Here are the latest reader Qs along with my answers:
Can you recommend a reliable crossover in the $20,000 or less range? My daughter will be doing a lot of driving for her job and needs a reliable vehicle that gets pretty good gas mileage. She is interested in the Subaru Outback and the Honda Crosstour. I’m not sold on the Subaru. Looks like a lot of complaints about the engines. I saw your post in the ask Peter section where a reader asked about a good vehicle in a given price range and one of the vehicles you recommended was the Lexus RX. Still a thumbs up? Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Both the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 are top-drawer choices in my book. They have excellent track records for reliability and durability; neither has overly complex equipment (e.g., neither comes with a turbocharged engine and both have straightforward transmissions; no over-the-top eight/ten speeds or dual-clutch boxes). While a little boring, both of these are very versatile, useful, fuel-efficient driving appliances. If your daughter is young/college-age, either of them would be ideal as they have lots of room for carrying stuff around and don’t generally need much in the way of maintenance.
New, these cost just over $24k to start but you could probably find a 2-3 year old one with say 30,000 or so miles on it for less than your $20k budget.
The Outback is priced just slightly higher (new) and its chief draw vs. the RAV4 and CR-V is that it comes standard with AWD (the Honda and Toyota offer it at extra cost but come standard with FWD).
AWD can be nice to have if you live in an area that tends to get a lot of snow in winter – but if not, your daughter would probably be fine with FWD and the vehicle will cost less to buy and also get better mileage (AWD crossovers are heavier, etc.). FWD crossovers are actually pretty good in snow; in part because they pull themselves along rather than push themselves along. The weight of the engine/transmission over the drive wheels helps traction, too. And both have pretty decent ground clearance, which is another big help in snow. With good winter tires, in anything short of a blizzard, either of these do surprisingly well in winter driving conditions.
Subarus are generally good/reliable cars – and the AWD (and more ground clearance) makes them very capable in bad weather – but you will pay more for one and when shopping for a used one, there is the additional element of risk with regard to the AWD system as well as the more complex flat-four engine. Also – an important thing – older Subarus are terrible gas pigs vs. other cars in their class. The new ones (which have CVT automatics) are better, but your budget puts them out of reach.
The Lexus RX is a great vehicle but it is also a luxury vehicle – and priced accordingly. New, these cost $43k to start. To find a used one within your budget, you’d be looking at well-used examples with very high miles and likely high maintenance/repair costs. This is also a larger (mid-sized, almost full-sized) vehicle. The other three are in the medium-compact class (there is a lot of overlap nowadays).
Hope this was helpful!
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