Andy is an attorney who has been driving old Subarus so he could be financially responsible. It’s time for an upgrade but he is having difficulty balancing a vehicle that is fun, somewhat fuel efficient, and good for his outdoor hobbies. What car should he buy?
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Here’s the scenario:
I am a recently-engaged attorney who finally has money going into my bank rather than out. I currently drive a 2012 Subaru Outback that I am very grateful for, but secretly despise. When I park in big lots, I legitimately lose track of it in the sea of other white Subaru Outbacks here in Portland.
My first car was a 2006 Mustang and even with a shrimpy V6, it felt like a religious experience every time I got behind the wheel. I sold it and bought an Impreza wagon so that I could drive in the snow where I was going to school at the time, but I have always missed that feeling.
I recently inherited my dad’s 2012 Outback and sold the Impreza. My initial plan was to run the Outback into the ground, but I am hoping to do more outdoor trips and house projects and the Outback is starting to feel like an AWD minivan. I am hoping to find something that could be the car I drive for the next 20 years. (Ridiculous I know).
I would love something like the new Gladiator, though I know it’s considered ugly by most and unfortunately, it is grossly overpriced and not super-efficient. I don’t want something that gets MPGs in the teens. I miss the thrill of driving my Mustang, but I plan on having kids in five to six years and I don’t think I can justify a coupe that I can’t even fit in the backseat of. I really miss the acceleration and style. I can spend up to $35,000.
Budget: Up to $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Milwaukee, OR
Wants: Fun, good for outdoor lifestyle, decent MPG
Doesn’t want: Something too thirsty
Well, Andy, this is certainly a difficult balancing act since anything that can fit your eventual growing family and be suitable for outdoor activities is likely going to be on the larger side. Not to mention most vehicles in that category with any semblance of performance are going to be a bit thirsty at the pump. However, since the Gladiator is on your radar but not quite what you want, I do think you are on the right track with the pickup truck idea.
Obviously, there is no shortage of pickup trucks to choose from and in your area, there are probably several hundred options available. I would stick with the F-150 and either of the EcoBoost turbo V6 motors. With four-wheel-drive, the 2.7 engine is rated at 24 MPG on the highway and even the excellent 3.5 EcoBoost only drops to 23 MPG highway, according to Ford. The F-150 isn’t going to be a Mustang, but it has room for the family, can take you camping and handle whatever home projects you are working on.
As you already know a solid F-150 can last a long time if well cared for, though 20 years may be a bit of a stretch. At your price point, you can be a bit picky about color and options on lightly used examples, but I would recommend keeping the focus on the 2018 and up models with the 10-speed automatic. Here is a low-mile example with some nice equipment well-within your budget.
Usually we get a request for something with a budget of $35,000, and it’s almost too easy. For $35,000 you can a functionally infinite number of cars, and that makes it difficult to recommend just the right one.
But now you, Andy, come at us with all sorts of complications. Go anywhere capability? Fuel efficient? And fun? And reliable?
Well Andy looks like you want yourself a unicorn. Good luck!
But we here at Jalopnik are, indeed, in the unicorn business. And this 1994 Toyota Hilux Surf on Bring A Trailer right now might be your ticket to fantasyland.
It’s got a beefy 3.0-L turbodiesel up front to give you that power and torque you want (145 horsepower and 253 pound-feet, specifically, which, okay, isn’t a lot but I am trying) without all the fuel consumption you don’t, a five-speed manual so you can still feel sportsy, and it’s right-hand-drive.
Yes, right-hand-drive! There’s nothing more fun than being on the wrong side of the car. Trust me, I’ve driven many a car on the wrong side, and the joke never gets old. Unless you’re going through a drive-thru. Then it gets old pretty quick. Unless you reverse through it, in which case, hilarious.
Okay, so you’ll have to ship it over from Japan, but the listing notes that the selling dealer will help with that. There’s no way this thing goes for anywhere near $35,000, either, so you should have plenty of money left over to get it to the States and modify it for even more tree-pulling power. And if anything goes crazy, it’s still a Toyota 4Runner. You’ll be fine.
It’s either that, or the Subaru.
A pickup with a camper shell is probably all you will ever need, if I’m honest, and you can have a fun time building some wood shelving and an actual platform bed in the back if you’d like. But it’ll always just be a pretty plain pickup.
As for the Hilux Surf, I’ve driven a 4Runner of this era and they are fine cars. They are easy to own, and if you get one in good shape and put the money into it that it requires (old Toyotas still need maintenance!) it will last as long as you want it to. But inside and out it’s just an older Toyota. It’s not, like, wild. And for this money, you could be getting something that’s trusty and interesting and reliable and will make you smile every time you look at it.
Portland is, conveniently, probably the best city in the country for finding a vehicle that fits your dream. Your local Craigslist has roughly 5,000 VW Westfalia vans. The Rolling Death Van Club is in town, even.
And I hate to say that my heart is slightly torn. For instance, for $15,000 you could own a bright orange 1980 VW firetruck, recently overhauled. It is extra roomy, it is designed to last forever, and the interior is surprisingly nicely trimmed. The thing is extra wide so you will feel like you’re driving a bus, but, like, a fun bus.
But I think you can do even better. That VW is going to need some strange parts sooner or later, and you’re going to have to end up scrounging arcane forums for engine bits shared with the Audi 200 and Porsche 924.
This 1990 Toyota HiAce, though, is actually a last-forever vehicle, with 10 years on the VW in terms of newness, plus it comes with a tent for the roof and it actually has back seats in addition to a bed. I would snatch it up for $18,900 and give the guys at the Rolling Death Van Club a call to get a good paint job on it and you’ll be good to go.
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