Fuel efficient SUV/Car search

User Forum Topic
Submitted by treehugger on May 9, 2013 - 12:21pm

Last year I bought a Toyota 4Runner. Love it, lots of room for all my toys, dogs, and occasionally the kids, but the gas is killing me! Every time I turn around it is out of gas and costs $80 to put gas in.

I bought it 1 year old with ~11,000 miles and got a fantastic deal, so if I sell I won't lose any money, not worried about that. What I am worried about is nothing interests me. I have 2 large dogs that I take with me a lot, 2 kids, but other than my fun time and work we use my husband's company truck (gas paid for is so awesome).

I want something that has plenty of room for my toys and dogs (bikes, stand up paddle boards, 2 75 pound dogs) and gets good gas mileage. I think I am going to go this weekend and test drive the Jetta sportwagon and AUDI A3 both TDI get great gas mileage, but is the extra cost of diesel worth it?

Anyone else have any suggestions on a fuel efficient SUV? Would like to get something that gets better than 30 mpg and has good reliability ratings. I am more utilitarian and as long as the radio hooks up to my iphone bells and whistles don't matter, can't tell much difference in driving experience or whatever.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 9, 2013 - 1:06pm.

treehugger, I would LOVE to have your 4Runner and KNOW what a strong truck they are. However, I too can't afford to buy $80 tank gas for "city driving" when I only need a mtn vehicle maybe four weeks per year at most ... that is ... as long as I haven't moved to the mtns yet, lol.

Good used 4Runners (and even new ones on a lot) are quite rare in SoCal so I'm sure you won't have a problem unloading it at all.

With your two big dogs and your need to stand bikes up, all I can think of are Suburbans, Tahoes, Escalades and the like. However, your 4-Runner is better vehicle than all of these and probably gets better mileage, IMHO. Why don't you keep it and just buy a cheap used city kick-around car for $4K to $6K? Your spouse might not always be with the same company and thus you may not always have access to his company truck. If I were you, I might just keep the 4Runner for life. You never know ... it could actually outlive YOU.

Just kidding ;=]

Submitted by spdrun on May 9, 2013 - 1:15pm.

No Prius wagon on your short list?

Submitted by creechrr on May 9, 2013 - 1:17pm.

Based on what you've described, I doubt you'd be happy with a Jetta Sportwagen and an A3 would be even worse. As a Sportwagen owner with two kids, the interior space can get cramped very quickly. In fact, I've been eyeing the Ford Flex as a family hauler.

The sportwagen with the diesel is pretty awesome on the highway.

Submitted by earlyretirement on May 9, 2013 - 1:36pm.

I'm not sure what the affordable SUV's are but I'd highly recommend getting a diesel version of whatever you are thinking of if they have it.

I've never owned a diesel car before getting my Audi Q7 TDI back in 2011. This is one HEAVY SUV, especially considering I got the towing package which is heavier. I think it's like 7,000 pounds and I still get about 23 miles to the gallon combined with city/highway.

I'm not really the roadtrip kind of guy. Although we did take a roadtrip up to Lake Tahoe in it, mostly I just use it around San Diego with the kids. Gas is more expensive for diesel but the savings with gas mileage is GREAT.

My main point being that getting a diesel SUV is good for gas mileage. I was worried before that there would be enough gas stations that have it. It can be a pain sometimes if there isn't a gas station right around the corner that has Diesel but it's not too bad and you can check online or with various Apps.

I only fill up my tank about every 550 miles or so. Granted it does have a big gas tank but I've rented some big SUV's before on vacation where I got REALLY horrible MPG!

Submitted by no_such_reality on May 9, 2013 - 2:17pm.

I'm assuming the bikes will go on a tail hitch. The paddle boards will go on a roof rack. So you really are only talking about room for two dogs.

IMHO, literally any car will do the job. In fact, you might find an actual trunk for your gear much more effective than the back of a 4runner. SUVs have huge cargo space but it's actually quite ineffective without careful packing. The space things sit on without being piled on top of other gear really isn't much different than any hatchback or car trunk.

As for mileage, a lot really depends on your drive. Unless you actually drive free range highway, without urban traffic, just erase those highway mileage numbers from your head. Even if you do, subtract 10-20% because the mileage calcs are done at a slower speed.

If you do a lot of surface streets or stop and go, honestly look at a prius or similar, possible the Lexus RX450h hybrid which gets stunningly good (supposedly) MPG.

Submitted by EconProf on May 9, 2013 - 2:49pm.

Don't obsess over gas mileage. Once you run the numbers, it is seldom worthwhile to sell your car just to get one with better mileage.
At 15,000 miles per year, a 5 MPG improvement saves you less than $500 per year in gasoline. A 10 MPG improvement, which is a huge difference in size of vehicle, gets you under $1,000. Weigh safety, convenience, comfort, etc. And transaction cost is too often neglected: time and trouble to sell a vehicle and buy another, wholesale vs. retail, sales tax, etc.

Submitted by The-Shoveler on May 9, 2013 - 2:56pm.

But it’s so totally worth it to drive 10 miles out of your way to save 5 cents a gallon :)
Just kidding.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 9, 2013 - 3:30pm.

EconProf wrote:
Don't obsess over gas mileage. Once you run the numbers, it is seldom worthwhile to sell your car just to get one with better mileage.
At 15,000 miles per year, a 5 MPG improvement saves you less than $500 per year in gasoline. A 10 MPG improvement, which is a huge difference in size of vehicle, gets you under $1,000. Weigh safety, convenience, comfort, etc. And transaction cost is too often neglected: time and trouble to sell a vehicle and buy another, wholesale vs. retail, sales tax, etc.

I agree with this, EconProf. And NSR suggested the Lexus RX450h. I've researched past years of those vehicles and found them to be prohibitively expensive. And the cargo space in them is very small compared to the 4-Runner. I haven't checked but the the 2013's have got to be around $50K.

treehugger seemed like she loved the 4-Runner (what's NOT to love?) except for it's everyday gas mileage (17-18 mpg?). I think the best solution is for her to keep it and buy a nice used Camry or Honda Civic/Accord for $4000-$6000 to drive to work and back. Grandma's car with under 50K miles is out there ... for patient buyers :)

Submitted by no_such_reality on May 9, 2013 - 4:08pm.

Well, they could do a Ford Escape Hybrid. The cargo issue comes back though. Basically, both it and the Lexus are priuses on a lift kit.

No point in buying a second car, the $4000-$6000 is 5 years of gas.

I did the MPG search when we bought our vehicle, the reality is there are small cars for mileage and as soon as you step away from mileage being the #1 factor, then the other factors greatly trump mileage.

I dumped my SUV for a mini-van. Got the odyssey. Basically it's a big Accord Station Wagon with power sliding doors.

Six adults, a baby seat and six carefully packed carryon weekend bags. No problem. Road trip, 28 MPG...

Submitted by EconProf on May 9, 2013 - 4:56pm.

Everyone has their own priorities in choosing a vehicle--for me it is the seats. Being freakishly tall and driving weekly to and from Yuma, seat comfort and adjustability are everything. I have a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with the best seats in the world, but also 214,000 miles on it. Have looked and looked for a new vehicle with seats as good as the Pacifica--even sat in 30 - 40 at the Convention Center Auto Show last January. Only pickups and giant SUVs came close.
Then, a eureka moment--a used, low mileage 2007 Chrysler Pacifica (the last year they made them) would have the same seats (plus an improved engine and transmission). Craigslist allows the shopper to filter, so for two months I regularly plugged in "2007 Chrysler Pacifica", called only on Touring models, low mileage vehicles in San Diego, Phoenix, and Los Angeles Craigslists, and found a match a week ago. The driver's seat is adjustable every which way, and when tilted it feels like a Lazy-Boy chair. With 51,000 miles, I'll keep it for many years.
Now, anyone want to buy a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with great seats? Seriously.

Submitted by cvmom on May 9, 2013 - 5:27pm.

If you are really a treehugger, consider a plug-in. We have the Nissan Leaf and cram our 4-person family plus dog in there just fine. Yes it is cozy but with the solar panels on the roof of our house, we are not burning any oil or gas to get anywhere (aside from materials used to build the car). And it is so awesome to NEVER visit a gas station!

Submitted by Reality on May 9, 2013 - 8:48pm.

treehugger wrote:

I want something that has plenty of room for my toys and dogs (bikes, stand up paddle boards, 2 75 pound dogs) and gets good gas mileage. I think I am going to go this weekend and test drive the Jetta sportwagon and AUDI A3 both TDI get great gas mileage, but is the extra cost of diesel worth it?

My 2009 Jetta TDI had a failure of the high pressure fuel pump. VW had to replace the entire fuel system due to metal shavings from the pump grenading. Mine wasn't the only one for this generation of the TDI.

http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php...

I think Audi diesels use the same fuel pump.

Additionally, the turbo failed on it twice and I kept getting a check engine light for the exhaust temperature sensor despite NUMEROUS attempts at repair by the dealership.

I also owned a 2003 Jetta TDI that was the best car I ever had. I wish I still did. 45 mpg, 650 miles to a tank. But the clean diesel I bought in 2009 was a mess.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 9, 2013 - 9:15pm.

JohnAlt91941 wrote:
My 2009 Jetta TDI had a failure of the high pressure fuel pump. VW had to replace the entire fuel system due to metal shavings from the pump grenading. Mine wasn't the only one for this generation of the TDI.

http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php...

I think Audi diesels use the same fuel pump.

Additionally, the turbo failed on it twice and I kept getting a check engine light for the exhaust temperature sensor despite NUMEROUS attempts at repair by the dealership.

I also owned a 2003 Jetta TDI that was the best car I ever had. I wish I still did. 45 mpg, 650 miles to a tank. But the clean diesel I bought in 2009 was a mess.

Good info, JohnAlt91941. Thank you for your post.

Submitted by paramount on May 9, 2013 - 10:05pm.

bearishgurl wrote:
treehugger, I would LOVE to have your 4Runner and KNOW what a strong truck they are. However, I too can't afford to buy $80 tank gas for "city driving" when I only need a mtn vehicle maybe four weeks per year at most ... that is ... as long as I haven't moved to the mtns yet, lol.

Good used 4Runners (and even new ones on a lot) are quite rare in SoCal so I'm sure you won't have a problem unloading it at all.

With your two big dogs and your need to stand bikes up, all I can think of are Suburbans, Tahoes, Escalades and the like. However, your 4-Runner is better vehicle than all of these and probably gets better mileage, IMHO. Why don't you keep it and just buy a cheap used city kick-around car for $4K to $6K? Your spouse might not always be with the same company and thus you may not always have access to his company truck. If I were you, I might just keep the 4Runner for life. You never know ... it could actually outlive YOU.

Just kidding ;=]

Are you being serious?

1st of all a 4Runner is not a truck, it's a grocery getter disquised as a truck. The front bumper of my Excursion has more steel than a complete 4runner.

I looked at 4Runners last year, they are cramped and drive and handle like crap (compared to more modern similiar class vehicles).

A Suburban is much better for most, probably gets better mileage and has much more room.

I've never understood the market for mid-size SUV's and pickups - the gas mileage is really no better than a real full size truck or SUV only you get a lot less room.

Besides, for most SUV buyers a modern CUV is a much better choice than a 4Runner - you get better handling, more modern/advanced safety systems and suspensions, better MPG and on and on...

4Runners were great....20 years ago.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 9, 2013 - 10:41pm.

paramount wrote:
Are you being serious?

1st of all a 4Runner is not a truck, it's a grocery getter disquised as a truck. The front bumper of my Excursion has more steel than a complete 4runner.

I looked at 4Runners last year, they are cramped and drive and handle like crap (compared to more modern similiar class vehicles).

A Suburban is much better for most, probably gets better mileage and has much more room.

I've never understood the market for mid-size SUV's and pickups - the gas mileage is really no better than a real full size truck or SUV only you get a lot less room.

Besides, for most SUV buyers a modern CUV is a much better choice than a 4Runner - you get better handling, more modern/advanced safety systems and suspensions, better MPG and on and on...

4Runners were great....20 years ago.

Yeah, I'm serious. 4Runners are on a light truck chassis. Currently, they are built on a "Tacoma" chassis (formerly "Hi-Lux" chassis). They were mostly 6-cylinder vehicles, which, in the past, was mostly 4WD with a std 5-spd transmission. Yes, they "bounce" more in traffic in comparison to an AWD passenger car such as the Toy Highlander. They are now sold with mostly 2WD transmissions which are automatic. I erred when I said that it was "rare" to find a new or used 4Runner for sale in SoCal. I meant that it was "rare" to find a 4WD for sale (the 2WD's are plentiful). Why are they so "rare?" Because their owners (all the way back to 1987) don't sell them. Hello?? They keep them for life. For good reason. Because they last well past 300k miles if maintained. For off-road, it doesn't get much better than than a 4Runner or Toy HiLux/Tacoma (Jeep and Toy Landcruiser excepted).

The 2013 4Runners are a pricey $40K to $50K, depending on options.

Yes, most (4WD) 4-Runners have been further modified over the years... for off-road. That is where they belong, IMHO.

Yes, I would agree that there is less cargo space in a Toy 4Runner than a full-size SUV (ex Suburban or Tahoe, etc). 4Runners are a mid-sized TRUCK. The Toy Landcruiser is built on a Tundra chassis. It is a whole different animal.

I'd take a 4WD 4Runner any day of the week or year if I could afford the weekly gas fillup (I can only afford ONE vehicle at a time). I would MUCH PREFER a 4WD to an "on-demand AWD button on the console" as is featured in the Lexus RX.

I drive in snow, mtns (very high altitude) and am a long-haul road driver when I hit the road.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 9, 2013 - 10:58pm.

paramount, if you currently drive an "Excursion," you have the "gas-eater extraordinaire." Sure, it has the "ultimate in cargo space" but you are paying $80-$100 for ONE fillup.

Different strokes for different folks. I drive an older Lexus "luxury" sedan which floats like a boat and gets 27-29 mpg on the road. Its trunk is plenty big enough to store all you would need for a road trip and then some (except, of course, bikes standing up and 2-75 lb dogs, lol ... :))

Oh, and btw, my car's engine is rated for 500K miles. I'm slowly working my way there, with regular maintenance, of course :)

My car will officially be 20 yrs old next month :=D

Submitted by paramount on May 9, 2013 - 11:47pm.

bearishgurl wrote:
paramount, if you currently drive an "Excursion," you have the "gas-eater extraordinaire." Sure, it has the "ultimate in cargo space" but you are paying $80-$100 for ONE fillup.

Different strokes for different folks. I drive an older Lexus "luxury" sedan which floats like a boat and gets 27-29 mpg on the road. Its trunk is plenty big enough to store all you would need for a road trip and then some (except, of course, bikes standing up and 2-75 lb dogs, lol ... :))

Oh, and btw, my car's engine is rated for 500K miles. I'm slowly working my way there, with regular maintenance, of course :)

My car will officially be 20 yrs old next month :=D

$80 to 100? Try more like $200 bucks if I'm really low.

An Excursion is a true truck/light-duty commercial vehicle unlike a 4Runner or even a Suburban.

I don't drive it much, I much prefer the driving experience of a 3 Series.

Submitted by paramount on May 9, 2013 - 11:58pm.

bearishgurl wrote:

Oh, and btw, my car's engine is rated for 500K miles. I'm slowly working my way there, with regular maintenance, of course :)

My car will officially be 20 yrs old next month :=D

I have no desire to have on older car, I'd much rather have a newer car with side airbags, traction control, more advanced chassis that absorbs impacts better, etc...

Comparing apples to apples, you're way safer in a newer car with these features and since I can afford it I deem it money well spent.

There are a lot of predators and crazies out on the roads.

Submitted by kev374 on May 10, 2013 - 9:49am.

How about the 2014 Subaru Forester? it's 24/32 and has plenty of space. I have heard that diesels are pretty expensive to maintain, especially with the German marques so any savings in fuel is quickly eaten up in other costs.

Submitted by no_such_reality on May 10, 2013 - 10:03am.

paramount wrote:

There are a lot of predators and crazies out on the roads.

Predators and crazies aren't the danger. The distracted and tired are.

I'll be honest, I don't understand the Nissan Leaf. Given SoCal traffic and heat, I can't imagine most people wouldn't need to plug it in after their morning commute to not risk running out of 'gas' on the way home.

MPGe is a bit laughable too. They use a conversion based on the BTU content of "gallon of gas" but assume a 100% efficiency in the production of electricity.

In the case of renewable like solar that may be true, if you charge during the day, in the case of coal, it's 33%. Which mean if you're charging in an area dominated by coal produced power, your real MPGe is 1/3rd...

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 10:21am.

kev374 wrote:
How about the 2014 Subaru Forester? it's 24/32 and has plenty of space. I have heard that diesels are pretty expensive to maintain, especially with the German marques so any savings in fuel is quickly eaten up in other costs.

I've ridden in the 2010 model and it was very nice and spacious. They also come in 4WD, I believe. Good choice.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 11:18am.

no_such_reality wrote:
paramount wrote:

There are a lot of predators and crazies out on the roads.
Predators and crazies aren't the danger. The distracted and tired are...

On the open road, I'd surely rather be surrounded by my tank of a car (or ER's tank of a car) or a tank of an SUV (Toy Landcruiser/Lexus LX, etc) in case of a mishap. Examples abound: something falling off a vehicle, an opposing driver falling asleep at the wheel and crossing the median, a tractor trailer jacknifing in a sudden whiteout or a downhill tractor trailer whose granny gear went out and didn't quite make it into the brake-check hill. Yes, all these things have happened to me at one time or another. Sh!t happens, especially when road conditions are not optimal. You have a lot of drivers out there who have wildly varying levels of experience with driving in adverse conditions. Put them all together on a two laner in the mtns in the winter and anything can happen.

For a winter road traveler, safety comes before gas mileage, IMO.

Professional drivers aren't the ones falling asleep at the wheel. They're the easiest and most polite to drive alongside. It's Joe and Jane6p who just got home at 6:00 pm from working all day and week and who left at 9:00 pm for their 2-week vacation after packing their vehicle for 3 hrs that you have to worry about in the middle of the night out there. And then there are the wackos in low-to-the-ground Miatas, etc who deliberately cut the professional drivers off who are playing Russian roulette with everyone on the road (including themselves) by their erratic show-off behavior.

Oh, and btw, I've slept in my vehicle at numerous rest stops in my life (sometimes alone, sometimes not) and have never had a "predator or crazy person" or anyone, for that matter, so much as knock on my window.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 11:01am.

My bad. Subaru Forresters have "on-demand AWD."

http://www.subaru.com/vehicles/forester/...

It appears they are all 2.0L four-cylinder models. This explains the much better mileage than the 4-Runner. They don't appear to be bigger inside ... maybe the same size. The latest models do have a quieter engine. They are quite a bit cheaper than Toyotas. There has to be a reason for that.

I still wouldn't trade a 4Runner for one. It's not the same vehicle at all.

Submitted by all on May 10, 2013 - 11:31am.

bearishgurl wrote:

Oh, and btw, I've slept in my vehicle at numerous rest stops in my life (sometimes alone, sometimes not) and have never had a "predator or crazy person" or anyone, for that matter, so much as knock on my window.

That's because you are not as cute and defenseless as paramount.

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 11:41am.

all wrote:
bearishgurl wrote:

Oh, and btw, I've slept in my vehicle at numerous rest stops in my life (sometimes alone, sometimes not) and have never had a "predator or crazy person" or anyone, for that matter, so much as knock on my window.

That's because you are not as cute and defenseless as paramount.

Well I dunno. I might be cuter than paramount but I'm usually covered up with a sleeping bag, jacket, sweater or beach towel (depending on weather) so a potential "predator" can't really tell how cute I am :=0

Submitted by spdrun on May 10, 2013 - 12:43pm.

Bg - haha.

All you fraidy cats can bite me. Just took a 2000 mi road trip in a Fiat 500!

Submitted by flu on May 10, 2013 - 12:48pm.

bearishgurl wrote:

Professional drivers aren't the ones falling asleep at the wheel. They're the easiest and most polite to drive alongside....And then there are the wackos in low-to-the-ground Miatas, etc who deliberately cut the professional drivers off who are playing Russian roulette with everyone on the road (including themselves) by their erratic show-off behavior.

...Sorry that I cut you off this morning. But them lexus drivers need to know slower traffic yield right (that's ----> way)...

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 12:57pm.

miata_deathtrap wrote:
bearishgurl wrote:

Professional drivers aren't the ones falling asleep at the wheel. They're the easiest and most polite to drive alongside....And then there are the wackos in low-to-the-ground Miatas, etc who deliberately cut the professional drivers off who are playing Russian roulette with everyone on the road (including themselves) by their erratic show-off behavior.

...Sorry that I cut you off this morning. But them lexus drivers need to know slower traffic yield right (that's ----> way)...

Did I (unwittingly) bring the REAL flu out of the archives or is this an imposter??

Hey flu, if its the REAL YOU, how's the work on the Miata going? Have you got it ready for the street yet??

I'll have you know that my vehicle is rated for 140 mph, but of course, I don't drive anywhere near that fast. However, on the open road, it's very easy for the odometer to creep up without realizing what is happening :=0

Submitted by bearishgurl on May 10, 2013 - 12:58pm.

spdrun wrote:
Bg - haha.

All you fraidy cats can bite me. Just took a 2000 mi road trip in a Fiat 500!

I hope you only tailgated comm'l trailers with a rear crash guard :=0

Submitted by NeetaT on May 10, 2013 - 5:49pm.

If you would like to go broke, buy the Nissan X-Terra. It is much worse than the 4-Runner for gas mileage.

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