What am I looking for?

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Every six months or so I think about if it's time to get out of my Jetta. Or if I should get a spare. Since tonight I had to have it towed off the highway I think I'm justified in looking once again. [I think it's the turbo. I could be wrong. But it lost power, started trailing blue smoke, and then just before I shut it down there was some screeching. Whatever it was it won't be cheap.] I haven't ruled out keeping the Jetta, as the 45mpg makes for a nice commuter; it's paid off also. And honestly, after it gets repaired, it may well be as reliable as the sun (for a year or two). But since I was planning on driving around 200 miles tomorrow (90 for the usual commute, another 120 for work and probably another 10 in errands) and then take the camper out this weekend, it's, well, frustrating. The wife has the same problem: we both need cars pretty much every day. We are both driving 25kmiles/year, perhaps even more. So perhaps this will drive me over the bend into a third vehicle; or it'll drive me over the bend for a newer do-all vehicle. With that out of the way, what do I want/need? At this point, if I am to replace the Jetta I am fine with a $20-25k new vehicle (you can read this as I can afford the payment with ease). If I am to have only one vehicle, then I want it not only new (or very close to it) I want it reliable. If I were to buy a third vehicle, I am more leaning towards $5k, as the Jetta is going to need a few $k at the moment, and whatever I buy needs to have a couple $k lying around "just in case". What I would like is to gain some towing capacity, for the camper that I have yet to take out this year; I would like AWD as NH has winters and I live in a semi-rural area. I need 4 doors. I would like a hatch like the wagon I has; but I guess that is optional if it has a class II/III hitch I can use a trailer (if I have AWD, otherwise the trailer sits out the winter) and/or trailer cargo rack (FWD/AWD). If I go the third vehicle route then I don't care about mpg's, but do care about getting 30 or more if I am to have but one vehicle. Also, if it's the third vehicle then it is allowed to be an automatic. If I go the new vehicle route I'd prefer stick but I know that is likely to not happen. And on a third vehicle I'd prefer not to have a problem vehicle. On my list thus far: -CRV is nice, but I don't like the AWD: it waits until slippage is detected then transfers powers. Maybe it's good enough for what I need. But I don't know about a good class II/III hitch for it, and I know it's only 1,500lb towing. -RAV4 has the center diff lock, so it's apt to be better in my mind. Same 4 banger as my Camry. Not crazy about the timing chain, but I guess I could trade out at 150k. I've been warned about the V6 models (water pump, 5spd auto whine) so I'm apt to avoid; I've read the 4 banger will tow 2k "ok" and the 4 cylinder model will certainly take a class III hitch. 2009 and newer so as to get the good 2.5L. But no stickshift. frown Also I've read it has a pricey exhaust system, and I'm sure it has plenty of other pricey bits on it. -Older 4Runner. Again I'm not sure about the timing chain 4.0, so I'm guessing 2000-2004-ish models. The 3.4 is thirsty, so this would have to be a third vehicle (4.0 won't be much better anyhow). Not readily available in stickshift, but it'll be a beast in the snow. Rust, radiators that leak coolant into the ATF, lower ball joints are weak spots from what I've read. I guess I could go back to '96 for a 3.4L in reality, but that seems rather old. Am concerned about high cost of tires, brakes, components in general. -similar vintage GM trucks, again sub-20mpg but weak transmission, gauge clusters, front ends, rust can be an issue. Extended cab models appear to have enough room to be workable. -I guess Ford trucks should be in the running, but honestly, I don't need a truck. It'd be nice, but it's overkill. I pretty much ruled out trucks a while ago; while it'd be nice to tow a house I'd rather get a hotel room than pull a camper that big. -Tacoma double cab would be nice though. But not cheap used, and certainly not cheap enough new nor with with enough mpg's for a primary. -Jeep? Nah. All sorts of issues. -Mazda? Rust? Nah. -Nissan? Thirst and rust. Nah. -Ford/GM: have they really gotten it together? I hate to be a snob, but I feel like their SUV's aren't all that and then some; and that their other models which are stone reliable don't have quite what I'm after (mpg, towing, etc). -go pre-96, so as to avoid OBDII, and the emissions checks? Tempting, on a spare vehicle; but now we're talking 15 year old vehicles. In my advancing age I'm starting think more about those safety features that are now standard. -Subaru? High mpg models are with the CVT, which is an unknown at the moment. Non-CVT aren't that great (or they weren't the last time I looked). I do recall at least one model as being 2,400lb rated for towing so I should look again. And they have kept the stickshift around, and nobody complains about the AWD on them. -VW? Love the car, not going to deal with the dealers. Plus, I'm not sure the gas models really get me anything; and I already have their diesel version, which isn't sorta meeting the needs. I feel like the right "do-all" vehicle is RAV4, maybe a Subaru; and I "feel" like I don't want to run the gamble on a well-used vehicle for a spare... And I don't think I want to trade out of the Camry right now. Wife likes the car; I'm so-so but it does the job we need it to do. And it gets the same sort of milage/year as my car does, so it's not as if she could just start driving a 15mpg SUV. If it wasn't for the camper (a 1,500lb GVWR pop-up) I suspect I'd be getting a Corolla or other similar econobox. *deep breath* Time to sleep it off and wait for my repair estimate. I fear there isn't anything out there that really meets what I want, at least not good enough to spend money and/or change horses.
 

supton

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Wow, that was a huge post! Sorry about that. I guess I needed to work through some thoughts about why I shouldn't buy a new car.
 
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How about a small Honda with about 30K on the clock so the drive from the show room cost is not from your pocket, but it still has plenty of life and many miles with good MPGs left in it?
 
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Originally Posted By: supton
If it wasn't for the camper (a 1,500lb GVWR pop-up) I suspect I'd be getting a Corolla or other similar econobox.
Even my corolla is rated to tow 1500 lbs. I'm not saying buy corolla, but a lot of cars can pull 1500 lbs, maybe including the Camry you have. Have you looked at the newer Hyundai cars? Sounds like you have a long commute, I would also look at hybrid cars (forget the towing part though).
 

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Camry, at least ours, is 1k, as per manual. Trailer is 1k dry, 1.6k wet; and it has little storage space in it. While I suspect our Camry would pull it fine, I don't exactly know why it's rated so low--maybe something is marginal for all I know on it. If I can, I'd like to have reserve towing rating, as I won't rule out a size larger camper next year. Wasn't planning to look at Dodge, haven't looked at Santa Fe, forgot about Hyundai actually. I should look at that manufacturer, they have come a long ways.
 
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Originally Posted By: supton
-CRV is nice, but I don't like the AWD: it waits until slippage is detected then transfers powers. Maybe it's good enough for what I need. But I don't know about a good class II/III hitch for it, and I know it's only 1,500lb towing.
This has changed for 2012, if you are looking at new models. The CR-V's new AWD system is electronically-controlled and can engage faster than the old unit can. If you plan to regularly tow 1,600 pounds, however, I'd skip the CR-V. It does many things well, but it's not a very good tow vehicle.
 
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Originally Posted By: JimPghPA
How about a small Honda with about 30K on the clock so the drive from the show room cost is not from your pocket, but it still has plenty of life and many miles with good MPGs left in it?
Unfortunately based on my recent research, this isn't necessarily the case anymore, especially for Hondas. Dealers are at least trying to get near new car prices for 1-2 year old vehicles.
 
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From a cost standpoint, your best bet is *probably* to fix the Jetta and get a $5k 4Runner or F150. Compared to a 30 mpg new car, the fuel savings will likely cover most of the increased ownership costs of a third vehicle. However, at 259k miles, you may be tired of the Jetta, or concerned that more frequent and expensive maintenance items will require attention. A Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage may be worth a look in that case. Under $25k, AWD, tows 2000 lbs, 28 mpg highway. Mazda CX-5 is another option, if they've fixed the rust problems from some of their early '00s models. $25k, AWD, tows 2000 lbs, 31 mpg highway.
 

supton

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Just got the estimate on my VW, and it's as I thought: bad turbo, but I got lucky and it didn't ingest the bits that got loose. Estimate is right where I expect it too; high but I had some other repairs to do also, so I'll be right around $3k for turbo, timing belt and some other repairs. Now that I've had a night to sleep the 4Runner idea is coming around again. I don't really want to deal with vehicles in and out of shops; but honestly, $3k here, $5k for a 4Runner and then $2k/year between two vehicles is still loads less than one new $25k vehicle. That might be the best bet. At least I was able to borrow a friends car indefinately, so I am not "forced" into any rush decisions here.
 
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My sister has a '98 4runner, my brother had an '01. Very reliable. Lots of miles on them with minimal maintenance. 3.4L would get 20-21 mpg highway at up to 75mph, ~19 in 4x4 trim. Horrible seats for anything over an hour, though. I had to bring a small pillow or use a jacket for lumbar support when I was the one driving. Solid vehicles for sure, though. They never touched the ATF and had over 450k combined miles.
 

supton

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I'm fine with that; a solid, well known 3.4L V6, and a solid, well known A340(something). The 4.0's are more powerful, and have a timing chain; but I think I have higher trust in the belt. I mean, an '05-ish 4Runner will run closer to $10k and still be on the other side of 150k; and methinks any negligence on PO's part will show up first on that all-important chain. For what I want (price range, usage) simpler is better. May not be as fancy, nor get as good mpg's: but certainly easier to repair (or might not break in the first place).
 
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Originally Posted By: supton
Just got the estimate on my VW, and it's as I thought: bad turbo, but I got lucky and it didn't ingest the bits that got loose. Estimate is right where I expect it too; high but I had some other repairs to do also, so I'll be right around $3k for turbo, timing belt and some other repairs.
A friend of mine repairs VW/Bosch turbos, injectors, and pumps for diesels in Europe. Raking huge profits and expanding the business. He says these expensive things are almost guaranteed to brake at the 300,000 km point. For that reason, I stay away from VW TDI.
 
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Probably the best thing is to toss money at the TDI. Once it's fixed, it should be fine for another 150k miles. It's not afflicted with many problems of the newer TDI's, so it sound like a keeper. Even if it is high-maintenance. It's still a jack-of-all-trades vehicle that won't easily be replaced. The problem with older trucks in the Northeast is that most have been run hard and put away wet/salty. Things rust quickly on them, and they're a real nightmare to repair when that one bolt is rust-welded into its hole, and there's no way to drill it out if it snaps off.
 

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Crown Vic? [censored] no. You missed the part about driving 25k/year on each vehicle. At 50kmiles/year combined a pair of Crown Vic's would eat me alive on gas. One as a spare/backup vehicle, maybe. Also, my wife insists on a stickshift; and I kinda prefer one too.
 
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Get one with 2.73 gears and a Vic will manage 28+MPG on the highway. Even a P71 (with deeper gears) will manage 24-25. Bonus: they will run 500,000 miles.
 
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