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4WD SUV, Reliable, Capable in Snow, V8 and 3rd row a plus

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

02rsxpilot

Looking for an SUV that can: handle snow in Tahoe, fit four adults comfortably, and is reasonably reliable for its mileage. Bonus points for 3rd row seat to fit 6 adults if necessary (comfort not a big deal), V8/towing capacity for a ski boat and trailer (Mastercraft ProStar 205). Looking to spend less than $16,000, not including tax.

We have looked at: BMW X5, Audi Q7, Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Porsche Cayenne, various GMC/Chevy options, pretty much everything.

Currently topping the list are 2004-2010 ish:
Jeep Grand Cherokee (price is excellent at sub $12K, reliability is a concern)
Toyota 4Runner (great reliability, much more expensive than Cherokee though at $16K+ and with more miles)
Acura MDX (more reliable and cheaper than the other luxury brands, 06 with 100k miles for about $13.5K)

Possible premium options:
Audi Q7 (best looking of the bunch, unsure of reliability, same price range as 4Runner)
Porsche Cayenne S (most comfortable)
BMW X5 (nice styling, good engine, lots available in same $16Kish range)

Ruled out:
Nissan Pathfinder (best 3rd row seat with 2nd row sliding and comfortable! But awful reliability, CVT transmission, no 4WD, minivan engine)
GMC/Chevy products (ugly, cheap)
Ford Explorer (love the new ones, but too expensive, old ones ugly and unreliable)


Really hoping someone can either: make me feel better about Jeep reliability or at least ease of repairs, or convince me the 4Runner is worth the extra $5K and higher miles (120k versus 80k for Jeep). OR, sell me on the premium options which look great but scare me a little on maintenance costs and high miles.

Thanks in advance for your insights!

Preferred Bodystyle(s): SUV

Car Needs: Towing or hauling / Long trips / Family transporter

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 100000
Maximum age: 10 years

Maximum price: US $ 16000

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Response from Member6039

12:42 am August 28, 2015

Suggest you look at Ford Flex, amazing machine, very spacious, very solid body,
rates most re buyable car in consumer reports, mine has been excellent.

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Response from markkhoury

9:47 am August 28, 2015

I am NOT going to sell you on the premium choices, indeed I will reinforce your concerns.

With the latest generations of the premium brands (say, the last 10 years or so), this is what I tell friends and family: the only way you should get one is on a four-year lease, where it's under warranty (and sometimes free maintenance), and pony up for the end-of-lease damage insurance. Do NOT buy one used.

Why? It's not a simple question of reliability (though that's important), but because the lux manufacturers have gone crazy on the pricing of their parts. A headlight assembly will go for over $2K; recently a friend's BMW X3 lost it's fin antennae. Replacement cost? $1,000. There's way too much stuff that costs way too much money on today's luxury brands. Avoid them when they're out of warranty.

As for your options, I too say the Grand Cherokee as a great choice, but share your concerns about reliability.

If you don't mind the looks of the 4Runner (I do), I'd say that $4K premium is worth it; a couple of mechanical repairs on the Jeep (or even only one), will even it out with the 4Runner. There's a reason they hold a higher resale value -- cause they're worth it.

Or, if you can find one, run, don't walk, to get a diesel Grand Cherokee from the previous generation.

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Toyota 4Runner
Jeep Grand Cherokee

Response from mkaresh

9:26 am September 4, 2015

Any European SUV that costs $16k will be expensive to maintain. Otherwise they'd be worth more.

The Pathfinders that have CVTs will cost more than $16k, because they've only been around since 2013. The older ones were trucks. Not as reliable as a Toyota 4Runner, but then nothing else in the segment is. Possibly worth a look.

If you really want space and towing, the Ford Expedition is probably your best bet. Reliability is about average, but probably better than the Jeep. Roomy third-row seat. If you want a large cargo area behind the third row, see if you can find the long-wheelbase Expedition EL in your price range.

Toyota also offers a large conventional SUV, the Sequoia. They might be expensive used, though, and I don't know how much more reliable they are than the Ford, while having less space inside.

The Acura MDX has sportier handling, but much less space in the third row and isn't nearly as good a choice for towing.

Among Chrysler products, the Dodge Durango is essentially a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a third row and a slightly lower price. It's probably a better choice than the Jeep if you can find one 2011 and up within your price range.

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Ford Expedition
Dodge Durango

Response from 02rsxpilot

12:57 pm September 4, 2015

We ended up purchasing a 2005 Acura MDX Touring. Car was in immaculate condition, only 100k miles, 3rd row seats (if you really needed them), and we had confidence in the car's reliability. The trade-off was no V8/towing. The price came a little higher than a Cherokee would have run, but quite a bit cheaper than the 4Runners and German luxury brands.

Appreciate everyone's suggestions. It was very helpful!

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Acura MDX
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