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

Jake just went through a divorce. He has a new job and a fresh start, so he’s looking for a new ride. Then he realized he never owned a car that he really felt a connection with. He is torn between a truck or something more performance-oriented. What car should he buy?

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Here is the scenario:

I’m recently divorced and moved to a new everything. new city, new job, new life. I never really had a car that I loved so it’s time to fix that. But I’m stuck in a dilemma as to which direction to go. I build roof trusses and I like to go camping, so obviously I’m inclined to get a nice truck. However, I would really like something enjoyable when the road gets twisty. This vehicle needs to fit two car seats and be reliable. I don’t have a lot of extra cash to throw into repairs. Also, I drive to the coast frequently so something that is comfortable for long hauls is a plus.

I love old Ford trucks and always dreamed of having a classic Mustang, but I don’t think either one of those are in the cards this time around.

As for budget I can spend up to $20,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $20,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Wants: Reliable, Affordable, comfortable

Doesn’t want: Something too heavy on the maintenance.

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Take It One Step At A Time

Image: Autotrader

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Well, Jake sometimes it’s nice to have a fresh start and open a new chapter in your life. As for this vehicle, you have somewhat conflicting requirements, so it would be important to look at the key priorities of comfort, reliability, and practicality.

I’m going to suggest a two-car solution for this one. First, get an affordable daily driver that leaves some money left over on to eventually score something classic. These cars would be split into some kind of pickup truck and something fun. But there are two ways we can do this. Option A: Get an easy commuter car now and a classic truck later. Option B: Get the truck now and a classic car later. I think option B is the way to go given your profession and desire to have a rig for camping.

Start with something like this 2009 F-150 SuperCrew Platinum. It’s got four full-size doors so plenty of room for the kids, it’s well appointed which is great for long drives, and it can move your gear and equipment easily. This truck has 126,000 miles but that’s nothing to be concerned about on a well cared for F-150.

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With $3,000 leftover, start putting some cash away and for a bit and save up for something you can really get into. It won’t take long to build up to $10,000 and then you can score a nice classic Mustang like this one. Granted a car like this will probably need a bit of work, but it can be a project for you. You don’t have to rely on it to get around. And with your truck, you can buy it and tow it home.

Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - Two Steps Are Better In One

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Hm. You like Ford trucks. But you also like classic Ford Mustangs. This doesn’t have to be two vehicles! You can get... a Ranchero!

The Mustang was basically just a Ford Falcon family car with a fancy body on it, and it wasn’t the only variation of the Falcon theme. Ford also cut the back off of these things to make them into anti-El Camino pickups.

Here is a super clean nostalgic-era Rancho, which is currently running a dead-reliable straight six but also comes with a hot V8 and transmission along with it. I do not doubt for a moment that this thing would be ultra fun to road trip around in as it is, and modifying it into a real handler is only a parts catalog away. After all, the seller is only asking $8700, and you’re getting two vehicles for the price of one.

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Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky - Put On A Helmet, Because You’re Gonna Fall In Love

You absolutely deserve a car you’ll love! You’re a human, and that’s your right. Luckily for you, I’m pretty sure I found the special soulcarmate you’ve been longing for: this 1969 Ford Country Squire.

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Raph was close up there with the Ranchero, but didn’t quite make it. You like Fords, I get that, so we’ll stay in that family, and you need hauling room for work and play, so the Ranchero fits that, but it’s not good for your two car seats, and I’m guessing that’s a deal breaker.

What does every job you need and want is a big-ass old Ford station wagon. This Country Squire is huge, and has plenty of room for trusses and tents and whatever in the back, especially with the rear seat folded flat—it’s as big as a pickup bed back there.

It’ll fit kid seats and cruise comfortably on the highway as long as you can keep filling it’s hungry V8 gullet with gas. It’s got a big 429 engine in there, and while I don’t expect it to be nimble in the twistys, I bet it’ll make its own sort of fun.

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Plus, look at the thing! It’s fantastic! It has the menacing hidden-headlight front end, the great woodgrain sides, those great wheels—come on, this is everything you want and need, right here.

It’s only $14,500! What are you waiting for! Go! Go find love!

Expert 4 - Patrick George: Raptor Or GTFO

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Jake, I concur with Tom here that you have a tricky list of requirements. A fun, reliable, low-maintenance SUV or truck that can also haul kids and comes in under $20,000 doesn’t spring too many options to mind. You’re likely going to have to compromise on some of that, or get two cars.

Having said all that, maybe a used Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is up your alley? It’s the *fun* Ford truck, the one built for burnouts and drag racing and off-road madness, in addition to hauling stuff. For $20,000, you’re looking at the previous-gen Raptor, the V8-powered one, not the new twin-turbo V6 model. I don’t think that’s such a big downside. These are a blast to drive and are built pretty tough.

They’re kind of hard to find in your price range, but here’s a 2010 Raptor in the New York area for $21,500. Something like that could be good, if you can talk the seller down a bit. Look for ones that haven’t been too beaten to hell—that’ll be your job once you get it.