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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: ColoradoJeff on June 13, 2014, 08:12:17 AM

Title: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: ColoradoJeff on June 13, 2014, 08:12:17 AM
What up fellow 'staches,

I reside in Denver and am looking to purchase a used vehicle for my lifestyle.  I bike around the city for work and leisure so I am looking for the best AWD vehicle for my mountain trips (snowboarding and backpacking). 

The must have's for the vehicle would be:
- great fuel efficiency
- space to sleep inside
- under $4,000
- reliable and would last me many years at less than 10,000 miles per year

Any thoughts?  I am leaning towards a Chevy Astro Van.  Everyone has Subaru's here but those scare me with the cost of maintenance...

Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: gt7152b on June 13, 2014, 09:26:19 AM
There's a reason Subaru's are popular in the mountains. I just bought a Forester last year and it is awesome and gas mileage is great too. I think the Astro would require more maintenance but you will find that Chevy parts are generally cheaper than Subaru. If you wrench yourself that might make the Astro cheaper to maintain but if you are paying labor probably not.

See if you can find an old Corolla 4WD. I didn't know these existed until I saw the one Jesse drove on Breaking Bad. There was one for sale in my area not long ago and if I didn't have the Subaru I would have been tempted. A Suzuki might be a good choice as well.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: eostache on June 13, 2014, 09:34:01 AM
I live in Colorado. Western slope area.
I'm on my 3rd Subaru and I don't think they have excessive maintenance costs.
My present car is a 2001 Outback wagon. I bought it in 2007 with 110k on it for $4600. It was priced cheap because it has that crackly paint defect under the clearcoat. It looks fine from the drivers seat.

I drive less than 5000 miles/yr. Ride bike around town mostly. I do take this car on road trips.

My car has a few quirks, including what I call an ideosyncratic transmission, but I can live with it. I would not consider my cars transmission problems typical of the 5pd transmissions, but the automatic transmissions of these cars are known for problems. And the older Outbacks are known for head gasket problems. Once you get past these issues (maybe buy one that someone has already fixed) you have smooth

Right now someone else is driving around in my next used Outback that I'll buy in a few years.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: Northerly on June 13, 2014, 11:14:46 AM
From Fairbanks, Alaska I'll add to the choir: Subaru or AWD Corolla/Camry. All other things equal, I would give the edge to the AWD Corolla/Camry, which I think Toyota stopped making in the early 90s.

But as Mr.MM has pointed out: AWD is great, but you really need to be TIRE shopping. A FWD vehicle will handle very well with the right tires. Try Nokian Hakkapeliittas or Bridgestone Blizzaks.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: ColoradoJeff on June 13, 2014, 11:58:30 AM
Thank you all for your posts!  I looked up the Corolla and that is certainly interesting.  Believe me, I do not bash Subaru's by any means.  I think they are great but the Head Gaskets scare me...  Also, is there enough room inside them for someone 5'9" to sleep in the back with the seat folded down? 

Side note, I currently have a FWD Saturn Vue and think it is pretty solid other than the transmission and the FWD.  I agree they will get you wherever you need for city driving but there are just some mountain areas that can get sticky. 

Thank you all so much!!!

Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: Thegoblinchief on June 13, 2014, 06:07:01 PM
I wouldn't touch an Astro with a ten foot pole.

Subies are fine cars. My DW adores hers (97 Legacy Outback, quite well loved but functional).

Nothing with AWD gets great mileage. I'd seriously recommend shopping winter tires.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: La Bibliotecaria Feroz on June 13, 2014, 10:33:09 PM
CRVs have decent gas mileage because they are only four cylinders, which is really all you need. But I'm short and never tried to sleep in it! We actually don't own ours anymore because we downgraded to one car.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: greaper007 on June 13, 2014, 10:57:59 PM
I second getting winter tires on your current vehicle before you get anything else.   I bought a second set of tires on cheap steel wheels for my golf from    I think it was about $600.   Really though, it was just buying my next set of tires for the car early (with the exception of the $150 or so worth of rims).     I don't do any serious mountain driving but I've yet to be stuck in any snow storm with my winter tires.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: Fuzz on June 15, 2014, 10:30:39 AM
Not sure where you're getting the idea that "Subarus have excessive maintenance" especially compared to a Chevy Astro. It seems like you know enough about cars to scare yourself about the Subaru head gaskets or something.  I'd do some hard googling before I concluded that Subarus were worse than any other option. Pretty much all modern cars are reliable, even Chevys. I would avoid something stupid like an Audi or luxury brand because mechanics and parts are more expensive.

I agree that you can get pretty far with snow tires. I live in a mountain town in Wyoming and have a front wheel drive vehicle with snow tires most of the time. However, there are 10-15 days a winter when I hate it and borrow my GF's Subaru. Think driving over a mountain pass in a snow storm with jacked up pickups passing you on blind corners, or watching the car in front of you spin 360 on black ice, or spinning yourself on black ice. If you need to make an appointment, or can't control when you drive, then you want a AWD vehicle.

What people don't realize is that yes you can drive fine with snow tires in most conditions, but if another car is driving like a dumbass and loses control, you need to have the maximum ability to take evasive action. So you need awd AND snow tires is you regularly drive in the Rockies during snow storms, if for no other reason than to avoid other cars. It is terrifying to lock up and see yourself sliding into the car that is spinning in front of you. I would guess that you see 30+ cars in a ditch in a season. Maybe more. There was a storm when 80-90 cars went off I-80 last year.

So I would recommend a newish outback with snow tires. I'd also recommend buying your outback in CA or AZ or somewhere where there is no need for it. The resale value on those is definitely higher in mountain towns. You live in a beautiful part of the world; the tradeoff is that your car costs are higher. If you're ER and can be choosy about when you're driving, then the cheapest FWD hatchback is a great idea. If you have to drive in storms (or you're chasing pow), then get a Subaru with snow tires and call it good.
Title: Re: Best AWD vehicle for a Colorado Mustachian
Post by: nobleleger on June 15, 2014, 12:26:10 PM
I tend to look ahead to what I can buy 5+ years from now, since it will take me that long to save up for one. 

Currently am thinking a 2012 Subaru Impreza Hatch with a CVT... all wheel drive and 30+ MPG.  In about 5 years they should be affordable.  Maybe they will get down to the 13k range in about 5 years, 10k in 8 years.