What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.  

Casey helps run a small brewery in Arkansas and the operation is about to celebrate its one year anniversary. However, the old Saab wagon that they use for deliveries isn’t going to last much longer. He needs something cheap that can handle the payload, but is quirky enough to make a statement. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

Our brewery is almost a year old, and our faithful 2001 Saab 9-5 that has been our heroic stand-in delivery vehicle is showing signs she might be at the tail end of her best days. As a startup, we’re pretty lean on cash, but we need a set of wheels that can get kegs to thirsty people and embody our brewery’s plucky little-guy spirit.

Our average delivery is about 700 pounds, so a reasonably sturdy chassis. A lowish loading deck is essential. Loading 170 pound kegs into something SUV-height is a hell no. We’d love something quirky, something that turns heads when we roll into a beer festival. Routine dings and bruises are not a problem. Utility outweighs pretty.

I know it’s Jalopnik orthodoxy, but I sincerely do love wagons. All but one of the cars I’ve bought as a grownup have been wagons. And all but one have been manuals. In spite of being an automatic, my Saab wagon might be my favorite car. The sturdy chassis that handles Ozark mountain road curves or a full payload of kegs with equal aplomb. The weirdly handsome profile. The delightful weirdness in general. Even though this is a work vehicle, sometimes our boys go with us. An option to occasionally access four seats is important.

We need a quirky wagon to get the beer to thirsty people, but we only have about $5,000 to spend.

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Quick Facts:

Budget: $5,000

Daily Driver: Yes, also work vehicle

Location: Arkansas

Wants: Sturdy, cheap, quirky

Doesn’t want: A crossover

Expert 1: Tom McParland — Hop On The Bus

Image: Craigslist

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Casey, this is a super fun case. I’m a big proponent of supporting local breweries. Which probably explains why I’m about 20 pounds overweight since there are about a half-dozen excellent craft breweries that I have easy access to.

Finding a suitable beer transporter for five grand in your area wasn’t easy, but I think I found a solution that will not only increase your distribution potential but also make a statement: a used school bus.

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This ad indicates that they need to sell this 2003 school bus ASAP. It has a 6.0-liter motor and only 120,000 miles. Payload capacity should be no problem after years of hauling kiddos around and if you yank some of the seats out and you will be able to transport way more kegs than your old Saab. With a new paint scheme and some creativity this could be the ticket to get a cascade of new customers at your next festival.

Given the negotiable price of $5,000, this is your opportunity to take those other breweries to school.

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Expert 2: Patrick George — More Like Beermaster

Photo: Craigslist

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Casey, congrats on the success of your brewery. Around here we’re big believers in quirky cars and also beer that isn’t terrible, so I’m thrilled to help out.

You need a tough car, you want a low loading area, you need lots of room and you want something interesting. Also, you’re a lover of wagons. To me, signs point to an old Buick Roadmaster wagon.

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The GM B-body cars were tough as nails and built to handle all sorts of action, from people-hauling to police duty. With the Roadmaster, you’re getting a huge wagon that everyone will love to see at events, especially with that wood paneling. These cars are so fondly remembered from the 1990s that yours will be a hit wherever you go.

It’s a bit of a journey, but here’s one for sale for $5,900 in Knoxville, KY. Nice leather and cold A/C, too!

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Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky — BRATs Go Great with Beer

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You want a cheap, quirky, useful keg-hauler with a “plucky little-guy spirit?” Brother, you pretty much just described a Subaru BRAT. And, your request for rear seats to “occasionally access” pretty much describes the BRAT’s rear seat options perfectly.

In case you forgot what a BRAT was, it was a little 4x4 pickup truck Subaru built in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Because of its fun, quirky looks it has quite a cult following, and, to get around the pesky Chicken Tax, they could be had with a pair of rear-facing back seats, complete with grab handles:

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While I’d suggest installing some good seat belts back there, I’m positive your boys will adore riding back there, and remember it fondly forever.

You can easily load plenty of beer kegs into the BRAT’s bed, and I know wherever you show up, people will love to see that little truck in action. It’s character is entirely made of pluck and determination, like your brewery!

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Plus, the mechanicals are not exotic, the usual ‘80s Subaru stuff, with plenty of parts and support available for that little flat-four. There’s a good number for sale, in varying conditions, but I think you can find a decent one in your price range.

That ‘81 BRAT at the top there is only $3,500, but there are newer and even cleaner options available for just a bit more, but still right around your $5,000 limit.

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This’ll be great. Just show your kids those seats and I’m sure we’ll have a done deal.

Expert 4: Raphael Orlove — Don’t Say Dump Truck

Photo: Craigslist

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Don’t say dump truck. Don’t say dump truck. Don’t say dump truck.

OK! So, ignoring the correct choice (a dump truck) there are a ton of great ideas for you and your tasty fermentation science projects. Thankfully my coworkers said all of the good ones, which leaves me free to suggest horrible, no good, awful ideas. Like a 1940s coupe on a hodgepodge half-modernized chassis. This is the most period-correct choice for southern alcohol transport, and a business coupe is what you would have bought if you were a salesperson several decades ago.

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But! There is actually a real beast of a wagon for sale near you in your price range, that has even more space and style than Patrick’s B-Body Buick. I’m talking about this Mopar C-Body, a ‘69 Plymouth Suburban. It is impossible for me to stress how absolutely gargantuan these fuselage cars are.

They come with the benefit of by the time you have loaded up the back, the car has probably already made it to your destination, by the merit of the trunk area being roughly 50 miles long. The hood adds another 75.

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