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Car (not truck) Recommendations

2383 Views 23 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  DanYo
First, I'm not looking for a truck. I don't want a truck. Not to be a jerk, but opining on how great a truck is will not help. I would love a truck, I grew up driving trucks, but I can't get over the fuel mileage issue. That said…

So, I'm an amateur, and I really enjoy making furniture as a hobby. I enjoy the whole process from design, to picking up the rough lumber from the mill, to construction and on through finishing. I haven't made anything spectacular, yet, but I'm getting better and I see this as being a life long passion. That said, I have a very reliable and very functional Toyota Matrix which I have used for hauling everything from landscaping supplies to 8/4×10' slabs. I like it. It does what I need, and it's all I need. The problem is that it is getting up there in miles. I'm starting to feel things I don't like, and I believe it's about time to start looking around for a replacement.

What I would like to know from the LumberJocks community is what I should get to replace it, and why. I've been looking at Outbacks, but it looks like the rear glass doesn't open and I'm a little hesitant about putting lumber up on luggage racks.

Do you have a CAR you really like that you would recommend for a hobbyist. Also, I have three kids under four, so being able to fit them would be an added benefit, but not necessarily a requirement.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Jeff Stroessner
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I know it takes a big leap but have you thought about a mini van? It would fit all the kids and when not full of children youd have plenty of space for lumber and such. Customizable too:

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How about the Subaru Forrester then? My wife has that car. The whole back opens to accept anything you need. The back seat folds down and creates a fair amount of space. And on normal driving around town it gets about 25 (when I drive it, 23 when she does) miles to the gallon, on the road it gets closer to 30. It's easy to work on, lots of space for people and everything. Also has very good safety ratings. I would look into something like that if you don't want the smaller outback.
Three kids under 4? Stef is right, you need a mini-van : }
If you can find a decent Jeep Commander, it'll handle everything you said. I've handled sheet goods and oversize lumber on its roof rack with ease.
You could just get a small trailer to do your hauling if you want to focus on high mpg cars…

Just a thought.
I have a Suzuki SX4 which I love. It has a small SUV form factor, has 4WD, trailer hitch, real usable roof rack, 6 speed tranny. 2 liter engine, 4 doors and a hatch, 60/40 split rear seat, 100,000 mile warranty, runs like a bat out-a hell and still gets 30MPG. What's not to love? I put 86,000 miles on mine is three years and replaced the brake pads once and blew a fuse due to a short in my trailer lights.

Unfortunately, Suzuki just announced they were going to stop selling cars in the USA. But if you could find one used it's a great car.

If you like the Matrix you might also like the Nissan Rogue or the Ford Eco-Max or "what ever they call it".

I wouldn't have a problem with a Subaru, I know they are extremely durable, but didn't think they were so great for gas economy.

i really like the Mini Cooper Club Wagon as well, but haven't studied them enough to recommend.
A small tilt bed trailer sounds like it would solve your hauling issues (and a lot cheaper than a car!)
I've been driving a Nissan Versa for a few years now and I've been really impressed with the interior space. You aren't going to get a full sheet of plywood inside but if you get creative you can get quite a few 8' 2×4s. I had to move a full sized wheelbarrow across town and it slid in no problem.
If its not rusty, find a good mechanic and fix the Toyota. -Jack
Very much appreciated everyone. Given me a lot to consider. Keep the advice coming.
Another twist is to consider renting a truck only when you need it. This depends on your location, but if there are rental opportunities near by, it could be another way to look at the situation.
The kids keep getting bigger -
If you keep vehicles for longer terms… you are going to need something that isn't squeezing 3 across the back seat

Have the same issue, 10, 11, and 13 year olds now.
Nobody wants to have to get squeezed in the middle.
You need a third row seat, so you are stuck in minivan or SUV/mini territory.

The real fun will come later, when hotels require you to get two rooms, because they limit occupancy to 4 people.
Well, DrDirt, I guess the wife will have to sleep on the balcony, or in the car… I kid. I've thought about a base level mini van. We have one, which we love and I drive two days a week, but I would prefer to avoid driving one every day.

We had a Subaru Forester, and it was fine, but we traded it for the minivan. I've been looking more at a small SUV, maybe one of the Mazda's. People love them and they have a reasonable price tag, but I'm worried about their reliability.

When I bought the Matrix I bought it with the intention of driving it into the ground. Then we had twins. And then I got a better job and we could afford a better car. And then we had another kid and it didn't matter that I got a better job. I'm just in that place where I want a more grown up car than my Matrix. We have the minivan to transport the family, I need a car to transport me and my hobbies, as well as a kid or three from time to time… and the dog.

I've considered a small truck with a rack, like a Tacoma, but they get horrible mileage considering their size, and trucks are EXPENSIVE… even used ones.

I like the idea of a mini trailer, but the Matrix won't pull it. Well, it would pull it, but I would need a new clutch after a few trips. I once had four adults packed in there, and it slipped while going up hill in reverse while already in gear. The clutch is tiny in these things.

Bottom line, I'm ready to move beyond the Matrix, on a limited budget, into a reliable mid-sized car / small SUV / small truck (still keeping my hopes up) that gets at least 25 mpg and could potentially pull a mini-trailer.
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I'm not sure how old your children are, but if the twins are no longer in car seats, or close to being out of them, a GMC Terrain is nice, and will haul a trailer pretty easily. We got to drive one for a few months after an accident while they fixed my car and didn't want to give it back! (mini cooper - driver side rear panel had to be replaced and was on back order from Germany) It would not fit an infant carrier and two forward facing car seats (not sure about boosters), but if the twins are old enough to ride on thier own, you would be okay. I'm now in a Silverado, and love it, but its still tight. I have one in an infant carrier, one in a forward facing child seat, and another just out of the booster. And yes the gas mileage sucks, but i find I'm only spending about 100 more per month on gas, as my mini took premium, and I get the added benefit of not having to remove seats in the van and traiding vehicles with the wife just to pick up a board or two from the lumber yard. Good luck in your search!
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Another thing to think about is safety and crash ratings. Subaru's are built quite well, are SUPER reliable and the wagons can handle a lot inside or on top. We have a 1998 and it simply refuses to quit. Beside an AC compressor that went at 12 years and a window motor at ten it has only ever needed brakes, tires and two batteries. It's ridiculous.
Chevy HHR
Rent a truck when you need it.
I have a Subaru Outback wagon and I love it. I can get a 48" wide sheet in it too.The back opening gets wider as it comes down and then get narower at the bottom. i made a wood platform to put in the back that supports a sheet of plywood right at that wide area. I think I can get about 2" thick of material at 48" wide in there.
I can't close the hatchback with a 4×8 sheet in there- I just tie it down to the wood
I also made a 50" x 100 " trailer for hauling large stacks of wood or wood chips or just about anything
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