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kilted_monkey New Reader
9/13/14 2:47 a.m.

At the end of the month I will be landing in Seattle as a civilian after two years in Korea and 12 in the Air Force. I plan on buying* a vehicle to take on a road trip covering most of the country, visiting friends, family, national parks and other sights, and (the excuse for the whole thing,) a long list of colleges to which I am considering applying, finally making use of the GI Bill I originally meant to put to use 8 years ago. I will be driving across the northern tier, including a detour through the Upper Peninsula of MI, stopping at home in Ohio, then resuming the trip with an eastern loop up to Maine and down the Appalachians to South Carolina, home for a break (and likely Thanksgiving, depending on how the timing works out) before heading back to the PacNW by the scenic route, by way of Denver, the Grand Canyon, and most of the Pacific Coast Highway. I will either sell the car again in Seattle, or (if I am not utterly desperate to escape whatever vehicle I have put through this ordeal,) burn back to the Midwest by a more direct route.

I want to enjoy the trip itself as best I can, not just get from point A to point B (not to mention point Z, Y, and Z). If it were a warmer time of year, motorcycles would be on the table, but since there has already been a good snowfall dropped on the northern Rockies and I will be crossing them again (at least once) in Nov/Dec, I have reluctantly discarded that idea. I have previously enjoyed trips from Omaha to Monterey in a Miata and on a KLR 650, and my single favorite car owned to date has been an an first-gen MR2, so I am definitely willing to trade luxury for some fun.

I have gotten some great suggestions and advice from friends, and from reading posts on here and other sites. After a bit I will say what my current thoughts are, but first... with an (admittedly somewhat arbitrary) max purchase price of $10,000... what would YOU be looking for? Solutions that don't come anywhere near that limit and save something for the gas/maintenance/lodging/food/entertainment budget... or for the project car budget after the trip is over, are especially welcome.

*I can't see any way of making renting work out economically, but if you think that makes sense, I'm listening. Maybe leasing?

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/13/14 6:27 a.m.

Subi wagon

captdownshift GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
9/13/14 6:44 a.m.

4.0 Cherokee towing an open trailer with an NA miata on it

failboat UltraDork
9/13/14 6:49 a.m.

Doesnt sound like youll be doing much off roading necessarily. ..P71 or similar?

JohnRW1621 UltimaDork
9/13/14 7:01 a.m.

I had a '95 Volvo 850 wagon with manual trans that would have been good for this trip. It was a good combination of sporty enough and utility enough.
The '95 version would be a little long in the tooth by now but they still make more recent Volvo wagons. In that same vein, Saab wagons or the previously mentioned Subaru wagon.
One of the great benefits of a wagon is the ability to lay flat in the back. This would give you the ability to do some roadside camping and genuinely get some good rest.
I would max-tint the rear windows to increase your privacy.
A rooftop rack and coffin box can greatly improve your carrying ability.

If you need more utility at the expense of sportiness and fuel econ the move up to either mini van or full size van.
If you want more sportiness and econ then move down to Toyota Matrix/Vibe.

I think satellite radio would be a wise investment.

Mr_Clutch42 Dork
9/13/14 7:03 a.m.

I would look at a NB Miata, a late model C4 Corvette, and a Jetta TDI.

Datsun310Guy PowerDork
9/13/14 7:17 a.m.

Chevrolet Trailblazer. We love ours and holds your gear.

icaneat50eggs HalfDork
9/13/14 7:29 a.m.

How much stuff are you going to be hauling around?

mndsm MegaDork
9/13/14 7:36 a.m.

Blazer came to mind as soon. As I read this. Cherokee is also good, as is Subaru.

singleslammer GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/13/14 7:51 a.m.

How about buying 3rd gen MR2 and running sport touring site tires? I did this combo as a commuter and enjoyed it. That should be a max of 8k spent.

Dusterbd13 Dork
9/13/14 7:57 a.m.

My parents do this same trip, only adding parts of Canada and Mexico, every year. They use a c5 corvette convertable and average 28 mpg. Deep snow and mining roads are the only places they have trouble.

t25torx HalfDork
9/13/14 8:24 a.m.

SAAB 9-3 SportCombi, or a GMC Typhoon.

mazdeuce UberDork
9/13/14 8:29 a.m.

Are you going to sleep in it? Is mileage a concern? Off off road/rough road driving? Pretty much anything will make it around the country. I've been to Alaska and back in a Neon. Southern Mexico and back in a full size van. Bummed around the Pacific Northwest in a mini van. Every vehicle has pluses and minuses. It really just depends on what compromises you want to make.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
9/13/14 8:48 a.m.

Cherokee or Miata or both.

oldopelguy SuperDork
9/13/14 8:55 a.m.

10k is right at the bottom of the price band for early C5 Corvettes and there are not a lot of cars in the US that will eat miles as comfortably. Surprisingly good fuel economy and reliability too.

If you are a bit less concerned with ultimate performance or style buy the newest minivan you can afford. Specifically the Odyssey or Chrysler ones are proven reliable, loaded with convenience, will surprise you with their performance, and as made to keep you comfortable for thousands of miles. Bonus for them being rusty in the Midwest and not Seattle, so when you are done and trying to sell it in Ohio it will automatically be the nicest one around and worth a premium.

The HalfDork
9/13/14 9:21 a.m.

my first though Honda CRV, but thinking back we have purchased 4 or 5 new Cherokees and had great service from them,(my kids have rolled them on their roofs and tried to knock down a few trees with no injuries) they ride much better than our CRV so I would say Cherokee..... (but bang for the buck dare I say it Chevy HHR. stop throwing E36 M3 at me), and thanks for your service, use all your benefits to the max that is one of the things that I do not mind about paying my tax's.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
9/13/14 10:35 a.m.
The wrote: my first though Honda CRV,

This was also my first thought. A well taken care of Cherokee would be another great pick. A 4runner is another great one.

Do you want gas mileage or not?

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
9/13/14 10:39 a.m.

Boom 1966 Mustang.


Seriously something like this might be fun. http://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/cto/4649465031.html

KyAllroad Reader
9/13/14 10:51 a.m.

Buddy of mine did the "tour America" trip back in '95 in a 1988 Isuzu Trooper. He loved the trip and the trooper was well.....a trooper :-)

I'd want to be able to stretch out (ruling out small sports cars) and to be able to turn off the paved roads on occasion (rules out low slung cars generally).
If you could find a good shape Allroad with a six speed it might be ideal, otherwise I might shop for a trooper. Spring for the satellite radio as mentioned. Do any maintenance and balance the tires and have a blast!!

Grizz UltraDork
9/13/14 11:08 a.m.

IF you're taking a decent pile of stuff with you, skip the suv suggestions and go minivan.

I don't care what anyone says, nothing is more comfortable for a road trip.

amg_rx7 Dork
9/13/14 11:33 a.m.

I can't help to think that this is a drive made more enjoyable in a convertible but it may be the wrong time of year to jive with your trip. I did a trip from Los Angeles to NY in an 88 RX7 convertible I bought. Top was down the whole way but that was in April. My list of interesting cars that I'd like to spend time on while not spending too too much on gas:

Infiniti G35 sedan or coupe - either RWD or AWD
Lexus IS300 - seems to be a decent amount of them on seattle craigslist
Acura RSX, TL or TSX - probably the best choices considering MPG while being somewhat fun to drive...
Mazda 3 or Mazda 6
Cadillac CTS
Porsche Boxster
Some kind of Subaru if you want AWD

DrBoost UltimaDork
9/13/14 11:33 a.m.

Forester XT? It really depends on cargo and what kind of fun you plan on having (i.e. Off-road kind or on-road)

GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/13/14 1:29 p.m.

If you are going to be traveling through the Sierras during winter time definitely buy AWD or 4WD. You are going to run into areas where either snow chains or AWD is required and snow chains suck to deal with. If you are considering selling the car in Seattle go Subaru. If you plan on driving through mountains of snow, still go Subaru.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
9/13/14 1:41 p.m.

If a motorcycle was enough capacity for your luggage then an S2000 will be positively spacious.

If you need to go off-road, disregard.

pres589 UltraDork
9/13/14 2:12 p.m.

This is slightly over the $10k limit but I bet you can work them to pretty close to what you're looking for.

2004 325ic w/ manual trans, 75k miles.


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