Paddler Seeking Reliable Vehicle

by madcanoe on April 30, 2007

If you’ve been paddling for any length of time you’ve most likely experienced the challenges of finding the most convenient vehicle for transporting your boats. In past years vehicle choices were easier because of lower gas prices and vehicle designs that were more accommodating to transporting canoes and kayaks. But with gas prices nearing 3 dollars per gallon many of us seek a vehicle that will easily accomodate our boats yet achieve respectable gas mileage.

Hybrid SUVs
While I’m not yet convinced that current hybrid technology is reliable and cost effective, there are several hybrid SUVs on the market today for those of you in the hybrid camp. The Saturn Vue is one of those hybrids. At $22,000 and around 32 mpg highway this vehicle is available with 4WD, optional factory racks and canoe/kayak attachments. The Vue is considered a light hybrid, meaning the electric motor assists the gas engine but doesn’t power the vehicle itself.

The Mercury Mariner starts out at around $29,000 and gets around 33 mpg city and 29 highway. It comes with factory racks and a full-time 4WD system that automatically slips into 4WD when needed. This genuine full hybrid SUV attracts attention from pedestrians due to its silent approach. This SUV can run on electric alone for a short period of time.

The Toyota Prius is not a SUV but is worth mentioning due to its rated 60MPG and $20,000 price tag. This vehicle does not have tow hooks for tying down bow and stern lines and does not have a factory roof rack but may be fine for the occasional recreational paddler of short boats. This is not the recommended vehicle for someone who really gets out to paddle.

I Seek Low Maintenance Vehicles.
I spend my weekends seeking fun rather then washing and waxing my vehicles. Fact is, the more mud on my vehicle the more satisfied I am. So when I go car shopping I shop for low maintenance vehicles. With my lifestyle this means an SUV or truck in the $18,000 – $22,000 range. There are plenty of choices out there but once you begin to add basic options such 4WD, power options, and roof racks you are easily in the $28,000 – $30,000 range. This is a payment high enough to make me feel guilty for not dedicating my Saturday morning to wax on, wax off. There is the sensible option of purchasing a used SUV or truck. But with the high mileage I put on my vehicles, purchasing used often means major car repairs and maintenance within a year of my purchase. So for my next purchase I’m looking to buy new.

This is what I like so far. The new Jeep Patriot offers 4WD, 2.4 litre 172 HP engine, 5 speed manual transmission, power package, plenty of seating and capacity, around 26-28 MPG, and factory roof racks that offer the ability to transport several boats at once for under $20,000.

Other options include a CVT transmission, trail rated 4WD system and electronic gadgets for around $22,000. This is the kind of vehicle that looks great with mud on the exterior while loaded with paddling, camping or hunting gear. It’s a low cost vehicle, and from what I know so far, a low maintenance vehicle you will not feel guilty about abusing. And it comes with reasonable gas mileage which is very important these days.

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