truck or small station wagon

-- Last Updated: May-08-06 6:32 PM EST --

At the point where the Toyota Echo is just not enough for what I am carying...Outer Island on J hooks with the SOF in the middle and then either the Tempest or the Scupper Pro on the saddles (all Yakima) It really is a bit much for the small car.

Looking into the future, I am wondering what to get that would also possibly haul a pop up camper. the KEA would be loaded on the camper so a total of 4 boats.

Have been hearing horror stories about the Subarus even though I really like them, and maybe the Mazda wagon may be a good idea but I have also been entertaining the idea of a small truck (read small) but it woudl have to have the extended cab for seating 4 and enough power to pull the popup etc.

I would really like to go diesel if that is even an option.

Any suggestions?


Wagons are easy…
We’ve been using Sable/Taurus wagons for years to carry our boats and gear. Wagons have the advantages of low roofs for ease of loading and unloading and usually being more comfy than trucks.

I saw a very nice new Jaguar station wagon the other day :wink:

Paul, consider this maybe?
I drive a 95 Dodge Cummins full size diesel truck and am installing a Greasecar Kit, which will allow me to run on Waste Veggie Oil (WVO)from local restaurants. The truck gets 20 mpg anyway, but soon I’ll be running on free oil. (almost free…have to recover the cost of the kit and home filtration unit).

I’ve owned small vehicles, but my truck gets better mileage than most small trucks!! It can pull ANYTHING, will last far longer (currently near 400k miles, and running like new), and will be very eco-friendly. Even without veggie oil, modern ultra-low sulfer diesel is pretty clean stuff.

Big trucks work harder, allow you to haul more, are more comfy, and I think more safe. Mine saved my life once already. I don’t think I would enjoy a small pickup. Trucks like mine are becoming very rare, as they are excellent bio-fuel vehicles, but you could find one.

Best of luck with whatever you decide on.

Remember when…
.it could be the answer… You drove down in the Echo, rented a boat, paddled around, returned the boat and drove the Echo home… no problem.

So keep the Echo, sell the boats and go back to the simple life of renting… :wink:

yr right,a used american station wagon is a good deal.

I would ask you to consider the towing capacity of these vehicles. Most small, front wheel drive vehicles are not rated, or rated to 1000# towing capacity.

I belive most pop-up campers will be 2500# and up, especially loaded weight. Dry weight (empty camper) is not how you will tow it.

Give yourself a margin for error. If you tow in the mountains, you won’t want to be towing your maximum load.

Small SUV or pickup is probably your best bet. And install a transmission cooler.


I like Wagon’s
I’ve had trucks and wagons and like the wagons much better.

What horror stories?
I know the older Subys were money pits but I thought the last 10 years of Outbacks and Legacys were fine. Most popular car in my town. I love the new wagons but I’d have to buy the 250 hp version at about $30-35k, so we bought an 05 Nissan Murano w/ 15,000mi completely loaded (heated leather is the way to go after paddlin) for $27,500. More room, still 245hp, 20 mpg.

VW wagon diesels are also popular around here, but the definitely have some problems. The Kia Sorento is a great value if you’d consider a compact suv. Checkout the new Chrysler Caliber, its a Daimler!

WHAT small trucks?
Right now, for new models you have the Ford Ranger in the compact truck category. That is your sole choice, unless you buy a used truck (which might make a lot of sense, depending on what other criteria you have).

In the last two model years Chevy, Toyota, and Nissan all did away with their mini trucks and enlarged them to midsize. Dodge got rid of their mini truck (which was a rebadged Mitsubishi anyway) looooong ago.

Now, don’t get too upset. Some of the new midsized trucks get BETTER gas mileage than the old minis. Question is, do you want to drive something bigger or do you have parking issues.

Last year I bought an ‘05 Frontier with 4.0L V6, 6-spd stick, and 4WD. It gets 21 mpg highway, a good step up from the typical 18 mpg that the older 4WD minis got. It is rated to tow up to 6300 lbs with a Class IV hitch, so a pop-up trailer would pose no trouble. I really, really like this truck. But you definitely should test drive the midsize trucks to see for yourself if you even like driving something that big.

Extended cabs are kind of a joke for adult seating on long drives. OK for short hauls. Great for stashing gear. It’s what I bought but only because there was no regular cab made in the model I wanted. If you want to haul adults in the back seats, a crew cab provides more room. But you will then have to deal with either a very long truck, or a very short bed (only 4.5 to 5’ long). Some garages do not accommodate a long bed crewcab truck.

If you do buy a truck with a short bed and put a topper on it, think ahead about the crossbar span on a short topper. With my 6’ bed and topper, I get just under 5’ between front and rear crossbars. Toppers are shorter on the top than they are on the bottom, so if you think your 5’ bed gives you a 5’ roofline, think again.

One option that might work for you is a diesel Jeep Liberty. With the diesel, it puts out 285 ft-lbs torque–enough for your pop-up. Short roofline might not be too good for rooftopping.

I’ve Been Looking Around
I think the Subaru Forester may be a good kayak hauler. I don’t know about towing, though.

Mazda 6 wagon might be better for towing.

Agree with Kudzu
I have owned four Subaru Outbacks and recently picked up an 03 Forester, and have never had any problems with any of these cars. Subarus are very popular here in New England, and I have never heard of any significant problems from Subaru owners.

My Forester is the perfect yak carrier for me. AWD, handles great, 21-28mpg, very comfortable roof height, plenty of room to stash gear…love it. I suspect it would have not problem pulling a small camper, though a call to a reliable camper and/or Subaru dealer will provide that information.

Good luck.


I Have an 04 VW
diesel wagon. I have over 40K miles on it and have not had any issues with it. I enjoy being able to smile as I pass gas stations knowing I am getting 50 mpg and can go over 700 miles on a tank full.

The wagon has proven to be a great yak hauler. The 06 model is due soon and I will either trade now or wait one more year. I would not even consider getting anything else unless it got better performace.


cleaner diesel in '07
it’ll be interesting to see what shows up then for passenger vehicles. I didn’t realize it but diesels comprise a large number of Beetle sales.

My 98 Outback is a money pit
Blown headgaskets are the biggest problem–and this problem persisted into at least the 2001 models, possibly later, since it generally happens in the 60k-80k mileage range. But even minor repairs are much more costly than other cars I’ve owned, because the parts are generally about 3 times as expensive as parts for American cars, or for Hondas and Toyotas. Heck, my old Volvo was cheaper to maintain than my Subaru. Plus, with all AWD cars, you need to CAREFULLY watch for alignment problems. When you wear out a tire, you have to replace all four at the same time. Subarus are not poor man’s cars. I walk to work, so my Subaru is primarily for recreation, and my wife, who does have to drive a lot, has the nicer, newer car. But most of our repair bills are for the Subaru, which makes the purchase even more foolish.

Clean Diesel is here now Lee
In PNW it’s already out.


– Last Updated: May-09-06 11:15 AM EST –

The Subarus did have a problem with the headgaskets some years ago. This problem is apparently not present in the current models. Subaru's current reputation for reliablity is very good.

I have a diesel VW Passat. It's been great and very reliable. It isn't rated for towing things.

It's interesting that people think 20MPG in a -car- is good fuel economy.

The Jeep Libery is long enough to be a very good sea kayak hauler (keep in mind that he is currently using an Echo to do this).

I have read that in Europe the same PD diesel when used with the low sulphur fuels does not require a particulate filter in the exhaust. And allows the motor to be offered in 135 and 150HP versions. It would be nice to be able to get those over here.


pretty ridiculous looking but I have always liked cheap small cars. Now though, I am leaning towards a wagon and my overall preference woudl be a volkswagon wagon (jetta?) that has clean diesel but apparently that is not being offered in the US?

Second option would be the Subarus but they are pricey…doable but pricey.

Basically I am looking for a wagon/truck for the long haul…years and gear.


You will see
more and more diesels being offered in the future, now that our diesel fuel has gone from 550 to 5 ppm! It’s great stuff. Now if we combined that with vegetable oil, even in low numbers such as 2-5%, we’d be well on our way. Why not a diesel hybrid car? I believe VW has a prototype that exceeds 80 mpg. Not positive though.

I had a diesel Jetta four years ago and sold it three months after purchasing it new. Total garbage car with squeeks and rattles way beyond reasonable! Decent engine in a garbage car. The wagons at that time were built in Germany, and were far better than the Mexico built Jetta’s.

I’d avoid any VW NOT made in Germany, but that’s JMO.

Opel Meriva
check this out,in the realm of $6/gal gas having 100hp and driving 60mph might not be bad in order to get 40mpg? I’m guessing it would drop down from 47mpg carrying a kayak.