Welcome to TTAC’s latest feature “New or Used?” In this series, your car-buying questions will become a battleground between the forces of the used-car market (as represented by our in-house auction specialist Steve Lang) and the new-car market (as represented by Mr Sajeev Mehta of Piston Slap fame). Send your automotive scenario to firstname.lastname@example.org, and let these skilled pundits for the new and used car markets battle it out for your business before handing the debate off to TTAC’s Best And Brightest. This week we have a hypothetical scenario to get things started, in which a young family finds itself in need of a lot more space. Will they be swayed to buy new or used? Let’s read on…
Guy and Ashley write:
We’re a young family with a one-year old, and we just found out we have twins on the way! Obviously we’re going to have to keep our costs down, so price, reliability and efficiency are important, but we absolutely need a vehicle that can fit three carseats. Any ideas?
Steve Lang: Welcome to Minivan-land! There are some cars out there that could fit three car seats. But it also depends on the car seats. If your budget is under $5k and you absolutely refuse to buy a minivan, there are rear wheel drive Volvo wagons. Volvo was one of the very few to offer tethers for seats, and they were pretty much the only ones to offer a legitimate side impact protection system before those things were ever fashionable.
Unfortunately the last full-sized Volvo wagon that could hold three car seats was made over 10 years ago and the last ‘good’ one, the Volvo 940 Wagon, was last made in 1995. Most parents can’t bear to have their little ones so close to glass and metal, which is why minivans eventually replaced the wagon for those who didn’t need the macho image (and cost) of an SUV.
Sajeev Mehta: Volvo wagons are just too old and tired by now, it’s not a good family vehicle unless Daddy’s garage is well stocked with tools and service manuals. Late model Minivans are the best route, though transmission issues are the norm across the board. Unless you’re lucky enough to find one with really low miles or a glove box full of gearbox service receipts at regular intervals. No matter, minivans are the best for your needs, if you don’t mind the stigma and the silent judgments of your neighbors.
Steve Lang: Geez. The stigma and silent judgment of your neighbors? They’re buying a car. Not joining a swinger’s club. If they have to go on the car side, a Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable or the Ford Five Hundred/Montego would be a far better option. This model combines many of the best elements of Volvo’s safety and Ford’s family car focus. You can also throw in a Freestyle or Taurus X into the pot as well. But in terms of bang for the buck, I would still opt for a well kept minivan.
Sajeev Mehta: Then again, Mighty Mighty Marquis uber alles! Where else can you fit three car seats in a single row, get non-SUV mileage, stellar safety, bulletproof reliability, top-drawer ride and quiet tuning all for less than any other used car? I’d buy a 2003+ model with rack and pinion steering and safely carry the family anywhere.
Steve Lang: If your budget is under $6000 it may be worthwhile to look at a 2003 Kia Sedona or Oldsmobile Silhouette. The Silhouette I like in particular because it had the double whammy of being the last year model of a brand that is now no more. This means that you can get a minivan that retailed in the $30,000 range for a mere 20% of the price and still have 70% of it’s life. Owners apparently love them as well judging by all the online reviews, and they regularly go for $3000 to $4000 less than the Odyssey and Sienna. Neither of which were particularly reliable at this time in their history.