used cars for tall people with tall children
May 11, 2015 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Architeuthis and I are shopping for a gently used car, preferably a wagon. We are 5'10" and 6'2". We have 2 kids and will be using a car seat for at least another 2-3 years, and our kids are both 95th percentile for height. What can we buy that will leave more than 1 inch of clearance between seat and infant knee? Parameters: preferably under 15K US, must have AWD.

We've been looking casually for a used car for a month or two now and are coming up a little blank when it comes to cars in our price range that will fit our Britax carseat. We'd prefer to have a wagon but would be OK with a small SUV. Must have AWD due to the climate & terrain where we now live.

We've been looking mostly at 2005-2009 Subaru Outbacks but find that the pre-2010 models don't allow enough leg room for the child in the carseat once the passenger seat is far enough back for the adults. The post-2010 models are mostly out of our price range in our area. The Subaru Forester might work; we haven't been able to test drive one with the carseat yet. We've also been looking at Honda CR-Vs. The Volvo XC70 seems to have been a favorite from this question but the online reviews are sort of critical--do people still like them? Ironically, we are currently driving a 2005 Prius, which we aren't huge fans of for other reasons, but is unexpectedly roomy in the back seat.

We don't mind doing additional due diligence, but it's getting tedious to schlep the carseat around to try to make test drives, especially since our 18-month-old is not yet in day care and so is usually occupying it when we go, with varying degrees of patience.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis to Shopping (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that we do have some flexibility with the price and could probably go up to 20K or so, although we're also trying to buy a house so less is better.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:59 PM on May 11, 2015

Have you checked the carseat forums online? They tend to have lots of information about which seats fit which vehicles, especially people who are doing extended rear-facing (which takes up more room front-to-back than forward-facing).
posted by katemonster at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

My husband is 6'4", and we have a 2012 Subaru Outback. He can fit comfortably in front with a kid in a booster in back. We're out of the convertible car seat era. (As a plus, I can also drive the car, at 5' in shoes. )

Not that that helps given your price constraints, but there you go. We're super satisfied. It also does fine up here in Alaska with being reliable and dealing with some weather.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:22 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Totally anecdotal, but this may help cross things off your list, we have a 2012 Jetta Wagon with two car seats in the back and it is TIGHT.

Driver's seat is in front of the front facing Britex something and is adequate at the moment for a 5'11" driver and a dead on 50th percentile for height toddler. I don't think it has much more in it.

Passenger's seat is in front of a rear facing Graco Snug something, and it stinks for 5'8" and above passengers (and possibly for shorter passengers).

So yeah, I wouldn't bother testing those.
posted by pennypiper at 4:26 PM on May 11, 2015

You might want to look into Minivans. Most of them have AWD options available (might be tough to find on the used market though...). You will have lots of room, decent mileage and a very functional (if unfashionable) vehicle.

Honda Elements also have lots and lots of interior room as well, and so do the Ridgelines. Actually the Ridgeline might be worth a look-it is essentially a pilot pickup truck and is pretty roomy and functional vehicle that don't have a really strong resale market so they tend to be cheap and available. I like the CRV's in general but don't know about the room and they seem to command a real premium on the used market (as do Subarus).

On the cheaper side, the KIA soul is a surprisingly roomy vehicle that is a pretty good around town car(small, easy to park, pretty good mileage) that is acceptably well made and you can buy new if you want to in your price range.
posted by bartonlong at 4:36 PM on May 11, 2015

I am 6-3 and our Prius V is very roomy and does not feel at all cramped. Not so the regular Prius.
posted by Danf at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

A RAV4 isn't a wagon but it is virtually the same size as an outback, and it has a ton of legroom. I bought one for that very reason. They are very reliable and fit your budget. You can get one with 4wd, if that's close enough to awd.
posted by Requiax at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2015

I'm 6 foot and have a lot of headroom in our Forrester. My FIL used to have an Outback which also had decent headroom, but was noticeably lower. Previously we had a Matrix which was similar to the Outback.

I prefer the Forrester, but I like an open car. We've had carseats in both and the Forester again makes it easier to install and remove. The kids had tonnes of room in both cars.
posted by bonehead at 4:49 PM on May 11, 2015

My son is 6'3", his wife is 5'10". They have as 5 yr old who is very very tall, and a big 3 yr old. They bought one of those Volvos used a couple of years ago. I don't know what kind of car seats they have but with both of them in there's very little room for me when I visit, and I'm only 5'5" and skinny. A bigger grandma would be very uncomfortable. If you are likely to ever have another passenger you should consider an AWD minivan.
posted by mareli at 6:50 PM on May 11, 2015

I can't say enough nice things about the subaru forester and being tall. I've had 4 guys in it before. 3 were 6'2 about(including myself), one was 6'4. No one was clown-cared into it. The forester has more head room and just feels bigger inside than the outback, at least in my experience. Maybe the new outbacks are larger, newest one i've been in was at least a generation back. My friend has the current forester though and while a bit smaller inside than the 1st gen my parents and i drive all the time, it's still spacious.

The only nicer car room inside/general vehicle size wise is my partners mothers newer rav4. I like the forester more in general though.

Subarus are also super reliable. My dads has 230 or 240k on it and is... basically ok. Worn from use, but throwing no error messages and driving around with no real problems.

I would also suggest a prius, but there isn't an AWD variant of that.
posted by emptythought at 7:32 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can get a used Audi A6 Avant in that price range, I put a bit over 100k miles on a 2001 A6 sedan and did countless comfortable road trips with five adults and a pile of camping/climbing gear stuffed inside it. The Audi replaced a Subaru and was a huge improvement in comfort and much more fun to drive.
posted by foodgeek at 8:23 PM on May 11, 2015

For what it's worth, the latest iteration of the Jetta is several inches longer than the 2012, some of which went into rear legroom. That said, I'd definitely consider a RAV4. Mechanically they are quite reliable and are reasonably cheap to have work done. Plus Toyota factory extended warranties are inexpensive from several dealers you can find on the Internet if you get one used just under 3 years and 36,000 miles.

Prior to 2014 you could get them with a V6, which gives you much pep if that's something you care about. I do, given that I consider underpowered cars to be a safety hazard, though the 4 cylinder version isn't by any means terrible. Far better in that respedt than the CR-V, IMO. It drives nicer, too.

Speaking from unfortunate experience, they are very good cars to be in if you crash them. My SO slammed hers head on into the center divider on the highway somewhere around 75mph and ended up with nothing more than some gnarly seatbelt bruises. Nearly as surprising, all the doors still open perfectly. I would have expected a unibody to have warped far more in a crash of that severity.

So yeah, if the rear legroom is enough, I'd wholeheartedly recommend a RAV4.
posted by wierdo at 9:28 PM on May 11, 2015

I'd say give Volvo a chance, but do look into different years, and yeah, check out reviews. Most are hits, but a few are misses. I'm tall from a tall family (the shortest person in my immediate family is 5'10", I'm 5'11", tallest is 6'4", cousins hit 6'6") and we swore by Volvos. They hit all your criteria.

Also, was in two accidents due to other drivers running red lights, in both cases they were doing 40+ mph and slammed into our Volvos on the driver's side, right in the middle, pushing us several dozen yards through the intersections. Emergency personnel were astonished that we were able to walk away with nothing more than scratches.

It's a shame Saab aren't much around any more; they used to be awesome as well. Bit less leg room, but all-around excellent cars.
posted by fraula at 12:24 AM on May 12, 2015

From the perspective of someone with a 6'5 husband and car seats... Chevy Equinox had the most leg room for the money. It is offered in AWD. I'm not sure how common AWD is to find it in a used model. We have a 2013 model, which looks like it may be in the $15k range right now if we sold.
posted by typecloud at 6:27 AM on May 12, 2015

I'm not sure about older (pre-2013) models, but I do know that the current generation of Outback and Forrester models are tight for leg room in the front seats. I'm 6'5", and the driver seat of the '13 Outback I test drove was a full 3 inches too close to the steering wheel when I had it pushed all the way back. Your husband might be able to get away with it at 6'2" if he's more torso than leg (there's plenty of headroom), but you might also want to consider the Legacy. I'm in a Legacy now, and the carseat (still rear-facing, admittedly, so YMMV) fits behind me with the driver's seat pushed all the way down and back. Everything Subaru makes is AWD, so if you're only ruling out sedans because you think you won't fit into them, a 2 or 3 year old Legacy might surprise you.
posted by Mayor West at 7:45 AM on May 13, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! We ended up buying a 2008 Subaru Outback after my spouse fell in love with one particular car. The back seat is a little tight with the front seats all the way back, but we expect that as the baby gets bigger and his legs dangle down instead of kicking out, it will be fine.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2015

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