New truck, old truck, big truck, small car?
December 7, 2005 5:06 PM   Subscribe

We need a new (used) vehicle, but can't decide what we're seeking...I'd like to hear some more opinions from disinterested parties.

We currently have a pickup truck with a two-person bench seat (1996 Mazda B3000). We bought the pickup because A) the 1994 Ford Aspire we had was reaching its 'things need fixing' era and wasn't terribly useful, B) we hope, but no guarantees, to move to the rural 5 acres we own in the next two years.

But In June we have a baby coming, and the pickup will not (safely) handle a baby seat. We still want the utility of a pickup for our rural needs, but we're going to either need a replacement for it or an additional vehicle. We own the pickup outright, and could store it for $15/month. We don't really want to pay monthly insurance on two vehicles (around $100 each per month).

So...a baby-seat-friendly pickup truck replacement, or parking the pickup and buying an additional car...which makes more sense, or is there something else I need to consider?
posted by Kickstart70 to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Best answer: Kickstart I think I have the vehicle for you. Keep in mind that I am a certified Subaru nut but am such with good reason.

I think a Subaru Legacy wagon (either standard wagon or the Outback model) would be great for you. They ride better than a pickup, get better gas mileage and still offer the safety of all wheel drive. Keep in mind it IS all wheel drive and not 4 wheel drive (which can generally be distinguished by a low-range setting for serious off-roading). This being said however, I have owned 3 Subarus and all have been extremely reliable and have never gotten me stuck (I've upgraded to newer models, nothing to do with reliability). I live in Canada and have dealt with some pretty big snow falls/snow banks with my little Subie and have never, ever been disappointed (this is using snow tires, however).

If you like the added height a pickup can offer (ie. ground clearance) you can opt for the Outback model which offers slightly more than the regular wagon, more even than many car-based SUVs you may be interested in). The wagon should offer ample space in the rear but if you are in desperate need of a pickup-like bed you could opt for the Subaru Baha, but this will likely be much more expensive as they are a fairly new model (relative to a Legacy, or Legacy Outback which can go back a decade or more).

To put some context into how reliable these things are I currently own a 93 Impreza L AWD with over 200 000km on it and she still purrs like a kitten. You'll find many Sube owners who believe these cars are just getting broken in at about 150 000k!

I'm sure others will also add myriad suggestions, I just thought since I'm a Subaru nut myself I may as well try for a conversion with you.

Cheers, and good luck !
posted by Anizev at 5:34 PM on December 7, 2005

Three vehicles that combine the utility of a pickup truck bed and the cabin of a regular vehicle: the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, the Subaru Baja (basically an Outback with a pickup bed) and the Honda Ridgeline. I don't know how good the Ridgeline is going to be for rural areas, but I'll bet the Baja (or the Sport Trac, though otherwise I'm loathe to recommend an American Ford) will suit you fine for some casual offroading. I don't own any of the above vehicles, though, so you'll want to read some reviews.
posted by chrominance at 5:35 PM on December 7, 2005

Is it possible to get cheaper insurance on the truck? Since you own it outright perhaps you could get less coverage. I just have collision on my 89 Blazer. I don't know if similar policies are available where you live. Collision won't pay for damage I cause to my own car, just damage I cause to someone else's car.
posted by 6550 at 5:38 PM on December 7, 2005

Oh, and ditto to Anizev's general fondness for Subarus. They're a bit more expensive, but they've served my family well for over a decade and a half. Nary a breakdown, and they're built like tanks: my father rolled his dark green Impreza wagon after being sideswiped on a highway exit ramp; after a day in the hospital and some sore ribs, he went to the dealer and picked out the exact same model—this time in red.
posted by chrominance at 5:39 PM on December 7, 2005

Best answer: Given that the move to the rural locale is speculative and a ways out, and the baby is a bit more immediate, I would get a new car for the baby and store the pickup (maybe get it under cover/out of weather on your piece of land for free?). When you are living rurally, I think you will appreciate the flexibility of having an older pickup you can mistreat (at least not have to pamper) and your new car should be one that can adequately and safely handle the more rugged future terrain.

This means that two years from now you may need to pay insurance for two cars, but i say worry about that then. who knows what circumstances may have changed in the interim?
posted by misterbrandt at 5:44 PM on December 7, 2005

125,000 miles and like new (almost)
posted by rmhsinc at 6:27 PM on December 7, 2005

Yeah, I'm a huge Honda fan ... but the Subaru is what you want for rural living. If you look in the driveways in most rural communities, it's either Subarus or Suburbans or Pickup.
posted by SpecialK at 6:28 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Looks like the consensus here is to get a car and store the pickup for later.

I'm not sure about Subaru for only one reason: cost. Looking at even used ones from the late 90s on Craigslist in my area, they tend to run as much as, for example, a brand-new Kia. I'm sure they are great, but would one from the late 80's with 300k kilometers be just as great?

What years would I be looking for in not-new, and what would you expect I would pay? (please specificy what currency you are quoting)
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:23 PM on December 7, 2005

Why would you want to keep a pick-up you are not using for some future possibility? Sell it now and buy an equivalent in two years if you need it and you will almost certainly pay less.
posted by bystander at 8:24 PM on December 7, 2005

Oh, and my experience with old (early eighties) subaru pick-ups in Australia is they are unkillable. The subaru Brumby is a common site on farms and they appear to run for ever and seldom rust. My first ever turn behing the wheel was in one as an 8yro on my uncle's property, and I think that old beast was still going when he sold the place ten years later.
posted by bystander at 8:30 PM on December 7, 2005

Amping the Subaru love here; 145k miles on my Outback, still running strong with no major problems.
posted by Opposite George at 9:04 PM on December 7, 2005

ditto on the subaru outback wagon.
posted by radioamy at 10:35 PM on December 7, 2005

Subaru Forrester
posted by Amizu at 5:20 AM on December 8, 2005

Best answer: Not echoing the Subaru love.

We own a '01 Forester (there, for the first time ever, I got the year right on the first try!).

It's just a car.

Built like a brick, to be sure. Handles all the road conditions we've encountered with perfect aplomb. Could probably climb a wall. Tons of space inside. Handles more like a car than a truck, and certainly leagues better than an SUV.

But it's just a car. Acceleration isn't outstanding, fuel economy isn't outstanding, comfort isn't outstanding, interior finish isn't anything to write home about, etc.

All in all, I think it's a mighty fine brick of a vehicle. Not one for the ego, and maybe not one for your pocketbook, but certainly a vehicle that I expect will perform all reasonable vehicle-like functions for many, many years.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2005

Best answer: Kick, I'm not sure how much you want to spend on the vehicle, but I can again use mine as an example.

Ideally, you want to buy from a Subaru dealer that sells used cars on their new car lot. These guys have too much to lose buy selling potential lemons and generally sell very good quality cars. Do not buy from a used car dealer (unless you know and trust them) even though you will likely see the same year, model and # of km for probably thousands less. There is a reason it is thousands less than at a real dealership. I actually just watched a documentary on W5 or some such Canadian news program and BC and Ontario (my home province) were the worst used car offenders. This being said you may want to buy privately, just make sure you get a trusted mechanic (hopefully specializing somewhat in the make of car you are buying) to check it out before laying out any dough.

As for my experience: I purchased my car about 1.5 years ago (93 Subaru Impreza L AWD, 186 000km) at a Subaru dealership for $5300(CAD) + tax. It may seem like a lot for a car of that year and kms but it was well worth it. No rust, immaculate inside and out.

I would recommend using to find a nice one at a dealership. I was actually out in BC this past summer and was astounded at the number of old cars that still seemed to be in excellent condition (body-wise) and also was looking for a Subaru for a friend who lives out there. I found several at a few dealerships but she decided not to buy a car at the time. It may take some time to find the right one, but I feel you will greatly appreciate its reliability down the road.

You can also use the website to find out approx. how much you should be paying for any given model/year. Just do a "value finder" and put in the model/year you are looking for and it will bring up a high/low/median price for you. Keep in mind, if buying from a Subaru dealer you will almost always pay more. The dealer also offers recourse (ie. you can go back to them if something happens--this wouldn't be a warranty exactly but they may be willing to meet you part way on a problem) while buying privately offers no such option.

As for year, make and model that depends on you. If you would like a smaller car with slightly less features you can opt for the Impreza. If you want a slightly larger vehicle with more feature options you can opt for the Legacy, which will be more expensive. Both models have wagon variants and even use the same engines for a couple of model years. Subaru's 2.2 litre (137hp/145torque) 4 cylinder is likely the most reliable engine they've ever produced but if you want something with more kick you can find both Imprezas and Legacys with a 2.5 litre engine (165hp/165torque). These are the slightly newer models that come with this engine. Keep in mind that some of the older Subarus did not come with all-wheel-drive. Most (if not all) models offered it but some trim levels did not come with it. For example my model year Impreza had the option of 2wd or AWD.

I believe Consumer Reports recommends all Subaru models and years (though don't have any data on very old models like the Brat/Brumby mentioned above). If you decide on a feature set or model/year you are interested in I would be more than happy to send you the Consumer Reports info on it (I have a membership). MSN carpoint is also a good place to look to find out feature sets/engine choices in the different model years.

Again, good luck, and if you would like any other help you can email me at:

If you're wondering how I know this stuff, I do not work for Subaru, but I've bought and sold a few used cars myself and am generally the one who helps my friends choose/buy their cars and they all seem pretty happy.

Take care.
posted by Anizev at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2005

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