Dear Car Talk:
I love, love, love your show and column. I just inherited a 2006 Jeep Commander with 60,000 miles on it. It's in almost mint condition. But I have been driving a 2003 Subaru Forester since buying it new in 2002. It has 150,000 miles. It's had expensive repairs in the past couple of years, but it seems OK now.
Would you sell the Subaru and keep the Jeep, or keep the Subaru and sell the Jeep? Someone told me that after 1995, Jeep finally got its act together and made good cars. Is that true? The gas mileage on the Jeep is pretty disgusting, but I don't drive more than 5,000 miles per year. I would so appreciate your advice. Thanks.
Keep the Jeep, Cherie.
Jeeps are better than they were, even though they're still not great in terms of reliability. However, that Subaru with 150,000 miles is almost certain to become unreliable in the near future; 150,000 is a lot of miles. And the fact that it "seems OK now" means it's the perfect time to sell it!
At 150,000 or perhaps a bit earlier, most Subarus have engine seals that are leaking oil, leaking head gaskets, a water pump that needs replacing, and certainly a timing belt that has to be changed. If you haven't done all of that stuff yet, you're looking at $2,500 in the near future.
Plus, at that age, lots of stuff can go wrong, unpredictably. Your transmission may develop issues. Your suspension, exhaust and brake components will be rusting out or failing. And this is the age at which a car tries to send its owner little SOS messages. Like when the rearview mirror falls off, or the glove box stops closing.
While the Jeep is not the most reliable car built, it has only 60,000 miles on it. So it's far more likely to last you many years.
And you're right that the Jeep's mileage is awful. But since you're driving only 5,000 miles a year, it's less of an issue, and an expense, than if you drove 20,000 miles a year.
If you want another opinion (and after writing to Car Talk, I don't blame you), take both cars to a mechanic you trust, and ask him to check them out as if they were used cars that you were thinking of purchasing. He'll check everything and give you a full report on what he finds. Then you can use that information to make an informed decision.
I can tell you're emotionally attached to your old Subaru. But based on mileage alone, I'm guessing judges would pick the Jeep in a unanimous decision.
But whatever you decide, put aside the proceeds from the sale of one car to pay for future repairs on the other. Then you'll be covered no matter what you do.