Smarter Buy: Frankly, you should consider spending more. The Subaru Forester, for instance, starts over $20,000, but will cost you less than that $16,000 Sportage in the end. Its five-year TCO starts at just $30,818 -- good for an “Above Average” rating from IntelliChoice. The Forester offers a sportier ride, better cargo space and legendary cold weather performance -- and while it looks more expensive up front, the Forester owner spends less than the Sportage owner in the end.
2010 Jeep LibertyEnlarge Photo
The Liberty is one Jeep that earns its Trail Rated badge, with serious off-road chops, and thoughtful touches rock lovers appreciate, like replaceable plastic fender flares. Its huge available sunroof is a nice bonus. But, dear car shopper, you probably shouldn't even consider it. Of the 22 small SUVs we analyzed, the Liberty was the most expensive to own for five years, according to IntelliChoice. The least expensive trim has a TCO of $39,335, while the top-of-the-line model will run a staggering $44,196 over five years. That's good for a “Poor” rating at every trim level. Why? High fuel costs, pricey repairs and maintenance, and a big depreciation hit.
Smarter Buy: But you don't have to go far to find a better long-term investment that still offers real off-road capability. You just have to cross the Jeep showroom. Amazingly, just as a Jeep posted the highest five-year cost of ownership, a Jeep posted the lower. It's the Jeep Patriot, with an “Above Average” rating from IntelliChoice. Over five years, the Patriot costs less to fuel, less maintain and less to insure -- and it still gives that trail-rated Jeep character.