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Shopping for small SUV

hickslawns

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#1
Daughter will be a senior. Colleges she is looking at are NOT close to home. She is currently driving the 2005 Honda Element I bought wrecked and drove 5-6 years before handing it over to her. It is fine. Has some cosmetic issues. Perfect for a college car IF she was within an hour or so of the house. Sort of looking to buy something we can use for a year or so before she heads to college. Our youngest will be driving before long and can take over the Element.

That said, looking at Honda CRV or Toyota Rav4. Will NOT buy an Equinox or Terrain. I like Fords but have heard of maintenance nightmares on the Escapes. Sort of checked out the Hyundai Tuscon but not sure they are the same caliber. Reviews were mixed. Any other suggestions in this category? Looking for 2008-2012 range (to fit price category), decent mileage (under 115000), good safety ratings, and AWD. Sort of like to keep it $8500 but might have to bump for lower miles and newer year. I'll spend $10k for peace of mind and the hopes it lasts her through college.

One interesting note I've seen: Craigslist has been surpassed by FB marketplace in terms of listings. CL seems to be dead anymore. Another interesting note is the cheapest cars with the lowest miles all seem to be rebuilt titles and sold by foreign sellers. Must be a niche market they have cornered or something.

Any input is appreciated. First hand experience would be great. Horror stories or problem free testimonies would be great.
 
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jagermeister

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Hmmm... I was going to say Ford Escape, but it sounds like you have it narrowed down for the most part. Only other one I can think of that might fit the bill is a Dodge Journey. I'm not a big fan of Dodge, but I see a lot of these on the roads and they seem like a decent rig. Not sure if they come available with AWD, though.

Does it have to be an SUV? For about the same fuel economy you can get a small 4wd truck like a Ranger or GM equivalent. Or, a quad-cab Tacoma would be bad ass... but those usually bring a premium price tag with them.
 

hickslawns

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Graci has driven our Explorer with 3rd row seats and my Tacoma. She isn't a fan of larger vehicles. Although I consider the Tacoma a car. She likes to sit up higher. I'm also thinking of parking on college campuses.

My observation of numerous salvage vehicles for sale cheap took me down a 2hr rabbit hole of Googled wrecked vehicle searches. Some of them have very light damage. No frame damage or blown air bags. This might be the route to fit into our price point.
 

giles

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We bought a little Dodge Journey new, 2014 base model. Still own it and haven’t had a problem. 90,000 on it now, just change tires/oil/brakes. They have AWD drive models. They’re inexpensive and fit the mold. Two of my cousins have them and love them. They have the decked out models.
 

"J"

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Of the vehicles mentioned, the RAV4 from what I’ve seen of it holds up well. I know a couple people who’s had them and they’re on their second one. My daughter in-law has had 2, one RWD and the current AWD.
Neighbor next door is on her second as well. She drives 40 miles each way too work and put 150k trouble free miles on her last one.

I wouldn’t shy away from a salvaged title vehicle. Just do your research on the shop doing it is all. My Z71 was a salvage title and the shop was outta Maryland. Found it on eBay and he’d done 1800 vehicles with 3 negative reviews. No issues other then the standard GM quirks that everyone sees.
 
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#9
We bought our daughter a 2015 Ford Escape w/ AWD. Thinking the miles on it were around 60K and for the most part it is serving the purpose. She drives about 45 minutes one way each day to college and has been good for her. Had a couple minor parts that needed replacing but that is it so far. Decent vehicle and went through the last two winters real well.
 
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hickslawns

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#10
The escape isn't in the running you could look at the next size up and look at the Ford Edge. We have had our used one now for just over a year and the wife loves it.
We will likely look into these when my wife down sizes her Explorer as kids leave the house. It is bigger than the Escape/Mariner. Too big for Graci. Sharp vehicles though.
 
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hickslawns

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Thanks Dave. I need to do a bit of research on these.

Saw a Jeep Renegade today. Need to do some homework on them too. Those might work. Anyone knowledgeable on these?
 

jagermeister

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Thanks Dave. I need to do a bit of research on these.

Saw a Jeep Renegade today. Need to do some homework on them too. Those might work. Anyone knowledgeable on these?
No idea on the Renegade line but a buddy had a Jeep Patriot for a few years that treated him really well. More of a "car-like" SUV as it sat pretty low to the ground.
 

RedCloud

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hickslawns

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Thanks Adam. I was thinking the Jeeps were not known for their mileage. The older Grand Cherokee I had was pretty decent compared to similar year model competition. Doesn't seem like they have improved as others have stepped up their game. Cost of ownership is important. I have a feeling we are going to go Rav4. Toyota reliability and resale are impressive.

My only hold up with the Escape isn't the vehicle. It is the engineering. My buddy who does some of our vehicle work told me to run away. Basic repairs require mega Man hours. They had some other issues as well he warned me about. It's a shame as I like Ford.
 

hickslawns

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#18
For anyone else looking, I've found Jeep Renegade, Nissan Rogue, and Buick Encore also fit this category. Actually quite a few out there. Hyundai makes a couple.

As with any search for a vehicle I am finding stuff all over the map. Easy to fall into the rabbit hole searching. Then logic of "if the 2008 models are $8000 why not spend $12k on a 2010-2012."

Tomorrow I am going to look at a 2008 Rav4 with 102k miles. Not quite as new as I would like. Has a blemish on rear bumper but not worth fixing. Price is right. Almost too right. Think I'll pay the money for a carfax report before proceeding. Interior looks terribly stained. As long as it doesn't have a funky smell, I can work some magic on getting it cleaned up. At $5000 asking price I need to at least go look at it. I've seen similar year and miles WITH rebuilt title bringing a couple grand more. Clean title comparable vehicles are $7000-9000 depending upon miles.
 

Chass

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#19
For anyone else looking, I've found Jeep Renegade, Nissan Rogue, and Buick Encore also fit this category. Actually quite a few out there. Hyundai makes a couple.

As with any search for a vehicle I am finding stuff all over the map. Easy to fall into the rabbit hole searching. Then logic of "if the 2008 models are $8000 why not spend $12k on a 2010-2012."

Tomorrow I am going to look at a 2008 Rav4 with 102k miles. Not quite as new as I would like. Has a blemish on rear bumper but not worth fixing. Price is right. Almost too right. Think I'll pay the money for a carfax report before proceeding. Interior looks terribly stained. As long as it doesn't have a funky smell, I can work some magic on getting it cleaned up. At $5000 asking price I need to at least go look at it. I've seen similar year and miles WITH rebuilt title bringing a couple grand more. Clean title comparable vehicles are $7000-9000 depending upon miles.
I wouldn't bother with the carfax, which should be free. It will only show what has been reported for the vehicles which we all know rarely happens. Take it to a reliable shop/mechanic and have them look it over. If you have a go to place it will probably only cost $20 if not free. They will be able to tell you what to expect and if it's worth your time and money. I've seen more than one person get fooled by a carfax and end up getting flooded vehicles and worse.
Personally I'd stay away from jeeps and any Chrysler product. Every single one I have had or family has had always had major electrical issues. When the locks, windows and AC all go out together it's no fun for anyone.
 
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hickslawns

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#20
Took a look and test drive. Guy started at $6k. Ad said $5k. Paint faded bad. Was a NM car it's entire life. Gravel road paint chips bad. Windshield had 3-4 stone chips. Tires weather checked. Smokers car. Blower motor only worked on high. AC did work though. Brake rotors pitted from sitting. Battery looked corroded and old. As we talked he mentioned scammers and people who wanted him to hold it who never came up with money. Told him I had cash in hand but wasn't sure it is what we are looking for. He talked himself down to $4k before we left. Honestly a fair price for a kid driving locally. Drive it a few years and get your investment back. My gut said to walk away. Never made an offer. Dude wants it gone NOW so he can go buy a pontoon. Lol