It depends on how well each were maintained during the miles they have, and
how much they are asking for both of the vehicles.
If that 4runner is in really nice condition, it would likely be a good deal
as far as being able to haul his stuff back and forth between his college
residence and home (I've two younger brothers doing the college thing now,
so I can understand the whole drill.) It might give you more peace of mind
that he's in a truck vs a car, especially in high traffic area like a
college town. Mileage will depend on engine size and condition and his
driving style, but probably around 16-20mpg. Consider it more incentive for
him to use a bicycle for local trips, and drive less to save money for the
junk food he will inevitably live off of. Toyotas are fairly reliable if
maintained regularly (VERY, actually, my 96 4Runner has had NO problems
during our owning it over the last almost 5 years.)
The Focus is newer, but past the warranty (30K I think?) so either get it
WITH an extended warranty or have it checked by a good mechanic. We bought a
2 y/o Mercury (ford) with only 22K and it has been nothing but a pain. We
wish we'd got an extended warranty/service agreement because it needs it!
The dealers at the time were calling their new Focus something which sounds
similar but is less nice (as in, you're screwed if you buy one.) Focus would
get better mileage, but your son will also be driving it more as a result-
no real savings. It's small, so he can carry less friends (less liabilities
in a wreck) but also less college junk. It's also sportier. Fords can also
be fairly reliable if maintained. My parents' 92 Escort wagon had/has 350K
miles on the original engine using synthetic oil changed infrequently (often
forgotten about,) and had only had a few repairs (oil pan/gasket I think, at
230K- but my parents are heinous car abusers.) It now sits parked, but only
due to an exhaust manifold leak. It was running fine on last use.
Things to think of: insurance costs, cost of possible upgrades he will want
to do to it (if he's anything like my brothers, he'll have a wish list for
stereo, tires, performance parts, etc.) resale value even if it's in a
non-operating status. Also, whatever you get him, make sure to get a manual
for it so you or he can troubleshoot anything that might go wrong. It's so
much easier to have a little extra knowledge when you're both trying to
figure out how much it'll cost to get X repair done 200+ miles away from
Best of luck to you and your son!
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