I'm looking for recommendations for a used car (looking to get at least 60,000 reliable miles out of it) that has high MPG and also can tow at least 3,000lbs. AWD/4WD would be preferred (more on that below), but towing capacity and high MPG are the bigger priorities. Most of the stuff that I see seems to be in the small SUV category, but if there are small or medium cars that meet this, I'd love to hear about them!
More details about our situation:
Our 2003 Subaru Outback has enough frame rust that it won't pass inspection next February, so we're in the market for a new (used) vehicle sometime over the next 6 months. The Subaru gets about 20 MPG, and I'm hoping we can do better than that with our replacement.
We're currently a 1 car family - my SO is able to walk to work, and I take the bus 75% of the time for my 14 mile RT commute, and drive the rest of the time. We put most of the milage on the Subaru on weekend trips to see family (150 miles RT), and work trips that are reimbursed at the IRS rate of 56 cents/mile (so higher MPG would allow us to take advantage of that!).
We're building a house nearby over the next two years (doing a lot of the work ourselves), so we will also soon have a lot of construction materials to haul. We inherited a large open topped trailer with a 3,000lb capacity which we could use to haul stuff, so it seems a little silly to buy a pick-up truck, although we are considering the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Tacoma, both with the jump seat options (usually just need to seat 2, but occasionally need to pick friends up from the airport/carpool, etc). The house site has a long steep driveway and we live in the North, so AWD would be really nice for getting up the driveway in the winter (without it we will likely have to park at the bottom and walk sometimes, which will be a pain with construction materials!).
We plan to pay cash, but most of our cash will be tied up with the house construction, so less expensive is better! Could spend up to $15K for something amazing that would last a while, but thinking we'll probably end up spending $5-10K for something decent that will last 3-4 years.
In addition to small pick-up trucks, we've thought about an older Ford Escape, or another Subaru (although we'd like a little more towing capacity) - but what else is out there? Anything with magically good MPG and towing capacity, or are these mutually exclusive?
Thanks for your suggestions!