Under $25k SUV for 30+day road trips, commute, light off-roading, and snowy road conditions?

hawaiianhamhawaiianham Member Posts: 1
edited June 2014 in General

Hello everyone! I'm looking for a new SUV to help me along with the next 10+ years of my life. If anybody can help, it would be very appreciated as it's an important and big investment (as I'm sure all of you know). Some of the things I'm looking for are as follows and ordered via priority:

  1. Pricing - Less than $25K and have high fuel economy. I have pretty much ruled out large sized SUV's and am aiming for compact to medium sized vehicles to maximize this category.
  2. Longevity - This would probably be grouped into pricing, but I think many people overlook when they buy a vehicle with a price in mind. The less maintenance needed and the more reliable it is, the better.
  3. Safety in winter conditions - I live in the northern states and consequently, snow on pavement is not a stranger. Given that all of my vehicle accidents have occurred when snow was on the ground, this is important to me.
  4. Road trip ability - I go on lengthy road trips (30days+) at least twice a year. I'm looking for decent cargo where I can flip the back seats down so I have enough room to sleep (I'm 5'8 so most SUVs can deal with this). Also, comfort for long trips is important for this category as well.
  5. Minimal off-roading capabilities - I often go off-roading on unpaven trails when I go on road trips. This does not include hardcore rock jumping, white water crossing, dune traveling off-roading. If I can get away with a higher fuel economy than being able to handle more than non-snowy trails then I'm good with it.

During some of preliminary research, I have taken interest in:
Jeep Patriot, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4

Do anybody have any opinions on any of the cars I've listed and/or have other suggestions? Anything I haven't considered? Tips would also be appreciated as I've heard many people debate AWD vs 4x4 to be more reliable in snowy conditions, which leaves me still at square one when deciding.


  • plektoplekto Member Posts: 3,738

    Get the Patriot. Get a base model with manual, 4WD, Off-road tires (tire group option), and A/C

    No other options. You can add the off-road bits for less aftermarket anyways.

    You can get one for almost exactly $18K (truecar) and that pays for all the repairs you could ever need and still not be near the other options base price. Basically it's a SUV sized Yaris. It's cheap, big, and does what it needs to do.

    About the manual:
    The manual is the same unit that is in the Wrangler. It's tough and works forever. 4WD added to it gives you locking diffs and that's about it. But that's all you do need. I owned a 80s 4Runner for years and I never shifted into 4WD low once. Normal 4WD and off-road tires were always more than enough since I wasn't crawling over rocks.

    Note that the CVT has computer controlled AWD and low-range and the manual has 4WD and no low range. I'd give the manual a clear win in every condition aside from crawling over rocks, as 4WD beats AWD in bad conditions since it's purely mechanical and on 100% of the time.

    And when you don't need 4WD, turn it off and presto - it's a 2WD high mpg grocery-getter. Win-Win. :)

    All of the auto magazines and reviews mention that the Patriot is better with the manual. It's faster, more fun to drive, gets better gas mileage, costs a whole lot less, and still does great off-road.

    The clutch is easy to get used to. Really.

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