Yet another "what car should I buy?" question.
April 22, 2015 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Need a car that will comfortably fit two adults, one child, and a very large dog plus a suitcase or two. Reliable, good mileage. Don't want to spend more than $11K. What are my options?

I'm pretty sure the large dog bumps us from regular car to SUV territory; the four of us don't fit in my Ford Focus comfortably for longer trips. But $11K doesn't go very far when you aren't looking for a sedan or hatchback.

On my radar:
2006-2008 Ford Escape
2006 and earlier Toyota RAV4
2004 and earlier Honda CR-V

Anything else I should be looking at?

And of the 3 options I've identified so far, which would you pick? Part of me wants to go with the Escape on the theory that newer car/lower mileage = more life; my 2002 Focus has been bomb-proof so I am a Ford fan. OTOH, looking at Consumer Reports and True Delta, I should really go with an older CR-V, though I feel that used Hondas are overpriced. What would you do?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered wagons, like the perennial favorite Subaru? Seems like it should fit your criteria.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:06 PM on April 22, 2015

Used Subarus are WAAAAYYYYYY overpriced in the Pacific Northwest. I don't think I could get anything that Subaru put out after they solved the head gasket problem, at least not something that's been treated well.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've had both a RAV4 (2005ish) and a CRV (2012). I loved the Toyota and got like 10 offers for it before I even wanted to sell it. I am now really enjoying the Honda. They both fit all the things you mentioned, plus a few more.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just one data point for you, but the 2006 era Ford Escapes seem to have more frequent than normal transmission issues. We've replaced the torque converter once and the entire transmission once in the 6 years we've had ours.
posted by Broken Ankle at 2:15 PM on April 22, 2015

I faced a similar dilemma (although I have two big dogs, and only a potential kid) and I ended up with a 2005 Honda Pilot with 130k miles for $10,000 out the door.

Unless you are putting a very large amount of miles on this car (more than the average of 12,000 a year), I'd really consider looking at a higher-mileage car that has been well taken care of. A Honda CRV with 100k miles should last another 100k at least which is 8 years of average driving.
posted by muddgirl at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2015

The Ford Escape (and Mazda Tribute) are pretty old technology and they look really dated. I've owned a 2nd (2002-2006) and 3rd generation (2007-2011) CR-V. The 2nd gen was not a good car for me. It had constant issues with brakes and I had several small parts that needed to be replaced like the heater door flapper. The 3rd gen is an almost perfect car but I miss the picnic table. I've driven the model year RAV4 you're looking at and I found them unrefined. You should be able to find a 2007 or 08 CR-V in your price range but it will have about 100,000 miles on it which is normal for a car that age.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 2:26 PM on April 22, 2015

Mazda5! I purposely bought ours to potentially fit two adults, two kids, a medium sized dog, plus stuff! The third row seating folds down nicely to fit our then 60lb dog with plenty of room left for a kid (or two) in car seats and a load of stuff next to the dog. I've had mine since 2008 and still love it.
posted by jillithd at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2015

Check out the Scion xB. They're quite roomy and you should be able to get a 2009 or 2010 model in your price range.
posted by zinon at 4:24 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a 2006 RAV4 since new. Its got almost 100k miles on it and the only work I've ever had to do on it are brakes. It still runs like its new. It is very roomy in the back with a ton of legroom for a growing child and large canine friend. My kids have grown up in it and they love it, no complaints even on long road trips.

It's the best car I've ever had and I'd happily drive it for another 10. I'm passing it on to my daughter this year and and I'm actually sad I have to get something else.
posted by Requiax at 6:36 PM on April 22, 2015

Exactly how large is the dog? I have a Prius and my friend's 75 pound lab can sit or lie comfortably in the hatch area. The car is surprisingly large, totally reliable (I've had mine over a decade), gets great gas mileage, and has very comfortable seats for long drives. Maybe you can check one out with your dog.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:35 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Scion XB. I know. It's a tiny box. I get it.

But I have moved two people, three bunnies, two cats, my mattress, and tons of boxes and clothes from Washington to Utah with zero issue. It's also been on multiple road trips where four people smooshed in and actually slept in the car overnight. I've driven a great dane around in it semi-regularly. It's going on 200,000 miles. When it dies (far in the future) I'm going to buy a new one.

I recommend no other cars. Get a Scion.
posted by Marinara at 8:11 PM on April 22, 2015

Hm. Apparently I can get a 2015 Kia Soul for under $13K. Anyone have experience with the Soul? The warranty and lack of wear might be worth going a little higher if it will work for our needs.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:10 PM on April 22, 2015

Nth the Scion XB. I can move furniture or 8' lengths of wood or bikes (without a bike rack) or my giant dog and still squeeze into tiny parking spots. Normal human adults actually fit in the back seat, too. Mine's almost 10 and I have no interest in replacing it.
posted by miyabo at 9:47 PM on April 22, 2015

Condolences on the PNW Subaru market, it is a crazy feature here. Two weeks ago I was looking with much the same parameters as you and narrowed down my options to a 2000-2006 Audi or VW Passat Wagon with out a turbo. The lack of turbo saves in maintenance costs and you can still expect highway MPGs in the 30s with reasonable driving. If you are willing to do a bit of searching, these can be had with all wheel drive as well.

The non-dealer repair options for these cars are also very attractive; cars which have an enthusiast base tend to have attendant specialty repair shops. Most of your repair costs go to labor. Specialty shops give you access to faster and thus cheaper diagnoses and repairs. Here I'm thinking of places like EuroCar in Seattle and Fix-Um Haus in PDX but there are many others. You don't find places the specialize in Scions etc.

I ended up with a 2002 Passat V6 with all wheel drive and 69K on it for under $9K and it drives like a dream.
posted by andorphin at 8:46 AM on April 23, 2015

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