After we sold our old poppy orange 1965 Ford Mustang a few years ago, we were managing with just one car: a 1998 Honda Civic EX, which we purchased second hand. It has been a great and reliable car.
I love the unsexy station wagon as you get the space of an SUV without the bigger fuel bill. And a station wagon does drive more like a regular sedan. Some new SUV-station wagon cross-over models (i.e. Ford Edge, Chrysler Pacifica) looked promising, but none had the reliability or fuel efficiency we were looking for.
Decent fuel economy was important. We looked at the hybrids, but they are very pricey, even considering California State tax incentives and a donation from work to drive a hybrid.
Reliability was key. We used Consumer Reports as the deciding factor. Many American brands and models were quickly excluded. Also the Volkswagen Passat Wagon was no match because of its poor reliability.
Leather, satellite radio, a navigation system were not a high priority. We were ok with the basic luxury model.
A short list of models we liked included (in order of preference):
- Volvo V70
- Subaru Legacy Wagon
- Subaru Outback
- Subaru Forrester
- Honda Odyssey
- Toyota Sienna
- Volvo V50
New cars lose a lot of value when you drive them off the lot. So we decided to look for a nice used car. We priced them out in a spreadsheet with information from Kelley Blue Book. The price varies a lot when you consider buying a used car: mileage, engine differences, different luxury models, etc. Take a look at the spreadsheet below to give you an idea how much the price drops.
Carfacts helped us screen for a good used one and avoid the ones used as a rental car, the ones which changed hands a lot or were imported from the East coast.
A negotiating tip from a friend helped us close a good deal: think of the price as all-included: i.e. if the price is $25,000, make that the price you want to drive the car off the lot, including the 8.25% sales tax, registration and other fees.
Here is our new used, 21-28MPG, 5-star safety rated, curtain air-bagged Volvo V70:
Technorati: Volvo V70 Honda Subaru Carfacts Kelley Blue B Consumer Reports