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I hate buying cars, but I need to get around rural Manitoba, and they’re a must, unfortunately. I’m a veterinarian who puts on lots of kilometres going to farms, so there needs to be enough space for my stuff, and it needs to have enough clearance that I am not hung up on snow drifts on gravel roads in the winter.

I’m currently driving a 2006 Subaru Forester with almost 340,000 km on it; the cruise doesn’t work anymore, and it doesn’t have bluetooth, and although it is still mostly reliable, it is starting to show its age. Before this car, I drove a 2004 Subaru Forester that was written off in an accident. Both were excellent vehicles that got me through lots of terrible road conditions! I really like the boxy look and great visibility of the old-school Forester. I also like its inner console better than the newer Foresters.

So now it is time for a new one, but I am not sure if the Forester is still the right fit. I thought about the Subaru Crosstrek, but have read mixed reviews. Is there another option you suggest? I don’t want to buy another car for as long as possible! Would a used “luxury” SUV actually give me more for my money if it is true that they tend to last longer? – Judy

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Gentile: Mark – isn’t your brother-in-law a rural vet?

Richardson: Yes, Chris is a vet on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, and he drives all over visiting farms and tending to animals of all sizes. That’s when he’s not regaling me about the evils of consumerism, anyway.

Gentile: And what does he drive?

Richardson: He has a Hyundai Elantra hatchback. Nothing special. He says he needs space for his gear but doesn’t need AWD. Nothing too big though – he had a Ford Explorer once and got rid of it because it was just too large and thirsty.

Gentile: You’re right – the Elantra hatchback isn’t anything special. Did he ever have one of the Subarus that Judy is asking about?

Richardson: Yes, he had a Subaru Outback for a couple of years. He says it did everything he needed, but Chris isn’t really a car guy. He just buys whatever the salesperson gives him a good deal on.

Gentile: Some people aren’t car guys. But it’s still nice to have something you like driving and brings a smile to your face every time you step inside. And it sounds like Judy really loves the Subaru Forester, driving two over 15 years.

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The Outback is Subaru's mid-size SUV.

The Associated Press

Richardson: So off the top, I’d suggest either the Forester or the Outback, which have about the same cargo space, but I’d dismiss the Crosstrek. It has only three-quarters the space of the other two, and space for stuff was Chris’s primary concern.

Gentile: I agree – skip the Crosstrek. The Outback is Subaru’s top-seller. It’s a larger, mid-size SUV compared to the smaller Forester wagon. But Judy thinks a “luxury SUV” will last longer than a Subaru. That’s not necessarily the case, is it Mark?

Richardson: Not at all! More to go wrong, if you ask me, which you did. “Luxury” should perform well, but reliability is a different matter that comes down more to the brand than the price. There’s a reason Kia can afford to offer a 10-year warranty on its vehicles, you know. That’s the longest warranty in the business.

Gentile: But on the flip side, if you look at J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures the number of problems per 100 vehicles experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of their three-year-old vehicles, luxury vehicles ranked very well. Four of the top five most dependable brands are luxury nameplates: Genesis, Lexus, Buick, Porsche and Toyota.

Richardson: Sure, but in the bottom half of dependability, you’ve got Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Volvo and Jaguar. Worst of all is Land Rover, which is very much a premium brand.

Gentile: True. Land Rover and Jaguar have ranked at the bottom of the list for years. So are you saying Judy should avoid luxury altogether?

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Richardson: If Judy wants a luxurious vehicle and is prepared to pay for it, then fine. Just don’t expect it to be any more reliable than a mainstream vehicle. And if it does need repairs, it’ll probably cost more.

The Honda CR-V is a good option, and cheaper than the Subaru Outback.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Gentile: Judy should stick with what she knows, Subaru, and move into an Outback, which starts at $30,695 plus taxes. Another good option is the Honda CR-V, which is cheaper, starting at $28,905 and has plenty of cargo space for her needs. Depending on the trim, the CR-V has up to 1,110 litres of cargo space and up to 2,999 litres of passenger volume. The Outback has 920 litres of cargo room and up to 3,087 litres of passenger space.

Richardson: The Honda will give Judy the reliability and size she’s looking for. So will the Toyota RAV4, though both of them are sometimes a challenge to find at dealerships these days. The Ontario assembly plants shut down this spring because of COVID-19 concerns, and the makers are still catching up with demand.

Gentile: Toyota RAV4 is a great made-in-Canada option. If Judy can’t get her hands on a new one, a used RAV4, CR-V or Outback, for that matter, would be good alternatives, too. It’ll help her save a few bucks, too, if she buys a 2018 or 2019 model.

The Trail edition of the Toyota RAV4 is designed for better off-road performance.

Handout

Richardson: Any of those three will make a great vehicle for a Manitoba rural vet. The RAV4 Trail would be best for those isolated rural roads in winter, since it’s more intended for off-road driving, though it’s a bit more expensive. I’d suggest going to the Subaru dealer first, since Judy has a history there, but be sure to try out the Honda and the Toyota too.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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