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Reliable mid-priced toy hauler

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

A member in Serbia

I primarily drive to/from work and run errands within my city (8-10 mile commute each way). On weekends I mountain bike, paddle board, kayak, etc. so I need something able to haul my toys. I also pull a trailer 3-4 times a year with 1500-2000 lbs of cargo (helping people move with a small trailer). I also like having room in the back to seat friends comfortably for weekend trips.
Reliability is a must have. On the weekends I tend to drive an hour+ to use the previously mentioned toys, so the assurance of knowing it won't die on me while I'm 2 hours from home is great.
I have/had 4x4 on my current vehicle and only used it 2x in the last 5 years. So it's not necessary.

I looked at the Nissan Frontier crew cab. I like the look of the exterior and the reliability reviews. I also like how the bed is designed to haul cargo (it has adjustable hooks for strapping things in, etc.). It was comfortable to drive, as well. I just couldn't find any used that weren't nearly the same price as a full size truck (if I'm going to get same MPG and pay almost the same price for a full size truck, I figure I'll just get the full size in the off chance I need more power).

I also like the sporty look of the Tacoma. I've never driven in it but I have ridden in one and the ride felt a little rough, but the friend driving had oversized tires on it which might be why.

The other truck I've looked at is the F150. I like the ride, power, and reliability. It also has several optional features such as bluetooth stereo, navigation, etc. so I wouldn't have to use my phone for finding my weekend destinations.

I've looked at some SUV's but they seem to be generally more expensive than trucks, plus the larger cabin takes longer to cool down (I live in Florida) and can't hold cargo as easily as a bed.

Thanks so much for reading! Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Exterior styling / Fuel economy / Towing / Feature availability

Preferred Bodystyle(s): SUV / Pickup

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Towing or hauling

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 100000
Maximum age: 7 years

Maximum price: US $ 14000

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Response from mwcten

2:37 pm September 4, 2014

Given the weights of the stuff you're towing, you might be able to make a Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe work. They're rated to tow 1,000 lbs, which means you could probably do 2,000 if you're careful; no crazy hills (that's all of FL, right?); have a transmission cooler put in if you get an automatic. They're pretty easy to get racks on for the toys. And it will burn half the gas of a truck/suv. This option would really maximize your reliablilty and minimize your costs.

If that's too small for you, the next step up would be a Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4; bigger, better towing capacity (1500 for the CRV), but they'll still be significantly cheaper than a truck for operating costs because of better mpg and lower maintenance costs.

The other option with just towing a few times a year is that if you get a cheap car, you could just rent/borrow a truck for the days you need it. If you get your MPG from 17 (as for lots of trucks) to 35 (as for a Matrix/vibe) that is going to save you about $100 per 1,000 miles just in gas, not even calculating repair and insurance savings, so just that would pay for a lot of rental days.

Also, if you end up going the truck/SUV route, beware of getting any of them without Electronic Stability Control (all new will have it; used may or may not) because they're far more likely to roll without it. I'll admit I'm biased in this regard, having a business acquaintance just almost die in a truck hydroplane and rollover accident, but the fatality data really do bear it out. The trucks are susceptible to this because they're so high and light in the back end.

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Toyota Matrix
Toyota RAV4
Honda CR-V

Response from mkaresh

10:44 am September 6, 2014

I haven't driven the Frontier or the Taco. But those who have reported that the Nissan felt much more comfortable and up-to-date. The main advantage of the Taco is that it will likely be more reliable.

Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge have all greatly improved the comfort of their trucks in recent years. Reliability tends to be good for all three, with the possible exception of the first couple of years of the EcoBoost engine optional in the Ford. The Dodge might have the most comfortable ride due to its rear coil springs (since 2009, I think). The main question with these is whether you want such a big truck.

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Response from mitchell9353

11:40 pm September 6, 2014

You can't go wrong with an F-150. I have had one for 10 years without ANY repairs other than tires. But wait a bit for the new 2015 re-design. If nothing else it will improve your bargaining for a 2014.

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