Looking for Subaru... or other 'winterized' car
December 8, 2004
I know I know, this is a little bit off topic, but at the heart it does have something to do with skiing. Earlier this month my 1993 Ford Explorer began an aweful decline to the point where it was littlerally shake rattle and rolling when it idled and had 1/4 less power on CorridorH.
I took it to the dealership for a tune up today and their diagnosis was critical. One or two cylenders are dead and a possible broken piston beating against the inside of the cylender block causing the 'rattling missing sound' i've been hearing. Since it's a `93 explorer, getting a replacement engine would be $2700, and another $1400 in labor/hoses/belts to have it installed. Far more than what the vehicle itself is worth.
This left me with a critical decision. To get an engine replacement or buy a new car. I am contemplating a new one... preferably something AWD like a subaru legacy outback or similiar. I *need* something that is 4WD or AWD for snow traveling be it in Hardy County or to Timberline.
Now... the reason I post this on here is that I trust the DCSkier's opinions on various things. So my question is, in looking for a used vehicle (1997 and newer) in the Nothern VA, MD, DC areas... where is the best place to begin? I really don't want to spend over $5000 at most.
I can't answer your question as to where to buy one (My dealer has several late 90's models in this price range), but I can testify to the snow-worthiness and reliabilty of Subarus as ski-warrior cars. We own 3... a '95 Legacy Wagon w/183,000 miles, a '96 Legacy Coupe w/105,000 miles and an '03 Forester. I love these cars and they have never failed to deliver me safely in any weather. IMHO, the only non-truck choice for AWD.
Sorrry about your car.
Seems like car prices would be a lot cheaper in a place like Warrenton than they would in the immediate DC area...
If you had a broken piston rod, it would be more than a 'rattling missing sound'. Trust me. I cracked a piston rod on the Beltway and the sound of metal on metal at 3000 RPM was heinous. Not to mention the noxious smoke billowing out from the hood.
Thanks for the advice. My mom has a 95 Legacy wagon that has 250,000 miles on it and it's still going stronger than ever. I took that to T-Line last year and climbed the Allegheny's in 3" of snow and made it to T-Line without sliding once. That has convicted me of Subaru's worthiness. So I've spent the last day searching online and did find a 2002 Legacy Outback in Brooklyn, NY for $3200. Again though I'll buy ski stuff on ebay, but buying cars... that scares me in that I can't be there right now to check out the engine, test drive, let a dealership look it over etc.
Check the classified forum. A DCSkier is advertising a 97 Suburu in excellent condition in the price range. I don't know if it is still available but the ad is still up. Good luck.
Well, I probably wouldn't spend upwards of $3k getting a new engine on a 12 year old car. I've never bought a car on ebay, but...I wouldn't rule it out. I'd make sure the seller has darn near close to 100% feedback, though. There are 3rd party sources online that will do a pre-purchase insp- for a fee, of a car that's out of state. I, like you, don't want to go much over $5k ($6-7k absolute max) for my next car. A new car payment is not an option for me. Subaru's I've heard are great cars, but, based on personal experience I would recommend a used Honda Accord (I have a '94 w/ 140k miles that has no problems and looks great due to religiously performing routine maintenance, etc) or Toyota Camry. My first car a few years back was an '89 Camry given to me by my parents. When I got rid of it it had 180k miles.
Do a search on cars.com and search within a 150 mile radius. Within the Baltimore/Washington area you can find many late 90s Accords and Camrys for around $5k. If you put snow tires on them in winter, they would be just as good in the snow as an Explorer.
As with any car, a good pre-purchase inspection is recommended if you buy through a private owner. To me, taking a day or two off from work during the week to have insp. done and doing the title work beats paying double the price at used-car dealer. Also, before you consider buying ANYTHING, go to carfax.com and run a check to make sure the title history is good and there were no major reported accidents/thefts, etc.
Based on Consumer Reports ratings and personal experience, I strongly prefer Japanese cars because of their superior reliability (in my opinion).
I drive my car regularly from Baltimore to Canaan Valley, even during major snowstorms, and have never gotten stuck. I should probably get snow tires. But, my point is that an SUV is not necessary even in severe climates. As a note, 5-7 y/o Accords and Camrys aren't much more expensive than comparable year Civics and Corollas, but they're much more comfortable for long trips, and still economical is these times of uncertain energy prices...
Here are a couple of good Epic threads addressing Subaru vehicles, comments full of praise. It certainly seems like a good choice for WV winters:http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=4068&highlight=subaruhttp://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=20971&highlight=subaru
I've bought 3 used cars in the last half dozen years, two from private individuals and one from a dealership. I've been happy with all three cars and we're still driving them, but they're not Subarus or especially snow worthy. My strategy is to research and narrow down to a few brands/models, then watch the Wash Post classifieds for a period of time to gauge market price. When I see a good deal I call for a test drive. My minivan was such a good deal I was suspicious and took it to a local, reliable garage for an inspection (thumbs up) before purchasing. I found Carmax a little pricey, but their website and locations are a great way to research models of interest and test drive, and maybe buy if you get a warm fuzzy feeling. The closest to you may be the Carmax in Centerville, VA on Rt 28 near I66. They have a ton of stock. If there is a dealership closer to your home that you trust and has a decent selection of Subarus, maybe you can use some prices from newspaper or Carmax to bargain with them.
Ryanc's got some good advice. Carfax is good idea, I have used it. I have two used Nissans which I found are priced a little less than comparable Toyotas and Hondas, yet still very reliable.
My recomendation is look at autotrader.com and get a 3 month account with carfax which is only $20/30. If you want a nice car thats great in the snow try a Volvo 850. I bought one, a '93, with 145k on the clock and it was awesome. Generally people who buy them really like their car and take great care of it. I'll be honest they are no more expensive to maintain than any other car on the road and as long as it is pre Ford take over they are extremely well built and reliable. I'm sure you could pick one up for under $5000. The upside too is that they are loaded with goodies like powered heated seats which are nothing short of miraculous after a day of riding. I know it's not AWD but I'll be honest I have never had problems with them sliding on snow or ice. I rued the day I had to sell mine.
$5000 for me is the absolute maximum... but I would preferablly like to keep it below $4000 if humanly possible since that is what it would cost for me to have the engine replaced in the explorer. I figure no need to spend more than what I have to either way I go.
The reason I do consider SUV's is that while I abhor their gas mileage, I need something with room to also double as my work vehicle for my business. I need something that gets through snow and winter... but also has room to carry 3-5 boxed computes, parts, components, etc. My business is out working hands on with clients, fixing their stuff, installing new stuff, etc. Something like a KIA Sportage simply won't work.
I have been looking at Subaru's ... especially the Legacy Outbacks (1997+) considering they have a 22/28 gas mileage vs a 15/20 explorer which is why I'm leaning that way. But stillt he idea of paying something like that for a 'used' item online when there are so many variables that I'm unsure of due to no test driving capabilities scares me. Does the engine have a miss? Is the steering alignment off by a bit? Is there a creak or popping noise in the front end? etc.
Where would I go to contact someone to do a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle??
I'm likely going to be in the minority here, but as a general rule of thumb, its usually cheaper to fix a car than to buy another. I know the engine replacement cost you described was pretty high but your quote was from a dealer. Have you thought about going with a rebuilt engine from an independent shop? You have a 1993 vehicle which means this was pre-OBD II (think less manufacturer-specific computer and software). You ought to be able to get a rebuilt engine for well under $3k and have it installed for around $1k or less. Granted, your Jeep is 11 years old, but if other components have been taken care of and rust is not a problem, you could have a vehicle that will last for a good number of years with a rebuilt engine. Sure would be much easier than trying to find a reliable, snow-capable, new-to-you car for under $5k and less risky too (most shops will provide some type of limited warranty on the work for an installed engine - and rebuilts usually come with some type of warranty). Besides, you know your Jeep and its history well (including all the faults). With a new-to-you car in the $5k price range, you may not know what's up with the car and could be taking a gamble. Just food for thought.
i agree with jimk as far as a dealership quote for any repair work. about 10 years back i was driving my undersized/underpowered pickup truck (also a ford like yours, unfortunately) that developed a noticable engine ping. a few months later it was kaput. the dealership that i towed it to wanted over $3000 to replace the engine. well that was about $3000 more than i could afford. so it sat for a few years before a friend of mine convinced me that we could replace it ourself with a junkyard engine.
well owing to my own personal track record when it comes to do-it-yourself repairs, i had some serious doubts about this plan. but with his help i found an almost-new engine (10k miles) and put it in that truck myself. the day that new engine first fired up was a happy one indeed. this same truck is still my daily driver, and is approaching 100k miles on the replacement engine.
total cost to me was less than $1000, plus a sizable time investment and a few smashed fingers and toes.
not that you would want to try this yourself. but i guess my point is not to seek quotes from some independent shops before writing this truck off.
Bawalker - Although I agree in general with Subaru's reputation, one concern that I would have is their lack of ground clearance and the affect that has in deep snow. A couple of years ago (actually it was the morning after the President's Day storm in Feb 2003) I was approaching 7 Springs, and a guy in a Subaru Outback was stuck, bigtime. He had good tires on the car, but he was simply hung up in the deep snow. I helped a bunch of other guys push him through the drift that he was in. Although that storm was somewhat of a worst-case scenario, it isn't hard to imagine that kind of situation on the way to Timberline/Canaan for you....just my 2 cents.
My current philosphy is to make-do with a city car (Chevy Prism) that gets good mileage, and is good for commuting and running erands on DC's tight streets. We only own one car and we try to solve most of our transportation requirements through, walking, public transportation, and cycling. Rarely do I use my car more than three days a week, and rarely do I carry passengers or freight. I bought 4 snow tires this year to make winter driving easier at Timberline. I'm hoping that will save me from buying a bigger, heavier, country vehicle. With Yakima racks, the Prism carries bikes and skis with ease, and get's wonderful mileage. Driving 187 miles up and back to Timberline 2-3 times a month eats a lot of gas and I'm thankful my car gets good mileage.
I drive an 4wd car that sits low to the ground and I actually prefer it to a big SUV with lots of clearance. Sure there is the occasional Presidents day storm that requires the clearance but that's rare unless you live in a really rural are that doesn't get plowed. I prefer having my car's ability to get me out of trouble when I get a little loose on ice. An SUV can't get much traction when it's wheels are in the air.
Thanks for the various ideas and thoughts regarding this. I have thought about rebuilding the motor myself or getting a new one and installing it. Considering I'm of a technical mind working with computers that shouldn't be too hard to do. Unfortunately I just don't have the available free time to do that. Here at the house the explorer is my *only* vehicle and currently I'm having my mom shuttle me to and fro until I pick the explorer back up tomorrow. Until then I'll run the explorer on a VERY LIMITED basis of maybe a few miles a week to decrease the risk of getting broken down somewhere.
Someone made mention of taking it to an independent mechanic to have estimates or a motor rebuilt. While that is definately an option, I have my skepticism on those as well. The older couple that I bought this explorer from has cared for it very welll. No rust, interior is great, and I actually rode in it as a kid when growing up with their kids. I can vouche for their 0 abuse on the vehicle. Where they failed was that they continued to take it to a mechanic here in Hardy County who while I'm sure is good with cars, isn't the best mechanic there is. When I bought the explorer last year for $1500, the old gentleman told me that there was a slight vibration when using Overdrive gear going 45-50mph but that the mechanic said that it was a gear inside the transmission slowly wearing out and would finally give in a good 4-5 years from now. In my ignorant bliss I said that was fine and this was only going to be a local beater machine anyway while I continued to save up for a much nicer vehicle.
Not to throw blame at the previous owner (they really are good people, close family friends), I think their ignorance of vehicles caught up with them. It turns out that Matt, a guy I trust at the dealership, said that the transmission was fine, but the engine appearantly was starting to go back then, while the local mechanic ignorantly thought it was the transmission. Thinking that it would last for several years and for $1500 I got it without having the dealership do a free top to bottom look over and make a no-buy or yes-buy recommendation. I know, stupid mistake on my part.
My primary concern is that I *need* a vehicle asap. While running a small business and working to help the www.savelostriver.org
cause from loosing our home/land, I have 0 time to install an engine myself. Although I have thought about getting another car, keeping the explorer, rebuilding/installing an engine over the period of a few months and selling it to a family member or friend and using that to try and recoup some of the money used in a new car. It's just a thought though.
You all did bring up some good points with the pro's and con's of a Subaru vs an SUV. Ground clearance can be an issue, but honestly I've traveled *alot* in various conditions with my mom's legacy subaru (not an Outback) and it handled everything superbly. Plus I'm not one to play mr. risky and drive to Timberline when Wardensville still has 6" of unplowed snow on the roads. My priority list is as follows:
1.) Cost. If it's a subaru, F150, Jeep, Explorer, I don't care as long as it's very close to a target price.
2.) ASAP need. While engine rebuilding is great, I am sort of skeptic on unproven local mechanics as I made mention of above. Currently the dealership has proved themselves trustworthy without overcharging so I weight their advice very heavily.
3.) Gas mileage. $30/tank makes me cry everytime I pump gas. It makes the $14/tank fillups with the subaru a welcome sight.
4.) Cargo space. (Sorry little Kia's, you are out.) It is not unusual for me to make 4 customer stops and load up enough computer parts that the entire trunk and back seat are full in my explorer so that is a must. Considering that is what my business is about and all.
At the end of all of this I could tack on ground clearance because that is a really nice option, but simply isn't as important as the above. In a perfect world there would be Hummer H1's with hybrid gas/electric engines that get 250hp, 45mpg, and cost $20,000 and has the best cargo space, ground clearance, and low center of gravity that you can get.
Why don't you save $5,000 and lease a car/suv of your choice? That's what my ex-father-in-law does for his own computer company. You get tax write off since the car is claimed as a company car. Not sure if you want to do the lease thing.
As for the Hummer, check out the Hummer H2H (Hydrogen Powered Experimental Vehicle) http://trucks.about.com/library/photo/bl_h2h_hummer.htm
Since you own your own business, you could definitely get a good write-off if you leased. That would take a lot of the pain out of the monthly payments. But...as a sidenote, I guess you already know this but anytime you, as a business owner, use (or should I say used) your vehicle to say take computers to a client in Winchester from Wardensville (or anywhere else, just an example) you can deduct each mile driven! If I say a late 90s Outback for under $5k, I'd be VERY skeptical! Finding a nice, reliable used car for under $5k is definitely doable, heck, it's what I've done, but...obviously if you have $10k its effortless.
Finding a good SUV in that range, newer than a '95 may not be possible. I will say that Camry's are larger than Accords (since space is a concern) and you can definitely find a late 90s Camry ('97 or '98) in good condition for under $5k. To find a good selection of Hondas and Toyotas, you'll probably have to look closer to the metro areas (Balt/Wash). If your search takes you to Balt/Wash, let me know and I'll give you the names of the shops that I use for my pre-purchase inspections.
As an analogy, looking for a decent small condo in the DC area for under $250k. Doable, but doing your homework is a MUST.
Before I got my current car I tried to find a Subaru for reasonable money and honestly it's tough. People hold onto them forever so when they hit the market they are in demand and the price goes up. I don't want to look like I'm a Volvo rep but seriously I had a look on cars.com and saw a bunch of mid 90's 850's with less than 100k miles for $5k and less. If you need the space get a wagon. I own a 99 S70 now which is basically an 850 with 88,000 miles on the clock and it is a beauty. It runs smooth as glass, I bought it last winter and I have not had to do anything but change the oil in the meantime. They rock in the snow and some may even have traction control. At the very least they have a winter switch which limits wheel spin due to excess torque. I was in the position last year of either sinking thousands into a car or buying another one so I know how you feel and it is certainly not like I make a lot of money so I'm very careful on what I spend it on. I would go ahead and see what you can get used, buy it as a business vehicle and use the money to your advantage. See about donating the Explorer, talk to a tax pro first, because you may get back the blue book value on your taxes next year. Honda's and Camry's are gold too, they are nigh on indestructible but again they are in high demand and it's hard to get one newer than early 90's for less than $5k.
One note of caution. I've heard many car dealers are getting lots of cars from Florida and selling them cheap. The cars were ones that got flooded during the Florida storms but the dealers are not always telling the buyer so that's something to look out for. I agree with John in that I like the good gas milage. I have a Honda Accord with snow tires and I'm very satisfied.
The VIN should show this right? As a way to prevent from getting flooded cars?
I don't really know. I would probably get a good mechanic to check it.
I found a nice 1996 Eddie Bauer explorer in Baltimore online for $2100. Does anyone know of a Ford Dealership down that way that if I pursued this one, that I could meet the owner at and let the Dealership inspect it over?
I live in baltimore and know mechanics that could check out a car at reasonable cost. But...a '96 eddie bauer explorer for $2100 sounds awfully low. $5-6k sounds more like the norm for reasonable condition. if i were you i'd ask to be e-mailed pictures before driving to baltimore to see it. also, if they're in baltimore, i'd ask where. may be owned by a nice family in roland park. or...could be used to transport drugs through some not so nice parts of town (and there are many). or could have 300k miles at that price! Let me know your findings and i'll try to help.
kennedy, in a year or so i'd like to upgrade to a biit nicer, but still practical car. i do like the volvo 850s and S70s. The idea of getting a used 6-8 y/o one next year has crossed my mind. Are they reliable? How about maintenance/repair costs and reliability/longetivity as compared to the accord? i want a little step up from what i have (Accord LX), but any of my dream cars (Audi A4, BMW 3 series, etc.) would be a real strain on my budget. I'm not willing to (and can't afford to) spend half of my modest salary on car maintenance So...that leaves S70 or 850 as a possible choice. Are they still reliable since Ford took over? Thanks for any advice. --Ryan
I did a carfax check on the vehicle and it's located in Derwood, MD. Is that a good section of MD?? Carfax.com reports that the vehicle has had 1 owner, no reported accidents, etc, and it falls under their buyer protection plan.
Not to be a car snob, but that does not look like good deal to me. First of all, it has 188,000 miles on it which is quite a high mileage vehicle. Second (and worse, imho)the owner claims to be replacing the engine AND transmission (!!!). One does not normally do this unless there has been some major issue. I can perhaps understand one or the other needing some work at 10 yrs and all those miles, but both. At the same time? Moreover, why would someone put new tires and all this work into a old explorer with 188K on it? Personally, I would recommend buying from a reputable dealer or Carmax where you have a much better chance of getting a fair deal. Also, I suspect you've already checked this out,
but Edmunds lists the "Private Party" sales price for that car as $2463 and that is assuming that it is in "clean" condition.
To be perfectly honest and blunt (which I am good at!) I think that is one of the most unprofesional and sleazy ads I've seen on ebay! Why wouldn't they just clean the doggone car before taking pictures is beyond me. There are plenty of veicles with almost 200k on them that don't need a new engine and tranny. maybe it wasn't taken care of??? not to rip this one apart, but....i can't lie here. also, those modifications are really low-class looking. I won't buy a used car unless EVERYTHING is factory original, down to the wheels and radio. What can I say, I'm a snob on a budget
cars.com, autotrader.com and i guess ebay are good bets. on second thought, the volvo idea sounds pretty good, also. i'm thinking about doing that next year......Ryan
Actually... BE BLUNT and give those thoughts. I need the outside input from others to make an informed decision. After reading your comments I may stay back from that one.
But... how about this one that I found on autotrader? Comments? Thoughts?http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ca...&cardist=92
Brad, that add is among the worst I have seen on ebay. I love the section with every other letter in a different primary color. Almost gave me a siezure. I still think $2500 is too much for that vehicle. there are other concerns such as inspection. There is no point in spending $2500 on a car that will be in the junk yard in 2-3 years.
If I were you I would go to the car auctions. A coworker got a 1999 nissan sentra last year for $2000 w/ 45K miles on it. That car will last a lot longer than your Explorer.
Thanks for the info. I have given up looking at the explorer I orignially looked at. I wrote the seller... and received no response and that to me in anything is a major red flag among other things. I've found quite a few vehicles as i've parused cars.com and autotrader.com. For example here is a 97 Expedition for $2100, although it's book value is $9500 so I'm gonna call, request the VIN and check it out, but I'm very cautious about it. But at least I can say I checked it out:http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ca...&cardist=92
There is also another 97 XLT Expedition for sale in Fredrick, MD for $4500 which is really worth checking out.
Ryan, the 850 has been around since '93 and is regarded as being very reliable, most Volvo nuts will tell that at 150k they're just getting broken in and there is a lot of truth in that. The older 850 I owned had 145k on the clock when I bought it and 163 when I sold it. The service rec's were all up to date and I made sure to keep it that way. I had to sell it because I was getting nailed on insurance since I had just moved to the states. But that car easily had another 150k left in it, not doubt about it. The S70 is basically the 850 just tarted up a little. Now here is the downside. This S70 I own now may well be the last Volvo I own. My car is sweet but if you look at consumer reports the S60, S80, S40 and even V70 are all on the cars to avoid list. These are the models released since Ford took over. I know there are plenty of die hard Ford owners and thats fine but quality has suffered. I know Jag has increased in engine build quality but to be honest British engineering in cars was never great so that arguement is out. If you lay your hands on a well cared for 850 with less than 100k on the clock you should be set. Maintenance is no worse than any other car, I had a Galant for a while and it was just as if not more expensive than the Volvo. The other thing to consider is this. Volvo is considered a luxury car and are generally bought by people with enough money to invest in the proper care and maintenance, therefore by the time you get them you can be reasonably sure they've rarely been thrashed or abused.
bawalker- Not sure if anyone else asked this, but do you know how much it would cost you to fix your current vehicle? Unless there are other problems which you don't want to deal with, it is probably more cost effective.