By on October 18, 2011

 

Could be worse!

Mike writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

This is not a pressing question (yet) but it is a frequent and ongoing conversation with my wife and several of our friends. We are expecting our first child in one month. One. Month. We are as ready as ready can be, but recognize that our wheels might be an issue before long.

My wife has a 2002 Camry 2.4L with about 140k miles. No real problems, although the valvetrain was rebuilt about 30k miles ago due to what Toyota emphatically claimed was not sludging. It is also going to need new struts soon… Austin streets are just brutal. It still gets about 32 MPG on the highway, which is our baseline requirement for fuel economy (the wife commutes about 60 miles round trip). It’s also paid for. Our rear-facing child seat fits in the back no problem, leaving legroom for both driver and front passenger (those things are unbelievably massive). Hypothetically, once we load up the dog, luggage, and all the baby accoutrement (and what if we have another?), it’s pretty cramped at best. Problem.

We have looked at numerous CUVs available and none meets our expectations for fuel economy or price (want to keep it in the $30k range, if possible). Honestly, crossovers seem like a a bit of a ripoff. I’d rather have a Fusion wagon than an Edge, but whatever. We briefly talked about a minivan, and aside from the basic aversion, it just doesn’t seem like a good solution for us, basically for the same reason as CUVs. We’re pretty sure what we want AND need is a new or certified used mid-sized station wagon. That seems like the ideal intersection of size, cost, versatility, fuel economy and style. Jetta TDI? TSX Sport Wagon? Audi A4? We liked the Volvo V50, and thought maybe we could get a deal on a used or even a leftover new one, but are worried about service and support now that Ford no longer owns the company. A dearth of wagons exists in this country, unfortunately. I’m flummoxed.

Then there’s my car. I drive a 2007 Fit. It’s paid for with about 25k left on the extended warranty. It’s also small. The child seat will only fit on the passenger side, forcing the front seat bolt upright and almost all the way forward. I thought it was maybe just the design of our child seat and I could get another, but asking my Fit forum, I discovered it’s an almost universal problem. That’s mostly OK as we never take my car for any road trips, but I do foresee some friction when as a family we ALWAYS have to take the wife’s car because we won’t fit in the Fit. And again, add a second kid into the mix, especially if the first is still in a rear-facing seat, and I have some real problems.

That was kind of a long introduction to the real issue (not that we couldn’t use some advice or industry insight into the wagon conundrum)… How do families do this? Realistically and responsibly, I mean. We’re both frugal people, although I’m a certified car nut and demand at least a little fun from my daily driver (I also have an ’82 Alfa GTV6 for my tinkering and hooning needs). We have a decent amount saved for a down payment, but we’d still have several years of payments on a $30k car. My wife wants to keep the Camry at least four or five more years, or until it dies – she believes all modern cars should last 15 years with regular maintenance, which really isn’t too crazy a notion. However, I’m pushing to get her a new car within the next 12 months, while the Camry is still worth something, and so that we’ll be able to pay it off before I have to trade up. I got the Fit used about two and a half years ago, Honda Certified with 50k miles on the clock, and although it hasn’t had a single mechanical problem it’s closing in on 80k miles, almost all of them in hard stop and go urban traffic. I don’t know if I can make it last another 8-10 years, which is her plan. I can see us in a bind, either having two car payments due each month, or worse yet needing two new cars at the same time.

I feel like this is one area that could potentially bite us and could use some factual insight to argue the point, if it’s valid.

I had another ancillary question, if it’s possible to include it? For the life of me I can’t figure out how interior volume is calculated. For example, my ’07 Fit has 111.4 cu ft total with 21.3 cu ft of cargo space with all seats in place, but a 2011 Mazda3 hatch has only 111.6 cu ft of total interior and 17 cu ft of cargo with all seats in place. I know the Fit is an amazingly well-designed package, but I’ve driven a Mazdaspeed3 and it seems to be a much larger and more spacious car, especially in the “boot”. Is it an optical illusion or just tricky math (like counting the “storage” under the rear seats) of the Fit?

Steve answers:

I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version: your wife is right, you’re wrong.

Keep the Camry. You have another four to five years to consider another vehicle. Given that you can’t pay cash for your next car and the Camry has the space you need 99+% of the time, your best bet is to not do anything.

We have a dog as well. What we usually do as a family of four is have the neighbors give her walks and attention whenever we’re out of town. Doing this is a lot cheaper than getting another five figured debt on your driveway.

Sajeev answers:

Steve is always right about the new car and debt thing. Which especially blows when you want a station wagon, but can’t get one for a decent price.  And while you complain (rightly so) that CUVs are pretty lame in the value department when you consider the fuel economy, have you considered the cost of ownership of any of those wagons compared to any mainstream CUV? I reckon the wear and tear, insurance, and the inevitable major electronic/powertrain item replacement on a fancypants wagon will totally eliminate the fuel “surcharge” of a CUV. Even on the Volvo.

So my advice is simple: when you want a new vehicle, get it.  Debt be damned, there’s a reason why we all need it, so have at another vehicle.  But it’s time to stop crying over spilled milk (which we do quite often) and get a CUV.  Yeah, they suck for many reason.  No, you don’t have a choice in the matter.  Find the one that is closest to your liking and pull the trigger.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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120 Comments on “New or Used: Whither Station Wagon?...”


  • avatar
    rem83

    If you could find a very low mileage Saturn LW200 wagon (’03 or ’04), I’d recommend it over keeping the current Camry. My ’03 is at ~130k, and I’ve managed over 34 mpg in a trip from Houston to Austin and back, with an average of about 27 mpg in mixed driving and about 22-23 city with a/c on. Mine has been extremely reliable, and when it has had failures (two in 25k miles: a/c compressor clutch and water pump), it’s been extremely easy to fix myself which probably translates to lower shop charges if you’re into that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      The problem I found with this wagon is that you cannot be over six feet tall and drive them comfortably. Also the first years were terribly unreliable.

      I have had five Saturns, and still own two. I won’t touch this one. Happy you have had no problems with yours! Except for those ones you already took care of.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “The problem I found with this wagon is that you cannot be over six feet tall and drive them comfortably.”

        Not everyone has that problem. I’m a good 8″ away from having that problem, and my wife is about the same height. I’ll be very surprised if our kid has that problem.

        The problem with CUVs is that I can’t reach the roof easily enough to make full use of the roofracks. That greatly reduces their utility for me. If I were about 6″ taller (about the height of a curb), they’d probably be right-sized for my purposes.

        (I’m looking to trade my old Ranger for a family vehicle, and CUVs are the new station wagon. But, alas, they’re designed around much taller people than I am. I just want an affordable little station wagon that can tow a 4’x8′ utility trailer, but the few that do exist cost quite a bit more more than the minivans and CUVs with similar features (LATCH) on the used market.)

  • avatar

    I’m gonna have to agree with parts of both Steve and Sajeev here, I just bought a brand new 2011 Camry, and paid cash, but I still wish I hadn’t bought a new one that lost most of its value when I left the lot. But I needed a reliable, daily driver, with good gas mileage for my 40 mile round trip to my shop every day, that was comfortable for my rotund frame. I wanted a new car, so I got it, of course though, tying up money in a new car that you would have to finance with a baby on the way murks that whole situation up though. I would hold off until I figured out how bad life would be with the car you currently have and the baby really are. It might not be as bad as you might imagine.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    You are not adding a child. You are doubling your space needs. A single infant fills most of the usable space within a vehicle smaller than a mid-sized sedan.

    Keep the Camry. You want no attention drawn to you at this stage of your family’s life and the Camry ensures that you will not drive like you have a pulse. A Camry is like a dead Labrador; safe, unlively, cute and every family seems destined to end up with one around them at some point of their lives. Keep the Camry, and the dead Lab.

    I want a wagon too. I want a 1966 Fairlane, a slightly smaller Flex, or a bigger xB. Like Grandpas. A wagon that announces to the world that I know how to pump out babies and take them to Little League games and chop down Christmas trees while drinking a Schlitz and smoking an Acid!

    Keep the Eurotrash wagons – I want wood applique!

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      Although I understood half of what you said in the last 2 paragraphs, X over 9000 on keeping the Camry.

      A mid sizer should suffice for one baby. I know it from my own experience, but definitely something bigger for more than 1.

      I’m in a similar situation ATM. I’ve been pondering sending these guys an email to see.

      Meanwhile, I’m tapping other knowledge “sources”.

  • avatar
    david42

    How about a used Mazda6 wagon? Or hatchback? It isn’t perfect (fuel economy is good, not great), but it should be pretty darn cheap. And the hatch can be found with a four-cylinder engine. (I think the wagon was V6 only.)

    Of course, it’s still more expensive than running the Camry into the ground…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    That is a bit of a conundrum indeed but it’s not insurmountable.

    I was going to say get a minivan and get over whatever aversions to it as it’s one of the most practical things out there, but the Dodge Caravan only gets up to 25mpg with the new Pentastar V6 though. Yes, there ARE other minivans but I suspect they don’t do all that much better unless you find something along the lines of the old Mitsubishi Expo/LRV or the old Nissan Sentra wagon but those don’t exist but they’d be a decent compromise I would suspect in the interior room Vs their size and mileage numbers.

    And while I’m not adverse as much to CUV’s as I am to SUV’s, neither float my boat but if you can get a CUV with 30+mpg highway, it’s probably the best of both worlds and you can leave the dog at home with a sitter.

    As for longevity, many, if not most cars today can last easily to 200K miles or more and remain fairly reliable while doing so as long as the maintenance is kept up. A lack thereof is it’s killer as even the most reliable Toyota or Honda will crap out MUCH sooner when you neglect even the most basic maintenance so on that point, your wife is correct.

    How much stuff do you really think you need to carry with you with your kids? I have a niece who has 2 kids, Jack is now nearly 4 I think and they just recently had a new baby several months ago and bring all and their dog (a springer spaniel) in a Saturn Vue hybrid just fine.

    Good luck with whatever you do.

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    You can also find some Saab 9-3 wagons around for low 20’s after $10 – $11K on the hood, new. Don’t know how a rear-facing baby seat fits though

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Or a Saab 9-5 wagon for a 1/3 of the 9-3 wagon price. Aero wagons for $6-8,000, or base model with sunroof, leather, and full power including rear heated seat(options standard on all 9-5’s) for $3-5,000. The 9-5 sedans are even less and are the Swiss army knife to work on with ample parts available for cheap.

      If you must have a wagon with mpg look no further than E320 cdi diesel if they are sold here. Should get you mpg requirements and be an upgrade in the looks department of the low lying Japanese fruit you drive now.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Minivan, dude. If fuel economy is really that big of a concern, look at a Mazda 5. Honestly though, with careful driving, you can probably wring out 30 mpg out of any of the major V-6 powered minivans (Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Dodge Caravan) without too much effort.

    Embrace the suck and in six months you will recognoze it as one of the smartest things you ever did. After you bend over and wrestle an 10 pound lump in and out of the rear seat of a car a few hundred times in the first month and it dawns on you that the 10 pound lump is only going to get heavier from that day forward and then one night on a diaper run at 2 AM you come back out to the Wal- Mart parking lot and find that some a-hole in a fullsize SUV is crowding the side that the baby rides on so you can’t open the door wide enough to get the baby in and your wife has a nervous breakdown and starts bawling her eyes out in public while screaming “I JUST WANT TO GET THE BABY IN THE @#$% CAR SO WE CAN GO HOME AND TRY TO GET SOME @#$% SLEEP AND NOW WE CAN’T BECAUSE SOME ^%$&ING JACKHOLE PARKED ON THE LINE INSTEAD OF INSIDE THE SPACE!”

    At that moment you will recognize that wide- opening sliding doors on both sides of a vehicle and having seats that are on roughly the same plane as your arms are when you’re holding a baby so you don’t throw your back out twice a week wrestling the kid in and out of a car seat are the single greatest inventions ever and if you haven’t traded the Camry for a minivan you will the next day and if you bought something else and are stuck with the payments, you will regret it.

    You’re a parent. You’re actually a real adult now. Embrace that and buy a vehicle meant for adults with children.

    • 0 avatar
      radimus

      ^^^ What he said. ^^^

      Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt.

      Only thing better is to be that full-size SUV driving a-hole and get a Suburban. Then you don’t need the sliding doors because no one will want to park close.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Couldn’t agree more. The minivan IS the new & improved station wagon. Although several of us love the old-school station wagons, I personally would buy a minivan if I needed the space, because now the sliding door windows roll down – don’t laugh, that’s important to to some besides me. That’s the single reason I never spent the money on the earlier ones when I could have used one. We made do with sedans and didn’t suffer, but we were young, too!

      What you say about the 10 lb. baby is true; it reminds me of the old soldier’s adage; “The M-1 Garand only weighs 9.5 lbs, but at the end of the day, it has suddenly become 95 lbs!“

    • 0 avatar
      retrogrouch

      What they said.

      The Mazda 5 is brilliant.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Ditto on the Van. The Mazda5 is a good choice as well: reasonably fun to drive, small-family friendly.

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      The minivan is the most useful tool a parent will ever own. It’s cavernous on the inside, absorbing all the stuff parents with small children have to travel with. And the fact that side doors slide open and the seats are at just the right height for putting a child in a car seat has saved many a back. I’m a grandparent who’s the nanny for our two granddaughters, one of whom is 4 years old and weighs 60 pounds (she’s very muscular). I would not want to get her in and out of a car seat in a low slung car. We also travel with two dogs, one of which is a big husky. Everybody fits.

      Keep the Camry for commuting. You can buy a used minivan cheap and they are reliable and cheap to maintain. I get a real world 24 mpg in mixed driving, 18 on city streets, and 27 on the highway. That’s a 2000 Grand Caravan with 3.3 and 180,000 miles on it. I figure it’s good for another 100,000 easy.

      By the way, you will use the child car seats religiously, right? No exceptions. And be sure you’re always buckled up.

      • 0 avatar
        radimus

        Don’t commute in the Camry. It will leach out your soul. If you’re going to replace anything sell the Camry and commute in the Fit. Being a hatch the Fit is more practical anyway.

        And Mazda 5’s are nice if you actually fit into one.

      • 0 avatar
        Elorac

        +1 on commuting in the Camry. Leach out your soul? Personally if I’m going to sit on the freeway, I’d rather do it in smooth, quiet comfort. A Camry can drive in a straight line just as well as a Fit, and your brains/eardrums will still be intact once you get to work.

    • 0 avatar
      Dukeboy01

      I forgot to mention the inevitable accidental whacking of the baby’s noggin on the door frame, C-pillar, or roof that more than likely will happen at least once while you or your wife is trying to hold a diaper bag/ purse/ bottle/ favorite stuffed rabbit with one hand while you/ she tries to manuever the kid into the backseat of a sedan with the other. This is more likely to happen as the kid gets older and starts to flop himself around spastically whenever he senses that your hold on him is not as secure as you wish that it was. The little devil sees an opportunity to make a break for it and the next thing you know you hear a surprisingly loud “thump” followed by lots of crying and screaming. It usually doesn’t hurt them too much in the long run, but it’s probably not good for them. Sliding doors that open up into the cavernous interior of a minivan cut down on that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Minivan all the way. Unless you are going off road or doing heavy towing, you really can’t beat a minivan. The sliding rear doors, flat floor and huge cargo capacity more than make up for any perceived lack of status.

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      Dude. No. Just don’t. You will never forgive yourself. You won’t be able to do so because your soul will have been sucked out of the sliding side doors.

      Nothing says, “I have given up on all that is passionate, fruitful, and goodness.” than driving a Minivan. Man-Vans don’t count either, unless it’s a late 70’s full-size with airbrushed art on the side.

      There are always alternatives to minivans.

      Like hacking off your right leg.

      Like leaving a kid behind with a neighbor.

      Like licking the harmonic balancer with the engine running.

      Just turn in your testicles now. Save us the bother, because you will never see them again if you commit to minivan.

      Just this morning, at the kennel where we keep our two kids during the day, I watched a mother walk to the wrong beige (yes, really) Toyota (yes, really) Sienna, and wail on the remote for 15 seconds trying to open the door…. and it was the wrong beige Toyota Minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Just this morning, at the kennel where we keep our two kids during the day…”

        Ha ha ha! That’s the funniest line I’ve read all week! Something oddly sick about it, but too much truth to dispute it.

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      This. Get a minivan and she can commute in the Fit. Mileage problem solved.

      We have a 5-month old and a (single remaining) large dog; my wife’s CX-9 works really well for us, but a minivan would probably work even better most of the time. We are considering trading down to a Mazda 5 now that we no longer have multiple 80-pound dogs.

      Or just keep the Camry and Fit. There is a lot to be said for not having a car payment, and that money will go a long way toward utility-improving accessories like a roof box. The Fit will still work if at some point you need to transport the baby and dog at the same time in an emergency.

      <– says the guy with the baby seat in the back of his RX-8.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Been there but I backed my CR-V out of the crowded slot and we loaded up and left. We got through two babies with a 1st gen CR-V which probably doesn’t have much more interior space than a sedan. Now we are driving a “tween-aged” child and both children still fit just fine in the same backseat.

      Just depends on what your priorities are. For us it is remaining car payment free for another few years. We’re aiming for the Jetta Sportywagen TDI next still. The CR-V has 224K trouble-free miles on it now. This is the same CR-V we drove to the hospital in for the birth of both of our children.

      So what do parents in Europe do with these mid-sized wagons and babies? Do they buy minivans and SUVs?

      Could it be that babyseats are bulkier here than they are in Europe so they look substantial in those big SUV backseats? Also so they look safer to parents with big vehicles who bought those big vehicles b/c they felt safer in them?

      A quick look at Amazon UK shows a whole different lineup of brands than I’ve seen here. I’d bounce around Amazon Italy where they have many small cars like the Honda Fit with the Opera web browser or Gogole Chrome with the translator turned on to see if there are Euro brands better suited for small car seats that you can buy here or have shipped here from the UK. I’ve purchased car parts from the UK eBay website and shipping wasn’t as bad as one might expect.

      You might find something that works better for you so that you can keep the existing cars. It’s only really awkward while the baby is in a rear facing seat. Once that period passes, it gets alot easier.

      Have you looked to see if Honda offers a babyseat specifically for the Fit? It’s common in Europe to buy things like this directly from the car’s manufacturer that fit better.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Oh and for what it is worth – nearly all our trips for the past 13 years to Grandma’s house (less than 200 miles each way) have been four people plus one dog.

        When the kids are little their little overnight bags fit very well in the rear floorboard.

        When they get a bit bigger and they sit facing forward with their little legs hanging off of the front of the car seat, you’ll want to stack the bags up a bit higher for a footrest so their legs don’t go to sleep. Done that too.

        Now we only have the one side to put their overnight bag into b/c of the ‘tween-child but then their overnight gear has shrunk drastically now too b/c they only need a game gadget and clothes. Our bag goes in the way-back with the dog with a towel over it to control any dog slobber and fur.

        The only REAL challenge has been Christmas or family project weekends at the relatives’ house when I have to bring tools or saws.

        Holidays mean several prepared dishes and gifts and clothes for several days. We’ve been creative with containers sitting on the rear seat between the kids and on the rear floor in the middle. Dog still in the way-back with the bags.

        On those occasions when we have gifts, bags and food or tools we pull our little Brenderup 1205S with the top which means we don’t travel with an eye to the sky like we did with our old basic utility trailer.

        Wasn’t that much more $$$ than a rooftop RocketBox but much more versatile and still light enough for a Fit to tow it.

        There are ways to cope with a small car and kids. We were motivated to not drive a big “something” 365 days a year when we only needed the bigness a few times per year.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        European child seats are big too, rear facing seats are not made on the same planet as modern station wagons. (I could not find one stationwagon on the market today that could fit my older rear facing seat comfortably) With two rear facing seats and a daughter that’s 5’7″ I bought a CR-V too. (2003, euro spec 2.0 engine) Before that I used to buy pre-airbag cars so I could put the bigger seat in the front passenger seat. Since there are no full-size wagons on the market, a CUV or minivan is the most economic alternative, but with only one child he can still keep the Camry for a while.
        Although I really appreciate the space and utility of the CR-V (not to mention it probably will go on forever), it’s not very light on gas, and the road-noise can be a bit on the loud side for someone who ,unlike me, isn’t used to European cars from the 80’s…
        One bonus in the CR-V is that the rear seat back (split 60/40) can be lowered so the kids can stretch their feet too :)

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        Ha! I just recently did the station wagon vs rear-facing carseat thing too. In my case, the car seat is new and we ended up buying a car for it not too long ago. Goodbye to manual hatches, hello to practicality.

        I think the car manufacturers should sell child seats made to fit in whatever cars they want families to buy. I bet given the scale and type of materials they buy, and the people and machines that make cars, AND what we paid for the child seat there would be money to be made by selling me a seat that is fitted to the car. The car company would just need to do some engineering with a few parts that are already found in the car’s seats, doors, and bumpers – and it would look nicer and use space more efficiently too.

        This is also much much more safe for the kids–i’ve seen some damn idiotic child seat installations.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Our 1st gen CR-V has gotten a consistent ~25 mpg for 220K+ miles. The new ones are supposed to get nearly 30 mpg. For the USA this is pretty good MPG for a CUV. None of the minivans I’ve driven can come close – those all reported low 20s.

        I’d love to have the diesel and a six speed manual! It IS noisy though like you noted compared to so many other vehicles. The 2009 that I drove seemed to be much quieter though. Most of our V’s noise comes from road noise. I think I’m going to experiment with soundproofing soon on my old ’78 VW Westfalia and this CR-V. See what I can accomplish.

        Thanks for the insight Zykotec!

  • avatar
    slance66

    Interesting decision. Here is a question. Are you planning on baby #2? If not, the rear facing seat is replaced by a front facing one pretty quickly, which consumes less space. If yes, then keep the Camry and dump the Fit. It’s got remaining warranty and good value, but doesn’t fit your needs. See if you can find an Escape Hybrid or Fusion Hybrid used. A 4-pot Fusion or Accord could do the trick as well. A 4-cyl TSX Wagon would be an ideal car….when that Camry dies in a few years. Right now they are too new, not yet depreciated enough. Maybe a 4-cyl Venza could word at that point.

    Used car prices are astronomically high. I was shocked the other day to find that my wife’s 07 RX350, with 60k, sells for exactly what we paid for it over 2.5 years ago, with 28k miles and factory warranty. I knew they held value, but that’s absurd. So ask the experts here how long they think this trend will last.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yeah my 224K Honda CR-V is supposedly worth $4500… I wouldn’t buy something that old for that much money. $2K yeah, $4500? No. Yes it does have a lot of life left in it but I know it’s been treated very well. How does the next owner know that for certain?

  • avatar

    I’m ignorant of precisely when you can go from a rearward facing child safety seat to a foreward facing seat (6? 9? 12 months?), but unless this guy is out whoring all over town or knocking up his mistress I can’t see any believable possibility for having another kid so fast that he’d be using 2 rearward facing child safety seats at the same time. Unless it was twins, and at 8 months, I’m hoping they’d know by now if it were twins or not.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Babies happen when you do it really, really well.

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      Government nannies say 12 months, though they are trying to make it 24 months in MD. We had to turn the seat around @ 9 months for kidlet#1 because her legs & feet were on the back glass…

      …of a SAAB.

      Yes, I’m tall, and my wife’s legs are longer than mine.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      we are keeping ours rear-facing until she weighs the limit for the “convertible” seat to be rear-facing. I think that limit 35 or 40lbs (its printed somewhere on it).

      A scenario that would be more likely is one rear-facing seat and one infant container.

  • avatar
    radimus

    Alright, let’s get this business out of the way:

    Mike, the answer to all your questions is a Ford Panther.

    You’re welcome.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Daukeboy01 is right. Embrace parenthood. If you get another car, get a minivan; they’re great family vehicles. Remember, you’ve got the Alfa for times when you pretend you’re 20 and single.

    And stop obsessing over gas mileage. Over 300 miles (your wife’s weekly commuting) the difference between 30 mpg and 25 mpg is two gallons of gas.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      and that difference will easily be erased quickly by driving habits, cargo weight, shitty tires, lack of maintenance, and purchase price. (yes, i got the V6 and I’m very glad I did)

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Scion xB. Yes, I far prefer the 1st gen, but for family needs, I think the xB2 will suit you better.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’m definitely with Steve on this one, although I’ll add a twist. Think of it like this: a $30K vehicle financed over 5 years will cost you $500/month. Do as Steve suggests, and don’t buy anything now, but do open a new car investment account, and put $500/month into it.

    When you make repairs to your current rides, use the new car account to pay for them, but otherwise try to save $5K/year. Then, once you have saved up all you need for the car of your dreams, buy it. By then, who knows, there may be more wagons on the market; you may even have a third child on the way, which puts you in the minivan category.

    If you have room, I would then keep both of your old beaters — it’s a real pleasure having a third car, especially when the current 2 will be in the shop a few times a year.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      +1 to SherbornSean’s advice. Put your new car payment in the bank for at least a year.

      If you have to buy a new car, look at the Toyota Prius or even the New Prius-V. For what you save on fuel, you could afford somewhat higher payments. For what you get on resale value, you could probably add a year to payments. The Prius could replace the Fit, then you’d have two cars that could hold the car seat. If you need a minivan down the road, you could replace the Toyota with it, or keep the Toyota and have a spare car.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I bought a 2011 Acura TSX wagon and love it. It’s not a drag racer but the handling, ride, and amenities are excellent.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Rear-facing is suggested until 2 years, or 30 lbs.

    With that said, keep the Camry and sell the Fit. You’ll probably get some good cash for it.

    We have an 07 Outback, 1 rear-facing carseat and 1 forward-facing booster. The rear-facing carseat does require the front passenger seat moved up a bit. At 6 ft, I have room but not much. Most of the wagons you suggested will be similiar, or slightly tighter. You want to pay attention to rear seat legroom…or distance from the rear seat to back of front seat. This is key for rear-facing carseats, as their angle takes up so much space. At least you can cram the footwell with the diaper bag.

    The best wagon for your needs is a 10+ Outback. You may not need AWD, but it’ll give you the room and the fuel economy. The 2.5 with CVT is actually pretty good, I still prefer our manual wagon though. The early models had some issues, but they have all been worked out by now.

    A great website for car seat fitting and reviews is motherproof.com. Yes, I have checked it out. I checked out car-seat.org and they’re a bunch of nutjobs.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I fail to see the need for a new car here. Junior #2 is theoretical at this point, and a 2002 Camry is a pretty big sedan for a kid and a dog.

    Regarding wagons, there is only one truly midsize wagon in this market that I can think of (TSX), and it is going to be expensive. The V50 and Jetta Sportwagen are probably too small for two car seats, the XC70 drinks a lot of fuel, and Subaru only makes crossovers in this size. And I don’t know what the hell to call the Toyota Venza; it has 20″ wheels. Why?!

    Honestly, you probably would be better served by a CUV. You can get 4-cylinder versions that get nearly 30mpg highway for about $24K. They handle well, will easily fit two car seats, and provide 30 cubic feet of cargo space for dog + gear. Gotta face it, they are the new wagons.

    If I had to make a move, I would trade the Fit in for a 4-cyl RAV4 and just accept the 9 mpg loss. Or splurge on the rocketship V6 get 26 mpg while coming in well under $30K. But wait it out, man. You have what you need for now, and you’ll get about 8 months warning before the next kid comes.

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      Depends on how big the dog is. A beagle, sure. But anything bigger is probably out of the question. Our greyhound ain’t fitting in the rear seat of a sedan along with a baby seat; no way, no how.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Maybe I’m not enough of an animal person, but I couldn’t let a dog dictate my vehicle purchase. Puppers would be staying at a good boarding facility before I upsized a vehicle just so it could go on road trips. Anyhow, I’ve dogsat an 85lb german shepherd mix that curled up just fine on 1/2 of the backseat of a midsize sedan when we drove her around. That should cover most dogs! Greyhounds are an outlier on a number of levels, though…

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Keep the Camry. How long is your kid going to be in the rear facing seat anyways? If you’re not adding more kids, your problem will self-correct in less of a time than it takes to pay off a new car.

    Granted, I don’t have a dog but our 2-child family was able to get around just fine in a Mitsubishi Lancer wagon or an old Volvo sedan. If you really want to get another car, swap the Camry for a minivan. It is better than a wagon if you really need pure transportation capability and ease of use. The flat floor is great because you can walk through the vehicle and load up your kid from the “wrong” side. This way your fleet will give you 1) Fuel efficient vehicle, 2) People and cargo mover and 3) fun car. Every vehicle fills a different role.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Unfortunately I don’t think the cars you list as your supposed ideal of “size, cost, versatility, fuel economy and style” really match what you’re looking for: they’re great on style, not so much on size or cost. After 6 months juggling medical bills with car payments and squeezing a car seat into the narrow opening to the now-scratched leather seats hidden by your A4’s taut, athletic exterior, you’ll regret the Audi (or VW or TSX) like it was a bad affair.

    If you decide that you need more space than you have currently, then trade in the Camry (honestly, trading in the Fit is the more responsible choice, but keeping what you have now is the most prudent choice, so we’re going with your desires here, not strictly your needs), add another $8k and look at a CPO Mazda5 as DukeBoy01 advised. It’s a lot less money down the drain than a $30k Eurowagon, so not completely irresponsible, and it’ll do something that none of those fancy wagons can do: actually make your life less complicated.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Good point about the scratched leather seats. We have cloth in the CR-V but we have had our “moments” where baby lost his breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Oddly it has never been the dog who got car sick…

      Invest in a seat cover. I see them in catalogs all the time – they are made out of canvas or denim or ??? and they will enable you to strip the cover off when baby has a “moment” with an upset stomach or a “sippy cup gone wrong”. You can pull over, take off the cover, stuff it into a grocery bag and put in in the trunk or wayback until you get to your destination (home?) and wash it. Will also save against the pooch’s odors and fur.

      We haven’t done this but several recent trips hauling filthy Boy Scouts has encouraged me to order one for the back seat and front seats too.

      We also keep a few “car towels” (clean but old or stained) along on these trips to lay on the seats, clean up after a sick child, or to cover the floor so muddy hiking boots can be stored there.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Funny…when I was 7 and my sister was 14, we did just fine with our (then new) 1981 Corolla. It’s always a little humorous to read where people feel they “need” large cars to tote around one child. Man, how times have changed. With a new kid (and all of the expense that comes with it), I’d keep the Camry for as long as possible to maximize dollars available for said young-en!

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      Somehow the rest of the planet does just fine with kids being raised in small cars, yet today’s North American parents seem to have this need to drop everything and buy the biggest boat they can afford as soon as there’s a sign of a baby, all because of this vision of them going on a roadtrip every weekend packed with half the house and half the zoo.

      The Camry was designed to hold 5 people, so I’m pretty sure 3 will do. Funny how people drive with 3/4s of the space empty most of the time, but as soon as they need to fill it up with anywhere close to the capacity, it’s deemed tiny.

      People suggesting a minivan for one kid? Talk about overkill. 95% of the time, that Camry is more than enough for a baby and some gear. For the other 5%, just tough it out. Maybe when you’re on baby #3, it’s time to make the switch to the van.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      We have some of the most stringent regulations when it comes to belting in the young ones now. Car seats are way too big, except for a few very expensive models, and take up alot of empty space. I’m vehemently opposed to anything bigger than our Outback, and therefore I have to suck it up when I’m in the passenger seat. 2 kiddos in car seats, and there is very little room left in the backseat for a 5th person. Same with our TL.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        I guess that makes it a choice between more compact, “expensive” car seat, or a new bigger vehicle.

        Don’t forget that “only” fifteen bucks a week more for gas is like $60 more for a car payment, except that the gas bill varies with the oil companies’ desire for higher profits.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      LOL – in 1984 we managed to fit ourselves, the first-born child (who was in a child-seat) and two german shepherds dogs into a 1979 Ford Fiesta for two hour trips out to my grandparent-in-laws’ cabin for weeklong stays, including all the neccessities required by a new-born.

      Even now, my sister-in-law and her husband are managing just fine with my year old nephew and their german shepherd dog in a Ford Focus sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      When I was a kid, my mom, my two sisters and I took a bus everywhere from our studio apartment. I don’t get these people nowadays that need “separate bedrooms” and “cars”.

  • avatar
    srogers

    Keep the Camry. If it’s tight with family, dog and luggage, buy a roof box for those occasions when to need to bring it all.

    Keep the Fit too. Cheap to run, fun to drive and relatively spacious. You’ll be hating every mile if you swap this for some minivan.

    I’ve made it through 2 children in a Focus 2-door hatch. You’ve got more space in your Fit.

  • avatar
    tbhride

    I say keep the Camry, get rid of the Fit and replace it with a 06-08 Subaru Forester. Can be had with a stick and despite the EPA numbers I easily get 30mpg highway with the cruise control on. This way you avoid any grief with your wife (because you have the option of taking your car on roadtrips, not just hers) and you have something that you can have fun and hoon in as well. Its really like a tall Impreza with a big boot (some consider it a wagon)!

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      We have a 2000 5-speed Forester that averages 27 mpg overall and will get 33 on the highway. This replaced a 2000 Plymouth minivan which got totalled when I hit a deer at 70 mph. It had the 2.4 engine and also got 27 mpg overall and up to 33 on the highway. But in a space comparison of the Forester with the minivan, it’s not close. The Subaru is a tight fit. It’s my wife’s car for winter commuting, which is a problem in Minnesota but is not one for Austin, TX. I see the Forester as a specialty vehicle and the minivan as an all around parents’ work horse.

      • 0 avatar
        tbhride

        True a minivan will have much more space. I used to drive a Chevy Astro myself! Like some others have said, a minivan is nice but people can get by with much less space if they choose to (which it sounds like OP/Mike wants to do), especially with a roof box. To each their own ~ I can absolutely see both sides on this one.

        I went with Forester because I was advocating selling the Fit. It should give them enough space (get some bars for the Camry and a roof box will work on either vehicle) while still retaining some “fun-to-drive” factor that I’m sure Mike appreciates about the Fit. Out of all the “affordable” small SUV’s out there, the previous gen Foresters really are the best when it comes to handling and balance imo. I like the suggestions of Outback and Mazda5 as well.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      What’s this about the wife not wanting to take her car on a trip? I don’t understand. Besides at our house the trip car gets a detail job before and after. I really hate to travel in a dirty interior and the outside needs at least a quick wash to be presentable.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    Keep the Camry. That’s getting towards the last years when they were the best of the best for quality. At 140k, its probably conservatively halfway through its life. At 60 miles per day, including weekend trips and whatnot, it’ll be good for 7 or 8 more years.

    Sell the Fit. Demand is high, resale is good, and it doesn’t serve your needs anymore. You have the Alfa for a small, light, fun, tossable car.

    Buy a minivan. There, I said it. I have driven two as a field engineer and they were the best utility vehicle (besides a 3/4 ton pickup or a Suburban) I’ve ever owned. And I drove what were considered pretty crappy minivans- an Astro and a Venture. Obsessing over 2 or 3 mpgs won’t matter a hill of beans in the long run. Buy some low rolling resistance tires when the ones on it wear out, keep them pumped up to max psi, drive like your grandmother, and keep it well maintained. Don’t buy an Odyssey, though. They seem to have transmisison issues. Honestly, I’d probably pick up a 2-3 year old Korean minivan. The ones I’ve driven were quite decent, and the depreciation means a pretty good deal on one that age.

    Don’t have more than 2 kids, either. And leave the dog at home.

  • avatar

    If you have a good drive to visit family don’t get a wagon, it will have nearly the same issues as the Camry. There really isn’t that much more usable storage space in the back of a wagon. With a baby and dog in the back seat you are not going to pile the back full of stuff so that you can’t safely see out the back or stuff will fly on the baby or dog. If you are truly worried about space your only real options are CUV/SUV/Minivan. About the only Wagon that would be an improvement and have adequate space is a Ford Flex. If you absolutely want a wagon that is your only option.

    The biggest issue will be STORAGE SPACE for road trips. Trust me, our family is a 6 hour drive away. Babies take tons of stuff. You have the Car seat, diapers (possibly a small box if you are staying an extended weekend), wipes, formula, basically their own suitcase full of extra clothes, blankets, bibs, etc…, pack and play, swings/toys, you get the idea and that’s before you even put your stuff back there. And that’s before you even have #2.

    You can switch to a forward facing car seat at about 1 year old (~30 lbs) but even those take up a lot of room and once the kids get a little taller they take up more room because now they need extra leg room.

    We had a 2001 Taurus and a 1998 Rodeo, both paid off. I had planned to dump the Taurus as we started having tranny trouble and get a small cheap wagon to drive to work and for trips. After taking the Rodeo to visit family not long after the baby was born and seeing how much space the babies stuff took up I knew that the Mazda 3 I coveted would never work out. Back in 08 when we had our first kid gas was high and SUV’s were low. My wife swore she would never speak to me again if I made her drive a minivan. We test drove just about everything SUV/CUV and got a Nissan Pathfinder. Sliding doors were nice to get the kid in and out of, but the tall skinny doors on SUV’s aren’t that bad either. Plus the fact they sit higher means you don’t have to stoop over the put the seat in. You are actually lifing up which is nice. The other good thing about it was FOLD FLAT THIRD ROW SEATS! THIS IS A MUST. There have been many times visiting our parents where we can get our family (Me, wife, and now two kids) and both parents in one car to go places. It’s nice not having to take two cars. Plus they fold flat for a big cargo area. There have been times coming home from Christmas where we have the car loaded full AND the roof rack is packed full as well. THIS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DRIVE TO VISIT FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS! Granparents have a weakness for purchasing toys for their grandkids. Whether you tell them to or not, you will have a house full of toys.

    I know you don’t want an SUV/CUV for gas reasons, but when it came down to it we bit the bullet and went for it because SUV prices were so low when we were buying. If you look at the cost savings between 28mpg and 22mpg depending on your driving habbits you may find out the cost saving isn’t significant enough to offset the extra space. Not to mention if you work on your own cars, it is usually much easier to work in the engine bay of a RWD SUV than under the hood of any FWD car or wagon. I don’t know how realistic it is to be able to find any wagon or minivan capable of 30mpg in real world driving. We get on average 20 to 22mpg in our pathfinder with mixed driving but on the highway we can average 24. We drive a LOT, we put about 40,000 miles a year between our two cars, and I don’t regret the decision at all.

    Also, don’t underestimate a rear entertainment system. My wife swore she didn’t want to be the parent whose kid needed to watch cartoons to drive to the store so she refused to get one with a rear DVD player. A year later we have a portable one that attaches to headrests for long trips. So consider this a recommendation.

    Can you make due with your Camry, YES. Will your wife want to take tons of baby clothes and accessories because you never know what they might need to wear. YES, but she may not be able to if space is limited. It may be a blessing in disguise to keep the Camry and it’s self imposing limitations on what you can take with you to keep packing more reasonable. It also can’t be overstated how nice it is to NOT have a car payment.

    Our kids are currently 1 and 3. You will also get very familiar with kids shows, Yo Gabba Gabba, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Team Umizoomi, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Blues Clues, and hundreds of other ones people will buy DVD’s of as gifts. Congratulations, kids are great.

  • avatar
    jonny b

    My second daughter was just born. With the first one we made do with an E36 328i. Not as crazy as it sounds. Now that we have two (both in car seats) we bought the car that fills your needs 100%: The Hyundai Elantra Touring. It’s sold as a compact hatch but it’s practically a small station wagon. Plenty of room for rear facing car seats. Well reviewed here at TTAC (a big reason why I bought one). Cheap. Great mileage. Fun to drive in the city, although a tiny bit slow on the freeway. Great warranty. It’s the only car we own and we couldn’t be happier. You don’t need a CUV or a van. Live small.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Get rid of the dog.

    Kidding! But seriously, does the dog have to go everywhere with you? Couldn’t you get a kennel in the back yard and some sort of feeder w/ a timer? Another reason I prefer cats, I suppose. “Oh, we’re going out of town for the weekend? Make sure the litter pan is clean and put out some extra food.”

    Keep the Camry, get a roof rack and cargo box (or hitch and hitch mounted cargo box) for trips. Keep the Fit until the hypothetical 2nd kid is a reality.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    I truly have been down this road — 12 years ago when my first son was born. Tried driving five hours in a ’98 Honda Civic and nearly thought about leaving something on the side of the road (by the end, probably my son).

    In any event, our answer was to get a 2000 VW Passat with a 5 speed manual. It was my “no compromises” car — extra space in the “boot” and plenty of room for a car seat. We even got a cargo box for the rack. Worked great for 6 years. Then, after kid #2, it became clear on another 10 hour road trip that even the wagon didn’t have enough room. Answer: a 2006 Mazada MPV minivan. Even today, I don’t love driving it — it was the best driving, most modest sized thing that we could find and still fit in our garage that had more space than the Passat wagon. In the end, I have NEVER regretted getting a minivan. My wife drives it mostly, she loves the height, and we NEVER have space issues when road tripping or hauling out of town guests or all of your kids’ friends who need to be picked up or dropped off.

    I agree with the others — face facts: you are entering parenthood. Your vehicles need to match your life.

    I would keep the Camry, since it has the capacity to handle some of the load for now, and sell the Fit. Take the money and buy something fun enough to drive, but not so much that you will hate yourself every time you get behind the wheel. The Mazda 5 is good. I would also vote for a lightly used Outback or a Volvo V70/XC 70 wagon. Alternatively, get a 4 cylinder RAV4 or CRV — neither of which will set the world on fire, but both of which will run forever. (New or used — you may get good financing deals if new, depending on incentives) Whatever you do, finance as low as you can get and accept that this is the state of affairs for now. And have fun with the Alfa — you’re still entitled even if you are a dad.

  • avatar
    play3rtwo

    I remember growing up my dad had a 1985 Crown victoria that he used to lug me around in, and a 1988 one to lug my brother and myself (and mom of course) we always had plenty of room and even though gas was 18mpg, insurance was a ton better than any wagon on the road.
    Not going to scream “panther love” but it truly is a very versatile vehicle.

  • avatar
    Stevo

    I’ve been there, done that. Sold my (older) full size Audi wagon when kid 2 came along. Sliding doors are worth much, much more than all wheel drive 99.9% of the time. Keep what you have until the wife is pregnant again, then sell the Fit and buy a full size minivan. Kids have friends, grandparents visit, and that Mazda 6 people always seem to recommend will suddenly be too small. With 3 kids and a carpool to school or excursions to the zoo we regularly wish we had a newer van that could seat 8 in a pinch. Embrace the minivan.

  • avatar
    67dodgeman

    You ask “how do families do this?”. It’s tough, financially, emotionally, physically. As for vehicles, I went from having a monster truck, a hot rod muscle car, and a slick Harley to driving a 10 year old Cavalier in one short 6 month period. Sucks, but there it is. You grow up. If you didn’t want this, you shouldn’t have gotten married.

    Keep your existing vehicles as long as possible, even if they are sub-optimal for your needs. Sub-optimal is cheaper than new. Fix rather than replace. Rent for road trips if needed, but avoid a car note like the plague.

    When you buy, buy nothing but used. At this stage in family life, you’re easily two decades away from buying a brand new vehicle. Prioritize the family over vehicles. Search for extended family hand-me-downs where possible. Grandma’s old sedan is just the ticket.

    Finally, flip a coin and decide who drives the “family” vehicle. 90% of the time it’ll be the wife, but sometimes circumstances are diffent. The family vehicle will always be the newer, better maintained one by default, since it’s the one the whole family rides in. You (as a Dad) will drive the old, hand-me-down, baling wire and duct tape beater of whatever style is available or affordable. When you get to work, you can nod knowingly at the other half-dozen dads who are driving worn out, trashed out minivans well past their due date. Maybe you can form a club.

    Don’t worry, the years will go by fast. You’ll barely realize how quickly the kids go from crawling to walking to driving. And sometimes you’ll look back at the old beaters and realize that they gave some pretty dependable service. That Cavalier of mine took a lot of hard miles without much complaint. Can’t ask for much more.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      This is why I visit this site. Genuine interest in cars tempered by common sense.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      And when you get your fill of the old-whatever you drive, have it detailed by somebody. It’ll look/smell much better and I still swear clean cars drive better… The twenty years measure? There is some truth there. 12 years out from our first arrival my budget and time are finally recovering enough that I can feel okay about tinkering out in the garage with my old aircooled VWs again. Nothing special. Just fix what is broken and paint what is rusty… ;)

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ………never look a gift horse, etc…………count yourself lucky, your wife loves the Camry, and none of the other candidates offer any significant advantage. As for your car……if you’re having a fun experience in that Fit, you’re going to have no trouble finding another lightly used unit that will make you grin ear to ear. Enjoy it while you can, you may never be in such a perfect predicament again.

  • avatar
    bud777

    When someone is worried about a big upcoming evet that is outside their control, a basic response is to make an equally big decision that they CAN control. That way you retain the illusion of power. Everyone does this. There is a lot of uncertainty about having a child. Will the delivery go ok? will the child be healthy? Will you be a good parent? Buying a car can help you feel like you have control again.

    The cars you have will serve fine for a while. I would wait until after the birth, keep your money or credit in reserve until you see what life is going to throw at you, and then make the decision after about 4 months.

    We bought old beater wagons the whole time our children were growing up. We put 200,000 miles on a Chevy Celebrity that we got for $5500. The money we saved paid for a 5 week safari in Africa when the children were 10 and 13.

    It’s an emotional time, welcome to the roller coaster. Enjoy the ride

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      (DAYCARE! $4500 per year for the next ten years minimum! -two children- Then after school care at a reduced rate for several more years until the oldest can be trusted to watch the youngest after school without them hurting each other…)

      Try to make what you’ve got work for you. Those cars will last 200K miles if they’ve been well cared for and maintained with quality parts.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Oh my god I want to stay single forever now. Thanks guys.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      Nonsense.

      Do you have any idea how much easier it is to change those last two hard-to-reach spark plugs on a 1980 911SC when you have the small hands of a trained and keen child at your command?

      Here’s a tip: For the price of one fancy SUV or Eurowagon, you can buy a basic minivan AND an old GT of your choice for you and the brood to wrench on. Parenthood is what you make it.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Where does one meet a woman that thinks a modern car should last for 15 years? Every female I know thinks that if she’s been driving the same vehicle for 3 years it’s old.

    Second, why do people think that kids take so much space? They only do if you let them. Example #1 – my neighbors have 2 kids (1 rear facing seat, other booster seat) and they do fine in a 2001 Accord. (The dog stays home.) Even for long road trips everything fits in the trunk. Example #2 – my brother just had his first and they manage just fine with their Murano, which is much smaller than a Camry. I can name examples of other parents I know that take everything with them, including the kitchen sink, but it’s not necessary.

    I will agree that the FIT isn’t a good vehicle with kids for the reason you already stated. Upgrade that first. A Civic Hybrid or Prius would do the trick. A Fusion hybrid if you actually enjoy driving. All big enough for kids seats. Minivans are awesome utility vehicles, but still waiting on a hybrid version that doesn’t suck on the MPG’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Where does one meet a woman that thinks a modern car should last for 15 years? Every female I know thinks that if she’s been driving the same vehicle for 3 years it’s old.

      You just described my ex-wife, which is one of the reasons she’s now my ex-wife.

      My fiance on the other hand thinks that if she likes the car (which she loves her current 2005 Vibe) the only reason to get rid of it is for a compelling one; acident that’s a total loss, more room if you have a couple of kids, super-major mechanical repair that would be worth more than the vehicle… ect. Of course she grew up in very humble economic circumstances so maybe that has something to do with it.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        When we bought our 2002 CR-V and 2004 Impala, we both declared that these would be “10-year-cars”. Looks like it may be significantly longer than that. Not sure of the Impala, though, 500 miles a week minimum. Time will tell. At least the MX5 substitutes on occasion.

        No car payments? Priceless!

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      Fifteen years? I don’t know, but my wife is good for 10 years on a new car. It helps that she’s an accountant. The bad part is that I have a hard time justifying turning over cars as fast as I’d like, which is 6-7 years.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Keep the Camry for now, and check out some of the new compact people movers coming down the pike once they reach our shores. You have some time before you need to move up to a larger vehicle.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Explorer Sport Trac with a camper shell especially if you’re serious about bringing the dog along. You can leave him back there when you stop at a restaurant and leave the windows partly open without fear of someone opening your stationwagon and taking your laptop plus it’s easier to clean up or hose out the back. Kids are bad enough but dogs can lower a car’s value even quicker. My dogs like to chew through seatbelts.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Mike.

    If you’re thinking of having a second child, the only thing that matters to you car-wise is the distance between the back of the rear seat and the back of the front seat.

    PERIOD.

    You need to be able to fit one (or TWO) baby seats backwards … without moving the front seats full forward.

    The rest of the variables (station wagon vs. CUV vs. minivan vs. used stretch limo) mean nothing to you any longer. Just find a vehicle that has that critical space in spades. Sorry, but you probably won’t find it in any car that could be construed as cool (except maybe an old stretch limo).

    You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      Using your criterion a 1970 Pontiac Bonneville or a Checker Cab would be the vehicle of choice.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        Or any minivan.

        Minivans found favor around the same time child-seat rules started to tighten, and the aforementioned dimension became critical. Call me crazy, but I think there may be a correlation.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Absolutely agreed…I said the same above. The only wagon that will fit that bill and is currently sold, is the newer Outback. A used Sable/Taurus would as well, and get close to 30mpg on the highway, but slightly under 20 around town.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        Yep. And I hasten to add that the previous-generation Outback/Legacy (nice as it was) does NOT fit a backwards child seat while providing adequate room for the front passenger. Not only that, but you will smack your precious child on the very intrusive c-pillar while loading/unloading. Been there, done that.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I can’t say that has been too much of an issue for us, getting kids in and out. The front seat legroom is a little tighter for me, but works okay. The newer model is much better in this regard.

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    Buy a NEW minivan. These are your kids man-don’t mess with used unless you are certain of its history. Don’t worry about borrowing the money-interest rates are very low. Keep the minivan until you don’t need it anymore i.e. the kids leave home and have already learned to drive it. Keep it well maintained with emphasis on very good tires and brakes.

    I bought the first year Dodge minivan in 1984–4 cylinder 5speed stick and 100hp–drove it like a VW bus. Kept it 10 years and sold it to a guy down the street who drove it for another 5 or 6 years. I immediately bought a new one which was nicer in every way, and kept it for over ten years-(it seems to takes kids longer to launch these days). Every time my kids saw the old one they got all mushy. You’ll learn that children are sentimental beasts.

    These vehicles are the best kid cars bar none. Today I would skip over Chrysler products and go straight to Honda or Toyota–neither was in the market yet when I bought the above vehicles.

    Your wife will quickly get over her aversion and so will you. Everybody including your kids will love it.

  • avatar
    pourspeller

    I normally wouldn’t bother replying to a post with so many good comments already, but I was recently in a very similar situation.

    I like wagons. My family of four had been enjoying or 2002 Passat wagon for the past eight years. It was comfortable, quiet as hell, had a massive boot that swallowed crap loads of gear, and got great highway mileage with the 1.8T. It was also really reliable. But when the thing hit 165,000k, everything started falling apart. I mean everything.

    After looking at every relevant vehicle we could find – including CUVs, crossovers, wagons, and vans, we settled on a 2012 Mazda 5. It just fit right for the family, hauls lots of crap, the sliding doors are great for the kiddies, it drives really nicely and it’s comfortable. Gets 25mpg mixed so far. Only minor disappointment is that the highway fuel economy struggles to hit 30mpg.

    If you were in Canada, I’d suggest checking out the new Chevy Orlando as well, since it’s basically a tall Cruze wagon/crossover/whatever.

  • avatar
    marc

    Wait for the Prius V. Enough space for a growing family, 42 real world combined mpg. Likely great resale. Loaded with safety and convenience features.

    There really are plenty of wagon-esque choices that aren’t completely minivan, Euro sportwagen, or CUV. Venza, Outback, Mazda5, xB all kinda overlap the groups between car, wagon, CUV and minivan. But I think the Prius V is hands down the best of all those choices.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Something to consider: if they keep the car 15 years, resale value may be of less importance.

      Average price for a 1995-1996 Honda Odyssey is $3500.
      Average price for a 1995-1996 Chevy Lumina APV is $2200.

      Numbers from Autotrader US average.

      Buying a quality vehicle of course is important; and high resale helps if plans change. But everything drops to near $0 after 15 years.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        1300 bucks is not an insignificant amount of money. Plus, there’s intangible benefit of not having to drive something as decrepit and hateful as a Lumina APV for 15 years.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    Get a Dodge Magnum with the 3.5 V6.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    When my wife was pregnant with our first child, in 1981, we bought an Audi 5000 (about the same size as your Camry) in addition to our Honda Accord (a little smaller than today’s Civic). That worked fine for the first child (although we did not have a dog). When the second child came along, we bought the first year (1984) of the then new Jeep Wagoneer/Cherokee (only recently discontinued), by today’s standards a medium-sized station wagon with 4-wheel drive. That worked fine until #3 came along in 1991, at which point, we got a minivan (which also worked fine and carried our medium-sized dog). With the first two kids in college, we downsized (in 2002) to a Saab wagon.

    A few points:

    1. When you have a kid your life changes irrevocably, as do your priorities — and the number of toys you can have goes down, for both economic and time reasons.

    2. Like you, I’m a station wagon fan. The Acura TSX wagon is probably reliable, but it’s too new to be cheap, sales have been small, so don’t expect to find them on the used market. The Euro wagons are, in varying degrees, expensive and unreliable, with Saab and VW being the worst and Volvo, BMW, Benz, and Audi somewhere in between.

    3. Like you, I agree that CUVs are, like all compromises, not very good at anything. For reasons, I won’t get into my wife insisted that the Saab be replaced in ’08 by a Honda Pilot. Other than being large, I see no advantages to it, and, at best it will get 22 mpg on the highway. It’s not a real off-road vehicle and I find it scary to drive in the snow, even with 4 real snow tires. My AWD Previa was better in the snow, with Blizzaks all around.

    4. I seriously question whether there is any CUV (with the possible exception of the Honda CRV) that gets consistent real-world 30 mpg on the highway. Working against that are both weight and frontal area (greater than a car). I think 25 mpg is probably more like it (unless you’re driving a diesel).

    5. If you must buy a new car, consider the new Focus in hatchback form. I was really impressed with the rental that I drove from Phoenix to Tucson and back. The DCT automatic is a little weird to drive, but you get used to it . . . and, of course, you can get a manual as well in the lower trims. Feels quite happy cruising at 80. No problem hitting your mileage target, and the dog can probably fit in the back. Plus, you can fold one half of the second seat down for more versatility.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      2, and 4.
      -The TSX (sold as Accord in Europe) is one of the least ‘roomy’ stationwagons in it’s class in Europe, although it beats it’s competitors in most other fields (except price, as it’s pitched as a ‘Premium’ car, which is a total failure as Europeans expect either RWD or sound insulation in a premium car)
      -And the CR-V, while still being the only car in it’s class (or in the world?) with a rear seat that can seat three adults , does get an average of 25 mpg (diesel is even better, and powerful) although, as you say frontal area works against it, but it’s reasonably lightweight, so I expect highway and city mileage differs less than what on ‘normal’ cars.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    I wouldn’t recommend VW’s for all the obvious reasons, but our B5 Passat fit two rear facing car seats in the back and gets about 25 mpg in mixed driving and I saw 34 mpg highway average yesterday. We had a third child and all three fit across the back easily in their booster seats. We had all three in the big forward facing seats for a while too, and it fit fine. The convenience of that car is that you don’t need to get into the car to buckle the seatbelts, and you can easily turn around while driving to hand out toys, books, kleenex, food. Driving dynamics are also very good.

    We now have a Ford Freestyle, 2007, purchased this year because it was cheap, sat 7, and gets decent mpg. It;s very light for its size – 3900 lbs. Around town it gets terrible mileage. On the highway it cracks 30 mpg driven gently. We are going to dump the Passat and replace it with a Fit, which fits three booster seats across the back. Or a Prius C when available if three booster seats fit. Neither my wife nor I want to deal with climbing in or out of the back of car to do any buckling; and we both like a lighter more nimble feel. I also like to be able to see over all my cars.

  • avatar
    nonce


    robertf
    has died
    of dysentery

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    Drive the wheels off of both cars unless you have twins the next time around, then buy a certified minivan. Save your money. Rent if you need short term extra space. We cart 2 kids around in an Accord V6 6 speed. I’m lucky wifey prefers a stick! We started late, getting kids in and out of a van is easier on the back. If space is truly a concern, a CUV will be too small. Assuming your wife wants more than one (count on it) you can’t cram a 60 pound dog in back with a double stroller, pack-n-play (useless waste of money, and space, don’t let her buy one), and a fully packed diaper bag. And eventually you and/or wifey will be carting around nieces, nephews, neighbors kids, kids on the whatever sport team. Save save save and then buy a certified minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Agreed on pack-n-plays! I bought 2, one for my in-laws and one for my folks. They were both used, but it was worth the cost of not having to lug one around. Hotels often have them available, as well as cots, if you request.

      • 0 avatar
        sastexan

        Pack n plays via craigslist is perfect. Just disinfect it – actually, a day in direct sunlight is a great disinfectant (although my wife first believes in a large dose of lysol and other chemicals, only to air out afterwards).

        The diaper pail – we got one that takes regular trash bags and does a decent job keeping the stink in. You go through way too many diapers to keep up with grocery bags (which often have holes and are so thin they don’t keep stink in).

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Agreed. Waste of money and space. Ditto on the diaper maid thing that automatically wraps the diapers. Just keep your plastic grocery bags and deposit diapers inside one, and tie. Into the garbage can. Also the wind up swing. And the big round thing they sit in and roll around the house. All these things can be replaced with an attentive parent and save on storage space. Our kids both mostly followed us around anyhow. Heck years later I can’t sneak out into the garage without my shadow appearing minute later. (Not a bad thing). After a little while of them watching and asking for nails and a piece of wood to hammer on or once I bring out the grinder/air tools they disappear and I can accomplish something. ;)

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A fellow GTV-6 owner! Howdy! Mine’s a red ’86.

    For your wagon needs, you need to look a bit older. Find yourself the nicest, lowest milege Volvo 945 you can find. The 8 valves are slow but utterly indestructible, the turbos are adequately rapid but use a lot more gas. However, the savings on insurance, maintenance, and depreciation will FAR more than offset the gas expense. You can buy a decent one for under $2K, and probably the nicest in the country for under $5K. More space than you will know what to do with, and while lacking 90-million airbags, they are still safe as a house. Given that you own a GTV-6, I assume you have some DIY skills – they are ridiculously easy to work on, and parts are cheap. Not that you will need many.

    And they are among THE BEST road trip cars ever. Perfect seats, quiet, and so slow you have no choice but to kick back and relax. And more window area than any three modern tank cars, so you can actually see the scenery. Even a built-in kiddy booster seat rated for up to 80lbs in the center rear armrest.

    I keep a ’93 965 as my “beater” – same basic goodness but with a 201hp six under the hood. Needs a lot more care and feeding than the 4s though. It does get better mpg on the highway than the 4s though.

    Think of the Volvo 9XX as what the Panther would have been if Ford had actually spent money on it over the years – the modern interpretation.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    How about a Toyota Prius? it fits your fuel economy standards and in Texas AWD is not necessary.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Your wife sounds like a smart woman, you should listen to her. You don’t need a new car, period. Even if you can “afford” it, spending $30k just isn’t wise when you’ve got two perfectly serviceable cars and a kid on the way.

    The Fit should be fine for carting the kid in an oversized car seat when you’re by yourself or on short trips. And I’ll personally vouch for the roominess of the ’02-’06 Camry: If you can’t fit a couple suitcases and all your kid’s crap in that gigantic trunk, you really need to reevaluate your priorities. I was an only child who grew up in the back of 1st and 2nd-generation Camrys and space was never a problem. Leave the dog at home; Ask the lonely kid across the street whose parents won’t let him have a dog to walk it while you’re gone.

    If you have a second child, then start looking at minivans/CUVs, but even then it’s not that necessary given the cost. Avoid the Euro-wagons, they’re overpriced maintenance headaches that just aren’t roomy. And frankly, I’m getting tired of hearing car people recommending them to non-car people. You’ve got your old Alfa to tinker with and the Fit should be a decent enough commuter…why do you need another “fun” car or status symbol. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should…and that goes double once your family starts growing. Buy something economical, preferably used and under budget; put the savings towards your kids’ college fund.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Mazda CX-5, that is, if you can wait till Spring 2012. It’s all new, so facts are difficult to come by. This CUV supposedly starts at $20k and should get 32+ mpg on the highway. It has AWD, and in the Mazda tradition, is fun to drive. There will be a choice of gas or diesel engine as well.

    I’m looking at the Acura TSX Wagon myself. Note that the base trim has leather seats. Leather is easy to wipe clean when baby throws up or has an accident.

    Which makes your old Camry all that more attractive. It’s old and reliable, and you won’t care so much if the seats get soiled.

    Good luck!

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    How about you keep what you have and get an older used minivan for road trips and grocery runs? Commute in the fuel efficient cars that are paid for, then no one gets “stuck” driving the van all the time. You can get nice Dodge GCs or whatever the Kia minivan is on the cheap, they are both reliable and cheap to maintain and insure.

    BTW, your wife is right, cars will last 15 yrs. Especially your Camry and your Fit, hell your Fit should easily last 20+ yrs and 250k miles, its about the perfect runaround commuter car you can get, just like an old school Civic. Keep it and keep it maintained, and enjoy the Alfa. As for wagons, there are none available that will meet your requirements, you are stuck with vans or CUVs/SUVs. Like you guys, we hated minivans, we barely kept ours a year before dumping it for an Explorer. The Explorer was almost as good at family duty as the van and not as dorky.

    If you car about image (and dont want 4 cars!), trade in the Camry on an SUV that is big enough and eat the mileage hit. If you dont care about image, then trade the Camry in on a used minivan and still eat the mileage hit. I recommend the VW Routan, you avoid VW quality issues but get the (sort of) European snob appeal, and literally no one wants them, so the resale value is in the toilet, usually less than an equivilent Dodge GC.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    Minivan Facts.
    During off season rental companies can’t get rid of the turd. You will find the price might be same as the smallest sh*t box they got. They might try shoving it as a “free” upgrade to your economy reservation. Haggle a little and look insulted. Get a nice price break or certificate off your next rental. Or both… Hertz used to install GPS in all of them just so they can force them on corporate people that must have GPS. They did the same with Expeditions and Tahoe when gas prices hit $5.00

    Another fact. Rear Air Conditioning and fold-in-floor seats make a great place for recreational activities.

    Hassidic Jewish customers react like they won the a ticket to heaven if you give them one as a “Free” upgrade. They might be single. No matter. Apparently it fits nearly a “Minyan” in there.

    Toyota Sienna hits 60 in 7.9 seconds. Me-too-Civic 9.0 Seconds. Surprise!!!

    They ride great and hall all. Converted my little Girls mom to accept one. When #2 arrives…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Mazda 5 is brilliant.

    Amen. Minivans are cool – like a pack mule once you utilize them fully. I also consider them a rite of passage….”I’ve earned this motorized appendage because of my virility”…..

    The Prius V will be out in just a few months as well…..

  • avatar
    dvdlgh

    Wait till you have to change a diaper in the Camry. You’ll wish it was a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Change them in the trunk. We used the big flat “way-back” of our CR-V as a changing table and it worked great.

      All of this talk about rear facing babyseats may be overblown. Do the shopping alone. Invite the grandparents to visit so you don’t have to travel. Only tough part is daycare if you need it. The daily too and fro.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    You are very similar to me, 3 1/2 years ago. Wife had an ’01 Camry 4 cylinder, probably 125k on it at that time. Needed new struts too. No sludging though – only mechanical issue it every had in its life was O2 sensors and charcoal canister (allegedly after I topped off the fuel tank once – I later learned that is a huge no-no with Toyotas). I replaced the struts/springs with Monroe quickstruts and put good Yoko Avid H4S tires on it and it drove better than new. Wife’s commute was about 40 miles in horrific DC traffic at that time.

    We kept the Camry until kid number two was nearly 8 months, when we could see the end of the Graco snugride’s future as our car seat solution. Rear facing car seat + front facing car seat = only a driver, no passenger, as the front passenger seat has to be so far forward it is unusable. We went Odyssey. Still have the Camry for wife’s commute and when my car is broken (see many Piston Slaps about my Contour SVT) but the Ody is a workhorse. Road trips, hauling 10 foot 4×4 and 6×6 pressure treated for landscaping projects (with the lid down and only the center seat and console out), handling 60 cu feet of mulch plus another 10 bags of topsoil (easily 2500 lbs) with just a quick flip of the 3rd row, vacation with our friends who have 2 kids in car seats too – so eight of us including 4 car seats. I could go on, but no need. The Ody fills the role of road trip, pickup truck, towing, and general commuting. Is it fun to drive? Not really, but it is better than the Sienna or ChryCo twins (had one for a week when on vacation, and despite Jack Baruth’s praises, it doesn’t handle any better than the Ody, although the Pentastar sounds nice). And it certainly is much more fun than taking hours to make multiple trips and stuff potty seats, pack n plays, diaper changing, etc. into something that just barely will handle it.

    Don’t buy something now you don’t need yet. Keep the Camry, get new struts and good tires to keep the most important thing – the occupants – safe, and when / if you have kiddo #2, consider your position then and make a decision. Steve and Sajeev have this one right.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    You need a big back seat if you go with something other than a CUV/SUV. The Avalon, new Passat (21k base and it’s BIG), used G8 for hoonery and big back seat/trunk.

  • avatar

    I’m actually the Questor of this question. Man, that backlog of questions! Our little girl is now almost six months old!

    So here is what we have learned. Rear facing car seats are the largest, most unwieldy things you’ll ever starp into your back seat. We have a Safety 1st Air Convertible, which doubles as a carrier (snap-in base, so only one seat for both cars, which is nice), but which literally renders my Fit unusable for more than driver and one very uncomfortable passsenger. I’m 6′ tall, so with the baby’s seat in the middle (which is safest) or behind my seat, I’m eating steering wheel. Behind the passenger seat is the only viable option. However, my wife, who is 5’8″ and long-legged, can BARELY fit in the front passenger seat. Usually she’ll just ride in back behind me. This is the situation for up to two years. I imaging we’ll switch to a front-facing seat around 12 months if we can.

    The Camry is the real surprise. She’s strapped into the middle of the back seat, but we can still squeeze grandparents on either side of her, while my wife and I are comfortable up front. The trunk in the thing is massive, so no problems swallowing the accoutrement, including a bigass jogging stroller.

    Yes, we ARE planning on one more, probably in two more years. That gives us some time. We’re saving about $600 a month for a new car. Just to qualify that, my wife is some sort of financial mentat. We’re saving 60% of takehome, either into a CD (the car) savings accounts (house & maintenance fund), Roth IRA (college) and vacation/mad money. No, we don’t make much money (we’re both public servants) and no, we don’t eat beans for dinner every night. Just Monday and Thursday. Saying, it can be done with some discipline.

    Anyway, by the time baby #2 comes along, we should have enough cash to almost buy something outright. Factor in trade-in or sale of the Camry or the Fit, I think we have it. By that time I think we’ll have more options in terms of mid-sized, decent to drive, fuel efficient family haulers. I’m trying to convince the wife the new C-Max is an option, and I’m hoping beyond hope Ford decides we’re worthy of a Fusion/Mondeo wagon (although as one commenter noted, European designs just don’t usually accommodate a US spec rear-facing seat – I know this after trying to get ours into a friend’s 3-Series wagon). And despite the fans here, I still don’t think we’ll be going the minivan route. MAYBE something like an Edge or Equinox. One of my coworkers just got the Chevy and I have to say I’m far more impressed with it that I ever thought I had reason to be. We also had an easy time with our neighbors’ new Outback. It’s just the dismal city fuel economy… is Subaru giving that one its new, more efficient engine too?

    And for me, my buddy at Motor Trend can’t stop singing about the Optima turbo. Color me intrigued…

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Kind of late to the party, but can the OP afford/have space for 3 cars? The Camry is paid for, gets decent mileage, appears to keep his wife happy (for the time being – she sounds pretty smart for trying to eek out 15 years from more or less a known quantity). The Fit is paid for, gets decent mileage, and seems to keep the OP happy (for the time being) and is more or less a known quantity also.

    With that said I could see getting a medium sized SUV (Escape, Equinox/whatever the GMC version is, Sportage, you name the rest) for kid duty (keep the Fit for commuting so you’re not burning too much fuel unnecessarily), when the Camry is otherwise being used, and have the 3rd car for those oh crud moments when one of the other two get burned out/go into the shop.

    This may not be possible, but it is probably what I would do if I were in a similar situation.

  • avatar
    Jethrow

    The car you really need is the Holden Sportwagon. Check it here

    http://p.webwombat.com.au/motoring/car-photos/holden-ve-sportwagon-road-test-7-big.jpg

    Suggest you badger GM till they bring it in. Available in auto or manual, V6 or V8!


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