2016 Tow Vehicles


    Something a little different on Buying Used this time around: three tow / recreational vehicles.

    Here’s the premise. You’ve got a cottage or need to tow a small boat or trailer. You need something with available 4WD and a goodly-sized engine…..four cylinder models aren’t going to cut it here. A little elbow/storage room inside the vehicle wouldn’t hurt, nor would a decent reliability record, plus the ability to take a few bumps and bruises along the way. To make things a little more manageable, we’ve narrowed our choices down to three different manufacturers, featuring vehicles with some degree of comfort. Prospective buyers should bear in mind that these kinds of vehicles are often put to work and see off-road duty….. “run hard and put up wet”, as they say. Low mileage models are recommended, as is a thorough mechanical check-up.

    – 2003 Toyota Sequoia – With a smooth 240-horsepower V8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, and available 4WD, this generation of the Sequoia will seat at least six – including their luggage – and features a 2850-kilogram towing capacity for the 4X2 version, with a vehicle stability control system and traction control. Weak points seem to include the fuel system, body hardware, brakes and audio system. Transport Canada has three safety recalls on file for this one, which should have all been dealt with by now. They include: a passenger side airbag that could inflate too quickly/harshly in an accident, software issues with the stability control system, and lower front ball joints that could wear prematurely. Unsurprisingly, this generation of the Sequoia gets a “better than average” rating from Consumer Reports. Some comments from owners: “Twice the room of a van”, “very comfortable on long trips”, and “better than the domestic SUVs owned previously.” Marketing researcher, J.D. Power, meanwhile, gives this generation of the Sequoia an “about average” grade for overall quality. Not the cheapest full-size SUV for this year, but arguably the most dependable, you can expect to pay around $10,000 – $12,000 for the SR5 and another two or three thousand for the upscale Limited.

    – 2008 Ford Explorer Sport Trac. As well as offering seating for five, this one has a smallish pick-up bed for carrying awkward loads. After a major re-do in 2007, and the addition of a 292-horsepower, 4.0 litre V8 and six-speed automatic, the Sport Trac upped its reliability and useability, garnering a “better than average” grade from Consumer Reports in the process. Towing capacity for the V8 version (there is also a 4.0 litre V6 / five-speed automatic) is 2376 kilograms and you could get this generation of the Sport Trac with or without 4WD. Some problems have been reported with the suspension and power equipment, but overall, this generation of the Sport Trac is head and shoulders above its predecessors. Just one safety recall to report from Transport Canada and it concerns a possible transmission fluid leak caused by improperly fitting lines to the transmission cooler. Owners comments: “electric adjustable pedals are a nice feature”, “the switch to an independent rear suspension is a welcome one”, and “quite an improvement over the earlier models”. Marketing researcher, J.D. Power, gives the ’08 Sport Trac an “about average” grade for overall quality, but “among the best” for overall performance and design. Prices for a five-year old Sport Trac range from the low ‘teens for a base V6 2WD, to the high ‘teens for a loaded 4WD V8 Limited. Of the three models discussed here, this probably represents the best bang for the buck.

    – 2010 Mazda CX-9. Mazda’s largest SUV kind of slips under the radar, but with a refined 3.7 litre V6, some 273 horsepower on tap, mated to either 2WD or 4WD, it provides 1450 kilograms of towing capacity. This engine, incidentally, is not a Ford powerplant, but Mazda’s own proprietary unit. Transport Canada has but one safety recall on file, and it concerns a potentially troublesome front seat warmer that could run amok, overheat, and possibly start an electrical fire. Apparently, it needs a better ground. With high marks in just about every category, this one rates a “better than average” grade from Consumer Reports and receives this organization’s “Good Bet” designation. Marketing researcher, J.D. Power gives the ‘10 CX-9 a “better than most” grade for powertrain and overall dependability. Comments from owners: “great handling, comfortable on long rides”, “Mazda refuses to fix the leaky sun roof”, and “some rattles come and go from time to time”. Thanks to its car-based origins, the CX-9 probably offers the most civilized driving experience of these three and you can expect to pay from the low to high-$20,000s for this one. As is the case for all these SUVs, 2WD versions are substantially cheaper than their 4WD stablemates…in this case, about $3000 – $4000.