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As some may have noted in past posts, I live on a little acreage in an Idaho canyon. It is 12 miles off the paved road. Another 28 highway in to work. The gravel roads are well maintained by the county, but it's still rough on my vehicle.

I drive an 2010 Toyota Highlander. I can't say enough good things about the car. Though it wasn't designed for this sort of travel, it's held up remarkably well. 185,000 miles. Motor (V6) and tranny have been absolutely bulletproof. Zero leaks. 22 MPG. It has never let me down. Oil changes and coolant flushes for the win. BUT. The terrain is rough on the suspension. I'm about to replace the second set of struts, in four years living out here. I just had the front end rebuilt. I think, that when I replace this car in the future I'm going to have to step up to a tougher part from OEM, when things wear out.

So the plan is to get two more years out of it (about 250,000 miles).

Which, finally, brings me to my query. What vehicle would you recommend, that might take the abuse better with about the same mileage, that's not a truck?  My wife drives a pickup and we really don't need two. At least 8 inches of ground clearance. I usually buy used but recent, vehicles with no plans to go electric. Some folks have mentioned Subaru's but I've no experience with them. 

Throw out some recommendations please. Thanks for your time and attention.

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Posted (edited)

In my experience everything Toyota's built has been uncommonly reliable, but I'd recommend a manual gearbox.

Granted they need clutches sometimes (depending, of course, on the competence of the driver...160,000+ miles isn't uncommon with a non-idiot operator, and I've got well over 220,000 miles on the OEM clutch in my '89 GMC), but boy is that cheaper than an automatic when it goes.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy
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Posted (edited)

Maybe a 4Runner? it shares a chassis with the Tacoma so are actually a truck and built tougher. The Highlander and RAV4 are built on a lighter weight car chassis (share a chassis with Camry and Corolla). Really hard to beat Toyota for reliability. Sequoia is based on the Tundra so would be another option, but much larger, more expensive and pretty awful fuel economy. I've had a 1996 Tacoma and currently own a 2008 Tundra. Great trucks, the Tacoma was pretty easy on fuel (4 cyl) with a solid 26mpg but I can't say the same for the Tundra, maybe 15mpg.

I've also got a 2014 Subaru Forester, it has been a great car, does amazingly well in bad weather, but it is not a truck, and suspect it would suffer from similar issues to your Highlander. 

Edited by Aaronw
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Posted (edited)

My wife has a 2014 with a manual trans that we bought new. Other than the spider gears in the rear being replaced on warranty, it’s been pretty much trouble free.
Edit: I like the fact that it has coil springs all around for a decent ride. It also has a solid front axle which is pretty much bullet proof, unless you get into serious off-roading. There is even a Rubicon version that has heavier duty running gear. I think the four door with its longer wheelbase would give a much better ride than the shorter two door on gravel washboard roads. After market support is absolutely unparalleled.

 

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Edited by NOBLNG
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Being that you are driving on rough roads that much anything you buy is going to need the suspension serviced sooner than normal.  I loved my 2012 4x4 Explorer for towing and driving. I got 22 MPG on country roads . Not city or high way if that makes sense. In fact it towed my trailer better than my 97 1/2 ton Chevy Pickup with a V8. 

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I would also recommend a Jeep 4 door, ours is a 2011 JK Sahara  bought new. Over the decade it has been trouble free and has served us well. The Unlimited four door has a much improved ride over the shorter two door wheelbase. Jeeps tend to hold their resale price so perhaps an investment in a new model may be the way to go. 

Regardless of which vehicle you may chose Rob, it’s always an adventure to research the choices available. Our second and third choices at the time were the Toyota version and the Honda Ridgeline. Cheers Misha

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16 hours ago, Jantrix said:

As some may have noted in past posts, I live on a little acreage in an Idaho canyon. It is 12 miles off the paved road. Another 28 highway in to work. The gravel roads are well maintained by the county, but it's still rough on my vehicle.

I drive an 2010 Toyota Highlander. I can't say enough good things about the car. Though it wasn't designed for this sort of travel, it's held up remarkably well. 185,000 miles. Motor (V6) and tranny have been absolutely bulletproof. Zero leaks. 22 MPG. It has never let me down. Oil changes and coolant flushes for the win. BUT. The terrain is rough on the suspension. I'm about to replace the second set of struts, in four years living out here. I just had the front end rebuilt. I think, that when I replace this car in the future I'm going to have to step up to a tougher part from OEM, when things wear out.

So the plan is to get two more years out of it (about 250,000 miles).

Which, finally, brings me to my query. What vehicle would you recommend, that might take the abuse better with about the same mileage, that's not a truck?  My wife drives a pickup and we really don't need two. At least 8 inches of ground clearance. I usually buy used but recent, vehicles with no plans to go electric. Some folks have mentioned Subaru's but I've no experience with them. 

Throw out some recommendations please. Thanks for your time and attention.

Hello Jantrix, my credentials are I have been in the automotive repair trade since 1969. I have worked at several dealerships and now work at a Chevy dealer. And I have lived in Idaho Falls for several years. The best time of my life. Maybe even move back there someday. My car of choice would be a Toyota. You live in a remote area sounds like. Congratulations, this is what most people would love. I would! In my experience they are the most reliable. Other cars would have the same problems with the suspension, because of your drive. But the suspension is a lot cheaper than say a transmission or engine. My personal cars are a corvette, explorer, Toyota Sequoia,  Honda Civic , 1965 mustang, 1970 barracuda,1970 challenger . So I have many different makes, so I am not biased.  I have noticed on my jeep that the suspension is durable. Example is that on the brake caliper, the bolt is 19mm on the jeep to the explorer’s 15mm. My Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great car but it only gets 15 mpg. It’s a 1999 with 60,000 miles  it has the Mercedes 4.7 V8 with full time all wheel drive. So as not to confuse you any more, a Toyota would be my choice. Good luck on your choice. 

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If you DID want a truck, I suggest an '85 or so Toyota 4X4 pickup. I'll be looking for one myself when I get moved.

They're built like tanks, they're simple, used parts are plentiful, there's a strong aftermarket due to their popularity, and their value is going up every day.

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Depends on what you can afford. So many good choices yet it’s something you’ll have to live with. Any rough terrain will be hard on any suspension system no matter what vehicle you choose. There’s no such thing as a bulletproof vehicle.... except a tank or military vehicle. LOL!

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Of all the people who buy vehicles with off-road capabilities, you're one of those who genuinely need it.  I'd look around and see what others in your area are using.  If one brand sticks out over the others, that might be the way to go...

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Ukraine has nicely disproven the bullet-proof tag on Soviet tanks. 🇺🇦👍🏼

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As someone who has been in the auto industry for 30 years, and who ran the leasing division for a major Canadian fleet management company for 12 of those, I have some experience with a lot of different brands: in how they drive, how they break, how they need maintenance, and how much bang for the buck you would get.

I'm avoiding trucks, because you said you didn;t want another one. I'm avoiding cars, as your situations tells me you need a little more ground clearance, and something more durable.

 

My suggestions in no particular order:

1. Jeep Wrangler Unlimted - but only get a Sahara (with the tire upgrade,) Mojave, or Rubicon. Stay away from the diesel and the 4 cylinder Turbo. Avoid the retractable soft top roof.

2. Subaru Outback - most Subaru dealers are doing 2" lift kits with tire upgrades. The whole overland scene, you know. The 4 cylinder is good, the V6 is better. Go with the lower trim level, as you'll still get a lot of equipment, with all the fluff.

3. Chev Tahoe / GMC Yukon - 2015 to 2020 - personally, I'd go for a Tahoe LT with the Z71 package. Make sure it has the factory Goodyear Duratrac tires.

4. Toyota - anything. Unless you're 6'6" like me, then avoid the Toyotas.

5. Nissan Frontier - as good as a Toyota, without the Toyota attitude.

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Posted (edited)

Many years ago I drove the length of the West Camino Cielo which starts at Santa Barbara and goes near the old Reagan Ranch near Refugio Canyon and exits in the San Ynez valley. Not that I am suggesting you buy one, but I did this in a 1973 AMC Matador four door sedan. A damned near bullet proof car. Very rocky road and some points are very steep. Only damage I did to the poor sedan was a hole in the gas tank which I plugged with a bit of chewing gum. It was a former SBPD detective car with a 401 V8. LOL

Edited by lordairgtar
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23 hours ago, Brudda said:

 My Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great car but it only gets 15 mpg. It’s a 1999 with 60,000 miles  it has the Mercedes 4.7 V8 with full time all wheel drive.

Pretty sure Mercedes had nothing to do with that engine.  

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Posted (edited)
On 5/20/2022 at 4:31 PM, Jantrix said:

As some may have noted in past posts, I live on a little acreage in an Idaho canyon. It is 12 miles off the paved road. Another 28 highway in to work. The gravel roads are well maintained by the county, but it's still rough on my vehicle.

I drive an 2010 Toyota Highlander. I can't say enough good things about the car. Though it wasn't designed for this sort of travel, it's held up remarkably well. 185,000 miles. Motor (V6) and tranny have been absolutely bulletproof. Zero leaks. 22 MPG. It has never let me down. Oil changes and coolant flushes for the win. BUT. The terrain is rough on the suspension. I'm about to replace the second set of struts, in four years living out here. I just had the front end rebuilt. I think, that when I replace this car in the future I'm going to have to step up to a tougher part from OEM, when things wear out.

So the plan is to get two more years out of it (about 250,000 miles).

Which, finally, brings me to my query. What vehicle would you recommend, that might take the abuse better with about the same mileage, that's not a truck?  My wife drives a pickup and we really don't need two. At least 8 inches of ground clearance. I usually buy used but recent, vehicles with no plans to go electric. Some folks have mentioned Subaru's but I've no experience with them. 

Throw out some recommendations please. Thanks for your time and attention.

I don't know if this helps or not. 

My sister lives in eastern Wyoming on an 11,000 acre ranch.  Elevation of 5000 ft. The county is 2300 square miles with roughly 750 miles of gravel roads, many times over compared to the two highways that bisect the county. It is ranch country, so the vehicles drive over many square miles of high desert grassland as well. During the recession we moved there because I had family, and a job offer. We lived in the county seat(population of 1400) and I worked at the only bodyshop in the entire county. So conditions are similar or slightly harsher than yours. We put, at minimum, 400 miles a week on our main vehicle (1996 Suburban because we had three kids) not counting any other local mileage. I saw every type of vehicle come through the bodyshop and knew almost all the ranchers, and what they drove.

Bottom line, every one of them went through suspension and steering components.  It's the price you pay for maintaining your vehicle under those conditions.

  I will let you know that there were very few Toyota or Nissan pickups/suv of any model because they could not survive the harsh life of the combination of ranch and gravel road use. Your daily commute seems to be easier than some, even though you live in similar conditions as far as weather and roads.

So what I would recommend is that you find a vehicle that you know is reliable, gets over 20 mpg, (gas isn't cheap right now) and is as inexpensive as possible to maintain,  because no matter what you choose, you will be doing the same maintenence. 

If you are happy with your Toyota, it's a known commodity, and the peace of mind that comes with being confident in the brand, as well as being cheaper to maintain than other vehicles,  then stick with a Toyota. 

I also know, that under the conditions where I lived in eastern Wyoming,  and I repeat, UNDER THOSE CONDITIONS. You will not get the same results from a Jeep.

Edited by Sam I Am
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22 hours ago, Jantrix said:

David, that's my driveway! 😆

This was on one of our trips to Colorado. The local just happens to be one we visit whenever we go wheeling there. This is located above the Silver Thorn area above Denver. The trail is called Wariman's Creek and you drive for miles in and out and across this creek in a deep narrow valley. Has to be one of the prettiest places in the world. You can smell the damp forest and hear the rushing water. Just can't beat Mother Nature. 

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4 hours ago, espo said:

You can smell the damp forest and hear the rushing water. Just can't beat Mother Nature. 

Yes, as long as it is not ruined by loud engine noise from ATVs or dirt bikes.

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I’d second the Toyota/Tahoe. Older Land Cruisers and Lexus versions nice, and pretty damn tough. Look on past Bring-a-Trailer ads for details. The big 6 in the 06-12 period I think are boat anchor reliable. 

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