What kind of car do I want?
June 15, 2016 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Car shopping! I want a car that has a higher profile, bluetooth, domestic, and isn't a sedan.

I am a car novice. To me, they are things you put gas in and it takes you places. I find myself with the need to buy my first car and I haven't a clue what kind of car I want.

My favorite car growing up was a early 90's General Motors Blazer. I don't know what brand or type of car it was unfortunately.. but it had the right mix of profile and size.

  1. I think what I want is an SUV, a taller car that isn't a sedan.. but I don't have kids. It's just me and my cats. I don't travel much. This would be a commuters car. I don't need a huge SUV.
  2. I have considered a Chevrolet Encore.. only because my Dad has one and I like it. But I feel like I'm not seeing all my options.
  3. Right now I'm driving a late 90's Cadillac DeVille. This thing is a boat and I love it. I have a ton of space for my body and it feels like a very sturdy car. It is getting expensive to repair and only takes premium gas. I love it but it has to be put out to pasture.
  4. I have a big butt and longish legs. I don't want to feel cramped in the driver's seat.
  5. I could care less about color, trim, prestige, or anything else to do with how the car looks. I'm more concerned with how it feels to drive it.
  6. car salespeople scare me. (well, I'm just conflict adverse.. and hate encountering pushy people)
  7. I want to stay under $30,000.
What search terms should I be using? Any suggestions on specific models or types of car that might sound up my alley? I realize my first thing to do is to test drive the ones I'm interested in, but I don't want to show up to a car dealership without a plan or idea of what I want to test drive.
posted by INFJ to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Hyundai Santa Fe seems like it's a pretty popular model among folks I know, and the base model comes in at $30,800 (but I'm sure if you told them of your desire to stay under $30k, they'd work with you--they'd rather sell lower than lose the sale completely.)
posted by helloimjennsco at 5:55 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My co-worker has a Ford Escape that she likes. I've ridden in it, and it's comfortable. The only concern is durability. My wife has an older Escape that's basically being totaled before it hits 100k miles because of rust. But it's definitely something to check out.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:58 AM on June 15, 2016

If you didn't say domestic, I'd suggest a Nissan Juke, especially since you don't sound like you need something huge. We have a Juke and I love it! So maybe a Ford Edge or Escape? I haven't driven either of those but I feel your love for the Blazer and am considering a Ford-- if we don't just get another Nissan.
posted by BibiRose at 5:58 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a Chevy volt and it is the best commuter car around, especially if you don't have long commute so you can stay on electric the whole time. It doesn't have a high profile, but it does check your other boxes, and man, it just drives so nice. A fully loaded, certified pre-owned is generally between 16and 18k. Even if you don't end up buying one, you should at least test drive one, so you can experience silently zooming around.
posted by rockindata at 6:01 AM on June 15, 2016

You have snow sometimes? Subaru Forester. Go to Carmax. Thank me later.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh god you said domestic, I am the worst.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2016

However, Subaru Outbacks are made in Indiana, so maybe I'm not the worst. I love Subarus obviously.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:21 AM on June 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Crossover / Compact SUV is probably what you are looking for, a vehicle type that is in between a car and full size suv. They're usually made on car platforms now, just taller.

Ford has the edge & escape, but every manufacturer has something in the segment.

Its late in the season for car shows, but if you aren't purchasing right away, go to the next car show in a city near you where you can sit in every model without any pressure other than to take literature.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:26 AM on June 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have been test-driving cars and recently fell in love with the Kia Soul. I like it because it's relatively compact but feels more like a SUV than a compact while driving it. It also gives a very smooth drive for its price point.

BTW, to your point about salesmen - when I started test-driving cars, I knew I wasn't quite ready to buy yet but I did want time to do my research. I posted on Facebook asking friends for recommendations of low-pressure dealerships and got some great suggestions. Also, when I went to the dealerships, I was very clear that I wanted to test drive a car but was absolutely not ready to buy yet. That worked pretty well. They all tried a little to sell me right away but all backed off pretty quickly.
posted by lunasol at 6:30 AM on June 15, 2016

I drove a GMC Jimmy for years. I loved it. After a few years of cheap sedans, we bought a Chevrolet Equinox which we still have, and now we've added a GMC Acadia.

Based on your love of the Blazer (which is the same vehicle as the GMC Jimmy, with a different brand), and the Encore, try the GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Trax or Equinox.

My husband and I are both bigger people. These cars fit well.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:41 AM on June 15, 2016

Buick Encore.

They're gorgeous, very well made. At the highest level of options it is $29k list price.
posted by yesster at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2016

"Domestic" meaning "a US company", or meaning "assembled in the USA", or meaning "100% components made in the USA"?

Because there's a different result for the first two (e.g. the Subaru mentioned by Potomac Avenue), and a zero result for the third.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2016

A US company.
posted by INFJ at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2016

The Jeep Renegade ticks all your boxes, gets good reviews and decent gas mileage, and is actually what I have my eye on for my next vehicle.

I have yet to drive one myself, but I've read the front seats are roomy though the back seat is cramped. Only way to find out if it's roomy enough for you is to go sit in one.
posted by ejs at 7:41 AM on June 15, 2016

Tesla Model X. Fails on the price but wins on domestic, no pushy sales experience, and fits tall and long legged people.
posted by zippy at 8:13 AM on June 15, 2016

Suzuki Jimny. Answer to all of your concerns. And it's affordable.
posted by fordiebianco at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2016

I bought a used Ford Edge for $20k. I am also a large-reared, longish-legged female. I love the way it handles, and continously hear other Edge owners' testimonials about how great this vehicle is.

I have the SEL model, and it has bluetooth, USB ports all over, tons of space and excellent handling. Easy maintenance too. Good luck!
posted by Verdandi at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2016

The Buick Encore you like is a subcompact crossover, which is probably a good size for you to look at if it's mostly going to be just you in there. The Chevy Trax is built on the same platform and retails for a little less, so that's another one you might look at. (They're almost identical under the skin.)

They compete with the Jeep Renegade, another subcompact crossover—I haven't been inside one of those, but a lot of people like the styling.

Ford doesn't compete in the same class, at least not in America—their Escape is the next size up, in the "compact crossover" class, but it's also very popular. Other domestic compact crossovers are the Chevy Captiva, which was recently discontinued and might be a good used deal, and the Jeep Compass.

Given your stipulations, I'd look at the Trax and Encore first, then go to Jeep and check out the Renegade and the Compass (and the Patriot, another compact crossover), and then go to Ford and look at the Escape and the Edge. Once you've done that you'll have hit all the domestic crossovers, so it shouldn't be too hard to pick your favorite.
posted by Polycarp at 9:53 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a former car salesman, all-around "car guy", and most of my family is in the car business (sales, management, and dealership owners).

I'm curious about why you prefer a car from a "US Company". You reason for that requirement might shape some of my response. A lot of US car companies make most of their cars outside the US (General Motors does) or source/manufacture a lot of the components outside the US. Ownership structures are all over the place (Renault owns a big chunk of Nissan and both companies have the same CEO, for example), and some specific models are actually made by someone else (the new Fiat 124 Spider is a Mazda Miata with a Fiat engine and re-tune suspension but is made in Japan by Mazda, the Toyota BRZ and Subaru FRS are the same car with sightly different body panels designed and built as a joint venture between the two.

Your criteria is a bit incomplete but that's fine for right now, I'll come back to it.

What you want is known as a "mini-ute". It's a small, car-base SUV. It's a kind of car that basically makes all the compromises. You don't sit up as high as in a truck-based or other large SUV but higher than in a sedan. You get less gas mileage than a sedan but more than a big SUV. I could fill pages with stuff like that. It is a HIGHLY competitive segment. Every company makes at least one so you've got a lot of options and they're pretty much all good. It also happens to be the most popular segment with young, single women.

Do some research to narrow down the field, then go drive those cars until you know which one you like.

Now you know what model to get but you still need to consider what options or equipment you prefer and whether you want to buy new or used. These are the other criteria to consider.

I totally understand that some people don't care much about equipment beyond the basics but there are some seemly frivolous options that are actually REALLY handy. Oh, BTW, when you're talking about "trim" on a new car, you're usually referring to the "trim level" of a specific model. The Toyota Camry, for example, comes in Base, SE, LE, and Limited trims and the list of options/equipment that comes standard on each trim level get's bigger as you go down that list. Fancy stuff like leather seats and navigation systems won't even be available on the base model but will be standard on the Limited. A lot of companies use SE/LE to designate trim levels and I used to remember is as SE=Some Extras, LE=Lots of Extras. You don't really have to keep the trim levels and stuff straight, you just need to figure out what options are important to you so the salespeople can tell you which trim level(s) to look at in a specific model.

Power windows, remote keyless entry, and cruise control are pretty standard on even base models anymore but things like keyless entry where the keys and the remote stays in your pocket is a LOT more convenient than you think. Leather seats don't just feel nicer, they look nicer for longer and they're a TON easier to clean.

Lastly, you need to decide between buying used or brand new. Personally, I think new cars are a terrible value. A car that sells new for $30,000 will sell for around $20,000 two years later and is no less reliable than the day you bought it (perhaps even a bit more since it's had a lot of testing). The things that make buying a used car a challenge are that you don't really know what the dealer paid for the car so you don't really know how far down you can negotiate (new car invoice prices are all over the internet, I usually use Kbb.com) and you're limited to what's available. Find a car that has exactly the options you want and is a great deal but you don't like the color? Tough. If you want something different, you'll just have to hope that someone trades it in so you can buy it. But the more you're flexible on color, options, mileage, etc the options you'll have.

As far as actually buying the car and interacting with salespeople, look at my previous ask.me answers and you'll find more advice than you can shake a stick at. If you have more questions, please post here and/or me.mail me.
posted by VTX at 10:57 AM on June 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Wow, thanks, VTX! Hard to follow up on that... but here's something that I recently discovered--it's super easy to replace the stock stereo in your car with an aftermarket stereo with more bells and whistles. I just replaced the lousy stock stereo I lived with for years in my 2009 Matrix with something far more modern and cool, for less than $200 (covered the stereo itself, trim kit, wire harness, and installation). So don't let something small like that derail you from a car you otherwise really like!
posted by Sublimity at 6:29 PM on June 15, 2016

It sounds as if you're not going to like the purchase experience (RE: point 6). Are you member of AAA, Costco, a bank/credit union which has a car-buying program? All three use a company called True Car. True Car pre-arranges the price for you after you "build the car" and you take the offer sheet to the prescribed dealership and then whip out your credit card or checkbook. True Car's program works on both new and used cars. If you served in the military, you'll receive a better price on a new car compared to a True Car program price.
posted by dlwr300 at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2016

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