Another "What Car Should I Buy" question
April 22, 2020 7:24 AM   Subscribe

After asking this question a few years ago, I am now in the market for mid-large size 3-row SUV. I am pretty sure that the car I want is a Volvo XC90, but am open to other suggestions. I have driven some of the top competitors including the Toyota Highlander and the Acura MDX and the Audi Q7 and ridden in the Tahoe and I strongly prefer the XC90. Details below the fold:

I need a 3rd row option with the ability to fold down the 3rd row. Currently I drive a Prius, which I will most likely keep (at least in the short term) for my long commute. My husband and I will use the SUV for family outings on the weekends, transporting supplies for home and garden projects, and eventually during the week when we need to take our children to day care. My specific questions are: 1) What other options, if any, should I consider beyond those listed above and 2) Should I buy new or used?

Considerations for Make/Model:
• PRO: Prefer XC90 over other models I have driven
• PRO: Must have a 3rd row option. This is non-negotiable
• PRO: Previously owned XC90 and was happy with performance and operation
• CON: Volvo repairs/maintenance is more costly than other brands that are not marketed as near luxury brands
• CON: MPG is not great but seems in line with most competitors. (Not interested in hybrid model)
• CON: I prefer to buy American made products if all other factors are equal, but Volvo is made in Sweden, Belgium, and China and Chinese owned

Considerations for New/Used:
• There is a cost premium for the new car smell. I have owned new cars and don’t really care about if it is brand new or used. For me, the cost premium is not worth it since I’d rather save the money to use on other things.
• On the other hand, new cars typically have warranty/maintenance packages which is important since Volvo service is costly
• Initially, I will not be driving this car much and the mileage will be low. This may change down the road.
• I would probably pay in cash for a used model but need a loan for buying new.
• The XC90 is getting a redesign for 2022. I am not in a huge rush to make this purchase; however, buying new when a design is right around the corner seems questionable. On the other hand, perhaps it is a good time to find value.
posted by seesom to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to check out Honda Pilots. Also, if you're patient and unfussy about color, you can find nearly new vehicles from dealers pretty regularly. They come with most of the warranty as they'll have usually under 3500 miles on the odometer after being used as test drivers and perks for managers. Honda will sell you the maintenance package on these deals.
posted by carmicha at 7:44 AM on April 22, 2020

Kia Telluride? I read this review on it yesterday, and was thinking if I needed something like what you're describing, it would be on the short list to test drive.
posted by deezil at 7:46 AM on April 22, 2020

You mention day care, so assuming you have small children. For whatever you decide, make sure you test drive with car seats installed. Both rear and front facing. And how easy they are to install in the various models.

Buying a new car just before a line change is often a money saver. We just bought a Ford Escape and saved a lot of money as they were trying to get rid of the old models. So after the new model is available, but not too long after so we had some choice. We weren't able to order to our specifications, but we were able to have the dealer search all the stock for one that matched the closest to what we wanted.

Our Escape was quite a lot newer than the ones we had (an Equinox 2007 we replaced, and an Acadia 2013 which we still have). The bells and whistles on the new 2019 was quite an eye opener, so keep that in mind if you are buying used. Does it have all the features you want, or are they only available on the new models.
posted by Ftsqg at 7:53 AM on April 22, 2020

Subaru Ascent is really nice.
posted by postel's law at 8:12 AM on April 22, 2020

Best answer: Data point of one: if you belong to Costco, you can go through their car purchasing program and get a much better deal on Volvos - especially if you tell them that you're interested in buying a demo model.

We leased two XC90s and then decided we wanted to buy one and went the Costco route. I had been dealing with a dealership almost an hour away, but the Costco dealership assigned to me (they go by zip code) was very nearby. When the salesperson at the first dealer wanted to know why I wasn't buying the car from him, insisting he could beat any price, he was shocked when he heard the Costco price and what the car came loaded with. Told me that there was no way possible that was the cost, told me it was a steal and to grab it.

With Costco, you don't negotiate "the price is the price". You tell them what you want, they tell you what they have available. It was the best purchasing experience I've ever had. We've since moved onto Mini Coopers (I don't need such a large car anymore) and I really wish Costco had a deal with them. The XC90 was great and I never had a problem with any of them and you can't find anything safer. I still miss it sometimes!
posted by dancinglamb at 8:46 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, you asked about other options, so:

All 3-row SUVs are just minivans with less-useful doors so that the owners can pretend they're not minivans. If you can get over being the kind of boringly pragmatic people who have a minivan, a minivan will do everything better than a 3-row SUV will.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2020 [8 favorites]

I'm going +1 on the minivan. If you really need AWD, you can buy a Toyota Sienna AWD, which is actually quite capable for any on-road driving. Plus, a minivan has way more cargo room. Add on really good reliability (mine made it more than 200k miles), and if you want fancy, then the XLE AWD is actually quite nice.
posted by coberh at 9:45 AM on April 22, 2020

I came here to say the same as GCU.
My husband was adamant about no minivans so we test drove a bunch of 3-row SUVs and "just for a lark" checked out one minivan. The minivan (Toyota Sienna, the only AWD minivan at the time) was head and shoulders above any of the SUVs for interior comfort and usability, especially with our 3 and 6 yo as regular passengers and frequent need to bring along an extra 6' tall adult or two. I don't think we testdrove the Volvo XC90 but none of the 3 row SUVs we tried had as much legroom in the third row as the Sienna. Our kids are still car seat age and moving those beasts when we need to ferry a third/fourth/fifth full sized adult is not an option.
Speaking of car seats.... the ease of loading kids into and out of car seats in a minivan is way better than I found in our previous SUV (BMW x3), and I much prefer the ability for them to easily get in and out either side depending where we parked.
The only situation I can think of where an SUV is preferable is if you're offroading? We've been happy with our Sienna through a couple of snowy, wet, messy, icy winters and some camping/outdoor adventures where other cars got stuck in the mud.
posted by dotparker at 9:53 AM on April 22, 2020

I mean, if you want the XC90, then get the XC90. This assumes you've got an emergency fund, have paid off your debts, are saving for retirement & the kids college, and have a rent/mortgage situation that's reasonable for your location, life-stage, and current & future income. If you've got that covered, the differences in maintenance costs / resale value / reliability across your options are all basically pocket change. Get what you want. Enjoy it. But if you're thinking... that's not pocket change, that's serious money for me... then you might reconsider a fancy depreciation machine without justifiable use case, make-do with the Prius, and get your big home deport orders delivered :)
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:07 AM on April 22, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks. Another consideration that I forgot to mention above it towing. Can minivans tow?

We occasionally tow small trailers and plan to add a tow hitch. It is not an absolute deal breaker but important to have. Understand that for towing, the XC90 would need a medium horsepower option.
posted by seesom at 10:08 AM on April 22, 2020

A minivan can tow a light trailer, but I wouldn't want to be towing more than a couple thousand pounds for very long in anything that isn't truck based, and most SUVs these days are based on passenger car platforms.

Absolutely agree with all of the above. Crossover SUVs are a plague. Minivans are the way to go unless you need tons of ground clearance. We sold our Odyssey to get a serious SUV when we started needing to travel off road and I really miss the minivan. Everything is better with a minivan because they're designed from the wheels up to be good for moving people. Low floors mean more cargo space and easier loading. Sliding doors make getting kids in and out 100x easier.
posted by woof at 11:07 AM on April 22, 2020

Most minivans can tow small trailers. Our neighbors use theirs ('17 Odyssey) to tow their ~20 foot flat bottomed bass boat to and from the ICW. And I can get full 4*8 sheets of plywood in the back of mine, it's the best.
posted by saladin at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2020

Best answer: I have a minivan can't wait to get rid of it. The visibility, ergonomics, everything is so bad.

If you have the 3rd row for seating, they have almost no storage, and they are the same size as a full size SUV.

If you like a Volvo, driving a minivan (unless you get top of the line which is $50-60k) isn't going to cut it. The Honda Odyssey is also going on like 10 years old with minimal changes (really only the dash), serious lack of USB ports, etc and feels it. It hasn't been particularly cheap on the maintenance front either.

The Toyota is pretty nice - 2nd row reclining seats- but pricey, some people like the Dodge, but my inlaws have one of those and I think it sucks. YMMV.

Minivan doors are alright. Nice when they are babies. Beyond that, who cares?
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:59 PM on April 22, 2020

The Atlas is one 3-row SUV you haven't mentioned. There are more VW dealers than Volvo dealers, the warranty is longer, the Atlas weighs less, it. can tow as well, it comes with 4WD if you want, the design is pretty new. It's less luxurious, it's a lot cheaper depending on which models you look at. I've drive one one, it drives fine but I've driven VWs for years and generally like the way they drive.
posted by GuyZero at 3:13 PM on April 22, 2020

I have a 2020 XC90, my first SUV, and I love it. I got the T6 AWD Inscription model to which I still needed to add a couple of options like the heated steering wheel (includes heated rear seats) and advanced package (active bending lights, 360 camera, etc.). If I had more $$ I would have loved to spend it on the luxury package which gives you massaging seats in the front and then B+W audio system.

I know you said the cost premium with a newer car is not worth it to you but know that this generation of the XC90 looks similar all the way back to 2016 (if not earlier). I'm sure if this get a redesign in 2022 it will have some fun new features and options too. And I'm sure the next redesign in 2030 of whenever will have even better tech but if you need/want to buy now then just buy now.

The newer model years are supposed to have more capable electronics so that, for example, the touchscreen will feel faster etc. I would recommend getting as high of the trim level as you can simply because, for me anyway, they have some nice bells and whistles that make it worth, and I also wanted to treat myself coming from a 2007 very well used Mercedes E-Class.

I'm thinking that compared to the Mercedes the Volvo should cost me less in the long run or at least not be as much of a shock when it comes to repair costs, especially since I bought in new and will take care of it. My mistake with buying a used luxury vehicle, the E-Class, is that you can't really know its history and I found issues with it later on which made me believe that the previous owner did not take care of it nor maintain it properly. The comfort of knowing the history of my current car as the years go on by itself is worth the additional premium cost to me.

If you'll be using the 3rd row you might want to consider the 6-seat version which has captains chairs in the 2nd row. I have 2 child seats in the 2nd row right now and I can tell you that more than likely nobody will be going into the 3rd row the normal way for the foreseeable future. I think I can fold just the middle seat down but you'd still have to climb over it go to get in the way back.

With the 3rd row folded down there is plenty of storage although if you will be using this car for "supplies for home and garden projects" I would reconsider. You may think, like I do now and especially if you buy new, that transporting dirty/dusty building supplies, yard waste or things of that nature is going to unnecessarily damage the interior. I do regret it in that regard but cruising down the highway with the pilot assist on and the heated seats/steering wheel making feel nice and toasty I forget all about it.

I researched long and hard, way too long and hard, and it came down to the Toyota Sequoia and the Volvo XC90. In the end with the Sequoia I think I would feel more comfortable throwing building supplies and what-nots in the back than I do with the XC90. But that's just me.

A couple of suggestions regardless of which vehicle you decide on. If you're buying new I would take a look at the article below. It's from 2014 but helpful.

And check out Spend the $50 and buy the reports for whichever car you decide on. I was skeptical about it but it was worth it as I ended up basically getting about an 18% discount from the retail price following their advice which one dealer just could not comprehend. You, probably?, maybe?, should be able to get a better deal with the current pandemic environment but I think you have to be ready to buy and able/willing to do it, i.e., not just window shopping.

If I can answer anything other questions feel free to ask. Good luck.
posted by eatcake at 4:08 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

A few options - the new Mercedes GLB is A) brand new this year, B) a small third row SUV, and C) shockingly reasonably priced, for this sort of thing. I'd be looking at it myself as an eventual replacement for what we have now except it's not tow rated, and I do need that.

Also...we now have a 2011 Buick Enclave, and it's been...great? We bought it in 2013, and at the time we thought Volvo, Audi, etc. (We had a V70 previously, with the rear facing third row). But we drove the Buick and it was really really nice. I have no idea how the current model is, but ours has been fantastic - the third row is totally usable for adults, it's very comfortable and 'drives small' for a larger vehicle, it takes basic gas, we've gone from car seats to boosters to nothing in it. We got the one with 2 captains chairs in the second row, which drops the seating from 8 to 7 but makes it much more liveable.

We tow a 3600lb trailer with it from New York to Maine, I put down the back rows and put 8' boards from home depot in it all the time, etc. Our other car is a Hyundai Kona EV, so we're in the same boat as you with the Prius. I know...a Buick? But maybe worth a look.
posted by true at 7:17 PM on April 22, 2020

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