Coachella, ACL Fest, Burning Man and other music festivals in far-flung locations are about to begin, and with them the perennial question: what's the best cross-country beater?

We frequently get asked what's the best car for under $3,500 to take across the country and then abandon, usually by visiting Europeans hoping to sample some American music and culture for the summer. They want some comfort (read: a/c), frugality when it comes to gas, enough speed to cover the highway miles, and above all dependability.


Though we'll always answer Volvo 240 wagon when it comes to reliability, a working wagon with A/C is getting somewhat harder to find. For our money, it's hard to top the first-gen Subaru Forester (a vehicle that'll fit in at most multi-day indie concerts). You can find a well-loved example of an early first-genner in the mid-3K range with working A/C. It's basically a slightly larger Impreza and offers similar reliablity/speed/handling with more room for someone who wants to sleep in the back. It shares parts with a million other Subarus so, should the worst happen, it won't be expensive or time-consuming to replace. And, if you're out at Wakarusa and things get muddy, you can always utilize the AWD to escape to Bonnaroo.

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