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JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 10:05 a.m.

So as you may remember in my previous thread where I bought a 2004 Yukon Denali, part of the purpose of buying it was to tow a car back to Michigan. The time for that trip is near, (5/21) so I wanted to get some feedback and possibly ideas of what to look for. Max budget is $8000, but if we can stay closer to $5000 that would be nice (but not super likely based on what I've seen in my searches).

The basic requirement list is pretty short:

  • FWD preferred, so it can go on a tow dolly instead of full trailer
  • No convertibles
  • Nothing *super* small, since it needs to carry stuff back to Michigan.
  • Automatic transmission
  • Probably 4000 lbs or less
  • Maximum 30" tires (not a requirement but preferred) 
  • Preferably no sedans (added 5/13)

This car will be my girlfriend's daily driver, so she'll be making the final decision, but aside from her first choice, she's not super attached to any specific vehicle, so any ideas not on the list could still be possibilities.

So, what is the list?

  1. 1998-2005 VW Beetle (eliminated by low factor of reliability) 
  2. Honda Element
  3. Honda Fit
  4. Scion xB (first gen only)
  5. Hyundai Veloster
  6. Mazda 3
  7. Mini Cooper (smallest thing that would still probably have enough cargo space to be useful)
  8. Nissan Cube (there has been enough disapproval to most likely remove this from the list)
  9. Toyota Prius
  10. Kia Soul (added at 4:06pm eastern, forgot this morning) 

So I guess the questions here are: Is there anything on this list that we should avoid? Do any of them stand out as better choices than the rest? Anything else we should be looking at?

And also, like the title says, to make this more of a fun thread, what would you buy? Even if i maybe doesn't perfectly fit the criteria.

If anyone is bored and actually wants to look for things for sale, we're looking in the Lancaster, CA and Victorville, CA areas mostly. Trying to avoid LA again like last time, but as long as it's 2 hours or less from Lancaster it's probably a possibility, and if it's a really nice Beetle maybe we could go farther. I've already been conducting a pretty exhaustive search though, but who knows, I might have missed something, like I did with the Yukon that John Welsh found.

Thanks in advance for any information/advice/etc, hopefully this venture will be as successful as the last one.

Stampie
Stampie GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/12/22 10:10 a.m.

I'd be looking for prewar hotrods personally. You know if she'll daily one of those she's a keeper.

RaabTheSaab
RaabTheSaab New Reader
5/12/22 10:18 a.m.

If auto and fwd were the priority along with decent reliability and a decent drive, I'd go with the 1st gen TSX. The auto is very good and mates well with the power band of the k24. I see them all day long for about 5k. 
 

I'd also consider: P1 Volvo s40 t5, 2010ish fusion sport, or 3rd gen Acura TL/Honda accord v6. Wild card would be a 2012-2013 impala. Ancient design, but they got the 3.6L LFX for stupid giggles in what is essentially a 90s GM fwd grocery getter 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/12/22 10:24 a.m.

Early Toyota Highlander Hybrid

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe PowerDork
5/12/22 10:32 a.m.

Honest answer get a Prius of a Fit. Prefereable a Fit if you can find one in the spec you want. 

 

Dead reliablem, easy to maintain and at this price point the best option. 

SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
5/12/22 10:32 a.m.

From your list, I think the VW would be the worst choice.  They are so trouble prone, I won't come near it with a 10' pole.  My teenage daughter wants one too, but it ain't gonna happen.  The Cube is also garbage, so I'd toss that one.  MINI reliability leaves a lot to be desired, but they're a hoot.  The rest on your list are great choices.

Accord, TSX, Camry, TL, Mazda 6, Sonata, Optima would also be solid choices.

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/12/22 10:41 a.m.

Prius, cat shield and a lift kit. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 10:54 a.m.

This Prius needs a catalytic converter.  They are asking $5,500.  Offer $3,500 and tow it out of the state and repair for $500 not the $3k+ that it would cost to fix in CA because CA requires a Genuine OEM cat.  

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/2082529768593704?ref=search&referral_code=marketplace_search&referral_story_type=post&tracking=browse_serp%3A6646cb52-15b1-4527-a49a-4c64625a9026

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 10:58 a.m.

Avoid the VWs and avoid the Nissan CVTs.  Sure, a Cube is cute but not reliable!  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 11:06 a.m.

Look for listings with out of state plates like this one.  People move to CA and then find out they can not get their Non-CA car to pass the required smog test.  They then sell the cars but the cars pretty much need to leave the state and go back to somewhere that doesn't have CA smog tests.  This unique vehicle has gone from $10,200 down to $9,000 and been on the market at least 2 weeks.  Not cheap enough yet and it's gonna need a buyer like you.  

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
5/12/22 11:10 a.m.

Mazda 3 or Prius

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 11:12 a.m.

In reply to Stampie:

Maybe not as a daily, but I could definitely see her buying something that old some day. She's into older cars, just not for this specific application.

In reply to RaabTheSaab:

I'll suggest the TSX. I was mixing it up earlier today with the RSX, which is what her brother had. Also appreciate your list.

In reply to Woody:

Those are a little too heavy more than likely, I probably should have set a weight limit, but staying under 4000 lbs would be preferred.

In reply to SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) :

We did talk about the lack of reliability of the Beetle, and the only thing that makes it kind of ok is that she probably won't be putting tons of miles on it, so there might be a decent amount of time between breakdowns. It would also eventually be replaced by an old Beetle, once she's more comfortable with driving and eventually learns how to drive stick. I appreciate the advice though. Maybe if she ends up with one she'll get lucky and have no issues.

In reply to John:

I'll keep an eye on that one and see if it's still around. I had been on the lookout for ones with missing cats, but didn't find anything then. It would be a good way to get a discount since there's no emissions testing here at all and could use a cheap cat like you said.

I think the Cube is off the table, since it's already gotten multiple strikes against it. It wasn't high on her list anyway. Mostly just because of the unique appearance and cargo carrying capability.

There's a good chance a Prius will happen. Even if she doesn't want one as a long term car, I could always buy it from her when mine rusts into the ground. 

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 11:15 a.m.
John Welsh said:

Look for listings with out of state plates like this one.  People move to CA and then find out they can not get their Non-CA car to pass the required smog test.  They then sell the cars but the cars pretty much need to leave the state and go back to somewhere that doesn't have CA smog tests.  This unique vehicle has gone from $10,200 down to $9,000 and been on the market at least 2 weeks.  Not cheap enough yet and it's gonna need a buyer like you.  

Ooh. I'll have to keep an eye on that. It would only work if I can confirm the towing setup has a higher capacity than the minimum 6000 pounds that UHaul thinks the Yukon has. As it is they think we're on the very edge with an Element on a full car trailer.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia UltraDork
5/12/22 11:50 a.m.

What are the emission laws at home ?

put an ad on Craigslist inland empire for X car that needs cat , 

put a test pipe in it to get it home,,,,,,,,

Good luck

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 12:34 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

What are the emission laws at home ?

put an ad on Craigslist inland empire for X car that needs cat , 

put a test pipe in it to get it home,,,,,,,,

Good luck

No emissions laws at all. That might not be a bad idea.

One issue with the Vehicross, Uhaul trailers can only handle vehicles with up to 30 or 31 inch tires, so I'd have to find smaller wheel/tire combo for the front. 

EDIT: they do have D-rings on the trailer for vehicles with larger tires, I'd just have to buy 4 straps, which wouldn't be a tragedy. 

ebelements
ebelements Reader
5/12/22 12:54 p.m.

Hard pass on the beetle as a daily. Those MK4 based cars just loooooove to eat transmissions and their electrical systems obey no known laws of man OR nature. As cavernous as the front seat area is, the rear seat is merely a "suggestion" and the hatch ain't much better. It is also one of the few vehicles I have seen to make a 2.0L four look positively shoehorned in. 

Mini? You should know better. 

Element is a great call if you can find one for a good price. They are beyond reliable, so finding a rust-free example out west means if you ever sell it eastward, you'll likely MAKE money on it.

Don't sleep on the Matrix/Vibe. Bigger inside than they look, reliable(if maintained), good MPG, and don't feel criminally underpowered like an xB or first gen Fit. Oh, and because they have the aesthetics of a nurse's shoe they're cheap.

Prius is a no-brainer, assuming you can get past the eco-pervert vibe. Ignore the first gen(assuming you could even find one) as they're small, parts availability is EHHH and their hybrid design is just plain ill-suited to modern American driving.  The second gen(the quintessential Prius that comes to mind) is the one you want. Killer MPG 24/7/365, good "off the line" torque, and somehow cast-iron reliable for the most part. The interior is about as comfortable and luxurious as a '94 Geo Prism but serviceable and holds more than you think. When you look at them, make sure you get one with two keys... they are a dealer specific affair and they will plunder your wallet not only for the replacement cost but also the reprogramming(unless something has changed since I last checked). 

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 1:07 p.m.
ebelements said:

Don't sleep on the Matrix/Vibe. Bigger inside than they look, reliable(if maintained), good MPG, and don't feel criminally underpowered like an xB or first gen Fit. Oh, and because they have the aesthetics of a nurse's shoe they're cheap.

Prius is a no-brainer, assuming you can get past the eco-pervert vibe. Ignore the first gen(assuming you could even find one) as they're small, parts availability is EHHH and their hybrid design is just plain ill-suited to modern American driving.  The second gen(the quintessential Prius that comes to mind) is the one you want. Killer MPG 24/7/365, good "off the line" torque, and somehow cast-iron reliable for the most part. The interior is about as comfortable and luxurious as a '94 Geo Prism but serviceable and holds more than you think. When you look at them, make sure you get one with two keys... they are a dealer specific affair and they will plunder your wallet not only for the replacement cost but also the reprogramming(unless something has changed since I last checked). 

The only reason the Matrix/Vibe isn't on the list is that they barely seem to rust, so we could easily find one in decent shape in Michigan. My mom and sister both have one, and one of my friends had one, and they barely have a hint of corrosion on them. Might still look if nothing else for sale seems good enough. 

I have a 2nd Gen Prius myself, so I've got no issue with them, and that would be the one we'd be trying to get if we go that route. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 1:16 p.m.

Rust free but Michigan all its life and California rust free are radically different things.  As an example, on the California car you can unbolt the muffler. Unbolting a muffler is unheard of on any 8 year old Michigan car. 

I'm a fan of the Vibes. More Gen1s. If it's a Gen2 and has the optional, bigger 2.4L, it's hard to get better than 23 mpg combined.  Small car with bigger car mpg. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 1:19 p.m.

Have you priced what Uhaul wants for a tow dolly, one way,out of California?  I know with the California exodus Uhaul is charging a ton for trucks. Might be the same for dollies.  

$1k will buy you a rust free dolly that you can sell quickly in Michigan for everything you paid for it. 

CA sample

MI sample

What are the CA or MI rules for tow dolly? Here in Ohio, dolly don't need titles and plates are not required for dolly. Though, plates are required for full trailers.  Just not needed for dolly. 

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 1:34 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

When I checked a week ago, it was $300ish for a dolly and $800ish for a trailer. I thought about possibly buying a dolly/trailer, but trailer prices are astronomical, and I don't trust non-rental tow dollies after my experience a few years ago. Also don't have anywhere to store one in California, the only way it even works now is to rent it the morning of the move, and then park the truck and trailer/dolly in the parking lot of a grocery store across the street for an hour or less while we get the other vehicle loaded on it, and then leave. 

Also not sure what the rules are in MI on dollies. I know trailers need a plate no title is needed if the trailer is under 2500 pounds. Tow dollies are the same, Michigan uses the same laws for all trailers. A plate is not required by California though.

It's a good idea though, and it seems I could easily get my money back.

You're also right about the maintenance being easier on a fully rust-free California car being a lot easier without the corrosion. It's something to consider on the Vibe/Matrix front. 

 

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 3:52 p.m.

The Beetle is officially off the list, for this application at least. Your general disapproval was enough for the low reliability to outweigh how much she wanted one. There were very few decent examples for sale anyway, so it was an unlikely purchase anyway. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 4:09 p.m.

Mazda CX7 base model of 2010-2012

Fwd only and cloth only.  Completely avoid the 2.3 turbo models and awd models!

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/748588479476717/?ref=facebook_story_share

 

I wrote extensively about Mazda CX7s in this old thread

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 4:34 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Good to know, I'll have to check out that thread and keep them in mind.

After the advice given so far, here is a numbered version of the original list (any other vehicle suggestions will be analyzed later)

  1. Honda Element
  2. Toyota Prius 
  3. Kia Soul
  4. Honda Fit 
  5. Mazda 3
  6. Hyundai Veloster 
  7. Scion xB
  8. Mini Cooper 

The ones in the middle are mostly all tied at this point, the bottom 2 and top 2 are the only ones in any kind of significant positions. 

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia UltraDork
5/12/22 5:33 p.m.

If you are around Lancaster you might also search around Bakersfield , 

and Victorville is not that far from Las Vegas ......

Not sure how long you will be in that area 

Good luck 

LifeIsStout
LifeIsStout GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/12/22 6:16 p.m.

I would throw a Mazda 5 also on that list, super practical, based on the 3 platform, tons of room for you. My parents have 2, and I know a few other GRMers have them and love the cars.

Older Civic Si could also be great, especially the unloved 2 door hatch version, not sure about the automatics on those however.

Since you are looking at a prius I'd also see if the Lexus CT200 might be in the price range. Same engine/technology, but a 4 door hatch that's not squished at the back. 

 

 

 

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