Nate is only 18 years old and is already living the #drivefreeordie life with a Land Rover and a Saab in various states of disrepair. It’s time to cut some losses on those cars and get something else that will actually work. What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
My dad was able to buy me a 2003 Land Rover Discovery SE7 and that car has seen some major issues. I have had broken drive shafts, leaking oil, transmission fluid, and coolant, the thermostat has been replaced twice, LHM occurs frequently, and currently, there are only six wiper blades that fit this car in all of Ohio. So I’m fairly used to budgeting and fixing. For my second car, I bought myself a 2005 Saab 9-5 wagon. It leaks more oil than BP in the Gulf of Mexico and it’s becoming a real problem because people really hate it when I leave spots in there driveway. I hoping to sell both vehicles soon as they are on their last legs, and find something to fill the void.
I’m planning on taking a lot of long trips this summer. I don’t need air conditioning, but something comfortable, reliable, and big. I would prefer something that no one would generally see in a high school parking lot. Something that stands out. Both of my cars have successfully done that and I’d like to continue the tradition. Since I live in Ohio, something with AWD or 4wd is preferable. I love old SUV’s that look like bricks, and I love station wagons, especially land yachts. I want something for under $4500, can be either automatic or manual. Can haul some people around if need be. I’m even open to the idea of buying two cars that together fit the requirements.
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Comfortable, Reliable, Different
Doesn’t want: Another major project
Expert 1: Tom McParland – Seek A Horse With No Name
Well, Nate, you have already experienced the pitfalls of both Land Rover and Saab ownership at a young age, anything you encounter from here should be a piece of cake. You clearly don’t mind turning a wrench if you have to, but I think it’s time to get something less frustrating to keep running.
Since you like those old-school SUVs that look like giant bricks, a Ford Bronco from the ’90s should do the trick. While I don’t 100 percent agree with my colleagues’ takes that all SUVs should have two-doors, I do think if you are a young person looking for something of this vintage you should rock a two-door version. The proportions are just better.
Here is one not far from you that seems to be in fairly good shape except for some cosmetic issues and fresh tires. I bet no one in your high-school parking lot will roll up in a badass Bronco.
Expert 2: Raphael Orlove – Go Old
A good buddy of mine had a similar Saab conundrum and solved it... by getting another Saab, but it sounds like you want to break out of the realm of complexity and into something dirt simple.
For that, go old.
I don’t know how many times I’ve bumped into people with mid-’60s Chevrolets who tell me they do nothing but put gas in the car and keep on going, so I’ll recommend this very affordable, manual 1965 full sizer with room left in the budget for a full once-over at purchase. The brakes are terrible I’m sure, but there’s nothing else mechanically to go wrong.
And if it’s too sketch to buy a car that ancient, just get a 1990s Cadillac like this one that’s still big and old in spirit, if newer in form.
Expert #3: Michael Ballaban – Size Queen
People often tell us that they want something “roomy.” They tell us they want something “practical.” They tell us they want something “with a good ride height.”
Those are all euphemisms. You, my friend, got right to it.
You want BIG.
You want big, you want unusual, you want all-wheel-drive and space for your 19 closest bestest friends. You also want no one to have anything like it in your high school.
You want a Ford Excursion.
The Ford Excursion is the perfect car for our times. They’re pretty unusual these days, owing to their short production run of just six years. Ford stopped making them because even in the SUV-crazy days of the George W. Bush administration, an 18-foot-long Excursion with a mighty V10 upfront was just Too Much. It’s two inches longer than a modern-day Chevy Suburban.
But now our country is even more SUV-crazier. And now an Excursion is just right. Plus, it’s got the benefit of looking like both a land yacht AND a brick. What more could you want?
While the V10 and diesel models are still a bit pricey, you could pick up an Excursion with about 150,000 miles on it right in your price range. They should be reliable enough, and even if not, it’s basically a Ford F-250, so parts are everywhere. Here’s one with the requisite 4WD perfectly at your budget.
Expert 4: Patrick George — The Answer Is Often Subaru
Honey, when your Land Rover is shitting the bed, the answer is not old Saab ownership. But I applaud your enthusiasm and appreciation for bad ideas at such a young age. However, what you need is, like... an actual car, so it’s time to get real.
I’m going to suggest you look at older Subaru wagons. Maybe even stretch your budget a tad bit to $5,000 and you can find plenty out there in solid shape. Granted, they aren’t quite as bulletproof as Hondas or Toyotas—they have their quirks for sure—but they’re tough cars. And they satisfy the AWD and wagon/SUV requirements.
Here’s a 2006 Forester with just 85,000 miles for $4,900 in your state. Definitely get an independent pre-purchase inspection and make sure it has maintenance records if you can, and go from there. With any luck this thing will get you where you need to go.