Latest Reader Questions: Insurance, SUVs vs. Crossovers

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Here are the latest reader questions – along with my replies!

Amber asks: I’m shopping for car insurance to see if I can get a better rate before we renew next month, and I discovered Progressive’s “Snapshot” device, which I hadn’t heard of previously. I don’t love the idea of plugging in something that tracks info about how I drive, but I do like the idea of getting a discount on the compulsory insurance racket. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether these devices are worth it! Thank you!

My reply: Don’t do it! For financial and freedom reasons. The “discount” you’ll get will be petty, if you get one. You may not. The device will narc you out for driving faster than they like, accelerating/stopping/cornering more “aggressively” than they like. They will also know where you drive and when – which is creepy in my opinion. The insurance mafia would love for this in-car/real-time monitoring to be mandatory – like the insurance itself. If enough people refuse, perhaps we’ll at least avoid that!

. . .

Joshua asks: I am looking for a manual AWD or front-wheel drive, truck-based SUV from the ’90s. Problem is, I am in High School with a limited budget, aka I am paying for it and can’t go higher than $4,200. I could care less about the mileage but want a car I can drive for five years at minimum. Also, I am 6″4′, so I can’t take a small SUV. I know thats a lot of stuff but thats how it is. What market area should I look into?

My reply: Well, there’s no such thing as a truck-based SUV that’s FWD! Trucks are RWD – with 4WD available/optional. SUVs based on trucks or which are designed on truck-like platforms share that layout. Examples include the Chevy Tahoe, Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Armada.

It’s crossover SUVs which are generally based on FWD cars, with AWD often available as an option (or standard). Examples include the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Explorer and Subaru Crosstrek.

The difference there is that with a truck-type 4WD system, the engine’s power is usually transmitted to the rear wheels, until the 4WD is engaged – at which point, some of the engine’s power is routed back to the front wheels. Truck-type systems also usually have a two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing, which gives them extra pulling/slogging power.

AWD systems usually route most of the engine’s power to the front wheels. If these begin to slip/lose traction, power is routed to the rear wheels. Most AWD systems are “automatic” and always on, no need to engage the system (as is usually the case with 4WD, though more and more of the new ones have an automatic setting, too). They do not have a truck-type transfer case and most have no low range gearing feature. An exception is the Jeep Cherokee, just reviewed on the main page. It does have a gear-reduction system, even though it is a FWD-based crossover SUV.

Ok. If you want a truck-based 4WD SUV with a manual transmission from the ’90s, you might look around for a Jeep Wrangler, Isuzu Trooper or Toyota Land Cruiser. You should have no trouble finding a solid Wrangler/Trooper within your budget; maybe even a Land Cruiser. But I’d go back to the ’80s or even the ’70s – as you’ll have more choices, including really cool stuff such as older model Ford Broncos (not the Bronco II – stay away from that one!) Chevy Blazer and maybe even a Land Rover or Jeep Cherokee (the old, RWD version). These will have the upsides of simplicity and ruggedness; no got-damned computers or air bags.

Keep us posted!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. One thing I’d consider is “what will I be doing with it?”. A friend had a couple Tahoes, certainly not perfect since they were both high mileage when he purchased them but pretty reliable till he did his week-end getting drunk and doing crazy shit with them, quite literally finding the limits of what they’d take….and more. He was disappointed with the price of a couple things he had to replace on one and then something even more expensive like a front diff. but he found a used unit.

    He ended up getting rid of both of them for a pickup that he actually needed. He later bought a Toy 4 Runner and it was a decent vehicle but late 90’s so it was a decade old and when he had to replace parts on it, he ended up selling it due to sticker shock on the parts.

    Probably the cheapest rig in the long run would be a Tahoe if we’re speaking of older vehicles. i’d say early 90’s before air bags and other computerized bs while they still had TBI. Replacement parts would be the reason, not because they were necessarily better. And the aftermarket has a lot of cheap upgrades for every part of them.

    I was going to rebuild an ’82 Chevy pickup but it needed new inside door latch assemblies and I couldn’t find any….anywhere. Even the place that makes nearly every part for those trucks didn’t have those parts. New door gaskets were no problem and while that truck didn’t look bad it had led a hard life, had the living whee worked out of it. For a couple years I pulled a 30′ pipe trailer, a welding trailer, a pickup bed trailer loaded heavily with sand and gravel and a cement mixer at the end. Hell, the pickup stayed loaded with spare tires and sacked cement. Rough life.

  2. Joshua, you could also look for a ’90s Land Rover Discovery. I don’t know where you’re located, but here’s one on craigslist that appears to run for $2000:

    These older Discoverys are based on the Defender platform (AWD with locking center differential and low gear range) and the drivetrains pretty rugged and not horribly complicated. Just be prepared to wrench it yourself.


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