Author Topic: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?  (Read 416 times)

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Online SimpleMan

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What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
« on: June 06, 2021, 10:02:28 AM »
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  • My poor old 2009 Buick is once again sitting in the driveway, battery dead as cold fried chicken, and it's very likely that car will never run again.  It has major electrical issues and always has.  I'm going to try to get it to the garage one more time (I have AAA and the garage doesn't have a tow truck), and if I can't sell it to the garage guys for parts or as a mechanic's challenge, it will probably end up being donated to Goodwill or a similar charity.  They will come and get your car, even if it doesn't run.  Sic transit gloria mundi.

    Anyway... I know I have asked in this space before about the best, affordable, most reliable late-model sedans, and the Toyota Camry seems to be coming up time and again.  They are so reliable --- just keep them serviced and they'll last forever --- that they are even the car of choice for ISIS and similar terrorists.  (I doubt Toyota will ever use that as a selling point :jester: )

    But what about SUVs?  The way my son and I travel, go on road trips, go exploring, and haul stuff --- he likes to set himself up a little traveling cabin in the back seat --- I'm wondering if I might want to go for a little more spaciousness, than any sedan can afford.  Right now I'm driving my father's used Cadillac, I'm not a "boat car" fan, but for what it is, it's very driveable and comfortable, hideous gas mileage (11 mpg) but still good, reliable transportation.  But I don't want this to be our only car, moreover, my son has said that this is HIS car --- his grandfather has, indeed, "gifted" it to him, though he retains title for now, so I am flanked by two generations --- and I need something for my own, sooner rather than later.  I have told my son that no teenagers drive Cadillacs, but he doesn't care, he wants to learn to drive on that car.  It's got 100K miles on it, so if he gets it out and tears it up, not that much lost, take the insurance and buy a beater.

    I'd also like something that would be spacious enough for "car camping", let down the back seats (or even remove them entirely) and put in a large air mattress.  We have a campground just minutes from our home, and we've discussed "vacationing" out there for a couple of days, being close enough to home, that I could return to care for my father as needed, then go back to camp.   I'd be looking into us taking our tent and sleeping bags, and parking the SUV next to the tent.  I know they even make canopies for such arrangements, but we're not that fancy.  Just a grill, a couple of camp chairs, a cooler, a pot to make coffee with our 12-volt power inverter, and possibly to boil water for Mountain House meals or MREs, that's about it.  Sadly, the campground has no range facilities nearby, and they don't allow airguns.  They're no fun at all.  (It is a state-owned facility, so they don't allow packing heat, but they've got the occasional coyote and bobcat out in those woods, so that's just going to have to be a purely penal law.  I'll tell any judge in the land why I had to turn that critter into mulch to save my son and me, and possibly other campers as well.  I always pack when we go hiking in the woods.  We live in 2A-friendly country, so I'm sure I'm not the only one.)

    If anyone can offer some suggestions, or guide me either towards or away from various SUVs, I'd be much obliged.  I have heard good things about the Toyota 4Runner and the various Jeep models.  I can't afford a Land Rover.

    Thanks in advance.

    Offline DigitalLogos

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #1 on: June 06, 2021, 10:38:48 AM »
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  • Car camping-wise, you'd be pretty good with a 4Runner. They're honestly some of the best SUVs on the market right now, especially with Toyota reliability. They can be a little pricey in the used market, which is why I didn't get one now, but plan to in the future. Another option is a Honda Pilot. I have a 2010 and it has tons of room in it and is great as a camping/road trip vehicle. It has a V6, so it's capable of towing up to around 3,500lbs too. If you can get one with less than 150k miles then you should have absolutely no problems. Mine has 185k on it now, with some noisy cams/lifters, but it still runs great.

    I would stay away from modern Jeeps, at least after 2014 when Fiat bought them out. They're good offroad vehicles still, but the reliability is very questionable with the crappy Fiat engines in them. So long-term maintenance costs are going to be far beyond anything like a Toyota or Honda. My wife has a 2021 Wrangler Willy's and I don't particularly love it (even though she does).
    "The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


    Offline moneil

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #2 on: June 06, 2021, 11:56:26 AM »
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  • First, a tale of 2 car opinions …
     
    In 2017 I needed to get a second vehicle that had better fuel economy than my Dodge crew cab short box ½ ton pickup (15-17 mpg).  I immediately thought of a Subaru SUV because I know a lot of people who have them and they love them.  When I went shopping I noticed that there weren’t a lot of used Subaru’s available and most on the market had 80k or more miles on them (owners seem to hold onto their Subaru’s), and even with the high mileage they were priced higher than my budget (they seem to hold their value).  Looking at what was on a particular lot there was a 2013 Ford Focus and a Mini Cooper, both around 50 k odometer miles and in the $10-12 k price range.  I called a friend who is a mechanical engineer by training but operates his own auto garage specializing in older European vehicles (he especially enjoys the challenge of working on cars one can no longer get off the shelf new parts for).  His advice: “Subaru’s are always great but are going to be more expensive, the Focus would be good, used Toyota Prius’ are starting to show up at reasonable prices, Ford Explorers are always good, AVOID THE MINI COOPER ALWAYS”.  A college mate who is a veterinarian and also an accomplished mechanic and mechanist says the same thing about the Mini, based on personal experience with one of his wife’s cars, so two strikes against that car.
     
      I bought the Focus, love it, now at 129 k miles and planning to go to at least 200 k I hope, I get 35 – 40 MPG.  At a family gathering that summer people were looking at my “new to me” ride.  A cousin, who now drives a Honda (maybe a Pilot) had a Subaru for many years, but interestingly considered it among the worst cars she’s ever owned.  Her cousin standing there with us had a Mini Cooper which he loved and said it had been trouble free as his daily commuter drive.
     
    The story illustrates that opinions and experiences are useful and informative but can also widely vary.
     
    Now onto my opinion.  I had a 2003 or 2004 Chev Trailblazer that I drove (and pulled a cargo trailer with) for about 5 years, and it was a great rig.  I traded it in on the Dodge pickup because I wanted a heavier weight rig to keep the trailer in line.  Everyone I know (many) who has or has ever had a Ford Explorer has always been happy with them, and the same opinion seems true for Suburban’s, which would give you some great space in the back.  I remember a time, especially in the 1980’s it seems, when Toyota 4-Runners were very popular but I don’t see them around much.  A lot of the 4-Runner owners I knew switched to the Explorer when Ford introduced it 1990.  While I’ve always thought they were cool, for a while after Jeep was acquired by Chrysler from AMC in 1987 it didn’t seem to have the best reputation.  That may have certainly changed by now.

    Online SimpleMan

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #3 on: June 06, 2021, 12:34:58 PM »
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  • Thanks to both so far, for the good tips.  I have done my last "do" with General Motors, had several such cars, with the exception of one very good Buick (totaled in a car wreck, drunk hit my father, got an insultingly small settlement possibly due to "good ole boy" politics, broke my father's health and he has never recovered), all were duds.  This present Cadillac, I don't know about.  I am just driving it right now out of necessity.  Ford, mixed feelings.  The more I think about it, I am inclining towards the Toyota 4Runner.  They go used for around $27K, and at the moment, I'm not in the position to pay any more than about $21/22K for anything, and that would be pushing it.  Yet in our culture, with lifestyle considerations that can't be changed, you must have wheels.  Indeed, I think the liberal PTB would dearly love to have everyone carless, easier to control, this was one thing the Communists did in Poland and elsewhere --- that, along with making it virtually impossible to get a home telephone and ensuring that the country only had a network of small two-lane roads.  They didn't want people getting about easily, or able to communicate with each other.  I've seen how it was over there.

    Offline DigitalLogos

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #4 on: June 06, 2021, 01:02:52 PM »
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  • I third the opinion against Mini Coopers. My sister was foolish enough to get one and has had nothing but high maintenance costs on the stupid thing since then. And now she's looking at buying another Mini, this time a Countryman  :facepalm:

    I forgot about Subarus. They're pretty good too, I have a coworker that swears by them if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow (they're very popular here in WI). And they don't really break the bank used (at least from what I see in my area). Ford Explorers are still very good, as well as the Escapes, I just barely missed an opportunity to get a 2010 Escape for $9k with only 25,000 miles back in March! I can't speak to everything being good from Ford, I know F150s across the board are some of the best trucks outside of Toyota Tundras right now, but I'm very skeptical about their turbo-charged eco-boost engines and longevity (longevity being the main selling point for a cheap-o like me). My wife had a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi and it was a rolling piece of garbage.

    GM is generally crap nowadays. So if you look at something like a Blazer or TrailBlazer, go for one from the early 00's or earlier. I just ended a Lease on a 2018 Silverado that left a bad taste in my mouth after the starter went out after only 36k miles.
    "The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


    Online SimpleMan

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #5 on: June 06, 2021, 01:47:54 PM »
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  • I third the opinion against Mini Coopers. My sister was foolish enough to get one and has had nothing but high maintenance costs on the stupid thing since then. And now she's looking at buying another Mini, this time a Countryman  :facepalm:

    I forgot about Subarus. They're pretty good too, I have a coworker that swears by them if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow (they're very popular here in WI). And they don't really break the bank used (at least from what I see in my area). Ford Explorers are still very good, as well as the Escapes, I just barely missed an opportunity to get a 2010 Escape for $9k with only 25,000 miles back in March! I can't speak to everything being good from Ford, I know F150s across the board are some of the best trucks outside of Toyota Tundras right now, but I'm very skeptical about their turbo-charged eco-boost engines and longevity (longevity being the main selling point for a cheap-o like me). My wife had a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi and it was a rolling piece of garbage.

    GM is generally crap nowadays. So if you look at something like a Blazer or TrailBlazer, go for one from the early 00's or earlier. I just ended a Lease on a 2018 Silverado that left a bad taste in my mouth after the starter went out after only 36k miles.
    Mini Cooper vehicles just look deformed somehow.  Same with that HHR vehicle.  Ugly-butt car.  I don't drive ugly.

    It's probably going to be a 4Runner.  This is not a purchase I need to make immediately.  I've got a guy out here in the exurbs whom I promised, when it came time to buy a car, I'd call him first.  Word of honor, that is what I shall do, then go from there.  Carmax has pretty slim pickings when it comes to SUVs.

    On a side note, why are rental cars so scarce, and so expensive anymore?  Time was, you could get a serviceable rental for $35/day.  Now, when you can even find a car, they start around $75.  I thought I might need to do that the other day.  Cheapest thing I could find was a business utility van (!) for the low $50s per day.  I would have rented it.  If I need a car in a hurry, I don't care if it's Borat's ice cream truck.  Wheels are wheels.

    Offline DigitalLogos

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #6 on: June 06, 2021, 02:06:18 PM »
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  • Rental prices may have something to do with the used car market. I know that used prices have been skyrocketing in the past 6 months, so I would imagine the same could be said for rentals. My wife and I rented a car a couple years back for a work trip and that was about $200-225 for a full week.
    "The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

    Online SimpleMan

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #7 on: June 06, 2021, 02:14:44 PM »
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  • Rental prices may have something to do with the used car market. I know that used prices have been skyrocketing in the past 6 months, so I would imagine the same could be said for rentals. My wife and I rented a car a couple years back for a work trip and that was about $200-225 for a full week.
    That's about what they used to go for.  My son and I are playing around with the idea of going to South Florida if our vacation gets delayed into the fall, and I do not want to drive all that way.  We would have to fly.  But I'll need affordable wheels once we get there.


    Offline Tallinn Trad

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #8 on: June 15, 2021, 07:34:37 AM »
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  • If you can find one an old shape 4 wheel drive Toyota Previa is good.

    They stopped making them in 1999 but they are bullet proof.

    Might be a struggle to find one though.

    4 runners are good.  Rav 4s are good too though not sure you have those in the USA.

    Offline Pax Vobis

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #9 on: June 15, 2021, 07:47:07 AM »
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  • There's a YT guy who does car camping and he has a Honda CRV.  Probably costs less than the 4Runner.  A YT search for 'car camping' will give you more options; it's a popular thing right now.  Good luck.

    Offline Tallinn Trad

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #10 on: June 15, 2021, 09:36:07 AM »
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  • If there is ever a year for a local vacation, then this is that year.

    I cannot stand all of the bullpoop that goes with travelling on planes.

    Give me a little farm with a nice view and a lake to swim in 30 mins drive away from my house.  Let the masses have their mouth swabs and queue up for airplanes.

    Why people want to go away anywhere now I have no idea.  What a hassle!



    Offline DigitalLogos

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #11 on: June 15, 2021, 09:40:14 AM »
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  • If there is ever a year for a local vacation, then this is that year.

    I cannot stand all of the bullpoop that goes with travelling on planes.

    Give me a little farm with a nice view and a lake to swim in 30 mins drive away from my house.  Let the masses have their mouth swabs and queue up for airplanes.

    Why people want to go away anywhere now I have no idea.  What a hassle!
    Amen to that. My wife and I just went up north to Washington Island this past weekend and stayed in a little cabin for a few nights. Much easier than trying to book a flight and resort or anything like that.
    "The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #12 on: June 15, 2021, 09:54:48 AM »
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  • Car camping-wise, you'd be pretty good with a 4Runner. They're honestly some of the best SUVs on the market right now, especially with Toyota reliability. They can be a little pricey in the used market, which is why I didn't get one now, but plan to in the future. Another option is a Honda Pilot. I have a 2010 and it has tons of room in it and is great as a camping/road trip vehicle. It has a V6, so it's capable of towing up to around 3,500lbs too. If you can get one with less than 150k miles then you should have absolutely no problems. Mine has 185k on it now, with some noisy cams/lifters, but it still runs great.

    I would stay away from modern Jeeps, at least after 2014 when Fiat bought them out. They're good offroad vehicles still, but the reliability is very questionable with the crappy Fiat engines in them. So long-term maintenance costs are going to be far beyond anything like a Toyota or Honda. My wife has a 2021 Wrangler Willy's and I don't particularly love it (even though she does).

    Jeep's V6 engine is still very good, hasn't changed much from what I've been told, but those new 2.0 liters I would avoid like the plague.  With that I don't like the new Wranglers either (and I used to be a big fan) because at 6'2" I can barely get into the thing without hurting my neck to avoid hitting my head.  I lowered the seat as far down as it would go, and I feel really claustrophobic.

    I'd just check the SUVs to see which ones have seats that fold down FLAT ... so you could put a mattress on it.  Many of them don't fold down all the way flat.  Then I would just look at the vehicle's specs to see if there's sufficient length in the cargo area (with seats folded down) to accommodate the mattress.

    Of course the old conversion vans are the best for camping ... though not idea for going offroad.

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #13 on: June 15, 2021, 09:59:10 AM »
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  • I third the opinion against Mini Coopers. My sister was foolish enough to get one and has had nothing but high maintenance costs on the stupid thing since then. And now she's looking at buying another Mini, this time a Countryman  :facepalm:

    I forgot about Subarus. They're pretty good too, I have a coworker that swears by them if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow (they're very popular here in WI). And they don't really break the bank used (at least from what I see in my area). Ford Explorers are still very good, as well as the Escapes, I just barely missed an opportunity to get a 2010 Escape for $9k with only 25,000 miles back in March! I can't speak to everything being good from Ford, I know F150s across the board are some of the best trucks outside of Toyota Tundras right now, but I'm very skeptical about their turbo-charged eco-boost engines and longevity (longevity being the main selling point for a cheap-o like me). My wife had a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi and it was a rolling piece of garbage.

    GM is generally crap nowadays. So if you look at something like a Blazer or TrailBlazer, go for one from the early 00's or earlier. I just ended a Lease on a 2018 Silverado that left a bad taste in my mouth after the starter went out after only 36k miles.

    I'm totally down on Ford.  I had an Expedition and it was total garbage.  One mechanical issue after another, 12MPH, and it was RUSTING OUT on a lot of panels ... even though it wasn't old enough to be rusting.  Others who have had Expeditions told me the same thing.

    Offline songbird

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    Re: What is the best SUV for car camping (and just overall)?
    « Reply #14 on: June 15, 2021, 10:25:59 AM »
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  • I love my 2005 Honda Pilot.  My husbands, cousins husband, was over Honda in Phoenix since 1967.  To this day he said, your Honda Pilot's engine can go to 300,000 miles. I am at 97,000 now.  I saw a pilot at 200,000.  Just saying that their engines are very good.


     

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