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askewguru 03-26-2009 09:55 AM

New and need help on vehicle(s) choice
I just found this site not too long ago and been lurking!
I have a question that hopefully you all can help me with.
I currently have a 96 plymouth voyager(shorty) with 3.0 engine.
so far i'm averaging about 22-24 round trip......that's doing about
several 100 mile trips a month and some short trips around town.
Here's where I need help. I am pretty tall and alot of smaller vehicles won't fit me. i'm six five and about 235. I also do some handyman kinda work on the side. I have several vehicle requirements and a tight budget(dont' we all)
I need to get decent mpg(was hopeing for high 20s to low 30s) and carry a car seat for my daughter. But I also need to haul stuff too. Any ideas out there?
I can sell the van and maybe get a small 4 door? I've had good luck with escorts in the past........ I was thinking maybe a extended cab s10 or ranger?
one other thing, i need automatic as I have a pretty screwed up right hand and can't shift well anymore.

really enjoying the site so far.

Drive Stick 03-26-2009 10:30 AM

An escort wagon would probably meet all your goals. I believe the 90's models have the 1.9L SOHC engine and came in automatics. 4 doors, space in the back to move things around and mpg in the 29-40 range depending on how you drive. Price would be between $500-$2,500 depending on condition and it's FWD so you can still get around relatively well in all seasons.

Known issues? cooling system issues, and electrical system issues. Make sure this vehicles radiator and thermostat are up to snuff. Check the date on the battery, and make sure the fuel pump and starter function properly / and quickly.

If you settle for less mpg, and need AWD for some reason late 90's Subaru Legacy and Outback wagons are plentiful. They are more expensive due to the AWD, and overall quality but can come in automatic, 4 doors, with the wagon rear for your belongings. with mine I typically see around 31 mpg highway, and 27 mixed. (empty car no passengers.) Price would be in the 1,500 - 4,995 range depending on year and mileage.

Known issues: 2.5L outback wagons almost all had the headgasket fail at one point or another, or are about to. Typical mileage for replacement was every 60,000 miles or so. If you are looking at this type of vehicle try to find the 2.2L Legacy version instead - no known issues that I can think of other than possible hydraulic lash adjuster ticking until it's warmed up which is no big deal.

Here's a photo of the 98 Legacy I have currently, they aren't bad looking cars either I prefer the looks and utilitarian nature of the AWD over the escort wagon since I have 2 cars the Legacy is used primarily in inclement weather and the winter months only.


I picked that 98 legacy L wagon 2.2L up with 160,000 miles for $1,500 on a used car lot. I have since driven it across the country and back (NJ-MN / MN-NJ straight 24 hour drives at a time with no problems.) currently 184,000+ miles and runs / drives like new.

There are other great choices out there as well between $500 - $4,000 such as an accord wagon (if you can find one) or even a Saturn wagon, although having owned 4 escorts, and 4 subaru's I tend to be a bit bias in my reply since I have had good luck with both vehicles. (just make sure they are 100% sound when you purchase them and all mechanical maintenance is up to date such as timing belt / water pump.)

Hope that helps a little! Good luck in your car search!

(Edit, thanks for the 2.2L correction jojo)

TestDrive 03-26-2009 03:43 PM

'96 and older Ford Escorts might be OK for 6' 5", not so much '97 and newer which have a lower roof line.

Have you considered a utility trailer? I bought a 4'x8' open flatbed 1500lbs gross trailer weight for just under $300. Closed the bed with a single sheet of 5/8" treated plywood ~$35. Trailer hitch and wiring kit totaled about $180.

askewguru 03-26-2009 04:13 PM

I have considered doing that but the only thing is these mini vans are pretty fickle with the trannys. That's probably my best compromise for now........
At least i have the 3speed tranny which is supposed to be a little more durable as long as i change the tranny fluid often and put a cooler on it.
I just hate only getting 20 some mpg when my old escort 2dr got 30 plus with auto.......... but ya gotta have room for kids and tools too..........

askewguru 03-26-2009 04:15 PM

drive stick.......... i love subaru's but i'm in the boonies and everyone drive fords, chevys etc..... I've been keeping my eye out for them but haven't found much within a reasonable distance yet. But i'll keep looking. I agree, think the escorts and the subaru's are pretty good for wagons!

TestDrive 03-26-2009 05:55 PM

Maybe the transmission is less a concern than you're thinking???

Will you typically be hauling the wife and kid(s) plus the stuff, or just one or the other?

What sort and how much stuff do you have to haul? (How bulky).
How much weight for a typical load?
Is a tarp good enough weather protection?

daqcivic 03-26-2009 06:30 PM

I would suggest you try to find an early Focus station wagon. I believe Focuses have relatively great headroom, and the wagons should have about as much cargo room as anything else but a pickup. They're also quite safe and fairly reliable, and not unpleasant to drive. Revised EPA is low 20s city and about 30 hwy.

A slightly smaller option would be a Saturn wagon, and these get better hwy mileage than the Focus.

Anything else w/ good headroom and cargo capacity will be rated 20 or under in the city and mid-20s hwy, which is not any better than the best small pickups. Also, truck engines make all their power down low, which makes the important hypermiling practice of shifting at the lowest possible RPMs easier. That said, in general the horrible aerodynamics of trucks gives less chance for optimizing (improving beyond EPA rating) hwy MPGs than with cars.

Fortunately for those of us will small budgets, cars from the 90s have as good or better fuel economy than newer cars in most classes. Good luck!

Drive Stick 03-26-2009 06:33 PM


Originally Posted by daqcivic (Post 94333)

Fortunately for those of us will small budgets, cars from the 90s have as good or better fuel economy than newer cars in most classes. Good luck!

x1,000,000 This statement is 100% true! 90's cars with 3/4 cyl engines are getting up to figures equal to and beyond some hybrids. That's great news for the used car buyer!

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