if your tight on $$ and need a truck scour craigslist nissan, or toyota - efff subarus (too many head gasket and trans probs) and stay away from anything daimler-chrysler (jeep). element or CRV is KILLER surf vehicle with good engine (k24) and great mpg for the power, but $$ for the hondas unless you can scoop one up. 1st gen scion Xa is another good choice. Its a good idea to find something with a timing chain but not mandatory.
stay the fawk away from jeep liberty, horrendous piles of garbage. my surf beater is a tacoma but it doesnt get great mpg (used to have a 4runner, same thing). i had a nasty old beat up civic i used for surfing but let a friend drive it and it got totaled - amazing how much room is in back of a civic with the seats folded down tho. you dont need awd or even a big truck to get lots of places, i rammed that civic all over. got stuck a couple times but i really was asking for it
edit: learning to be your own mechanic (even basic) is the best thing you could do, and not that hard to do. saves a ton of money and helps at crucial moments.
New Subaru's don't really have the head gasket issues like the older ones. We have owned a 2006 WRX, 2007 WRX, and 2011 WRX STI, all modified and no head gasket issues. My parents own an 06 Impreza Automatic and it has no issues after being abused for 75k miles. The last Subaru I owned that had head gasket issues (I have owned 6 ranging from 1987 to 2011 MY) was a 1988 Turbo Wagon. However, in its defense, the gasket did last 110k miles before blowing. We have never had transmission issues, but we also never own automatics. The newer auto trannies are supposed to hold up well. The STI 6 speed is pretty much bullet proof, even once you add more power and hit the track. If I were in the market for a AWD/4WD surf vehicle, I would be checking out an Outback Wagon (new), Impreza Wagon, Toyota FJ, or a Nissan Xterra.
Toyota 4-Runner. Had a '96 until last year when it died, as I did nothing to take care of it. Bought an '07 last year and love it. Also plan to take care of the basic maintanence this time. Not great on gas, but very reliable, and the back window goes down so you can pile boards in, and let them stick out the back for the short drives if necessary.
Get a cutlass. Its comfy it has a v8 rides like a dream n with a surf rack u can load up 6 people cuz it has a bench n front and back. That v8 is the most economical one ive ever had n it even has a holley carb. It gets better gas mileage than my ladies v6 2010 4 runner which isnt bad. N w the limited slip differential u can pretty much go anywhere w proper air pressure n a heavy foot. I made it a mile down the beach on soft sand w 4 ppl in the car. Which for me is way better than the 12 mpg options. Everybody seems to think u need a truck w a big engine and bed to carry ur surfboards. But after restoring numerous trucks n cars vill b keeping this cutlass ad my daily driver n surf wagon
The wranglers are great second vehicles, but as a primary they get a little annoying. The'03-'04 Grand Cherokee's with the 4.0 and part time transfer case are well built, hold their value, and still hold up in the looks department compared to newer trucks. The base design of the 4.0l has been pretty much unchanged for 35 years or so and is bomb-proof. I never had any luck with GM, always problems with head and intake gaskets or transmissions. If you want a wrangler style vehicle spend less on a primary and then go save a CJ, too many yuppy jeeps around that people just bolt crap onto. And as a lot of people have said learning to fix your own vehicle is a great way to save money and nothing is easier than a jeep inline 6
Well my personal dream car is a Subaru outback. one, they get pretty decent gas mileage, two they make them in 4 wheel/AWD drive capabilities, and three i've known people who have them and they are extremely reliable. They can also fit a lot of boards on top or in the car as well. Just a good all around size car. resale value is also pretty good too. just my opinion though
il vouche for this guy,subaru outback is great.my buddy mike had one shortly before he passed away 2 years ago.he was a kayaker,n he fit his 14 ft kayak on the roof aslong as others.great reliable car.its like the wrx sti for families