Behold the new vehicle:
As I had suspected, Subarus (Outback or Legacy) were out of my price range for the low-miles ones that I wanted, so I focused on the PT Cruiser, especially after getting the chance to drive one. They have a reputation for being gutless but they're really no worse than the Toyota pickup I had before the Jimmy -- once you learn the engine and transmission, you can make them move OK. And the Cruiser has a softer suspension than a truck, but not the slab of Jello like most cars have (which drives me crazy).
The first place we went didn't want us looking at the one PT Cruiser they had on the lot, for some reason. Did everything they could to distract us with other cars. So we looked and left.
The second place was happy to show me Cruisers. Toooo happy. Minus several zillion points for over the top salesmen. The 2004 Cruiser was out of my price range, and the older one was a screaming blue. My cohorts faked a cell phone call to me and we got out of there.
Brewer Chrysler of course had a bunch of Cruisers on the lot, and the salesman was a pleasant older gentleman. I was seriously considering the greenish one they had (it's really a dark gray with a vaguely greenish cast). They thought they could meet the payments and loan term that I wanted but weren't 100% sure. We assured them that they were at the top of the short list and moved on, just to be sure there wasn't a better deal somewhere.
The next place we tried had had one recently but it was sold and gone.
Tried Auburn Chevrolet. I have mixed feelings about them, because they're the ones who sold me the Jimmy, which turned out to be underwhelming. Moreover, they're the ones who tried to jack me around on service. But we looked there anyway... they didn't have any, but pointed us at Puyallup Chrysler, owned by the same company.
Puyallup Chrysler of course had a bunch. Minus a few points for being a bit pushy on the sales, but not nearly as bad as the second place. They had a nice 2003 in light gold, but it was a bit expensive for me. So they had a conference and made a second proposal. Still expensive. They tried again. Still expensive. They were getting a bit exasperated, so I told them that I could go back to Brewer and get the terms I wanted on a Cruiser whose color I liked better; I appreciated the effort they were making, but I just couldn't ignore the deal Brewer was offering me. We went through another couple of rounds, and I was 90% sure that I'd be going back to Brewer, but they caved in. To make the numbers work, they gave me nearly $3700 trade-in on the Jimmy. There must be more going on than meets the eye, since the Jimmy isn't worth $3700 even at full retail. It's old and worn out. Maybe the Cruiser's price was just really inflated? I don't know, but I don't care either: my bottom line is that I got a nice, reliable Cruiser, less than two years old, under 17,000 miles, with half the factory warrantee remaining, for the price I wanted to pay. Since my target was five years or less, and 50,000 miles or less, it's a lot younger, and I'm paying $50 less a month than the amount that I had budgeted for car payments, I have to count this as a success.