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Thread: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

  1. #1
    Daine
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    Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    OK, this is a retake on my CIS inquiry from a few months ago and the Pilot vs Highlander thread here.

    It is time for us to get another car (car, wagon, SUV, van...)
    The starting point is we would prefer sticking to late model used, between 2001 and 2004, to keep the deprecation a bit under control, get a bit more car for the money yet have it be dependable.

    My wife is Dutch and I have been living in Europe since the mid 80's. We are now in Atlanta.
    My previous cars: simultaneously 3 vehicles; a 74 TR6, a 80 Dodge Ramcharger 4x4 and a 82 Yamaha 650 bike. Then later a 911SC Targa and then a Volvo 460. All were purchased used and the Volvo is the first vehicle I ever sold at a loss. All the others I sold for more than I paid or, as in the Porsche, just a smidgen under. The Volvo is also the only one I ever drove into the ground.
    My wife has had mostly compact Euro cars, a Fiat , a Peugeot 205, and two different Mazda 323s and a Honda 250T bike.

    Sitting in the garage in Atlanta we have a 2 door 78 Buick LeSabre that I inherited from my mom some years ago. She bought it new and it is in good condition with about 140,000 miles. I would like to keep it but I don't see using it for daily transport in the long term.

    Now, our needs... There are 3 of us, 2 adults that will be working at least part time and a 13 year old daughter. No more kids are expected. And the dog, a 70lbs Husky.
    I should point out that this car will primarily be for my wife.
    We are big on home 'Do It Yourself' projects so we will have to either get a utility trailer or some sort of truck/van into which 'Stuff' can be dumped or perhaps both.
    With a 13 year old we still have at least a couple of years of family taxi service so something that holds extra bodies is required.
    The dog needs room and sometimes for him and his box. Also we want leather. It was a lesson learned, dog hair really sticks to cloth seats.

    We both like sporty cars and would definitely enjoy both a repeat of the Triumph or perhaps such cars as a Vette. Being a 'true' European, she is accustomed to smaller cars and partial to a manual transmission (as am I) but considering the traffic on Atlanta's highways, automatics are not at all a bid idea.
    We have not gone recently and in terms of driving there is not much near Atlanta but skiing is something we would like to get back to. Having said that, there is still enough coastal and mountain territory in Georgia where a 4x4 could be great.
    I might consider another catamaran as well so beach access could be useful.

    We are initially looking at one vehicle with a second comming in a few months but budget is the big problem.
    I started out thinking $20,000 for 2 vehicles but having taken Eric's suggestion of Sport wagons which initially seemed too costly I then looked at Minivans like the Odyssey, then at the Pilot and Highlander and we test drove a Sequoia and 4Runner yesterday. Based on these things, the price has climbed over 20,000.
    Our evaluation at the moment is:
    Minivans - My wife says "No Fun"
    Highlander - does not drive nice, road noise, feels cheap
    Sequoia - too big, low mpg, not laid out well but drives OK
    4Runner - drives great, well laid out, not great mpg
    Pilot - not sure so we will try driving again today

    Note, I want to avoid loans as there is enough cash available but I am not thrilled about the price tag climbing as it is.

    So the question is, what do you think?
    We still have little idea what is actually out there so everytime we turn around we see something we never saw before.
    Suggestions, recommendation...
    TIA
    Daine

  2. #2
    TC
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    So the question is, what do you think?
    We still have little idea what is actually out there so everytime we turn around we see something we never saw before.
    Suggestions, recommendation...
    TIA
    Daine


    The first thing you have to do is establish your budget.
    Every thing else is wishful thinking.

  3. #3
    Daine
    Guest

    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    The first thing you have to do is establish your budget.
    Every thing else is wishful thinking.
    Well, that is the tough one isn't it.
    I would prefer staying under say $15,000 per car but I now realize that is not going to happen. At least, everything we have seen in a late model with under 50k miles that hits our desires comes with a ticket over $20,000.
    So... lets stay in that range, under $25,000.

    Daine

  4. #4
    TC
    Guest

    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Daine
    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    The first thing you have to do is establish your budget.
    Every thing else is wishful thinking.
    Well, that is the tough one isn't it.
    I would prefer staying under say $15,000 per car but I now realize that is not going to happen. At least, everything we have seen in a late model with under 50k miles that hits our desires comes with a ticket over $20,000.
    So... lets stay in that range, under $25,000.

    Daine
    You appear to have rejected the most suitable vehicles for your needs as specified in your first post.
    I suggest you sit down with your wife and revise your needs and budget.

  5. #5
    Daine
    Guest

    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    You appear to have rejected the most suitable vehicles for your needs as specified in your first post.
    I suggest you sit down with your wife and revise your needs and budget.
    I presume you are referring to the sport wagons?
    You might have a point and we were in fact discussing some of the AWD wagons such as the Volvo, Audi, Merc, BMW.
    In my brief reading today, the Volvo XC-70 and XC-90 seem to be the most logical of that group but the 90 is on the high side.

    That all said, we have the money, the budget is simply what I prefer to spend and part of my limiting the amount is that I have never spent over $15,000 on any single car. The 911SC-targa was the most expensive and in 1985, the 1980 car cost me $15k.

    In the mean time we drove the Pilot today and drove a 4Runner to compare and while the Pilot was significantly better than the Highlander, the 4Runner still is a better package.

    DP

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Daine
    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    The first thing you have to do is establish your budget.
    Every thing else is wishful thinking.
    Well, that is the tough one isn't it.
    I would prefer staying under say $15,000 per car but I now realize that is not going to happen. At least, everything we have seen in a late model with under 50k miles that hits our desires comes with a ticket over $20,000.
    So... lets stay in that range, under $25,000.

    Daine

    Hi Daine,

    If three row seating is a must-have, you might look at something like a used Chevy Trailblazer EXT (they depreciate rapidly, so prices on the used market are very attractive. It's by no means a "bad" vehicle at all, either. Just lacks the glitz of an import).

    A used minivan, of course, is another way to get three rows and stay well within your budget. (I know you'd prefer not to drive a minivan, but we get back to what your budget constraints allow.)

    Is the third row seating non-negotiable?

    If it isn't, your potential field of candidates opens up considerably; you could get, for example, a Honda CRV with all-wheel-drive and most of the bells and whistles. Or the equivalent Subarus, Toyotas, etc.




  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Daine
    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    You appear to have rejected the most suitable vehicles for your needs as specified in your first post.
    I suggest you sit down with your wife and revise your needs and budget.
    I presume you are referring to the sport wagons?
    You might have a point and we were in fact discussing some of the AWD wagons such as the Volvo, Audi, Merc, BMW.
    In my brief reading today, the Volvo XC-70 and XC-90 seem to be the most logical of that group but the 90 is on the high side.

    That all said, we have the money, the budget is simply what I prefer to spend and part of my limiting the amount is that I have never spent over $15,000 on any single car. The 911SC-targa was the most expensive and in 1985, the 1980 car cost me $15k.

    In the mean time we drove the Pilot today and drove a 4Runner to compare and while the Pilot was significantly better than the Highlander, the 4Runner still is a better package.

    DP
    Another thing to consider is a lease - you could drive a more expensive vehicle for "x" number of years, and get your third row seating,e tc. Of course, you have to give it back when the lease expires...


  8. #8
    Daine
    Guest

    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    If three row seating is a must-have, you might look at something like a used Chevy Trailblazer EXT (they depreciate rapidly, so prices on the used market are very attractive. It's by no means a "bad" vehicle at all, either. Just lacks the glitz of an import).

    A used minivan, of course, is another way to get three rows and stay well within your budget. (I know you'd prefer not to drive a minivan, but we get back to what your budget constraints allow.)

    Is the third row seating non-negotiable?

    If it isn't, your potential field of candidates opens up considerably; you could get, for example, a Honda CRV with all-wheel-drive and most of the bells and whistles. Or the equivalent Subarus, Toyotas, etc.
    Well being realistic, emotion plays a large role in auto satisfaction.
    My wife was the first to nix the van, partly because of the size but mostly because they simply did not spark a bit of excitement or passion. So considering that I have the same dull reaction and as the thing is primarily for her, I can't disagree.
    And to take your questions a bit out of order, the "Third Row Seating" is not mandatory. My feeling was simply that, if it is possible then it is a very useful extra but a good size cargo spot that will fit an extra large dog 'Sky Kennel' without killing the second row seating is a requirement.

    Going back to the Trail Blazer, I will have to take a browse at Edmund's and see what that is.
    One of my/our problems is that we still have little idea what is out there so we are caught between the desire to move forward and the need to discover where we should move forward to.
    I suppose I should also add that because what ever vehicle we choose is not unique, I am inclined to turn it around after 2 years or so. At least that is my thought based on my earlier car buying history.
    In theory, if I buy a used late model and sell it again after 2 years, I will loose very little. The point being, I am not looking at this as being a permanent marriage.

    Daine

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    years or so. At least that is my thought based on my earlier car buying history.
    In theory, if I buy a used late model and sell it again after 2 years, I will loose very little. The point being, I am not looking at this as being a permanent marriage.

    Daine
    I think if you drop the third row seating option worlds will open up to you ... I don't think an SUV (truck-based) is the vehicle for you; do you really need truck-style four-wheel-drive and a two-speed transfer case? Do you go off-raod? Tow more than 3,000 pounds more than once or twice a year? If not, why buy a gas pig/clunky handling truck-based SUV?

    I think you'd be much more happy with something along the lines of a mid-szied wagon or "crossover" such as the Honda CRV. A Subaru Legacy wagon might also be a very good choice for you.

  10. #10
    Daine
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Another thing to consider is a lease - you could drive a more expensive vehicle for "x" number of years, and get your third row seating,e tc. Of course, you have to give it back when the lease expires...
    A Lease just like a loan payment goes against my grain and has always seemed like throwing good money out of a big window. Unless of course you can take advantage of the interest etc. like for a business. To me, taking a loan for something you truly can't directly afford but has at least investment potential, like a house, makes sense but for something that depreciates and does not directly enhance income, it is not attractive. Hence, a loan for a car or other item you use to make money is very valid but if all it does is loose...
    Also, by my nature I prefer something for nothing, at least in terms of actual financial outlay.
    On the one hand it is a false economy because I do not calculate my time but the DIY enjoyment and the personalization of what ever the project is does weight against the time.
    So over the years I have discovered that with careful used car buying, at least some self maintenance and a bit of luck, it is possible to either spend less or drive a bit more (or a lot more) than you can afford and sell it again with the total outlay being close to a wash.
    I think the best example was my Ram Charger. When I weighed it against a new similar Blazer, I realized that for the difference in price, I would have to drive the used truck some 60,000 miles just to make up the cost difference in gas. Of course gas was "A Lot" cheaper then but the point is, I bought drove and sold the thing 2 years later and gas/ insurance/etc cost aside, the outlay was less than $200.

    Daine

  11. #11
    Daine
    Guest

    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I think if you drop the third row seating option worlds will open up to you ... I don't think an SUV (truck-based) is the vehicle for you; do you really need truck-style four-wheel-drive and a two-speed transfer case? Do you go off-raod? Tow more than 3,000 pounds more than once or twice a year? If not, why buy a gas pig/clunky handling truck-based SUV?

    I think you'd be much more happy with something along the lines of a mid-szied wagon or "crossover" such as the Honda CRV. A Subaru Legacy wagon might also be a very good choice for you.
    With luck our personal situation will only require part time work and we have the desire to get out and take more advantage of our time so it is hard to say what our needs will be when the dust settles. After all, we are just 3 weeks into our new life.

    Anyway, back to the road...
    I am more than open to dropping the third row and must add that the devils advocate and general discussion, getting these thoughts and alternative suggestions etc. are what this is all about...

    A 2 speed Xfer case is for the most part over kill, at least for the moment. I have in the past done some pretty serious off road cruising but I am guessing that in the next 9 months there will not be anything more than bad back roads to a cabin or the like. Come summer, I am less sure?

    The towing is also very unclear.
    A small catamaran or other smallish boat is peanuts to tow and I don't even have one yet. A large trailer camper instead of an RV is another story all together but again, while some sort of comfortable camper or RV is in our future, we have neither at this time.

    The bottom line: Having driven a few vehicles now, I think we have a better idea of our desires. When my wife gets back, I will nail her to a chair and we will once again go through our needs and desires and create a list.

    More to come...

    Daine

  12. #12
    Daine
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Daine

    More to come...
    OK... a few hours later...
    Having driven a few vehicles now, we have a better idea of our desires so we sat down and drew up a short list.
    On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most desireable:

    • 10 Sitting & Driving Comfort
      Good general support and very adjustable seats come to mind. I absolutely want a vehicle that has good adjustable lumbar support. A well positioned and comfortable arm rest and center console is important.


    • 10 Leather interior
      Our Husky definitely leaves hair behind which is a PIA with cloth seats


    • 10 Cargo space
      Space for DIY stuff and XL dog crate is very important


    • 10 Emotional value
      A bit of passion about a vehicle can make or break the ownership experience. In fact, when I suggested making a list and I brought up emotional value she said, "I want a cool car, I have never had a cool car in my whole life". I can't fault that and I agree with her that a minivan is not exciting.


    • 9 Reliability
      This still a family car, primarily driven by my wife so, it needs to start and go every time.


    • 8 Road noise
      In looking back at previous cars and our reaction to what we have just driven, it suddenly has become clear that reduced road noise is important.


    • 8 Adult rear seating
      Based on previous cars and our reaction to what we have just been sitting in, the back seat leg room and creature comfort is important.


    • 8 Visibility
      Good driver (and passenger) visibility out of all windows is important. Well designed and positioned power side mirrors a must. I am also curious how well the auto-dimming rearview mirrors work.


    • 7 AWD
      For the foreseeable 9 months I think the most 'off-road' we might do are dirt roads and the beach. Mind you, sand is hard work.


    • 7 Towing
      In the next 9 months, nothing. A smallish boat could be in our future however and if we choose not to go with an RV, some sort of camper will eventually show up.


    • 7 Gas Mileage
      Obviously, the better the gas mileage, the happier the wallet.


    • 7 Servicing
      Garage and parts cost should not be exceptionally high


    • 6 Convenience Storage
      Such things as cup holders, trays & pockets, especially for passengers


    So, that is where we are as of lunch time, Thursday August 31st.

  13. #13
    Daine
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    OK, a little more updated info.

    We went today and checked out both a Volvo V70, XC-70 and Audi A4 & A6.
    On the upside, no big surprise... they do indeed drive quite nicely, nice low road noise and the interiors are nicely appointed, especially the Audi with the memory seats. and the Audi had quite a bit of get up and go

    That said, on the down side, we realized quickly that the bench, the portable dog cage thing, does not have a chance of fitting in the back of any of those cars unless you fold down seats which is not really an option.
    And speaking of seats, folding the Volvo seats is quite an art.
    The leg room behind the driver and passenger is not great in any of them and the price tag of my favorite, the A6 was still out of range. But in some ways most important, the emotional value was simply not there for my wife
    Simply put, she is done looking. She really likes the 4Runner and I won't mind having it around.

    We shall see. If my general car luck holds up, I will find one for a slightly better than normal price, keep it for 2 years and sell it for not too much less than what we paid.

    Daine

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Hi Daine,

    I think you'll be fine with the 4-Runner (other than th higher gas bills). It's a nice vehicle, good rep. - holds its value and has a proven record of better-than-average durability. I assume the one you're considering does have 4x4? If not, remember that a 2WD SUV can be worse in poor weather than the typical FWD car; the rear end will tend to slide easily and so on. But if you've got the 4x4 model, that's a non-issue.

  15. #15
    Daine
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Hi Daine,

    I think you'll be fine with the 4-Runner (other than th higher gas bills). It's a nice vehicle, good rep. - holds its value and has a proven record of better-than-average durability. I assume the one you're considering does have 4x4? If not, remember that a 2WD SUV can be worse in poor weather than the typical FWD car; the rear end will tend to slide easily and so on. But if you've got the 4x4 model, that's a non-issue.
    Indeed, 4x4. This thing may be primarily for my wife but I would not be caught dead in a fake 4x4. And I do hope that we can at least take some advantage of having 4x4. There is quite some off and semi off road to be done here in Georgia.
    However, I now realize that finding a 'Limited' one with the right mileage at the right price will not be as easy as I thought.
    In my first browsing I thought all 4Runners were 4x4. When I realized that was not the case I still I did not realize how many of the 4Runners were actually 2wd. When it is all said and done, I would say about 50%, at least around here, are 2wd and only about 20% of the 4x4s are Limited versions. So we have our work cut out.

    Daine

  16. #16
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    This is not uncommon by any means; you might be surprised to learn just howmany SUVs are 2WD... . They're usually considerably cheaper, for one thing - and tend to be the focus of incentives/"special offers," too - making them even more so. But, to me, a 2WD SUV is about as useful as tits on a hog (as the saying goes!)

  17. #17
    Daine
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    This is not uncommon by any means; you might be surprised to learn just howmany SUVs are 2WD... . They're usually considerably cheaper, for one thing - and tend to be the focus of incentives/"special offers," too - making them even more so. But, to me, a 2WD SUV is about as useful as tits on a hog (as the saying goes!)
    Somehow I missed this posting and you got it all wrong...
    Tits on a hog are far more useful

    Actually I always knew that some SUVs were 2wd. I just did not realize that the 4runner came as 2wd. It makes sense, especially as 99% won't ever see anything less accessible than a city pot hole.

    Anyway, we picked up my wifes new 2004 4Runner Friday.
    27000 miles so still has a bit of the full warranty and a few more years on the power train.
    Very nice silver Limited V6 with multi mode 4wd and a bunch of extras like the moon roof, tow package, roof spoiler, JBL sound with 6CD changer and separate rear seat sound. I need to get headphones though.
    There are not many V6 Limiteds so I am pleased we found this one. Everything I read confirms the bit of test driving we did, that the V6 has plenty of get up and get out of the way power and hopefully a tad better gas mileage.
    She is thrilled!!! ;D

    Daine

  18. #18
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Glad you found the right vehicle - persistence pays!

  19. #19
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    2WD SUV is about as useful as tits on a hog (as the saying goes!)

    Downunder we say tits on a bull ;D
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  20. #20
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Narrow the field - Wagon, SUV, Minivan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    2WD SUV is about as useful as tits on a hog (as the saying goes!)

    Downunder we say tits on a bull ;D
    Equally apt!

    When I looked into it a few years back and learned just how many new SUVs are 2WD I was pretty shocked...

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