Have I gotta deal for you
August 2, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Used car advice. Looking for real world feedback on a couple of models I am considering. And for other suggestions as well.

So my not so trusty Subaru has been retired thanks to the local RMV who won't allow it to pass emmisions inspection without me making thousands in repairs. I am okay with this as the car has become a bit of a money pit.

So I am doing some shopping and wanted some feedback or suggestions. I am in New England and put a lot of miles on my car per year. 25k plus in all sorts of conditions, rain, sleet, blizzards, flooding, oppressive heat...etc.. It's part of the job. So I was hoping for a car with AWD that performs well and gets 25+ mpg on the highway. Currently considering Ford Fusion and a Pontiac Vibe as they are both in my price range for 2009-2010 models. I plan on running the car into the ground so the more reliable/longer lasting the better.

I still like the idea of Subaru's and mine did handle really well but I really spent way too much on the thing in repairs.

Very open to all other considerations but do feel strongly about the AWD and mpg criteria. Spending limit is 16-18K depending on what I am getting on my trade.

Thanks metafilter!
posted by WickedPissah to Shopping (16 answers total)
I have a Toyota Matrix (same car as the Vibe). I have the XRS 2wd version, not the AWD version. As far as everything else goes, I love it. Roomy, big trunk, decent gas mileage (but I think the AWD gets slightly worse mileage).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:28 AM on August 2, 2011

I asked a question recently looking for some of the same things you are: AWD, reliability, fuel efficiency. Based on responses about objective consumer reports, I ended up getting a Honda CR-V.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a 1997 Honda CRV with AWD. I bought it used in 2001. It is dented, an ugly green, and has survived 10 vicious winters in Lake Tahoe where we shrug off snowfalls unless we get at least three feet. At a time. It's survived two harsh visits to Burning Man, carrying a cargoload of crap that kept us alive in the desert during the worst of desert conditions. I occasionally take it off-roading, drive 1,000 mile r/t road trips without worrying and weekly drive over a 9,000 foot mountain.

I keep it tuned, get oil changes when I remember to (every 4,000 miles, screw it), and love it to death. Right now the air-conditioning doesn't work very well, but for a car with 140K on it, I can live with it.

I have at least four other friends/relatives who have Honda CRVs. They are truly workhorses and are an overall unbelievable value. Other than regular maintenance, I think I've spent a total of $2,000 over 10 years in repairs. Not bad!
posted by HeyAllie at 12:01 PM on August 2, 2011

I have a Subaru Forester, my father has a Pontiac Vibe (If I remember correctly, his is a 2003 but not the AWD model, mine is a 2004). From reports, the 2004 models on have addressed some reliability problems with Subarus, especially around the head gasket. The only issue I have seen in the car so far is with the air conditioning, which has needed to have fluids topped up twice in the past six months.

My Forester is definitely more ruggedly built and better able to handle adverse weather conditions. The Vibe is noticeably chintzy and plasticy, and has developed a number of cosmetic issues that make it look and feel like an older car.

Both cars have been very well maintained; neither is a money pit. The Vibe leads a very cushy life in an always-sunny climate, the Forester has seen a bit more abuse.

The Forester is hands-down the better handling and more fun car. The Vibe drives like a Toyota Corolla. The Forester is also significantly more spacious. I would much rather drive the Forester in bad weather...it's heavier, tighter, and much more planted, though again, I haven't tried an AWD Vibe.

The Vibe is a lighter car with a smaller engine. It was much cheaper to buy, and gets better gas mileage. I suspect the AWD version may help close the handling gap.

I would worry a bit about maintaining a Vibe well into the future, as Pontiac no longer exists.

Overall, I would tend to think that the Forester would provide a better driving experience in a wider range of conditions, but that the Vibe's better fuel efficiency and lower initial cost would provide a lower total cost of ownership. We went with the Forester over the Vibe or Matrix because it could carry more cargo and because it's more enjoyable to drive. (We went with the Forester over the CRV or RAV4 because the latter two cars were significantly more expensive for comparable mileage).
posted by psycheslamp at 12:11 PM on August 2, 2011

Another Toyota Matrix driver here. I have the 2007 AWD and really like it. Handles well, highway mileage right in the 25 mpg range but not alot of power going up long hills, not bad, just not impressive. Consumer reports rates the Matrix high for reliability and so far I have to agree.
posted by BDoyon at 12:13 PM on August 2, 2011

Also in New England -- I *love* my Honda CR-V, which I bought after finally calling it quits with my own money pit of a Subaru. CR-V handles beautifully in the ice/snow, gets great mpg for its class, has a sterling history with Consumer Reports, is reliable as all get-out. I was so traumatized by my dysfunctional relationship with my old Subaru that I sprung for the 120k mile warranty with the Honda (very reasonably priced), but haven't needed it once.
posted by mmmcmmm at 12:17 PM on August 2, 2011

I have a Pontiac Vibe, which I bought used when my beloved Subaru finally had to go. It just passed 100k miles and I love it. No trouble at all, it's been perfect. It has more room inside than it looks like, but it's only 2wd. I'm in VA so that's not a big deal.

They don't make them anymore (Toyota Matrix if you want a new one) so you'll get it for a lot less than your spending limit. Don't write off Subarus though, I've had two and they both lasted a crazy-long time with few repairs; yours may have been more lemony than usual.
posted by headnsouth at 12:20 PM on August 2, 2011

I've had a 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara for 4 years in snowy, cold Canadian winters and it's never missed a day. It looks like the mpg might not be quite there (23mpg) but otherwise I really recommend them. High clearance, AWD, yadda yadda.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2011

Honda CR-V owner here - the 2001 model. It was new when I got it. It's got 216K miles on it and has had very few problems for a 10 year old car. Let's see - Indoor drivers door opening handle broke, rear hatch handle broke, lost lower heat shield on the catalytic converter, windshield washer pump replaced, and replaced the brake master cylinder filter. That's it.

For maintenance, I've done the timing belts and water pump at each 100K, replaced the fuel filter, spark plugs each year, air filter every 30K, oil every 3-4K, occasionally drain and fill the transmission fluid and replace the rear dual pump fluid when the rear end starts making noise. Other than maintenance, I've had to put less than $1000 in repairs over 10 years. The front brakes lasted 150K miles, it still has the original rear drum pads. It's starting to get some rust on the hood. Other than that no issues that I know of.

I was able to get to work in this year's blizzard, no problems. I wouldn't hesitate to drive around the world in it, if I had the time.

Now watch, it'll probably die on the way home because I bragged about it. :)
posted by davismbagpiper at 12:50 PM on August 2, 2011

As someone who's worked around cars for most of my life, I was constantly asked "what is the best car to buy". I have always told them, "right behind that shiny new car salesroom, there's a repair shop."
Any late model used car you buy today is going to come from a few places. It's a rental or it's a repo or it might have been legitimally traded on a new car or if it's over 3 years old it's off a lease. Any used car you buy is a crap shoot. And don't believe that CARFAX record. You're relying on info that a dealer might or might not have entered into a data base.
IMO get a used car with an existing factory warranty.
For $18K, you can get a new Subaru Impreza.
posted by JohnE at 12:59 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: Okay a lot to absorb here. I know it is ultimately a crapshoot if I buy used a lesson learned with my current car. I am going to check out the CR-V's for sure now. Still a bit leery of the Subaru. Anyone have experience with a Hyundai Santa Fe? I looked at those and 100k warranty is pretty damn awesome.

Thanks again everyone.
posted by WickedPissah at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: Also I swear I searched for threads before asking but sorry for the similar question to rabbitrabbit's. Which is helpful by the way.
posted by WickedPissah at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2011

Just bought my niece a 97 CRV with 195000 miles on it as a beater to get her through the next few years with the assumption I would be doing any repairs, and I was still confident enough in such a high mileage Honda to spend the money. I really like Hondas and CRVs are good hondas. The only chronic weak spot in hondas is the paint (honda leprosy-the clear coat peels off) and automatic transmissions, if you get it flushed every 30-40k this isn't a problem and the modern ones seem to be much better. Their early 'sport shift' automatics are not good transmissions. Honda engines and manual transmissions are as good, if not the best, as any out there.

My experience with Subaru is almost as good as Hondas and they are better in the snow I think. Their drivetrain layout and engine is significantly different than a Honda and this leads to a different driving experience. Don't be too soured on your previous experience, all cars wear out and the newer Subarus have better engines than they did for a few years, any late 90's/early 2000s did tend to have a few problems, but even then they were much more reliable than most domestic cars from the same period. I would say drive both, and also check out the Nissan Juke and the other two cars you mentioned before buying any. Chances are one will really be to your liking.
posted by bartonlong at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2011

My sister has a Vibe. She lives in the mountains and drives a lot for work, 50-150 miles a day depending on which school shes working at. She's had it for 3 years and has only had to do regular maintenance (tires/brakes/oil). She's a pretty aggressive driver and generally pretty hard on cars and it's held up.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:34 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: barlong I am going to start test driving CRV's. I looked up dependability ratings over ten years and the crv's really do shine, especially compared to the Subaru's, that TrueDelta site was eye opening. I know the newer Subie's have better engine's so I am not discounting them entirely. I am probably moving away from the Vibe/Matrix but still want to test drive one. Though after doing more research not too sure about the CRV's in the snow. Not as sure footed as the Subaru AWD system. Decisions decisions.
posted by WickedPissah at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: For the record, I went with the CRV. Color me impressed. Great mileage, drives great, really well designed and very practical for someone like me that needs that.
posted by WickedPissah at 9:30 PM on August 20, 2011

« Older What are some good places for cycling around...   |   Lyonnaise chocolate imported the States? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.