sleep comfortably if you're tall. I'm only 5'4 and have to sleep diagonally because the back with the collapsed seats is not long enough. The Special Edition is a few inches longer but if you're tall it will still be a problem. Otherwise, a great car but it will be my last one after they are discontinued.
No issues for parts... Many xterras and frontiers out there... They share parts. Look to 2005 and newer. Toyotas are overpriced as well as Subarus. A Subaru is not a tough road vehicle it is for those days you need all wheel on roads... No matter what people say... Half ton pickups are proven
 

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RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
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183
have you ever looked at the Hertz Rent to Buy options? They often have 4 - Runners or something similar to what you're looking for. That's how I got an amazing car in Hawai'i where cars are ridiculously expensive. I would do the same thing anytime again in the future if all other options would fall through.
And my next car will probably a 4-Runner as well
Thanks for the tip. In the past, I've always gotten old, cheap cars on craigslist, so I haven't yet figured out the tradeoffs between buying new vs. slightly used vs. very used vs. rent-to-buy vs. carmax/etc... I'll definitely consider the rent-to-buy option.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Messages
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How about a Tacoma with the 6 foot bed and a cap? Very reliable, less spendy as compared to a 4Runner, can seat 5. We see them all the time in the backcountry. You can build out the bed with a platform to get you sleeping above the wheel wells and leave you with plenty of storage under the platform. If you’re ever near Grand Junction we’d be happy to show you how we built out our F250.
Yeah, I'm starting to warm up to the idea of a pickup. I don't like the decreased leg room for the people in back, but I like how hassle-free it would be to sleep in the back (no need to remove seats and such).
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Messages
183
No issues for parts... Many xterras and frontiers out there... They share parts. Look to 2005 and newer. Toyotas are overpriced as well as Subarus. A Subaru is not a tough road vehicle it is for those days you need all wheel on roads... No matter what people say... Half ton pickups are proven
Thanks for the info Bob. I agree that a Subaru isn't nearly as tough as a pickup/4runner/etc. for the really rough roads. Unfortunately, though, I realistically don't drive on those rough roads very often at all (there's a disconnect between reality and fantasy here), so I'm still considering a Subaru or similar due to the lower cost and better fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, I'm finding that picking a vehicle is like picking a shelter/tent---there is no perfect one, just different options that are all bad in their own ways. And just like with the shelter, it's tough to find the best compromise for all the planned usage.
 
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Bob

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Thanks for the info Bob. I agree that a Subaru isn't nearly as tough as a pickup/4runner/etc. for the really rough roads. Unfortunately, though, I realistically don't drive on those rough roads very often at all (there's a disconnect between reality and fantasy here), so I'm still considering a Subaru or similar due to the lower cost and better fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, I'm finding that picking a vehicle is like picking a shelter/tent---there is no perfect one, just different options that are all bad in their own ways. And just like with the shelter, it's tough to find the best compromise for all the planned usage.
Yep.... Had to be the one you like. I have had Nissan trucks and an Xterra for going on 30 years. Wife loved the xterra.... The Nissan's aren't mpg great tho. got her a Nissan rogue. So far it's got decent ground clearance, handles 8 in of snow great and 28 mpg. I got a Silverado in 12, worked out great got 19 to 21 mpg. Got a newer one now different stuff on it but still get 19 mpg.....
 

Yvonne

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No issues for parts... Many xterras and frontiers out there... They share parts. Look to 2005 and newer. Toyotas are overpriced as well as Subarus. A Subaru is not a tough road vehicle it is for those days you need all wheel on roads... No matter what people say... Half ton pickups are proven
I love my XTerra, always had one. I hope I can drive the one I have now for a few more years.
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
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Love my Xterra as well. But I think a pickup (Tacoma or maybe Frontier) with a 6ft bed would be your option if you want to sleep in something. I don't know if you can get a crew-cab with a 6 ft bed. My buddy has an Xtracab Tacoma because he wanted such a bed and couldn't find one w/ a crew cab.
 

Bob

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Love my Xterra as well. But I think a pickup (Tacoma or maybe Frontier) with a 6ft bed would be your option if you want to sleep in something. I don't know if you can get a crew-cab with a 6 ft bed. My buddy has an Xtracab Tacoma because he wanted such a bed and couldn't find one w/ a crew cab.
I sleep in back of frontier quite often on wildland fires... It's a Xtra cab. But a 04... Don't know about new ones
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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I ended up going the boring/economical route and buying an Outback. If I lived in UT or Southern CO I almost surely would have gotten a 4runner, but I just couldn't justify it living in Denver (I rarely need the 4wd in Northern CO). This Outback (2017) is longer and has more clearance than my old one, though, so it should be great for sleeping in the back and should be slightly better than my old one on the rough roads. Thanks all for the suggestions!
 

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