I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was starting to give some thought to possibly getting a new car, since Melissa repossessed my 2006 Honda Civic as her daily driver and left me with our 2002 Mazda Tribute. When we bought the Tribute, we intended it as a secondary vehicle for hauling stuff (including Melissa’s art-show material and merchandise) and for bad weather; it was never intended to get heavy daily use. Now that we work in separate places things have changed, and we’re pretty much decided now on moving forward with getting another car to replace the Tribute, especially since values of used SUVs are dropping so the sooner we do it the more we’ll get.

I mentioned the primary requirements in my last entry: better than 20mpg (the higher the better), enough room to move Melissa’s art stuff, sure-footedness in snow and light off-road driving, and a good track record of reliability. In addition, I’m hoping to get something with a sportier ride than the Tribute (since I miss the zippy handling of our Civic). Price range we’re thinking is $20-25,000. I’ve narrowed it down to a three options, each of which would save us about $50/month on gas (at current prices; more as they go up) but meet the above requirements.

Ford Escape XLT, I4, 4WD

  • Pros:
    • Great, truck-like look.
    • Made in America (Claycomo, MO).
    • Good available incentives/discounts.
  • Cons:
    • Worse MPG than the Subarus.

Subaru Outback 2.5i, AWD

  • Pros:
    • Sporty performance (and auto-stick!); car-like drive.
    • Made in America (Lafayette, IN).
    • Good available incentives/discounts.
  • Cons:
    • ?

Subaru Forester 2.5X Premium, AWD

  • Pros:
    • Good mix of performance and utility.
    • SUV body style.
  • Cons:
    • NOT Made in America (Japan).
    • Brand-new design, so few incentives/discounts.

If you have any thoughts about these or any other vehicles, let me know as soon as you can. The Tribute might be gone by the end of the weekend ;-). Anything is possible, since I have a preapproved loan through USAA and a ‘new car itch’ I’ve been trying not to scratch since Melissa stole my Civic.

I’m pretty strongly leaning toward the Subaru Outback—as much as I would like to go back to the ‘big three’ U.S. automakers and buy an Escape, the Outback’s sporty ride, snow/offroad capability, and cargo space is a mix that I don’t see hardly anybody else offering in this price range.