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By JulianB
From Florence, SC
Feb 24, 2012
Mt. Rainier summit.
I currently drive a Toyota Prius which I am very happy with, but my wife and I need to buy a "new" (used) car so both of us can commute to work next year, and so she's going to use the Prius and I'm going to get the new purchase. I'm looking for suggestions for a good car for climbing-related trips. The Prius of course is great for gas mileage but it's a bit small to sleep in/dirtbag out of, and not always the best choice in winter conditions or for less well-developed roads (ex. getting into the PMRP at the Red). I'm thinking about an SUV of some sort (like maybe a Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Cherokee) or perhaps a hatchback that's larger than the Prius, or something like a crossover. My current commute to work isn't that bad so the reduced gas mileage isn't as huge a deal as it was when I was commuting 90 miles each way. I'm looking to spend in the 4-6k range (so obviously will probably end up with something that has high mileage). The less I spend on the car the more I can spend on a road bike :). Any suggestions/recommendations/avoids? Thanks!

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By Topher42
Feb 25, 2012
Well trucks with canopy on the back and rigged to sleep in are always popular, as well as eurovans or just mini van conversions. But since your going to be commuting and looking for something that can do it all,I recommend a Subaru outback or legacy. Get the 4cyl it has plenty of power. they get around 30mpg and have good clearance and plenty of room. Suv are gas hogs and aren't really that functional, and for gas Mileage you could be driving a truck. but it all depends on your needs.

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By Travis Dustin
From Hollis, NH
Feb 25, 2012
Lost in the Sun pitch 2
Sorry to go against you Topher but I hated my subaru legacy outback. I couldnt get rid of it fast enough. it didnt have the room I wanted and those cars are a pain to fix and you always need to, especially if you are getting an older used one. I would go with a suv crossover or a small truck with a cab to stash your gear and sleep.

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By Ryan Hill
From Oakland, CA
Feb 25, 2012
Subaru is a great choice for daily driver that is road-trippable. My 95 Outback Impreza that I picked up for $3k averaged 25mpg on just about every tank I ever put in it. 30mpg is a VERY generous offer on an older Subaru, but going across Nebraska at 70mph with a tail wind I once got 36mpg.

Sleeping in the Impreza is tough unless you are under 5'5"...but a hell of a lot better than a Prius. As for maintenance, anything that needed fixing was either a product of general wear and tear or caused by me pretending to be a professional rally driver. It was a fun car to drive, went more places than most trucks, and with a roof box it carried 5 people and plenty of gear comfortably. Just upgraded to an 06 Forester and stoked on the extra room and ground clearance...sleeping situation is the same though.

I would gather up a Grand Cherokee if you can justify the mileage. You'll get it for cheaper than a Toyota, have more power and clearance, and sleeping in it won't suck. The 4runner is sweet, but they are just too damn expensive, even used (same could go for a Subaru). That being said, my climbing partner replaced his wrecked Forester with a Jeep and is very jealous of mine. And the Subaru seems to handle snow and ice better than the Jeep does, definitely a better driving car than the Jeep.

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By Kai Larson
From Sandy, Utah
Feb 25, 2012
Tour Ronde North Face
Gas prices are only going to go up.

We have an older (1992) Subaru wagon with 260k on the odometer. Other than a broken timing belt, it's never had any mechanical problems.

We have a 2006 Subaru WRX STI with 130k on the odometer. Other than a hole in the radiator, it's never had any issues either.

Some of the Outbacks were known to have head gasket issues. Other than those configurations, I'd say that a Subaru is a good choice. Decent gas mileage, 4 wheel drive, and very durable, particularly if you get one of the made in Japan cars.

Toyota 4 runner or Toyota Tacoma is another good choice.

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By MegaGaper2000
From Indianola, Wa
Feb 25, 2012
the dragon's tail, or dragon's tooth, or whatever....
First of all, for god's sake check out the giant thread already in existence on this.

Now then....

You;ve said you aren't worried about gas mileage. That aside the primary differences between a subaru and a 4runner (I own one of each right now, and have disassembled both) are:

- Ground clearance
The 4runner undercarriage sits about 2x as high off the ground, and on bigger tires, than any subaru. This means worse milage and handling, but it also means that when the going gets rough - ie, when you're actually off-road, as opposed to o a very poor road, the toyota keeps on tickin'.

- Acceleration ('ballz')
The Yota is bigger and heavier than the subaru. The engine in the older ones (the 22re engine) is not that much bigger, however. The net result is that older 4runners are notorious for being 'gutless'. After abut 1990 they started putting 6 cyl 2.8 engines in them, which helped the power, but these engines are notoriously less reliable than the venerable 22-r series.

- Handling
Being heavier and higher and of longer wheelbase - ie, trucks - yotas handle much porlier (more poorly?) than subs, which mostly handle like race cars.

- Beef-ness of parts
Yotas are made to go off road. The subaru manual, to contrast, warns that subarus 'are not intended for off-road use'. Subaru parts, from the clutch to the tranny to the cv joints to the shocks to the struts, are much wimpier, and in actual off-road situations break much more frequently.

- Low Range
A transfer case offfering low-range - crawler - gears (ie, 4H/4L) is a necessity for most actual off-roading. Subaru stopped including low range transfer cases in the late 80's, as they moved away from producing off-road capable vehicles to producing yuppie-friendly skimobiles.



So what? It's all about what you want to do. Yotas are the clear winner for off-roading. But ask yourself, how much wheelin' are you really going to be doing? Unless you're truly getting off the beaten bath, like, back-end of the dakotas - you probably dont need a true wheeler. And realistically, subarus offer almost the exact same cargo room as a 4runner. ditchingthe subaru for a light truck is giving up manouverability, gas mileage, acceleration, and hill power for the ability to truly wheel. But go to your favorite destinations and ask yourself "do I need to truly wheel?"

The answer is probably no.

If you want to verify this check out ultimatesubaru.org and yotatech.com, the two main web message boards for yotas and subs. Most of the mods on the sub page focus on how to get more clearance and beef out of the frame, and most of the mods on the yota page focus on how to get more power out of the engine. Whicheever you decide to get, posting up on there about which specific make/model is best for your needs would probably be a good idear.

PS everything I said here goes for the tacoma/T100 as well, except for the underpowered part. Awkard steering, reduced mileage, more beefy, more wheeely.

And whatever you get, for god's sake get a manual.

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By MegaGaper2000
From Indianola, Wa
Feb 25, 2012
the dragon's tail, or dragon's tooth, or whatever....
A uzuki Samurai is another good but quirky and hard-to-find option. They are the best of both worlds, with high clearnace and a 1.3L engine the gets 27mpg highway. But they are rare, and beloved by fetishists. Mostly you can only find these days either A) beaters or b)tricked out ones with swampers, air lockers, winches, kustom brush guards, etc. The former sucks, obviously, and is usually spraypaitned camo (woooooo brah!). The latter runs $4-5000.

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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Feb 25, 2012
Wall Street, Moab, UT
There are larger, more informative forums (with pics) about this elsewhere on MP, but one thing worth noting here- if you're thinking of an SUV but concerned with fuel mileage a minivan usually gets better mileage, sometimes pretty close to a Subaru. My Grand Caravan gets 24mpg on the highway at 70mph. The ground clearance is as good as an Outback, and it carries a whole lot more. Unlike a full size van, though, it's easier to deal with in tight urban areas. The front wheel drive actually works OK in snow, since the thing weighs a decent amount. For a Subaru to carry anything like what a minivan can you have to use roof boxes or racks, which significantly cuts the mileage.

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By Topher42
Feb 25, 2012
lots of good options here. and regarding Subaru gas mileage, I consistently get 30mpg on trips and around 26mpg. But I have the 2.2 l engine and 5sp. if you have a v6 and automatic it will be worse. Also my suby is the brighton not the outback which has bigger tires as well. if want more clearance you can lift it via king spring for about 800. I am 5 foot 10 and have no problem sleeping in the back of mine. the new ones have even more room. I have a 1998. remember the back seat folds flat. I am also no mechanical genius but my model is easy as hell to work on. Nd lots of used parts at junk yard.
happy hunting

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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Feb 25, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun
I had a 2005 outback turbo. Turbo went after 55k. Hated it. Had 1999 forester loved it for climbing trips up to NH winter & summer (grew up in NYC) Good think you live in SC I just watched someone in a prius just about slide off the ravine coming down our huge hill in the snow the other day! Good luck. SO many choices!

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Feb 25, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
MegaGaper2000 wrote:
A uzuki Samurai is another good but quirky and hard-to-find option. They are the best of both worlds, with high clearnace and a 1.3L engine the gets 27mpg highway. But they are rare, and beloved by fetishists. Mostly you can only find these days either A) beaters or b)tricked out ones with swampers, air lockers, winches, kustom brush guards, etc. The former sucks, obviously, and is usually spraypaitned camo (woooooo brah!). The latter runs $4-5000.


Uhh, the OP was looking for something to sleep in. Unless he's a midget, a Samurai would be terrible.

Oh, and since nobody's mentioned it, Honda Elements (which they just discontinued, I believe) are a great roadtrippable/decent gas mileage/SUV combination.

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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Feb 25, 2012
camhead wrote:
Oh, and since nobody's mentioned it, Honda Elements (which they just discontinued, I believe) are a great roadtrippable/decent gas mileage/SUV combination.

Yes.

The gas mileage is not awesome (24 mpg hwy), but it is not far behind the Subaru Outback (27 mpg hwy).

Camping in it is so nice. We have a roof-top carrier, which makes things a little easier, but we have also camped in it without. If you are short like me (5'8"), then converting the back to a bed is as simple as putting some padding down. If you are taller than that, you will need to put in a "loft." There are instructions on YouTube.

Some caveats: the Honda AWD train is inferior to the Subaru AWD train. The anti-lock brakes on the Element suck (the brakes are fine, but the ABS is not very responsive). The front windshield is prone to rock chips. Other than that, I love the Element.

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By AField
Feb 25, 2012
Subaru. I speak as a Southeastern, SC climber. The most intense climbing road that I've been on in the SE is nothing like what the above posters have been describing. I'd opt for a 2003 forester though. Good size/mileage ratio.

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By the Descender
From . . . CO
Feb 25, 2012
My shadow is forcing me into the overhanging crux....
Get an old Toyota 4WD van (or a Previa AWD). I guess Mazda makes the MPV AWD van, and Chevy has the Astro AWD.

Maybe 20mpg tops, but tons of room, easy parts and go many places without worrying about getting stuck - if you're in the desert, and the rains come, getting out could be a big problem without some 4wd system.

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By rogerbenton
Feb 25, 2012
Whoever this guy is, he's just plain irresponsible...
HONDA ELEMENT!!!!

Decent milage

Sleeps two adults comfortably, and that's not just getting comfortable in a reclined seat; the element's front and rear seats fold back flat to form a bed that I at 6'1" can fully stretch out in.

AWD - awesome in knee deep snow, slippery/muddy/grassy unpaved roads, etc.
doesn't have the ground clearance to go "off roading" but will get you a LOT farther than a fwd car

super reliable (it's a honda 4 cylinder, they last forever)

holds tons of stuff/gear

great cruiser on the highway- it'll do 80mph all day quiet and planted, passengers will think you're doing 65

sweet stereo (sirius/xm, cd player, ipod hookup, subwoofer)

cheap roof racks for the bikes/boards/whatever available from every after market vendor

interior materials are easy to clean

zillions of them available everywhere


OTHER THAN THAT,

someone mentioned a jeep cherokee-

if you go that route look for a 97-99 with less than 160k miles and you'll get another 120k from it easy.

toyota pickups/4runners are good vehicles but expensive, at your price point you're looking at high milage 4cyl's which (as mentioned above) are slow and not as good on gas as you'd want for the slowness.

grand cherokees are plentiful and cheap but not as bomber as cherokees. the 4.0L sixes in them aren't up to the task (they're heavier than cherokees) and the V8's are gas guzzlers. but they are great vehicles none the less. skip the first gen grand (zj) and find a second gen (wj) with the 4.7L V8 and you'll be loving it.

but serious HONDA ELEMENT!!!!

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By S Denny
From Prescott, AZ
Feb 25, 2012
i'm with the honda element. while you still can.

if you have the cheddar:
get and ecamper installed

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By Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi?
From Vegas
Feb 25, 2012
Growing a winter coat in Red Rock Canyon- December...
Too bad they stopped making the Elements- with the exception of the not so great ground clearance, it would be my vehicle of choice if I was ready to purchase. I'm hoping to find a used one at the end of this year, but they'll probably become harder to find unless you pay over market value for it. They seem to be pretty popular with the outdoorsy crowd, but a lot of other folks (especially those who didn't plan to sleep in the Element, or utilize the space in the car) think they're just too damn butt ugly to drive. I guess Honda discontinued the Elements because they haven't sold enough of them these past couple of years.

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By LeeAB
Administrator
From ABQ, NM
Feb 25, 2012
Once we landed we headed to Font to find a place t...
For a long time I had a '99 Toyota tacoma extended cab with a topper, put 230,000 on it an sold for a little over $5,000 with a topper. (V6, manual, 4x4) Got 20mpg for the most part and there was never anywhere I could not get. In contrast, my wife has a '97 Subaru Outback that seem grossly underpowered, not sure if it has the bigger or smaller 4 cylinder that they were putting in at that point. At 5'8 or 9" it is a major pain for me to sleep in the back, where as in the Tacoma it was easy (build a deck above the wheel wells and 6' long draws to slide under there).

The main advantage of the Outback is that it seats 4 comfortably while the Tacoma is really 2 maybe 3 (the 3 in the Toy is probably better than 5 in the Outback)

We still have the Outback with 170,000 while we sold the Taco and got another, a 2009 4 door long bed that that got similar milage but would stop you from buying a nice road bike for sure, this was because we had a kid and there were no child seat mounting points in the extended cab at that time so my wife had to ride in the back all the time which kind of sucks.

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By JulianB
From Florence, SC
Feb 26, 2012
Mt. Rainier summit.
Thanks for all the advice so far everyone! Does anybody have a link to the old threads that have been mentioned on this subject? I went digging for several pages on this board as well as the general discussion one without finding anything (search didn't help much either but maybe I went about it the wrong way).

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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Feb 26, 2012
Wall Street, Moab, UT
Here are few I was able to dig up:

mountainproject.com/v/climbers...

mountainproject.com/v/the-best...

mountainproject.com/v/new-car-...

mountainproject.com/v/ideal-tr...

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By Ross
From Pinewood Springs
Feb 26, 2012
Biker Fun
Well my choice for all-around-car would be a 911tt, not much clearance nor a ton of room, you would not want to sleep in it; and gas mileage is not great ~20. But I love mine, however I usually don't take it to crag :-(

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By grumpyhighlander
From Durango, CO
Feb 26, 2012
John
Previa AWD kitchen
Previa AWD kitchen


Previa Bed and storage from spare plywood
Previa Bed and storage from spare plywood


Previa kitchen packed up ready to go
Previa kitchen packed up ready to go


I lucked into a 94 Toyota Previa AWD SC ten years ago, it had 124k on it now has 238k no problems ever, just brakes shocks tyres and oil changes. It gets about 20-22mpg because of the AWD and supercharger.
I bought it with the dents for $2650. Great snow car, loads of room, it still seats four with the bed in the back folded up. I took out the middle seats and left the cak row in.
The kitchen and bed just lift out, boxes under the bed for storing climbing gear are lockable.
It gets most places in the desert that I need to go and lots of dirt roads in the mountains. The AWD is fantastic in the snow, it handles great, cos the motor is under the floor so it flys around corners but it's not good for deep river crossings or hard core off road. Best of all cops don't notice you. Even when pulled over fore going too fast (yes they make them with superchargers for the mountains), just plead it's only a minivan officer, works great. I can sleep in it on the street with the tinted windows
I'm going to be real sad when this one dies.

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By Rob Warden, Space Lizard
From Springdale Ut
Feb 26, 2012
blah
Does anyone have an opinion on the 99 Toyota Tacoma standard cab with the larger (2.7Liter?) 4clynder? whats the MPG and Handling like? I am thinking of getting one as a home/climbing vehical...

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Feb 26, 2012
JulianB wrote:
it's a bit small to sleep in/dirtbag out of,


At some point 'dirtbagging' became a synonym for a weekend climbing/camping trip.

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By MarkGriffin
From Goretex-Vortex, CO
Feb 26, 2012
lizard.
Rob Warden wrote:
Does anyone have an opinion on the 99 Toyota Tacoma standard cab with the larger (2.7Liter?) 4clynder? whats the MPG and Handling like? I am thinking of getting one as a home/climbing vehical...


Rob, I currently drive that exact vehicle. 99, reg cab, 4x4, 4 cyl. It has 31" tires and the handling really isn't too bad. The short wheel base of the reg cab is pretty nice offroad, better breakover and turn radius, but makes the ride a bit rougher. I avg about 27-28 hwy with a camper shell and load of climbing/camping gear. The truck has 243k miles and runs great. I love this truck. I lived in it off and on last summer and plan to again this summer with the addition hopefully of a pop up slide in camper.
A few things I miss on this truck: cruise control, locking rear dif, extended cab for extra storage.

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By Tradoholic
Feb 26, 2012
MarkGriffin wrote:
Rob, I currently drive that exact vehicle. 99, reg cab, 4x4, 4 cyl. It has 31" tires and the handling really isn't too bad. The short wheel base of the reg cab is pretty nice offroad, better breakover and turn radius, but makes the ride a bit rougher. I avg about 27-28 hwy with a camper shell and load of climbing/camping gear. The truck has 243k miles and runs great. I love this truck. I lived in it off and on last summer and plan to again this summer with the addition hopefully of a pop up slide in camper. A few things I miss on this truck: cruise control, locking rear dif, extended cab for extra storage.


Seriously 28mpg?!?! I think that's a winner. That seems high for a 4x4 truck, do you swear to god on that?

I've got a 96 2wd Jeep Cherokee that only gets 20mpg and I thought that was pretty good for a truck.

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