Monday, December 31, 2012

Random car shopping thoughts...

  • Shopping for Subarus in the snowy heart of December is like trying to get a good deal on a convertible on the first of June.

  • Ditto 4WD SUVs.

  • Did you know that you can get an AWD Ford Mondeo for pretty reasonable cash if you don't mind a bunch of Jaguar frippery hung off it?

  • I'll bet that short-bed RWD Dakota with a V-8 and sport tires would have tuck & roll upholstery after I drove rode in it down an icy road, clutching desperately at the wheel while the rear tires made like an uncoordinated puppy on a slick tile floor.

  • Whereas Ford did their British acquisitions a world of good in the reliability department, it would appear that GM broke Saab, at least to judge by owner's reports. That's a shame; pre-GM Saabs were decent cars and made awesome winter drivers, what with being from Sweden and all.

50 comments:

Keads said...

The Ford Mondeo with the frippery is a capable ride just watch out for repair costs. I have one. 2.5 liter V-6 ver 1.0 on top of that. With a six speed manual.

No Lucas smoke required!

Tam said...

Keads,

There's a 3.0 in the area that's tempting, but...

Bram said...

I loved our Saab. When it was wrecked, we couldn't replace it because GM decided we all ought to drive automatics. It was by far the best front-wheel drive car I ever drove in snow.

We bought our AWD SUV in mid-July when Mazda was offering $2,500 cash back. (Subaru was offering similar deals but we liked the CX-9 slightly better than the Tribeca).

Snow tires and patience aren't an option?

Joseph said...

You may as well ask the dealer/seller to toss in an AR upper or BCG.

TXGunGeek said...

Do the Roo! We got a screamin deal form our local dealer that beat out the USAA negotiated deal by a margin and the car has been fantastic since.

Tam said...

Bram,

"Snow tires and patience aren't an option?"

This is the universe's way of telling me it's time to get another car. Whether I keep and fix the Bimmer or wind up selling it is the only question.

After eleven years of never needing to be in the shop, it needs a bunch of niggling things fixed, and it's time and past time for a new top.

I've got doctor's appointments and dentist's appointments I need to drive to, and I need a car in which to do it. Now.

Keads said...

Tam,

Its a big but... They can go from sweetness and light to real annoying faster than they can get from 0 to 60. It is my bad weather ride.

Tam said...

TXGunGeek,

The only Subarus in my budget locally are 200k wagons older than the Zed Drei and with suspicious carfax histories.

Fred said...

I know the feeling. I'm hoping for a better Subie market when I get home in the middle of summer though.

I did find a couple Imprezas on cars.com today towards Illinois for around $10k with around 80k miles. Not too bad.

Scott J said...

We're about to come upon the 10th anniversary of the March superstorm that buried the South in snow.

To this day the memory of that event seems to skew prices of 4x4 anything.

They already command a premium here anyway because Hank Jr. sang about a shotgun, a rifle and a four wheel drive.

Pricing here (Alabama) is nuts anyway. My jaw dropped when a comment on your other post mentioned several sub-$1,000 Jeep Cherokees on Craigslist. Here there's not much of anything in that range and certainly not a truck or SUV.

Anonymous said...

Subarus are not cheap used, nor are Jeep's.

Honestly any 3ish liter Front Wheel drive with modern snow tires will let you keep up with 4x4 truck & regular tires through 14 hours of pizza delivery.

The 4 bangers and snow tires will work, but a 6 with snow tires is fun.

I hate Pontiac but you can usualy find a adequate used Gram Am/Grand Pri for anywhere from couple to few thousand.

Though I would much prefer Toyota, Honda, Subaru, or certain Chevies.

Still miss my '71 Impala with 350, wish grandpa would have told me about the Corvette engine he got from rich guy he worked for, when that guy upgraded to something fancier.

He got that engine for me, cause he thought orginal engine wasn't gonna last when we had to adjust lifters.

Well that & it leaked so much oil into antifreeze I had to pull heater core every other year and clear oil out of it, kept a spare one to make it easy ^_^

But he sold that corvette motor before he told me :( since it kept running fine.

~Glamdring

Unknown said...

Based on years of Vermont winter driving, my best advice is to try to get something 4WD with a minimum wheelbase to-track ratio of 2:1. That, and run narrowish tires with a minimum OD of 29-30".

Both elements will keep you heading in the direction -you- want to go when it gets slimy.

Anonymous said...

*keep up with 4x4 with regular tires in a Blizzard

What I get for posting from phone

~Glamdring

You could always get a beater now & get something nicer later.

We have been using my tired 204k plus miles Hyundai Accent around town and renting car for trips for last year.

But we will finally be getting a car Jan/Feb

Anonymous said...

Funny you mention the Jag X; son has been looking at an '02 next door to our shop that is pristine but has 90K for 4000, and there's one on craigslist in Miami that's like new with 68K for 4800 asking. And a check of the reliability shows they rate pretty well, with a few issues that tend to be minor cost. Just don't use a Jag dealership to do the work; as you say it's really a Mondeo or a Lincoln LS. You could do a lot worse for the dough. PB

Scott J said...

I've also read speculation on the interwebz that cash for clunkers caused price inflation in the used car market.

My personal observations seem to support this. Killer deals like the 1995 Mitsubishi Galant that I scored for $280 in 2006 only needing a battery, front tires and front brakes just aren't to be found any more.

I troll Craigslist often looking for another such score since I wound up gifting that car to some needy friends. All I find these days are insanity like engineless 90's vintage S-10s for over a grand.

Anonymous said...

For years I piloted an aging Civic 1200 4-speed with good Michelins through whatever Nature delivered in the northeast. It needed new valve guide seals at 85K, no clue how many miles it finally had - the odo stalled at 96 two years before I sold it. Used it for in-city delivery stuff on the side, did wear out two driver door hinges. Had a set of cheap chains for the front, used them only once and that was for mud, not snow. Tires and low weight are the secret (easier to push out of a tough spot).

Cash out the roller skate, go extreme cheap FWD for a couple years and keep your eyes peeled for a mid-mileage winner (check estate sales).

Anonymous said...

BTW, the '02 and '03 X-type examples above are cherry; there are some rags for half the price, but why would you pay 2G just to have something else that needs a good shop and a healthy checkbook?

Yes, here in the fla you do see some q-tips driving 'em, but that's a positive when you're looking at ten year old rides; they tend to put on a lot fewer miles and be OCD on maintenance. All factors making the little Jag a sleeper in the AWD market, and still not totally stigmatized as an old-fartmobile.

Anonymous said...

Here's the '03 in Miami; tell me that thing's not gorgeous...

http://orlando.craigslist.org/cto/3486851939.html

Jerry said...

With snow tires, FWD can go almost anywhere AWD can go; the majority of the weight is on the driving wheels. Yeah, you can't power through corners like RWD but the traction angle is not a bad trade-off.

BTW, do NOT use engine braking in slippery conditions; your FWD car will do all sorts of interesting gyrations, raising your heart rate to equal engine rpm & your blood pressure to tire gauge range. Try this only if you're young & invincible.

og said...

This does not please me at all, but I'm looking at second/third generation Taurii. They are cheap unto free- a 130k mile example in truly excellent condition can be had in the neighborhood of 2k, and it will ride and drive like new. With decent all seasons they will go through most weather, and they are dirt cheap to own and maintain. The pushrod 3.0 six is bulletproof. Yes, they're plug ugly, but at least they're slow.

Had lots of friends with Saabs that shared your feelings about GM. Fun car to drive. All my friends who had them claimed they had almost no trouble with them. Apparently the things I fixed for them for free didn't count as "Trouble". One lady, in an age before cupholders brought her Saab to me at least once a year to replace an ignition switch full of coffee.

lelnet said...

"pre-GM Saabs were decent cars and made awesome winter drivers, what with being from Sweden and all"

Honestly, a person who knew geography but not cars might suspect the same of GM Saabs. It's not like they don't have winter in _Detroit_ after all...

But no...there's nothing so obviously good that coming to belong to General Motors can't or won't ruin it.

Robert said...

Scott J said...
"We're about to come upon the 10th anniversary of the March superstorm that buried the South in snow."

I think you mean 20th anniversary. I remember that morning as I started out on my usual 30 mile commute in a Nissan mini truck. Got about 1/2 mile and said "Screw this" and went back home.

DJ said...

So, get something cheap and old, but 4WD, that will get you through the winter. Then sell it and get what you want when you have the time, patience, and market conditions to do it right.

It's only transportation.

Kevin said...

Interested in a high-mile WRX?.

These are the guys I bought the Nuclear Banana off of. They specialize in 4WD trucks, but ask 'em to look for something in particular, they will.

Sport Pilot said...

While you’re shopping check out the Hyundai cars and SUV’s, they’re well made with good engines and drivetrains. The Santa Fe is a smaller SUV and is available in AWD or FWD and has an available peppier engine. Yes, I confess to seriously considering one of these myself.

Duke said...

This will no doubt raise some ire but do all Subarus come with your choice of 'environmental' bumper stickers?

Scott J said...

Yes, Robert, I was having a time warp induced by not enough coffee intake.

rickn8or said...

"... it would appear that GM broke Saab..."

I'm thinking that not only could the New GM break an anvil in a sandbox, it would lose one of the pieces.

"But he sold that corvette motor before he told me :( since it kept running fine.

~Glamdring"

BAD Grampa!! No birthdays at Hooters for you!

Scott J and Robert-- I don't remember either of those events so much (Old-timer's disease) but I DO remember the ice storm which immobilized Memphis my first winter back here in twenty-plus years (93-94). Rolling in my hotrod '71 Nova, and finances didn't allow for any upgrades/trades.

But now the only place I HAVE to go is the mailbox, and I don't have to do that every day.



Robert said...

Sport Pilot said...
"While you’re shopping check out the Hyundai cars and SUV’s, they’re well made with good engines and drivetrains. The Santa Fe is a smaller SUV and is available in AWD or FWD and has an available peppier engine. Yes, I confess to seriously considering one of these myself"

Just got a V6 AWD Sante Fe last spring. Traded in a used up Outback Sport for it. So far it's been excellent. Had to travel to an out of state dealer to find the one I wanted though as our local dealer is a low-down lying snivling little rat faced git.

BGMiller said...

Gads...
Now I miss my old SAAB.
Had a '67 95 wagon.
Couldn't make that thing break loose in the snow and ice. And gods know I tried.

And consider looking at one of the new VWs. A buddy is a VW tech for the local dealership so I've gotten to play with a few and they are fun. And the Golfs can take a bunch of long gun cases in the rear. Just a thought.

Also, car sales guys use to look at me odd when I would be looking because I had my hockey bag with me. First test was to stuff it in the trunk. If it didn't fit I didn't need to go any further. (I was a goalie too so BIG bag)

Now my benchmark is a pair of hard sided double rifle cases. Heh....that really makes the sales weenies look at me odd.

BGM

The Raving Prophet said...

There is one place where FWD really is inferior in winter weather to AWD... it's when you go uphill. That weight on the drive wheels starts to shift backwards. The torque of the engine is also going through only one pair of tires instead of two, meaning you're more likely to start spinning and losing traction. Winter tires can help this, but won't fully remedy it.

But then, if you have a flexible schedule, FWD is likely more than good enough. I don't even consider non-AWD anymore, but when we have to go we HAVE to go and we have some hills that get surprisingly ugly in the winter.

I will say, though, that if a 4x4 Jeep with Blizzak DM-V1s fitted can't get you there there's no wheeled vehicle that will pull it off.

Chas Clifton said...

Supposedly Colorado's largest Subaru dealer, which ought to make it one of the nation's largest.

This outfit is a used Subaru specialist. But both are in Colorado, where the 'Roo is extremely popular.


I looked at a Forester a few years ago but ended up with a Jeep Liberty because the Liberty had a real low-range gearbox. However, if you do not often drive down steep rocky or snowy slopes, you don't need low range.

Some Subarus are not so comfortable for tall, leggy people.

Old NFO said...

Here's hopin you find an affordable one, and not making any recommendations! :-D

OldTean said...

I am sure you know how to do what I do with my RWD F150 pickup. I put about 250 lbs of cinder block in a metal tool box bolted down right behind my rear axel and it works.

While it is not as good as four wheel drive I am careful to keep the back end behind me and it is kind of like having a fat guy standing on the back bumper.

Of course if I have ice, which is not often in our part of Texas, I just make a pot of coffee and stay home since no one here knows how to drive on that stuff anyway. A slightly slick Christmas day was like bumper cars on our freeways this year.

Anonymous said...

One of the issues you will have in looking for a used Subaru is that Subaru owners keep their cars far longer than most other car drivers. This limits the supply of used Subies without problems on them already.

We have a Subaru Outback. IMO, it is a more capable car on paved roads with snow than our 4WD vehicles. We have four vehicles and three of them are conventional 4WD's, and then there's the Subie Outback. If I absolutely had to get somewhere NOW, in the snow in Wyoming, we'd grab the Subie.

Robert said...

I'll second the recommndations for the outback. We did trade ours in but mostly because it wasn't big enough for the family. It did go up hills in the snow that had jeeps sitting in the ditch though.

ScottH said...

If you can find one at a decent price take a look at used Jeep Patriots. The 4x2 version is good for 6-8 inches of fresh snow if you're careful; the 4x4 version acts like there's nothing on the ground.

AuricTech said...

Another option you might want to consider is the AWD Suzuki SX4 Crossover. They're reliable, inexpensive and economical to drive. The downside is that Suzuki is ending their automotive presence in the US market (I blame GM*), although that might result in some bargains on new Suzukis.

*GM used to own about 20% of Suzuki. When GM was facing bankruptcy, Suzuki bought back the stock GM owned to give GM some much-needed cash. GMAC promptly showed their gratitude by no longer floorplanning Suzuki dealers, which was a major factor in Suzuki losing so many dealers.

Drang said...

Based on my '90 Dakota, driving in ice/snow is, indeed, rather sporty.

Also, anecdotal evidence suggests that Chrysler still makes Dakota trannys out of the same cheese GM makes truck door hinges from.

rickn8or said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rickn8or said...

Oldtean, I do something similar, except it's a Chevy Silverado, and it's in front of the axle and it's tools, Spontaneous Camping / Hunting supplies, water and ammo.

If ya gotta haul ballast, make sure it's useful ballast.

George said...

"I'll bet that short-bed RWD Dakota with a V-8 and sport tires would have tuck & roll upholstery after I drove rode in it down an icy road, clutching desperately at the wheel while the rear tires made like an uncoordinated puppy on a slick tile floor."

My 2001 Dakota 2WD did surprisingly well in a couple of snowy winters. It got me where I was going and back with no issues. In fact, it does better in snow than on wet roads. When the road is wet, it_will_not_stop. Makes for some hairy rides, at least I live in a part of Texas that rain has forgotten.

blindshooter said...

I've been looking for a used 4x4 truck for a couple months now, every dealer I talk with tells me the best buys are going to the hurricane Sandy areas and that has hurt availability and price. I have a company FWD Escape that has surprised me several times while working on construction sites with hills and mud together, lots better than the F150 I used before that one.

GreyLocke said...

I had a V-8 Dakota and as long I moved my tool boxes towards the tailgate, I had no problems with traction. The V-8 Dakotas came with a posi rear end standard. And I used to own an 86 Saab 900, and the newer Saab as far as I am concerned are nothing but junk. From the stupid Eco-Tech engine that had enough pep to get out of the way of a snail or a turtle, plus the way they started burning oil after 30k miles and leaking from the valve cover gasket shortly afterward. The old Saab 2.0 I engine in mine had 347k miles before I had to replace the water pump and the alternator. The clutch went out at 410k miles. I wish I still had that car though. 43 mpg on the highway, and it tracked so true steering was almost an afterthought.

Robin said...

I was kinda pulling for the Jaguar badged Mondeo myself ...

Andy said...

I stil totally dig my 06 X-type, in Ultraviolet. Looks good, eats snow and rain. Corners like a...well, cat. Interior could have been better. A manual is hard to find, though a Jag tech informed me once that his observation was you'd be replacing the clutch every 50k miles. I got to try one once, it was fun.

Early examples had reputation for some minor issues, try for an 04 or later.

LabRat said...

I'll bet that short-bed RWD Dakota with a V-8 and sport tires would have tuck & roll upholstery after I drove rode in it down an icy road, clutching desperately at the wheel while the rear tires made like an uncoordinated puppy on a slick tile floor.

How'd you know what Stingray used to drive?

He liked making its tail wag out of high spirits.

Anonymous said...

Where to start, okay old cars. I drove RWD sedans - in the midwest - with no snow tires from 1967 to roughly 97. And seldom got stuck. Now I won't be without 4WD.
SAABs - I worked as a mechanic in the late 60s/early 70s. First Saab I opened up to adjust the valves really impressed me. The areas most folks never see looked like a jewel, at least to a guy familiar with Chevy valvetrains. No idea about today's versions but those were beautifully made.
Old Chevy V8s - You can run them with half the oil, half the water, hotter than blue blazes and they'll just keep chugging. Drove the boss's Chevy II with a tired 283 as an errand car and just kept adding oil. Add in a couple of 350 powered, late 70s station wagons, two 2WD pickup and several race car engines and I think it's as important to the car world as the Model T.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain on winter 4WD shopping - 3 years ago, I bought an Audi A4 quattro in mid-November in MN. Every time I found one, I'd call the dealership only to have them tell me, "Sorry, we sold that an hour ago."

Tam said...

"I feel your pain on winter 4WD shopping - 3 years ago, I bought an Audi A4 quattro in mid-November in MN. Every time I found one, I'd call the dealership only to have them tell me, "Sorry, we sold that an hour ago.""

To my advantage in the negotiating process, it was the last day of the year.

To the dealership's advantage, I was buying a snow-covered Subaru on a snow-covered lot.