What kind of vehicle do we need?
April 26, 2012 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I don't know enough about cars. Should we trade in the Subaru for a pick-up truck? If so, how do we pick a truck?

We sold my husbands exceptionally crappy truck two years ago because we'd left Ranch Country and moved to a place on the east coast where the roads are actually paved. We got a Subaru Outback because everyone recommended them and the AWD was handy for the snow. The Subaru has performed admirably over the last two years but now we're moving to the middle-of-nowhere again, (Montana this time) to a big ranch with dirt roads. My husband says he'd feel more comfortable driving a truck out there, and I believe him but I have questions about how we go about this.

We paid $4,000 cash for our Subaru (we got $5,000 for the truck we sold) and thought we'd drive it for the next ten years or so. Subarus have a good reputation for lasting to the 300,000 mile mark, so we were hopeful. According to the Kelly Blue Book we'd get $7,000 max for it now, which isn't terrible. We want to sell the Subaru here on the east coast a) because the market for Subarus here is huge and b) so that we can use the truck to help us in our move.

However, trucks seem to be insanely expensive. That $7,000 from the Subaru sale (if we can get it) isn't going to go very far. Even used trucks are expensive (e.g. $20,000). I've always thought that buying a used car made more sense, but now I'm wondering if it'd be better to buy a new truck and at least have the warranty. Not to mention trucks get crappy, crappy mileage but there are some new hybrid versions that get up to 20mpg, which is about the same as our Subaru.

We have savings, but not enough to pay for a new truck outright. We'd have to get a loan and aggressively pay it off. We have no debt of any kind at the moment.

So -- are we being silly? Should we just keep the Subaru? It has AWD after all. But, if we decide to trade it in is it smarter to buy a used truck (because new cars depreciate so fast) or buy the new truck because used cars are so expensive and we'll get a warranty? What's conventional wisdom on vehicles these days?
posted by blue_bicycle to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are the reasons for wanting a truck ?

Hauling crap in the bed ? Mounting a snow plow ? Towing trailers ? Driving on crappy dirt/washout roads ?

Of those, a truck will do better than a sube for most, but if the main worry is just crappy roads, a sube may do better. I believe ours (2008 outback) has either 6 or 8" ground clearance, which ain't too shabby for bad roads/rutted roads, and has AWD. Plus the sube will almost definitely have better mileage than a truck.
posted by k5.user at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buying a truck for the sole reason to help you move is an exceptionally silly move. That's what U-Haul is for, if you need it. Evaluate your need for a truck when you are in Montana. There's no reason to be premature about a $20k decision. It sounds like you are overestimating your needs.
posted by saeculorum at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a 2012 outback. I'd drive it anywhere I'd drive a pickup truck. I also have an old two-wheel-drive Chevy pickup, and the Subaru is much, much more capable in any sort of challenging conditions. Heck, I've gotten my truck stuck in my own backyard (I live in the forest/mountains), but the Subaru never would have gotten stuck there. The only reason I have the truck is to haul things around (home depot trips, bringing the trash cans down to the street, etc).

The *only* advantage my truck has over my Outback is that you can haul more stuff around in it, and that's the only reason I'd get one over the Subaru.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:05 AM on April 26, 2012

There is no "conventional wisdom". You can either spend a LOT of money and buy a new truck, or you can spend some money on a used truck, or you can spend no money and keep your capable Subaru. I'd keep the Subaru unless I was especially drawn to the qualities of some specific other vehicle. Do you personally value cars as an interesting and rewarding part of you life? Then spend more on them. If not, spend the minimum possible.
posted by colinshark at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2012

The only thing I can think of that would concretely legitimize your ditching the Subaru is ranch work. Subarus are kickass, and you can drive them to hell and back, but if you're going to be doing cowboy wild west ranch stuff a truck might be better simply for its huge bed. Or you could do like tylerkaraszewski and do both! In this vein, a used old beater truck is the best kind of thing to take ranch-flavored abuse. And if it's not how you get around, it doesn't have to be in the best of shape.

Short of that, I think you'll be fine, if not better off, in the Subaru.
posted by Chutzler at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2012

A pickup truck is a worse everyday vehicle than a Subaru for almost everybody, even in Montana. Unless you're going to be doing truck stuff at least a few times a month keep the Subie.
posted by ghharr at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2012

Unless you need the load bed on the truck for putting things in and carrying them on a regular basis, the Subaru is far more capable than any truck for every day driving. On paved roads it is vastly superior and likely better on (every day) unpaved roads. The sense of comfort derived from the truck is perception, rather than reality. Trucks are utilitarian vehicles, they suck at road holding and anything other than 'carrying and towing stuff'.
posted by Brockles at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2012

Thanks everyone. My husband actually is a cowboy/rancher but the ranch that is hiring him will provide him with a truck for work related hauling etc. I think he was mostly concerned about the poor quality roads around the ranch (paving? What's that?) than anything. But everyone seems to vouch for their subaru's handling, so that's good to hear.
posted by blue_bicycle at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2012

The best off road vehicle I have ever had was an old Subaru BRAT, really. I have had lots of 4WD over the years (I am currently restoring a 69 fj40 using money I got from selling a Jeep Wrangler YJ) and that little POS was awesome. It would keep running under truly appalling conditions, it was so light getting it unstuck was super easy, it got decent mileage and it had a really short wheelbase with about 9" of clearance. The thing had an adjustable height suspension, a dual range transfer case and did I mention lightness? (my dad was a wrecker driver/truck driver and we put it on scales once-1900 lbs with me setting in it and almost perfect 50/50 weight split). Anyway my point is Subaru knows how to build a tough, capable little vehicle. I had to rebuild the suspension 3 times in 200k thousand miles-meaning new rubber bushings and struts/shocks but that really isn't a big deal for such hard use. Keep the Subaru, budget a little extra for maintenance and good tires and you will come out way ahead in gas money alone for keeping the Subaru over buying the newest behemoth truck (which will need the same extra maintenance if used on bad roads-modern trucks are setup for sally soccer mom to make it to the mall, not daily bad roads). Subarus are used and modified in Australia much the way pickups are here and you can get suspension parts designed for off road use for them (I believe old man emu is brand that does this). You can even get giant tube bumpers and winches for them. Full size pickups/SUV are actually not nearly as good a daily driver in even poor conditions as a suitably setup subaru.
posted by bartonlong at 9:49 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Subarus are fine for occasional dirt road driving, but day in and day out on super rugged roads will exceed what they are made for. If the roads are legitimately that bad, get something designed for rough use. And a subaru will float on deep snow, while a high clearance truck will plow through. But if it is just a short gravel road out to the paved road, the subaru will do fine.
posted by Forktine at 9:54 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In deep snow the Subaru will do ok but not as well as a truck.
posted by fshgrl at 10:23 AM on April 26, 2012

Even though people have opposing opinions, everyone is also right. So, start with the Subaru for a little while, then see what you really need. Even if you do end up with a truck in the end, you don't need it for the very first day you are living there, for example.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:29 AM on April 26, 2012

Thanks for the sensible reality check TinWhistle :)
posted by blue_bicycle at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2012

A stock Subaru has better traction than a typical front wheel drive sedan, but otherwise, its underpinnings very similar to your basic honda accord, with the exception of some increased ground clearance. It will rattle itself to pieces in short order if you put a lot of miles of unpaved, washboard road on it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2012

I had a '96 Outback that stood up to many years of washboard gravel roads and Eastern New Mexico clay roads without a complaint. I would take a Subaru before a truck.
posted by narcoleptic at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2012

MC lo-carb the outbacks have better underpinnings then their other cars.
posted by majortom1981 at 3:32 PM on April 26, 2012

It completely depends on how bad these dirt roads you are talking about are. If the roads are wicked bad (and I have seen that in rural areas around ranches) then yes, you will want a truck. Otherwise if these are nicely graded maintained dirt or gravel roads - the Subaru will be preferable. I agree with others who say to take the Subaru to Montana and see how it goes first. Also, do you really think there isn't a market for Subaru's in Montana? I can't imagine that is true considering they are practically the state car in the Northwest (at least Washington/Oregon) and there are roughly 37 million in Colorado, too. Take it to Bozeman or Boulder if you need to sell it in a couple minutes.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:30 PM on April 26, 2012

Also, do you really think there isn't a market for Subaru's in Montana? I can't imagine that is true considering they are practically the state car in the Northwest (at least Washington/Oregon) and there are roughly 37 million in Colorado, too.

This is true -- unless it is rusty. Rusty cars have value in the northeast, because all cars there are rusty. Elsewhere, rusty cars aren't worth almost anything. If there's visible rust, sell it before you move.
posted by Forktine at 10:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm from Montana. I get the desire (and need) for a truck.

My advice would be to sell your Subaru on the East Coast, rent a U-haul to move your stuff, and then buy a truck once in Montana. I say this because:

1) Trucks are EVERYWHERE in Montana and are in great supply. You'll have good selection.

2) Montana has no sales tax. Save yourself some extra money there.

Just my $.02. Enjoy the move. And welcome!
posted by karizma at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you stick with the Subaru, you might invest in tires appropriate for driving off-road.
posted by Quonab at 2:12 PM on April 27, 2012

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