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  1. #1
    Petty Officer 1st Class oceansbreeze's Avatar
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    Default Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Had no intention of buying a new vehicle until later this fall - except some woman chatty on her phone, didn't pay attention to her driving, and caused a frotn end collision to my 2000 Caravan. Insurance wrote it off...

    I'm hoping to upgrade by 2-4 years. Insurance gave me $4800 to replace my van. I'm planning to toss in another $3-$4k.

    Tow Vessel is a 18 foot Princecraft, on a single axle. Trailer is rated for 1800#. I imagine the whole package deal is 2000#. I don't plan to upgrade this for a few years...

    I don't want to simply get another van. I own my own business, the van works great with it, as I need the space in the back for stuff, but a truck is definitely out. too much wasted space in the box area that I could use...

    In the last 9 days, I've looked at several dozen vehicles. I still can't find something I like, and I had to return the rental truck already.... (my parents were kind enough to lend me their extra wheels)

    The drive to the launch is 3 miles. I go 2-3 times a week. Once in the sumemr, she'll get tower 120 miles (150kms) and back again.

    95% of my driving is in the city.

    I need to be able to put stuff in it (boxes of paper and office equipment I deliver) - wanting to stay away from Vans, and keep my manhood! lol I'm divorced, no kids, I never have passengers in the vehicle (rare) which is why I'm thinking SUV.

    That being said, I've looked at Grand Cherokee (v8), Trailblazer (4.2L V6), Liberty (v6) , Jimmy(4.2L) Envoy (4.2L) and Ford Escapes and MAzda Tribute... I'm sure I missed one or two..

    Not a fan of foreign cars..

    I did a lot of research, the older Escapes are horrible on fuel, and with the short wheel base, not recommended as a tow vehicle..... although it would be perfect for my small boat.... I can't find a single person who says anything nice of the 2003/2003 models.

    The Grand Cherokees.... seem to only come in V8 (although I test drove one with the straight six) and ask any number of people, I can't find any opinions that are consistent... "good fuel economy" "bad fuel economy" "tranny problems" ...argh

    Love the Envoys and all the GM line.... but then reading about the poor fuel economy in general.... am just having a difficult time committing to one of the other..

    Am I missing any other options here??? Is there any other vehicle I should consider? (I've looked at a Subaru Forester also, really not for me)

    I keep mentioning fuel economy.... I'd like to be somewhere in the 17-20mpg range.... but flexible.. Also, I don't do a ton of driving, 9,000 miles a year maybe (12-14,000kms)

    Really would lov some feedback or ANY advice here to help sway me.
    http://forums.iboats.com/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=57030&dateline=124725  8064
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    The 6 or 8 cyl grand cherokees are in your fuel mileage range. i have an 04 6 cyl i like it and i tow a 21' cuddy cabin with it. it is true to be mindful of the transmissions. but like anything you can get them to last if you do the recommended service intervals on them. I've beaten the crap out of mine in the time i've had it and only broken one thing, a pickup sensor on the transfer case (if i had a skid plate on the transfer case that would not have happened). Overall though, they ride nice, decent mileage, and can usually pull a house down. That reminds me too stay away from the AWD ones if possible. old school transferr case or 2wd is the way to go. unless your ramp is really slick but down here in the salt water i never have to put mine in 4. hope it helps.

  3. #3
    Supreme Mariner Silvertip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Horrible gas mileage to one person is not so bad to another. You are overlooking some very good tow vehicles in the Chevy/GMC (S-10 Blazer) style vehicles. 4.3 V6 with plenty of grunt for trailer towing and the vast majority are 4WD. Your 2000 - 2500# rig will be towed by one of these just fine and well within your price range. Look for one with 3.73 gears and you will be able to tow in overdrive. 3.53 gears will likely mean direct (3rd gear) towing.

  4. #4
    Moderator JB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    You are flirting with some vehicles that are unsuitable for towing your rig. Any Jeep is going to need upgraded rear suspension, any Escape is going to be tow rated too low.

    You can get a small, economical SUV or you can get a tow vehicle. I don't see an option for both.

    Weigh your rig. My guess is that it is over 2,000# ready to launch; maybe 2,500#. Then, when shopping vehicles, don't even look at anything that isn't rated for 3,500# or better.

    I love my Forester but it is not a tow for over about 1500#. I think I would shop mid size Toyotas like the 4Runner. #3 daughter tows her Boston Whaler Outrage 17 with her V6 4Runner and is very satisfied with it. She also tows it with her (formerly my) '99 MB ML430 V8, but that is an expensive car to maintain and it has to have premium fuel.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Hyundai Sante Fe... V6, 4X4

    By the way, not the same vehicle as a Kia Sorento. The Sorento is a real truck but I did not care for it.

    Built in Alabama, Designed in California so not technically a foreign vehicle.

    TerryMSU

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    2003+ V8 Exploder, here is onehttp://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Ford-...fCarsQ5fTrucks for 8g's and being that its a V8 its got a great motor and transmission along with a sweet interior, another 100,000 miles left in that truck with a little care and maintenance.
    Somebody paid $40,000 dollars for that SUV 7 years ago.

    I have 192k problem free miles on my 99 V8 now and have my mind made up that the next one will be a 03-04 V8, I will probably wait until I can buy one for $5k tho, I plan to get atleast 250k from this 99.
    I also have a 99 6 cylinder Grand Cherokee and surprisingly no trans problems and running great @ 187k.
    I do love the 4.0 straight six mainly because it was an American Motors engine and Kenosha built as well as being bulletproof it has enough power for my liking. Heated seats in the Exploder make it a preferred ride for me.
    I kind of like the Ford Expeditions and Excursions but for me they are too big and I would be wasting for no good reason.
    S10 Blazers suck, dont waste your time, I'm not really that impressed with the 4.2 Trail-Voy's either, I'm sure the SS or atleast V8 flavored variety would be a piece more appealing I dunno maybe the interiors is what turns me off on those. Dodge Durango ? eh meh bleh.

    Probably could maybe get a pretty nice Yukon or Tahoe for that money too, depends on what you want.
    1977 Starcraft American 18' 165 Mercruiser.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    OP says "mid/small SUV" but doesn't like foreign.

    Oops, that takes one of the best vehicles in that category/price range off the list: 2001+ Pathfinder or QX4. With the 3.5 v6, 4x4 or AWD and a real truck frame, it is probably the best smaller SUV made for towing. It'll get about 18-19mpg all around, and they are super-reliable. But the back seat is cramped, not as roomy as a 4runner, but it is more powerful than the 4runner.

    Don't forget, some of the domestics are more foreign than you may be comfortable knowing!

  8. #8
    Lieutenant Commander 109jb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by JB View Post
    You are flirting with some vehicles that are unsuitable for towing your rig. Any Jeep is going to need upgraded rear suspension, any Escape is going to be tow rated too low.

    You can get a small, economical SUV or you can get a tow vehicle. I don't see an option for both.

    Weigh your rig. My guess is that it is over 2,000# ready to launch; maybe 2,500#. Then, when shopping vehicles, don't even look at anything that isn't rated for 3,500# or better.

    I love my Forester but it is not a tow for over about 1500#. I think I would shop mid size Toyotas like the 4Runner. #3 daughter tows her Boston Whaler Outrage 17 with her V6 4Runner and is very satisfied with it. She also tows it with her (formerly my) '99 MB ML430 V8, but that is an expensive car to maintain and it has to have premium fuel.

    I have to disagree. There are many many many used Jeeps WITH the towing packages and some of the V8 models can have tow ratings up to 6500 pounds. My father has a Grand Cherokee with a 5000 pound tow rating and would and has towed boats of that size and larger with ease. One boat that it has towed quite a bit is a 19 foot Starcraft Islander I/O which when fully loaded for a day of fishing is definitely more than the Princecraft in question.

    The Ford Escapes can be had with 3500 pound towing capacity if properly equipped and properly equipped used Escapes are out there. Yes you have to check the specs of the vehicle you are buying, but saying that "any" Escape is tow rated too low is just not true.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if the towing capacity and GCVWR are within the manufacturers limits then you are fine as long as you drive the vehicle like it should be driven while towing. The manufacturers limits don't have to be 50% higher than the load being towed. The manufacturers have a vested interest in establishing towing ratings that the vehicle can handle due to liability and warranty reasons. I trust the manufacturers tested numbers more than opinions.

  9. #9
    Petty Officer 2nd Class Sikiguya's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Try a Chrysler Pacifica. Stylish IMHO. 3500 tow capacity. Around 20 mpg(mixed). You can find them priced pretty reasonable. Well equipped and even a 3rd row seat available. I have a heavier boat and shorter distance to tow. It works just fine. Only gripe is visibility out the back.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    In that size range, the Trailblazer 4x4 should work well for you. I know a few people who own Trailblazers and have ridden in and driven them quite a bit. I would be surprised if your highway gas mileage would not be quite good. Even my 3/4 ton GMC with a 6.0 gets relatively good mileage.

  11. #11
    Moderator ezmobee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by Sikiguya View Post
    Try a Chrysler Pacifica. Stylish IMHO. 3500 tow capacity. Around 20 mpg(mixed). You can find them priced pretty reasonable. Well equipped and even a 3rd row seat available. I have a heavier boat and shorter distance to tow. It works just fine. Only gripe is visibility out the back.
    Had one. It was our favorite vehicle we've ever owned. Currently shopping for another one
    1976 18' Starcraft SuperSport 90HP Evinrude
    Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/boat-restoration-building-hull-repair/18-starcraft-supersport-restoration-357767.html
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  12. #12
    Moderator JB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by 109jb View Post
    I have to disagree. There are many many many used Jeeps WITH the towing packages and some of the V8 models can have tow ratings up to 6500 pounds. My father has a Grand Cherokee with a 5000 pound tow rating and would and has towed boats of that size and larger with ease. One boat that it has towed quite a bit is a 19 foot Starcraft Islander I/O which when fully loaded for a day of fishing is definitely more than the Princecraft in question.

    The Ford Escapes can be had with 3500 pound towing capacity if properly equipped and properly equipped used Escapes are out there. Yes you have to check the specs of the vehicle you are buying, but saying that "any" Escape is tow rated too low is just not true.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if the towing capacity and GCVWR are within the manufacturers limits then you are fine as long as you drive the vehicle like it should be driven while towing. The manufacturers limits don't have to be 50% higher than the load being towed. The manufacturers have a vested interest in establishing towing ratings that the vehicle can handle due to liability and warranty reasons. I trust the manufacturers tested numbers more than opinions.
    You are absolutely correct. I ran my keyboard while brain was not engaged.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    I had this same sort of dillema last summer. Needed to upgrade towing my 4k rig from my minivan to a true truck based SUV. I went around the horn looking at all the domestic models and each had something that turned me off. I finally found the Buick version of the Trailblazer/Envoy. They come with only a few options so even the cheapest one is completely loaded plus older folks bought them so they are also lightly used. I ended up with the 5.3 V8 and all the optional equipment and can't say enough about its ability to tow my measly 4000 lb rig as it is rated at 6500lbs towing. Now if you get a 2005 and up v8 with cylinder deactivation you will be dissappointed with mileage. It is horrible in town and on the highway. The inline 6 standard power will come very close or match your needed mileage and still tow very well. You could possibly find a 2004, AWD version right in your price range. I will mention what makes the Buick attractive for towing is that the 3.73 rear end is standard as is the G80 locking rear differential (also leather, power seats and lots of other stuff is standard only on the Buick version) Even those simple, cheap towing related items were like finding a needle in a haystack on the Trailblazer and Envoy version since they were options on all the other models. The best thing about all the GM products is they depreciate so fast. My Buick was $45,000 (out the door by the previous owner not MSRP) and I paid less than 1/4 of that a few years old but still like new. It's hard to get that much SUV for so little money.
    2003 Chaparral 183SS

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    I tow a 21ft Bayliner Trophy with a 97 Grand Cherokee, 4 liter straight six. I added an aftermarket tranny cooler and converted the engine cooling fan to electric.

    The suspension is adequate (coils on the rear as opposed to leafs on the cherokee sport), but air shocks would also be a good addition.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    My father has a 05' Chevrolet Trailblazer...Bought it for 12k. Came with a low 42k miles..There are other Trail Blazers around your price with higher miles.... We tow His 21' foot Wellcraft..The Boat and trailer weigh 3500 combined... Has not a problem. We tow my 16 foot bass tracker without a problem too. Check them out-there pretty good towing vehicles..

    _D

  16. #16
    Moderator ezmobee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by jkust View Post
    I finally found the Buick version of the Trailblazer/Envoy.
    I was supposed to buy one of these yesterday but the dealer sold it out from under me

    We've taken is as a sign that we're meant for another Pacifica.
    1976 18' Starcraft SuperSport 90HP Evinrude
    Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=357767
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by ezmobee View Post
    I was supposed to buy one of these yesterday but the dealer sold it out from under me

    We've taken is as a sign that we're meant for another Pacifica.
    Bummer... my neighbor has an AWD Pacifica and loves it but the mileage isn't much better than a V8 Rainier. The Rainier and Pacifica are very different animals especially for towing. I feel lucky to have discovered Rainiers since they are not widely known and hence low demand used meaning lower sales price.
    2003 Chaparral 183SS

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    besides the pathfinders that were previously mentioned, you have to take a look at nissan xterras. they are both nice reliable trucks. they tow well, and do very well for city driving (and offroad), very maneuverable and easy to park. they are solidly built, body on frame trucks. they are relatively inexpensive, for $8k you could get a nice one.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    In addition to the Trailblazer, Envoy, and Rainer there is a Saab, and Oldmobile and Isuzu model to look at.

    The GMT360 Family.

    Chevrolet Trailblazer
    Buick Rainier
    GMC Envoy
    Isuzu Ascender
    Oldsmobile Bravada
    Saab 9-7X

    Who knew a Chevy could be a Saab ? Ah the miracles of badge engineering.
    1977 Starcraft American 18' 165 Mercruiser.
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by windsors03cobra View Post
    In addition to the Trailblazer, Envoy, and Rainer there is a Saab, and Oldmobile and Isuzu model to look at.

    The GMT360 Family.

    Chevrolet Trailblazer
    Buick Rainier
    GMC Envoy
    Isuzu Ascender
    Oldsmobile Bravada
    Saab 9-7X

    Who knew a Chevy could be a Saab ? Ah the miracles of badge engineering.
    Yeah true I looked at all of them. Following up to that then, the Bravada was discontinued along with oldsmobile for 2004. The Buick took over the upper end but they then also add stuff to the Buick none of the other 360's were allowed including a V8 (until the later years) and their quite tuning which is amazing and several other smaller things. The Isuzu Ascender was a hail marry by Isuzu and it really isn't the same riding vehicle though the interior and interior look similar. The Saab had the euro styling but had crazy cupholders and odd center console key and its stance is an inch lower than the rest (excluding the Trailblazer ss). I needed height not a lowered SUV. Also then there is the GMT370 which consists of the extended length (third row seat) Isuzu, Trailblazer and Envoy. The others never offered the extended version. For several years you could only get the V8 in the extended GMT370 for all but the Buick which was the only one to offer a V8 in the short GMT360 short wheelbase. The GMT370 got poor marks for handling and ride due in part to how skinny it was for its length and the standard 6 cylinder worked well in the short wheel base but not so well in the longer version. I put a lot of research and testing so had learned a lot before I pulled the trigger.
    2003 Chaparral 183SS

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Quote Originally Posted by mpsyamaha View Post
    besides the pathfinders that were previously mentioned, you have to take a look at nissan xterras. they are both nice reliable trucks. they tow well, and do very well for city driving (and offroad), very maneuverable and easy to park. they are solidly built, body on frame trucks. they are relatively inexpensive, for $8k you could get a nice one.
    Another neighbor is in the radio business and so gets a new car every 3000 miles for promo work. He has had countless vehicles over the years. A few cars back he got a Nissan Xterra and thought it was the best car he had ever had and again this guy has had a lot of cars and suv's. He didn't tow but just couldn't say enough about the superiority of the Nissan. I am not a foreigh car person if for no other reason because I like depreciation when buying used and the foreign cars depreciate less and slower which doesn't work for me since I generally don't resell until they are completely used up.
    2003 Chaparral 183SS

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    I have heard alot of good things about the Nissan Xterra/Pathfinder... although I have also heard to stay away from the supercharged 3.3.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    ....if you are looking to stay with the "domestics" (the Chev Colorado, H3, Trailblaser etc. are all SAAB powered, definitely not a bad thing though, the 5 cyl 3.5 is a very good engine)...the early Durangos with the 4.7 V8 is also a very capable tow vehicle. Not the greatest on gas though.

  24. #24
    Petty Officer 1st Class oceansbreeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Just wanted to say thanks to all who relpied. I was getting frustrated not finding anything or being able to make up my mind..

    I also wanted to disagree with JB (but sincerely respect his opinion) because my Dodge Caravan had NO problem towing my rig.... The boat is only 1080lb. Add motor 350 and trailer 400... plus full tank... The caravan towed it like it wasn't there, and never spun coming out on ramps (but it was front wheel drive)

    I think I lucked out. One of the local dealers took a trade on Friday night of a 2003 Trailblazer LTZ model. 125,000 KM (thats what, about 85,000 miles?) They are asking $6900 AS traded. It's sitting in the mechanics lot right now. The dealer had a copy of Carproof (it hit a deer last year, and needed a new grill and hood repainted, but thats it)

    I crawled under the chassis. No leaking oil anywhere, VERY clean. I didn't find any rust anywhere.

    It has the tow package and transmission cooler, and loaded. Also has all 4 wheel disc brakes (not rear drum) test drive was smooth, and handled bumps like a dream.

    That price is the current going wholesale price.... and can't find it cheaper as is...

    So, pending my mechanics approval.... I am hoping I found my new wheels! Will post photos if all goes well...

    Interesting thread, always love to hear all the input from various points of view...
    http://forums.iboats.com/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=57030&dateline=124725  8064
    1999 Princecraft 166 Pro
    1998 Evinrude 70hp
    2003 GMC Envoy 4.2L 4x4

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Mid/Small SUV Recommendation under $8k

    Well an early congrats to you. That was the last year they used the LTZ designation for the Trailblazer. Tow package was standard on all of the Trailblazers/Envoys/Rainiers/9-7x/Ascenders. Does it have 4wd? I would really check out the 4wd system since there are a good share of issues with it and it is expensive to fix. Some times the 4wd isn't even working but you can't tell on dry land. Or the 4AWD switch will work but the 4wd selection wont. Just make sure your mechanic knows these trucks. After buying my Rainier it needed a seal in the AWD system and not many would touch it I discovered. There are two seals one insanely expensive to fix and one cheap. Luckily mine was the cheap one otherwise I would have questioned the deal I got. That is very low miles for a 2003 also. After you drive one you realize quickly why so many are on the road. It is a great vehicle for that kind of money. Does it have a moon roof as well? I wouldn't even think twice about the dear hit. I look at it as getting a nice new, no rock chipped hood. I believe it was the 02's or 03's that had a problem with cracking cylinders as well. As catastrauphic and unrealistic as that sounds I actually came upon one of those and the owner finally called and fessed up before I got there to look at it. I don't know what the symptoms are since I never saw it.
    2003 Chaparral 183SS

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