Need used car recommendations
February 18, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Need recommendations for a used car that meets certain conditions, snowflake inside.

I currently own an Acura RSX five speed manual; I've come to realize that most of my back/sciatic pain is from the ergonomics of the driver's seat and how I have to constantly use the clutch. I've never had any back pain prior to owning this car and after not driving it (and being pain free) for two months and coming back, the pain has returned. I'm looking for suggestions on a used car that meets the following conditions, in order of importance.

1. Under 10k cash price.
2. Automatic transmission
3. Engine power (I live in a hilly area, I don't need a V8 but something with the guts to get up a hill in the snow is required)
4. AWD (It is snowy 4-5 months a year here)
5. Sedan

Final note: I'm a fairly tall guy; this whole small foreign coupe thing was not such a great idea. Recommendations from people who also have to deal with tall-ness in a car will be especially appreciated.
posted by _DB_ to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
An Infiniti G35X sedan would work (it's AWD, has a lot of power, and can be found for under $10k - my G35 has been the best car I've ever had). As would any of a number of Subarus. You can get a Ford Edge or a Ford Fusion with AWD and a decently-powered V6. There are several models of BMW that come in AWD versions, but by the time they've depreciated to $10k they're probably not reliable enough to buy unless you like fixing things yourself.
posted by The World Famous at 11:28 AM on February 18, 2011

Hm, I got a 94 lexus ls that lasted me forever for about $3,000 once. There was a ton of room. Rear-wheel drive though :-\
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:29 AM on February 18, 2011

Ah, AWD. You might consider a Subaru Legacy or Outback sedan - they're not as common as the ubiquitous wagons but they are out there. If the H4 doesn't do it for you performance-wise they also made a version with a 3.0l 6-cylinder. I'd guess that a 2002-2004 should be in your price range, though it depends on your local market of course. As far as height goes, I'm 6'3" and I'm fine in the driver's seat of my wagon.
posted by lantius at 11:40 AM on February 18, 2011

I am tall, and Subarus fit me acceptably well. I have had Ford Escapes as rentals and they were also fine ergonomically. Have you tried suv-ish and crossover-ish vehicles like the Honda crv and that Nissan rogue or whatever it is called?

And if you are ok with the mpg, there are a dozen full size SUVs that work well for tall people.
posted by Forktine at 11:45 AM on February 18, 2011

I would be fine with a smaller SUV but I don't really have the desire to have something Tahoe/Suburban sized.
posted by _DB_ at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2011

Try out a Subaru. I find their seats amazingly comfortable. I've done several 12+ hour drives and felt just fine afterward.
posted by sanka at 11:58 AM on February 18, 2011

I'd tend to say Subaru Legacy diesel, but I'd guess you're in America (since you don't say where you are) and I've heard diesel cars are unheard of over there.

The Subaru Legacy part of it should still be useful though...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 12:14 PM on February 18, 2011

I see this sort of thing come up a lot, it seems, and you didn't ask for contradictory opinions, but in case it helps, I will offer one.

You don't need any special engine power to get up a snowy hill. Particularly if you have all-wheel-drive. You only need enough power to pull the weight of the car up the hill that you would need if it were not snowy. In other words, you don't need power near as much as you need traction. This is one reason why it's hard to drive a sports car in the snow. I used to have a Mustang SVO (about 215 hp in a relatively small car) and once I was stuck driving it in Detroit snow because the battery died on my other car. It was VERY hard to get it going even on a FLAT surface. I did not have snow tires and the power in first gear just meant that I sat there spinning.

My current car has only 88 hp (Ford Escort). With snow tires, I am sure I could go up any hill that I could go up when it's not snowing. Just as another data point, my Dad had a Toyota Starlet in the 80s and early 90s. We PASSED four-wheel-drive trucks that had spun off the road in really inclement weather. The light weight of the car, skinny tires and low power actually helped us move along.

Good luck on your search! Station wagons might be good for your height. My Dad is 6'2" with a lot of height in his torso and he always fit well in the Ford Escort station wagon.
posted by Slothrop at 12:24 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to say that I love love love my Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo .

Not an oversized SUV by any means, and it fits me and my very tall husband perfectly. I also have back pain, and that is part of the reason I got it. Easy to get into and so comfy to drive. We're looking to buy a second one to replace our Honda, too.
posted by jbenben at 12:29 PM on February 18, 2011

I would say subarus of any type. The 4 cylinder has plenty of power-at least as much as an rsx and at a much lower engine RPM which is probably one of the inadueqacies of the RSX and might be what you are saying about enough power. Slothrop is absolutely correct, more power is bad in the snow/ice. The automatic is much more common in the wagons, and they are pretty useful vehicles. You are still in a car like seating position, meaning you are setting with your legs out in front of you and leaning back.

The Honda CRV or Element would also probably be good. The seating here is more like a chair and the car style seating might be the problem causing you the pain in the RSX. Once again the automatics are much more common in both vehicles and they are generally very well made and very good commuting cars.

If you do want a traditional SUV the Jeep cherokees or Grand Cherokees (very different vehicles) would serve you well. They are not the most reliable, but I do like my jeeps and they offer something unique to the SUV experience, actual off road ability.
posted by bartonlong at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2011

I'd tend to say Subaru Legacy diesel, but I'd guess you're in America (since you don't say where you are) and I've heard diesel cars are unheard of over there

We have do have diesel cars here, but the diesel Legacy wasn't sold here as far as I know (not that it's relevant to the ergonomics, as the diesel and gas versions have the same body and interiors).

Nth-ing the "Subarus are great on snow and ice". But the Ford Fusions with all-wheel drive are not to be sneezed at, if you can find one.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on February 18, 2011

I recently purchased a 74 Super Beetle and I haven't had a bout of sciatica since. It's a manual, but the clutch is very comfortable, as are the seat-belts. Like a TARDIS, they are smaller on the outside than the inside. There's a lot more room than you'd think. It's not AWD, but I made it to work OK after the recent blizzard.
posted by ambulocetus at 5:17 PM on February 18, 2011

Good clarification on the comment I made about snowy hills; you guys are entirely correct. I suppose I should have said I would prefer power for the hills/mountains and AWD for snowy conditions.

And bartonlong is onto another point I didn't mention - the Acura has plenty of power for its size but you have to spin it up pretty good to get the pull. Something with more low-end torque would be greatly appreciated.

Also, bonus points for mentioning car seating vs chair seating. I'm really leaning towards a smaller SUV now that I have realized the flat car seating might be a big part of the problem.
posted by _DB_ at 6:05 PM on February 18, 2011

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