used car for hauling kayak, canoe?

My brother’s Cavalier got 220,000 miles

– Last Updated: Jan-07-10 10:17 PM EST –

... and never had a serious issue. He got rid of it because of rust, not because it was running poorly. It probably burned a little oil at that point, but not enough to fret about.

I've never personally known a person with a Dodge Neon or Ford Focus, so I can't speak for those cars. I don't think anyone would recommend a Neon as a boat-hauler anyway, though I do "know of" one hard-core paddler who does that (since I don't know him personally I have no idea how many miles are on the car, only that he's had it for about 10, maybe even 15 years).

As to the Vibe/matrix, I personally don't care for a roof that is so severly curved that, unless you do some really fancy custom rigging (something few people can do), requires the crossbars to be extremely close together. I'd rather have an easy time setting up a rack that makes use of a lot more of the roof's length, but that's just me (I'm a fan of long, straight roofs for boat hauling).

may not be the most efficient vehicle but the 4.0 6cyl. goes and goes and goes…

My Wrangler is the shiite but you probably want a hardtop. They have those too. And I have never gotten stuck, she goes wherever she wants.

200K? Not all cars are that good
My Geo Metro (3 cyl) and after about 60K miles it started to have serious issues - all shocks needed to be replaced, the entire exhaust needed to be replaced (bolts rusted thru at the manifold), rough engine…

Nissan Stanza anyone? Bad radiator, 3 times had to replace the flex gasket on the exhaust as it kept burning out (each time the new gasket was “redesigned” and they still burned out). Leaking valve cover and other oil gaskets (not a big issue, but each at about $15 and some labor of my own to replace…)

Camry '00 - rear gear (and thus the entire auto tranny) was gone at 120K miles despite regular maintenance and not too harsh driving. How much for a new tranny??? Cost me about $500 plus my time and effort to swap the tranny for a “new” junk yard unit - major hassle for a supposedly “reliable” car…

Prius '02 - cat converter gone bad at 100K or so. Replacement from a dealer is $1,200 for the part only (not that I bought one new, but the used one is still $300 or so - it is about 7 feet long one piece with pneumatics and 3 separate cats inside).

Dodge Neon - starts to have all sorts of small but annoying issues around 60-80K miles

4.0 six-cylinder longevity

– Last Updated: Jan-07-10 10:33 PM EST –

I only know one person (a married couple, actually) who had a Jeep with the engine you are talking about, or maybe an earlier version of that engine. They got something in excess of 450,000 miles on the thing. When it was at about 300,000 or 350,000 miles, they had to replace the front axle U-joints, which was a pretty major repair for a do-it-yourselfer, but I am pretty sure that that was the first big repair that was needed. I don't believe they ever had an issue with the engine, except perhaps at the very end of the car's life (I never heard about why they replaced it, but at more than 450,000 miles, whatever the reason was, no one was complaining I'm sure).

Cars we’ve had that had problems
before 160k, bought 1990 or later : '90 Honda Accord (ignitor failed, camshaft seal went), '92 Sable (too much to list), '97 Subaru (repeated clutch problems, burned valve, AC failure; but the head gaskets never failed), 2000 Accord (radiator at 150k, mechanic said it was just a weak spot in that series).

The Accords have certainly been better than our other cars, much better. Will our '08 Accord make it to 160k with no substantive repair? I doubt it.

Guideboatguy, I don’t think your experience is typical, and I don’t think your acquaintances are feeding you the full story on their cars. Or maybe you’re all long distance driving fanatics. But so are we.

Regular maintenance and a good Saab
or foregin (european) mechanic, avoid dealer service and my Saab has been cheaper to run than my '99 Forrester and its issues. At 160k, the car looks great, runs great, and dresses up for a night on the town nicely when it isn’t hauling boats and gear all over the northeast. Add the luxury touches that you just don’t find in typical japanese or american cars in the price range (used) and the car is a great value (not bargain). Part are a little more expensive than a chevy or a toyota, but replacing them is a rare occurrence.

Yes I generalize
I don’t mean to offend any Neon, Cavalier, or Focus owners by generalizing and calling them disposable cars that don’t make it past 150,000 miles. Of course they do. But just look at the resale value of any of the three when they get 150,000 miles, it is quite low. There are lots of them in the junkyards and you just don’t see a lot of old ones on the road. A friend of mine is a mechanic and he shares the same opinion.

Yes, you might have to be a little creative to get the crossbars further apart on a Vibe/Matrix. The mounts on the front might be some kind of stand alone raingutter mounts or landing pads secured to the roof, while the rear crossbar mounts to the factory rails. I’m not sure but Yakima could set you up. The Vibe/Matrix are virtually the same car made on the same assembly line, that is why I refer to them together.


another old Volvo wagon fan
Though I’ve driven and loved Subaru wagons, from a 2WD ‘78 DL to an ‘02 Forester, since I haul 2 or 3 sea kayaks up to 18’ long I’ve found it hard to beat semi-vintage Volvo wagons. Besides being low and long for easy loading of boats (I’m only 5’ 5") the back with the seats down is long enough to stretch out and sleep in (as well as accommodate a 1-piece 7’ Greenland paddle.)

I bought my '92 740 when it was ten years old and had 80K on it for $9,500 but it gave me 120,000 more miles with the only repairs (besides regular maintenance) being a water pump. It’s still on the road. And it gets 27 mpg on the highway, 24 hauling boats. Got a “like new” '95 850 wagon now I picked up for $4,000 (being front wheel drive it’s a better snow car, which we really need here in blizzard-land at the moment.)

Have a friend with a '91 240 5-speed wagon that has over 300,000 on the original engine and transmission. His previous 740 saved his life when a semi rear-ended him at 55 mph (he was sitting at the end of a highway ramp). It’s hard to beat the 240 and 740 series for safety, longevity and hauling space if you can find a clean one for sale.

There’s a guy near the NY-PA border selling a cherry 5-speed 240 wagon with 80K on it for $5,900. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I hadn’t dropped my money on the 850.

We’ve got a 2005 Pontiac Vibe which is just a rebadged Matrix and we love it. It’s an 05 with 140,000 miles on it and gets 30+ mpg. It’s been a great paddling car and has no trouble carrying gear for two plus two dogs.

I personally also like Subaru’s and drove one a few years back, but it did develop serious problems at about 90K miles. I’d still buy another one, but I think there are more reliable rides out there.

Good luck with your search.

Cherokee Classic
I drive a 94 Jeep Cherokee classic. With a rebuilt motor I get 25 miles per gallon Highway with two big canoes on top. Most have standard rain gutters so you can get a Thule rack system for about 200 bucks. I put a Maine roll on system on mine and with the flat back of the Cherokee it makes for easy loading/unloading. Part time 4 wheel drive has taken me thru muck 3 ft. deep no sweat.I would never trade my Cherokee, with regular oil changes I expect 300k miles lifetime with the classic in-line 6 cylinder( more torque than a 305 V8, plenty of gear hauling power! ) Just ask any motorhead about this motor and they will tell you, treat it right and it’s practically indestructable.