Unicorn of a used car
August 6, 2016 12:31 PM   Subscribe

The only car I have ever owned was totaled recently, and I have no idea how to research this, so trying here.

I had a Civic that was 11 years old and only had 90k miles, so I am really trying to replace it with something that will last me that long and be as reliable, but I need a little more room in my next car.

I am looking for a used SUV with the following qualities:
- reliable
- under 100,000 miles (I can't bear the thought of giving up an '05 with 90k for an '11 with 150k!)
- decent gas mileage (at least 25 mpg)
- preferably leather interior
- preferably back seat air vents
- preferably sun roof
- would really like, but not necessary, a third row seating option
- would really like, but not necessary, back seats that fold totally flat for cargo space

I do not care what year it is if it means the above qualifications.

The kicker is that I'd like to spend max $12,000. I live in a place with an extremely low COL if that matters for car prices. I would be willing to go up to $14-15k for something very low mileage or that has every feature listed above.

So far I'm most interested in the CRV, Pilot, Highlander, Forester, but open to all suggestions.

Does such a car exist?
posted by raspberrE to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was pricing out CRVs you could find something like this if it was an old CRV but one with low mileage. I bought my dad's car from his estate and it was a 2009 with maybe 30K on it and has most of those things except third row seating and was under 15K and would be more like 12-13 now. I like the Forresters too (my previous car was a Forrester) but they hold value really well so you'd wind up with an older one that might mean higher mileage. That said, they last forever (if they don't have one og a few fatal flaws) so that might be worth investigating.
posted by jessamyn at 12:35 PM on August 6, 2016

Have you searched Autotrader.com? It will let you plug in most of those criteria and see what's available nationwide. My gut says this is going to be a tricky combination, but if you're willing to look across a broad area you should probably be able to find something.
posted by primethyme at 1:06 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can set search alerts on CarMax; that's what I did when I was looking for what I thought would be a hard-to-find combination of features. You can specify trim level, mileage, and price, and then you get an email when one comes available. Not sure what your timeline is but I've been getting notified every three weeks or so. If you go this route maybe set your price as a bit lower than your max to allow for transfer fees and taxes.
posted by stellaluna at 1:56 PM on August 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Hyundai Santa Fe Limited with towing package meets most of your requirements except for the gas mileage, which is 19/24 or 18/25. There are about 8 on AutoTrader around the country below your price point. The 2007 year had a drastic redesign that still looks pretty relevant and has the features you are looking for. Mine is approaching 10 years and is still in good condition, although I do not have leather or a sunroof as those are horrible in my climate. The Limited package has the leather, sunroof, etc and the towing package had the third row seats. We had a test drive with 7 men over 200 pounds (3 over 250) and the only complaint was the headroom with the third seat. The feature I really liked when we were looking was a set of AC vents behind the back seat. This was almost unheard of back then and probably still hard to find.

There was also a 4 cylinder version that may have had better mileage, but may not have been available with the Limited Package. We also have a Highlander that is a few years newer. It's interior is probably styled a little better and has more power (although the Santa Fe had similar power for that model year) there are a lot of features I like better on the Santa Fe.
posted by Yorrick at 2:13 PM on August 6, 2016

If you want cargo space but don't care about it being an actual SUV, you could look for a Scion xB. I'd also add Honda Elements to the list although I don't believe leather is an option.
posted by Kriesa at 2:20 PM on August 6, 2016

While is isn't specifically in the SUV range you sound to be looking for, you might want to at least take a look at the Subaru Legacy Outback (and Forrester) series. While I can't speak to the Forrester as I've never owned one, I currently am on my 2nd Subaru and my Legacy Sedan got me to 220k before I stupidly got rid of it over something I could now fix in my driveway, my Legacy Outback station wagon is at 250k and still climbing.

Thing is, I bought both as beaters with almost 90K on them to start with, so we are talking about some robust hardware here. They are all AWD and the lower center of gravity (compared with your standard SUV) makes even the wagon feel like you are driving a go-cart in terms of control ability, particularly in incremental weather. If I don't drive like a maniac, my manual Outback gets around 35mpg (again a 250k 1998) also, I don't think I paid more than $4,000 for either.

I mention it because if you are looking to spend three times that, I imagine you could get something very new and very nice. The only thing on your list that I'm almost certain is not an option is the third row seating; I've seen everything else available as options over the years.

The one complaint I have is that because they are boxter engines (which are fantastic in every other respect), some aspects of working on them yourself can be kind of challenging, but there is a huge community of "Scooby" lovers, and the wealth of information is astounding.

Good luck.
posted by quin at 2:25 PM on August 6, 2016

When I was pricing out CRVs you could find something like this if it was an old CRV but one with low mileage

We had an 06. No rear vents, no third row, seats don't fold flat.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:59 PM on August 6, 2016

Like most of these questions for SUVs, what you really want is what minivans do, especially for the larger passenger options.

I can find 2005 and 2006 Honda Odysseys that do everything you want (leather, fold-down 3rd row, moon roof) for $12k on Carmax. Ok, can't tell if they have rear vents from the descriptions, but that's what test drives are for.

I suggest you at least consider those in your search parameters.
posted by bonehead at 8:16 AM on August 7, 2016

Response by poster: For what it's worth, future readers of this Ask, I found a unicorn.

'06 Highlander Hybrid with <70k miles and the "limited" trim package for right at our desired budget. It checks every box except rear AC, including the gas mileage due to the hybrid thing.
posted by raspberrE at 5:18 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

« Older Can you back-engineer my collaborative poem?   |   "Oh God, How I Miss TV!” Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.