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My parents are looking for a winter car. They want to buy something used, preferably in the range of or under 10k. It will be the car taken to the snow every year. They live in the SF Bay Area. This wont be a car used primarily in the off season, but they will need to be able to get to the snow before needing a car to navigate it (they travel to the slopes at least a half dozen times every season). So obviously a AWD car is needed, but what would be best? I have some ideas, but I want some imput. Also, recommendations would be appreciated for the proper tire (ie a snow tire that will last longer than 1 season on the roads to the snow). Thanks.
 

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A used subie.
 

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Thats what i figured. Maybe a forester? or Impreza? What year? Also they wanted to have the ability to carry 4 people with a reasonable amount of comfort. I have heard the WRX hatch has a pretty cramped back seat.
 

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For their needs, I'd say a used Legacy wagon would be the best bet. Great car, lots of room, excellent snow handling. The Forester and Impreza use the exact same chassis, and are a bit small for four adults.
 

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Legacy or Outback definitely. The Forester and Impreza are too small inside if they regularly carry 4 adults and their luggage.
 

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You're living my life now! Your parents are willing to spend a bit more than my sister, but many of the needs are the same. The main question is if they need a low range 4WD for the real tough stuff or if road-only AWD is sufficient.

The Forester has plenty of space for 4 adults and their cargo (a preference in my shopping too). While an Impreza platform, it is a bit larger and much taller. Long items like skis can go on the roof rack. I would recommend a Forester or Outback over a Legacy wagon (except 2.5 GT) because the 2.2 litre is a bit underpowered. Watch that the coolant was treated properly on 1999-2002 models. There is a recall requiring coolant conditioner to prevent head gasket leaks.

If low range 4WD is required, the Cherokee Classic is the best choice. They are relatively inexpensive and the 4.0 litre I6 runs forever. The Nissan Pathfinder is another excellent choice. While pricey, they also last forever. I would also add the Explorer Sport if a 2 door will work. The room is still there.

On snow tires for the Subarus, I am assuming a full snow versus the perfomance winters I use. Life should go about 3 winters assuming 10,000 miles a winter. I don't know that market enough to advise, except to buy quickly. Winter tire selection tends to run out early.

Did a quick search... found something that is extremely rare here... not all SUV's are 4WD! Also, your market is more depressing than mine. Your parent's $10,000 is going to go not much farther than my sister's $6000 or so is going to go here. Such high miles on everything!
 
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