Alan lives in Texas and will soon be relocating to Alaska. He plans on driving there so he wants something comfortable, unique, and rugged that can survive the long trek and the harsh conditions of Alaska. With a budget of up to $15,000, what car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario -
I currently live in Houston, Texas but accepted a job in Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska. My beat down, decrepit 2004 Mazda 3 2.3L won’t survive the road trip, let alone an Alaskan winter. I need to find a reasonably-priced used car/van/suv that will survive a 3,000+ mile road journey AND fare well in Alaska once I arrive. My hope is to find something fun and unique that won’t get lost in the sea of Subarus that I’ll find in Alaska.
Generally, I want something 4WD or AWD, enough cargo room to pack for a move and survive a major road trip, fun and unique, generally reliable. I do not want a diesel since I have heard they don’t do as well in super cold climates. I can spend up to $15,000.
Budget: up to $15,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Currently, Houston TX eventually Alaska
Wants: 4x4, Unique, Reliable, Comfortable
Doesn’t want: A Subaru
Hey Alan, this sounds like an awesome adventure. While I understand not wanting the same car that everyone else has, I would caution you against getting something too esoteric as you don’t want to be in a situation during your journey or upon your arrival where you need service or repairs and you can’t easily source parts or find a mechanic.
For that reason, I am going to recommend my usual pick for someone that needs a ride that is normal, but different, the Ford Flex. The Flex shares a ton of components with other Ford vehicles like the Explorer so finding service and parts is easy. As you probably already know the Flex is super comfortable on long drives and makes for a pretty decent car to camp in if you need to. While it’s not super unique they style is different in a sea of blobby crossovers, and I’m sure you can outfit it with some cool overlanding gear to make it stand out.
Finding an AWD Flex in Texas isn’t easy since most of them are 2WD versions, but here is a Limited trim with around 85,000 miles well within your budget.
My first instinct is to go back to the Lexus GX well, but Tom will curtail my WCSYB privileges if I just copy/paste my recommendations every week. So, while I won’t recommend Lexus luxury, I will suggest another woodgrain warrior, a venerable GMT900 SUV like this GMC Yukon. You’ll get sturdy body-on-frame construction, plenty of interior space, and transcontinental comfort all with universal parts availability and serviceability.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, some Methods, KC lights and a set of KO2s will go a long way. Best of all, you can stay under your budget.
Alaska! How exciting! Soon you’ll be best friends with a moose and have the hale, healthy look of a real outdoors person. You need a car that fits this Bold New You, and I think I know the perfect thing: this 1973 International Harvester 1110 4x4 pickup truck.
International trucks are fantastic, partially because they have the longest name to be stamped on a tailgate and also because they knew how to make some wonderfully simple, rugged, and useful vehicles. This truck is essentially the pickup version of the Travelall, which was like a larger Scout.
This International is remarkably rust-free and looks to be in fantastic shape, with lovely gold-and-beige two-tone paintwork on its clean and handsome lines. There’s some wear, sure, but overall it’s remarkably good, and the seats even have that hilarious grandma’s couch lacy pattern embossed into them.
It’s got a big, straightforward V8 and a manual transmission and a lot of well-understood, basic engineering that, properly maintained, shouldn’t give you much trouble at all.
It’s on eBay with a starting bid of only $6,500, so I’m sure it’ll come in well under your $15,000 limit, likely several thousand less.
This will absolutely stand out in a sea of boring modern SUVs and Subarus. You’ll have no trouble packing all your stuff in there, and having a memorable road trip in this handsome old workhorse.
I’d say maybe get a bed cap for it, but that’s about it. Your moose friend can ride in the back!