My partner and I live in rural Nova Scotia and drive 20,000 kilometres a year, mostly on highways. We drive a 2008 Honda Pilot that has served us well but it’s not going to last another two years.
We are looking for something reliable with four-wheel drive for the unpredictable winters here. We also want to prioritize fuel economy for back-and-forth trips to the city and the airport. We do not need a massive vehicle but prefer to be up a bit higher. We do regularly tote around a dog and might add kids to the mix, but the Pilot is still too big for us. We’ve only used the third row seats once.
We’ve been eyeing used Toyota RAV4s and have time to wait for a new car. Our budget is $40,000, ideally closer to $30,000.
What do you recommend? – Spencer
Petrina Gentile: Fifteen years is pretty impressive.
Mark Richardson: My neighbour drives a 2016 Pilot, which he bought after running his 2006 Pilot into the ground, with close to 500,000 kilometres on the clock. Mind you, that newer SUV had to have its entire engine replaced under warranty, but it now has 260,000 kilometres on it.
Gentile: At least it was under warranty. Since Spencer drives a Pilot, should we start with looking at another Honda, perhaps a smaller Passport?
Richardson: That would be my first choice. It’s one size smaller and doesn’t include a third row. It’s more off-road oriented than the regular CR-V, and it’ll probably be more easily available than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
Gentile: The Passport is so versatile – it has an athletic look with comfortable and smooth road manners. The fuel economy is respectable, too. And it has plenty of passenger and cargo space.
Richardson: I drove one this spring but was not impressed with the fuel economy, which was closer to the heavier Pilot than the popular CR-V. I have friends who own a Passport though, and they swear by it. Spencer will have to find a used one, of course: a new Passport starts at almost $50,000 before taxes.
Gentile: Yes, he could get a used 2019 or 2018 Passport, depending on mileage, in the mid-$30,000s. But let’s look at some new options. How about a Subaru?
Richardson: The Subaru Outback is an obvious choice, and something that’s definitely worth consideration. It will be capable of handling whatever conditions it’s asked to drive through – provided the tires are appropriate – though Subarus can be hit-and-miss for reliability, compared to Hondas and Toyotas.
Gentile: It might be a bit more than his $40,000 budget once you factor in freight, taxes and pre-delivery inspection.
Richardson: That’s a maximum budget, too. If Spencer wants to spend closer to $30,000, then whatever he considers in this size will have to be used. New cars are selling for unprecedented high prices these days.
Gentile: That’s true. The average price of a new vehicle in Canada is more than $66,000. And the average price of a used vehicle is almost $40,000. These are expensive times, that’s for sure.
Richardson: A three- or four-year-old Subaru Outback is still a very good car that will give Spencer what he’s looking for, if he can find one. But they are out there. They’ll give him all-wheel drive for less outlay than the Toyota RAV4. If he can find a good, used RAV4, however, it will still have Toyota’s legendary reliability and the three-year-old models are fairly large inside.
Gentile: I like the idea of a used RAV4 – it’s an excellent choice. It’s practical, reliable, spacious and fuel efficient. We don’t know exactly where Spencer lives in rural Nova Scotia, but on AutoTrader.ca, there were a few 2018 models for less than $30,000 in Halifax that might be worth a look.
Richardson: Cars have historically been less expensive in the Atlantic provinces. Ontario dealers bring them west and charge a markup for the transportation and still make a profit. I’m thinking, though, that Spencer would be quite happy with a compact SUV like the RAV4 or the CR-V – even the Passport is too big – so that gives him a huge range of choice.
Gentile: Either way, I think he should stick with the manufacturer he’s been with - Honda. The Passport would be my pick, and it’ll be easier to find than a CR-V.
Richardson: But maybe he doesn’t really like that dealer – or maybe there’s another dealership from a different brand that’s closer. I think he’d do well to consider a Jeep Compass. Jeep’s historic reliability problems seem to have improved considerably in recent years and he may like the Jeep’s comparatively rugged style.
Gentile: I disagree – I’d stay away from a Jeep Compass. Even though reliability has improved, it’s well below many competitors. I’m thinking of a Hyundai Tucson. It’s value-packed with a lot of features you’d expect to pay extra for. And the starting price is in the mid-$30,000s, before taxes.
Richardson: The Tucson is an excellent compact SUV that’s very good value for money considering its standard features, and Hyundais have been more available than Toyotas and Hondas in the last year. Same for the Kia Sportage, though I prefer the style and cabin of the Tucson. Over all though, in this most popular segment, the Ford Escape also offers very good value and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Gentile: The Escape is worth a look – it’s spacious and comfortable, but I find the ride and handling isn’t as smooth as some of its competitors, like the RAV4 or CR-V. So it wouldn’t make the top of my recommendation list.
Richardson: Spencer says he has time to wait, so his best bet is to hang in for the reliability and high resale value of the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. They’ll be more costly to buy, even used, but they’ll hold their value well.
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