By on July 18, 2012
I could definitely use some insight.  Here’s my basic situation.

My wife and I just found out we’re pregnant with our first child (not public info, so no congrats on Twitter please…), so we’re looking to upgrade to a car that will offer necessary trunk space for stroller/pack-and-play/baby stuff and become our regular family car.  My wife will drive it to work during the days, however, and her commute is only three miles each way, so it’s not going to get a ton of mileage.  I’d estimate probably 10,000 miles per year, and since it’s not going to be heavily used, we’re not looking for a $20,000+ car.  We’d rather put our money into other places than to have a nice car that is parked for 23 1/2 hours per day.

Ideally, we’d like to spend between $10,000 to $15,000, which is why we’re almost certainly looking for a lower mileage used car.  The wife originally started out wanting a CUV, but it seems like we’d have to go high mileage in order to get a new-ish (2007 or newer is the goal) crossover, so we then shifted down towards wagons.  Unfortunately, it seems like the wagon has been replaced by the CUV in most cases, and ones like the Jetta SportWagen and Subaru Outback are out of our price range.  So, lately, we’ve been focusing on things like the Kia Rondo, but it’s frankly a little ugly and I might have a hard time selling my wife on $13,000 for a car that looks like a minivan.

So, I guess the most helpful information I could ask for are whether you have any recommendations for cars that I might not have thought of as good family values with enough trunk space for all the stuff kids require.  MPG isn’t the factor for us that it is for most since we have such a short commute, so we care more about maintenance issues than gas prices.  I have a 2002 Mazda Protege5 at the moment and and a general love for hatchbacks, so I’m drawn towards cars like that, but if there’s a good mid-size or full-size sedan with a huge trunk we’re open to that as well.

 

Steve Says: First of all, congratulations! The world that you know of will soon cease to exist…. which is a good thing… in most ways.

Upgrading your ride pretty much comes down to a simple question.

“Will we someday have another kid? Or two?”

If you are planning on having a larger family, and have the means to purchase another vehicle without going into debt, then now wouldn’t be a bad time to pursue the search.

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the ‘family car’. Since you want a bit of heft without the visual blimpiness of a minivan, my recommendation is to look more towards a full-sized sedan. CUV’s tend to have a stiffer price premium these days and are far more common as finance vehicles in the used car markets.

Full-sized sedans don’t have the extra expense of being fashionable and to be blunt, they are usually a better choice for most folks. They offer loads of trunk space, excellent safety, respectable fuel economy, and the maintenance for these vehicles tend to be lower as well.

My top choices would be a five year old…

  • Ford Five Hundred / Mercury Montego (Six-speed automatic)
  • Hyundai Azera
  • Buick Lucerne (V6)

You may notice that none of these top pics are especially popular vehicles. But they all do an exceptional job of carrying forth the family progeny in plenty of comfort and safety with fuel economy that is superior to most SUV/CUV wanna-be’s. They all cost less in the used car market, and offer tried and true powertrains that will last for the long haul with minimal fuss.

This is the market niche that will offer the greatest bang for the buck if you plan on having another child in the near-term future.

If you only plan on a family of three, then just get whatever makes you happy within reason. My wife rode around town in a late-90′s Escort back when we had one child without any problems. The stroller fit fine and the vehicle had good safety ratings for that era. Once we had two, it was minivan time for a few years. Then she slimmed down to a four-door Civic and has now settled for a Malibu Maxx.

New parents always overestimate the size of their automotive needs. Looking back on all our purchases, it would have made more sense to have simply pruchased a full-sized car and keep one small car for the solo errands and commutes. That is exactly what we ended up doing in the end.

All the best to you and yours! Good luck!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

108 Comments on “New or Used? : Upgrade Now Or Down The Road?...”


  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I’d look at a used Mazda 5. They are a big car in a fairly small package, they get good gas milage and they have sliding doors. I have three kids and I cannot tell you how much I love sliding doors.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Seconded, especially if you intend to have more than one kid. I’d also consider the Rondo (I know, she doesn’t like it, but you’ll really appreciate the low floor and ease of use; your back will thank you, trust me on this).

      Another point is rear-facing carseats. They must safely installed (guide marks parallel to the ground, 1″ clearance between the carseat and the front seatbacks). Many very large cars cannot accomodate this, while many small dorkboxes and anything with three rows can.

      If you aren’t going to have more than one child, think Nissan Versa (it fits rear-facing carseats better than any of Steve’s recommendations above) or the Honda Fit (it fits big strollers and assorted crap better than anything above). Also consider the Nissan Cube or Kia Soul.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m thinking that Steven’s suggestions are great! I would take the 500. Now, Psar has a great point. The Versa is cheap, safeand has good room in back for baby seat (plus huge trunk). The only negative with Versa is the sloping back window. You’re sure to hot your head there a couple of times! Plus, if someone’s going to ride in the back they better be at most about 5’11”!

        Now, I for one regret having got rid of our small hatch (Fiat Palio) when the baby came. Proved an expensive and futile excercise. We already had a big car (Renault Logan) for family duty. It sufficed. But such are the anxienties of newly minted parents.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Marcelo,

        The Versa hatch doesn’t have the same restrictions. I wouldn’t consider the sedan at all.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Marcelo,

        I test drove a Versa hatch (the sedan is pointless), and with the seat comfortable for my mostly-legs 6′-3 the evenly proportioned 6′-8 salesman sat behind me for the test drive. Given that I set rally-driver close/upright, the back seat room is wondrous for such a small car.

        Rear-facing car seats are a pain if you’re tall even in midside or “large” cars. I say “large” with quotes because I don’t consider any sedan sold today to be worthy of the label. To get the kind of room you might expect from something truly large now you must get a minivan, full-size van, or a crew cab pickup. We had a 99 Legacy when our first-born was in a rear-facer and had to sit uncomfortably close to the dash AND the car seat still hit the front seats (a safety no-no) and that’s with the child seat in the center of the rear seat where its room was maximized by the gap between the front seats. If you’ve seen the family in small cars going down the street with mom sitting behind driver dad next to the baby, it’s not because mom wants to dote on the little’un. It’s because she can’t fit in front of the wee bugger’s ginormous seat.

        My quad-cab pickup OTOH fits three rear-facing car seats across the back seat and never had a problem with a rear-facer behind the front seats.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Thirded! A friend recently purchased a used Mazda 5 after their first baby and they love it. If you can get over the van looks it drives well and is practical and spacious enough to grow into if you have another one.

    • 0 avatar
      qest

      Fourthed!

      That or a minivan. Power sliding doors for the win!

    • 0 avatar

      T think were talking 2 different cars. I’m thinking the US and Brazil Versa sedan. You are probably talking about what I call the Tiida hatch. The Versa hatch here is called a March here and it’s a subcompact.

      Such are the vagaries of calling different or same cars different or same names! Not good in a world economy. :)

      • 0 avatar
        James Courteau

        I own a U.S. Versa/Tiida hatch and its lovely. I had four adults and one teenager in it at while vacationing with a friend. The ladies declared my car to be the beach runabout because it was the cutest of the four cars present. Nobody complained of being cramped, and we had a full size cooler and everyones backpacks in the cargo area. I have the manual transmission one, and it has loads of power, never feels like a rolling roadblock. The VVT means that it still keeps up with traffic even when fully loaded with the A/C on. The combo of a timing chain, port injection, and long model cycle (after eight years, there can’t be any bugs left!) should mean high reliability and low operating cost. I’m sure the wife wants an automatic, try the CVT. I had a Sentra loaner with the 1.8/cvt while awaiting delivery, and its a good (but a tad boring) power train combo. Do yourself a favor and skip the used car crap shoot, try one of these. Mine was $15,500 IIRC.

    • 0 avatar
      RV1458

      Congratulations!

      I’m going to cast another vote for the Mazda5, specifically a used 2012 model. I would avoid the 2010 and earlier models as they seem to have a lot of suspension/bushing related issues. But these issues have been addressed on the 2012 models.

      I’m not sure where you live, but a quick search on cars.com shows a number of 2012 models throughout the country with less 30k or less for $15,000, I think with some haggling $14,000 should be doable for a 2012 with 30k, regardless of your local dealer is actually asking. I’m sure that in 6-9 months when your baby arrives those prices will be even lower due to the 2013 models that are coming out in a few months.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      We drive by an LDS church regularly and there’s a greater-than-average number of 5′s in the lot.

      Must be good for lots of kiddos.

    • 0 avatar
      missinginvlissingen

      I own a 2008 Mazda5 and a 2006 Outback, and can recommend either for your situation.

      We bought both cars used (about 3-4 years old) and paid $12,800 for the Outback and $9,500 for the Mazda, each with <50,000 miles. Both are manuals, which probably helped me get good deals.

      My wife drives the Outback and loves it. Space is good, except that it's not really wide enough for 3 butts in the back seat. Certainly with two big car seats installed, the middle hump is basically useless. But with booster seats, we can squeeze three kids back there. (We have two kids.) The car drives really nicely. My only complaint was that the boxer engine is known for blowing head gaskets, although our repair was covered under warranty.

      The Mazda is my daily driver, and it provides a bit more versatility. With the 3rd row folded there's more cargo space than the Subaru, and with all 6 seats up there's hardly any cargo room. (This is NOT an Odyssey or Sienna.) With the Mazda, going out with the kids and their grandparents is possible in one car; with the Subaru, we always needed two cars. We use the extra seats surprisingly often, and for small kids or in-laws the space is big enough. I really love the way this car drives; the steering has great feel, and the ride is far better than the floatiness you'll get in those other "mini"-vans or CUVs.

      My only gripes with the Mazda are the front seat space — I'm 6 feet tall and sometimes feel cramped on long trips — and the general feeling of "cheap" in the cabin. But then I remind myself what I paid for the car, and I'm happy again.

      Of the two cars, I prefer the Mazda, and that's the one we take on family trips. But my wife seems to like the ruggedness of the Subaru. For your situation, they both seem like good solutions.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    My experience is the opposite of Steve’s. Everyone I know initially underestimated their automotive needs, and later upgraded to a bigger vehicle. I started with a Crown Victoria as the big family vehicle. You will not find a more commodius trunk. But any kind of travel was a PITA.

    Like it or not, there is a reason that minivans ruled the road for all of those years. And Suburbans. My solution was an E150 Club Wagon. My advice is to get the biggest vehicle you can afford to buy and feed. You will not regret it. If you don’t want a middle aged Suburban, at least drive some minivans. Chryslers depreciate most, but the newer ones with the 3.6 are pretty nice. Toyondas are more expensive but more socially acceptible. An interesting little-considered choice is a Kia Sedona. Even a new one is surprisnigly affordable.

    Or, ignore my advice, but you will remember it in about 4 years when you don’t have enough car. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      derek17005

      +1 on the distance from rear of front seat back to back seat. This figure is critical and far too many reviewers as you’ve pointed out, fail to take this measurement into account.

      I’m 6′ myself, and almost always no matter the car, prefer the front seat to be all the way back. Doing this in some cars, makes the use of a rear facing baby seat impossible.

      If you are wanting to avoid buying another car in a couple of years, you need to realize that you need MORE room than you think. As pointed out, most families underestimate the size of the vehicle they need. Think big right now, and you’ll avoid the pitfall of having to trade in for another ride in a couple of years should the family continually grow.

      They’re not sexy and have a “life is over for you” stigma to them, but minivans really are the absolute best family vehicle ever. In your price range, you can get a 2011+ Dodge Caravan with the re-designed interior that got great reviews by Mr. Karesh and Mr. Baruth. Plus, the utility of one can’t be beat and those sliding doors despite the stigma, are a godsend when it’s raining and you’re trying to load a baby carrier in the seat. Not to mention, as they grow (the children that is), you won’t have to worry about door dings.

      Autotrader shows a couple of them nicely equipped for right at $15K here in OKC so they’re definitely in your price range.

      • 0 avatar
        spatula6554

        +1000

        I am 6’4″ and my wife is 5’4″. We are expecting twins in September this year and the first criterion the vehicle must pass is how do 2 car seats fit in the back seat? We lead an active lifestyle, so we have to also anticipate a dog, traveling gear, camping gear for 4 now, not just two. These have us in a full-size / mid-size SUV (Tahoe, Yukon, Expedition maybe Explorer or Grand Cherokee) area. It will be expensive but well used.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      More car upfront equals less headache down the road.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @28-Cars-Later

        If I knew this 9 months ago I wouldn’t be shopping my ’12 Focus around to replace it with a CUV… :(

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Tuffjuff sorry to hear. I don’t know your situation but if it were me with a new Focus I loved and she came to me with the news, my first car related thought would be “looks like its time to trade yours for a [insert CUV/minivan here]”

        An added benefit of my GP is its a sedan. So if the next thing I buy is a coupe (which it will be) and one day I’m faced with a similar situation, the GP will at least be useful to move the new passengers around as opposed to the used Vette/Porsche/Jag/Mustang I may purchase next.

        Actually now that I think about it, wouldn’t a Focus be adequate for one child + the wife? Maybe you guys could share it and a beater the other party uses to get to work?

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @28-Cars-Later

        It’s good and bad, I suppose. I’ve learned that I could probably never, honestly, buy a sedan and feel the same way about the car again after owning a hatch. Now that I’ve seen the versatility, I need the extra utility to be fully happy with my vehicle.

        For me, it’s two-fold. Family creation is happening a few years down the road, but I’m 6’5 and have had a nagging knee problem for a few years now. Turns out getting in and out of a vehicle where your chair is situated a good half a foot behind the B pillar puts some odd extra strain on your knees. My pain has multiplied by ten since getting this car, if only because getting in and out causes me to twist all sorts of fun ways I wouldn’t otherwise twist in, say, a coupe or a CUV.

        I had been looking at a mid/full-sized entry level luxury (ES350, Azera) and these cars help but don’t alleviate the problem. The Equinox, Edge and Terrain I drove a few months back do, though.

        I’m a 26 year old man with a 66 year old man’s joint pain. Dangit.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Tall and knee problems do not make for fun car buying experiences. If the ES350 suites you well, ever think of trying out that new Venza wagon? I’m not up on my Toyonda platforms but its probably the Camry with a different rear-end and some cargo area, may be up your alley.

        I think your going to pay out the you know what for an Equinox or Edge, and IIRC the Terrain was known for having issues (unless this was corrected or I’m just wrong). If it was between the latter three CUV/SUV models, personally I’d opt for the Edge if I could afford it. I had a co-worker pick up a mid-trim one not long after it came out and I really liked it. Another friend bought a loaded Terrain for his wife, I meh’d it. She hardly drives anywhere so to my knowledge she’s had no issues with it to speak of, I think they paid around 20K after whatever GM card money they had and her very beat 2000 Civic as trade (don’t think they gave her much, maybe 1500).

    • 0 avatar
      SpacemanSpiff

      Ditto. When planning for kids, we bought a Subaru Outback thinking it would have more room than we needed. Now with two kids and a smallish dog, the Outback is packed full anytime we go somewhere for the weekend, much less going for a week. Strollers, diapers, potty training chairs, stuffed animals, etc. take up a suprising amount of room. Wish someone had told us at that point to just buy a minivan, but when you’re childless, an Outback looks huge…. Not so much when it is packed with kid stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Looking in from the outside, the Outback seems like an overall good choice I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Not sure if you take the dog with you when you run the children around, because I could imagine a dog carrier taking up a bit if space. My childless aunt had an ’02 Outback expressly for the purpose of taking her larger size dogs places, and the carriers just barely fit.

      • 0 avatar
        peyton67

        Ditto + 2 We did the same thing and bought a Jetta wagon TDI after the first kid arrived. We ended up trading the VW on a minivan 2 years later after kids #2,3 and 4 arrived (we fostered/adopted – we did not have triplets).

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        The Outback is something I need to remind myself to put on my shopping list when looking at CUV’s in the next year or so. Love the looks of the car outside, and a buddy has one he loves.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’ve lived and worked all over Europe, Asia, and Latin America for many years. People have kids everywhere and they drive CARS. Only Americans have some unexplained need for huge SUVs, mini vans and trucks when their evil spawn arrive on the scene. Get the car you enjoy driving and a good quality kiddy seat. Remember — condoms prevent mini vans!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Remember — condoms prevent mini vans!”

      I think I’m going to have a poster made with this message on it… nothing is more important in the fight against minivans than the condom!

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Geez. Last time I said something like this around here (I have an Outback, preparing for our first child), I was pariah’ed all to hell and back. From what I’ve been told, after the first 2 weeks, I’ll crawl back to TTAC and beg for forgiveness while holding the lease papers to a new Suburban in my hand – and then it’ll just be _barely_ enough room for the new baby.

      My brother and I went on family 2000-mile road trips regularly in a family of 4 (sometimes 5 when Grandma tags along) in a dinky 1987 Honda Accord 4-door sedan. And we were in a small 2-door Colt hatchback before then. I think we’ll be just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Heh… when I was a kid, my parents had a Jeep Cherokee (the small one, not the Grand Cherokee) and a Honda Accord. The Accord was roomier, and had cruise control, so it was our normal family car. This was for two kids…

        My ex-wife had a Mazda5 for a while. It’s a nice enough car, with one caveat – you better have avoided protein, calcium, vitamins, and northern European genetics – the front seat is designed for short folks. If you’re under 5’11, you might fit, but that’s probably the upper limit.

        - Limited rearward travel
        - Cramped footwell
        - Bulky steering column that bashes you knees.

        Aside from that, it’s a terrific car – seating for 6 in a pinch.

        I’ve gone to smaller and smaller vehicles as I’ve realized that it’s cheaper to just rent/borrow a larger vehicle when necessary (thinking cargo, not passengers here) . You give a buddy a twelver or a 24 pack for use of his truck, and you have a dirt-cheap rental, he has the satisfaction that his pickup is doing work (instead of just being driven to and from the office with a tonneau cover over the empty bed), and you get to drive an enjoyable car for the rest of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      My sister has 3 children and a minivan. In the US, kids don’t ride in the front seat and child seats tend to be too large to fit a small car. To get their children in the best public schools, my sister’s family bought a new house in a new edge suburb where kids from homeowners greatly outnumber kids from apartments. You buy into a school when you buy a house. As US cities sprawl away from the children of the underclass, all activities with the children involve lots of driving. If friends of the children need to come along too, the family vehicle needs 3 row seating.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      I’ll concede it was a different time, but when we were a young family we made do with a 1979 Ford Fiesta for a few years – two adults, two small children in carseats (although they were much smaller than today’s versions) and two german shepherd dogs. The four of us humans travelled half-way across the continent with enough luggage for a week’s stay with my parents, including all the accoutrements required by toddlers.

      We made do with the limited storage of the car; sometimes purchasing what we needed when we arrived at our destinations.

      I understand the shifts that North Americans have made with regards to child safety, and that’s positive – but why, oh why, does a family of three or four need a Suburban or Expedition? And how many families these days make two week long treks across the country by driving instead of flying?

      And my advice, to wit on what vehicle to buy? Don’t buy something she doesn’t like now – she will only grow to despise it more as time goes by. Get something she can live with now – a Nissan Versa hatchback or a Nissan Cube or Kia Soul should do the trick.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I recommend Honda Fit. It has tons of room, the cargo area is cavernous and the drive train is engaging. I have no doubt your wife will love it. And you can buy it brand new within your budget.

    As far as sedans go, your biggest obstacle will be the ability to fit your large stroller in the trunk. So look for one with the largest trunk opening. Something like a Buick LeSabre will work great. My father-in-law has one and our humongous stroller fits with ease.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Congratulations!

    Whatever you get, don’t under-estimate the importance of rear-seat room. I’m talking about the distance between the seatback of the rear seat, and the seatback of the front seats. Put your rear-facing baby seat in place, then both of you sit in the front seats and ask yourselves if the car still gives you enough legroom. Few car reviewers bother with this test, but I think it’s critical. You’ll have that seat facing backwards for a LONG time.

    Also, give some thought to ingress/egress for that backwards baby. Does the door open wide enough? Is the C-pillar on an aggressive angle that’ll make it tough to load/unload? All worth checking out before you buy.

    I like my final-generation Legacy wagon, but it fails all these tests. If I knew then what I know now…

  • avatar
    daviel

    get a Kia Sorento, a Taurus or an Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      daviel

      used, of course. All will be cheap, plenty of space, easy to find, comfortable. Wife has a sorento – it’s a perfect grandkids transport.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My cousin dumped a very clean ’99 RX300 (which was also purchased new for her) for some kind of Kia CUV because both of her grandchildren’s car seats could not fit in the Lex side by side, or something lame to this effect. The facepalm could be seen for miles.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      One of the largest car dealerships here in Wisconsin *always* has several dozen+ late model (2ish year old) Impalas for $14-16k. One of the easiest large cars to find for a good price used.

  • avatar
    OneidaSteve

    When our kids were babies, we were poor, and drove cheap cars. Now we are just cheap, and drive cheap cars :)

    Seriously, best cheap car when we had 1 and then 2 babies was our 92 Buick Lesabre. great mileage, ride, trunk.

    Keep in mind that 100% of new mothers/fathers ride in the backseat with the baby at some (all) point. This weekend I saw a trendy greeny mom crammed in the back of a late model mazda3 with dad driving, baby in back. Ok it is possible, but she didnt look comfortable. So while it is possible to transport a family of five on a moped, it isnt comfortable.

    So if you will be a family of three for a while, a big ish sedan is great. If more kids, buy a damn van. We love ours, cant count the number of MILLION times we have to walk back to break up a fight, or switch arguing kids around. PLUS as they get older, you will be carting their friends around.

    We had a Ford Excursion, loved loved loved it but the high gas prices killed it, now Town and Country. Love it, would take more space (3 tween boys) = 3 bikes, 5 sets of skis in winter, 3 sets soccer/lacrosse/baseball gear etc. you get the point.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    My suggestion is wait for #2. You’ve got enough car for 1 kid allready. I’ve got 1 kid now. For 1 kid all you need room for is a stroller and daiper bag. Try to minimize kid mass instead of maximizing vehicle mass. For example, the stroller. Get the lightest one possible. Don’t get one of those mega strollers that’s the size of a smart car. We’ve got a nice fold up MacLaren Volo stroller that’s lightweight, compact, and gets the job done. When our girl was too small for it we had a graco infant carrier as the car seat and a graco stroller frame that the carrier popped onto to use as a stroller. Both easily fit in the trunk of my wife’s 03 sonata with room for the diper bag and groceries.

    I thought about getting a bigger car too when we were expecting. At the time I had a 94 Regal and she had the 03 sonata. We decided to wait and see. Turns out you don’t really need anything more than what you have for 1 kid.

    • 0 avatar
      Madroc

      I concur. When #1 was born, we were a 2-Civic family. It worked just fine. The trunks were big enough for a reasonably-sized stroller and a rear-facing carseat could fit in the backseats, although it only fit well in the center position. We never had a problem, which is good because it was no time in our lives to be buying new cars. When #2 was in the queue my wife bought an Outback and it’s plenty big enough with two little ones (4 and 1 now). Don’t worry about how much car you’ll need when you have two kids in grade school, that’s at least one car after this one. Keep what you have now and save your money.

      My mom used to babysit for someone who refused to get rid of her ’88 Mustang GT when she had her first child. Of course in those pre-airbag days the baby could ride shotgun.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      What the OP really needs is advice on choosing a stroller. It’s a given that new parents will go through 3-4 strollers before they find the right one for them.

      We had the largest Graco stroller, which fit perfectly in the trunk of our full size sedan, had superb ride comfort and maneuverability, and carried the bassinet. Once kid number 2 arrived, it was a liability and I resented the encumbrance and size.

      My best advice is to look for 1) large wheels (which improves ride quality and steering), 2) reclining seat, 3) can be steered with one hand, 4) doesn’t require stooping to push, 5) has a rain and sun parasol, and 6) is big enough for an adult to sit in.

      We finally settled on Babyjogger City Mini, but don’t short change the shopping process.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I agre; downsize the stroller, don’t upsize the car.

      We had 4 kids and the cheap umbrella stroller did everything we needed for all of them. We managed to get 4 kids, for a time, into a 3-row Volvo 240 wagon. We finally upsized to a minivan because the 240 just didn’t stretch far enough for that workload on long trips. The minivan seemed a very luxurious way to travel.

      And, when you finally must upsize, just get a minivan. I don’t understand the low regard people have for them. It reminds me of the antipathy for wagons, the previous generations grocery-getters. Minivans are safe and effective, with better fuel economy than most crossovers and hold an amazing quantity of stuff. Most will tow pretty well. They do the job and they do it effectively. Your other car can be your fashion statement, if you have the money for it.

      • 0 avatar
        bbkkrr

        Agreed on the minivan. There’s a reason so many exist — function over form. As said above, having children means your life is over in so many ways that the minivan will be the least of your troubles. Get over it.

        Buying a Suburban or equivalent just means you spent more money for less space in the name of making some sort of statement.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Second on the minivan – our Odyssey is an amazing vehicle, BUT if you live in an area that gets a real winter, the low ground clearance of most minivans can be a real deal-breaker in anything over a few inches of snow. That’s where the Suburban will really shine.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Funny that well into my sister and I being teens, my mother drove a two door car (first a 1976 Mercury Montego, then a 1981 Toyota Corolla). Dad had back to back 1971 Opel Rekords, which were at least four door models. We made it quite well with that. My best friend is clamoring about their Contour being too small for the three of them (child is four years old), but seeing what all they think they need to carry to accomodate said child is almost humerous. I’ve seen less packed for excursions overseas.
    That being said, I’d probably opt for the Mazda5 just to be different. Not too big, but bigger…and with a side-order of driving dynamics tossed in just because…

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Get a 5-7 year old minivan and a bicycle for her to ride to work.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Bingo! Low mile 02 or 03 Sienna FTW.

      • 0 avatar
        myleftfoot

        2004 sienna with electric sliding door. Bought new has 135k original shocks and no unexpected maintenance. Wife did not want it but found it could hold six of her relatives, some elderly with walkers and wheelchairs easily swallowed by the giant cargo area. They go from $9-12k. Congrats.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave56

      + 10, a three mile commute will eat up a car. A bike would work great. In three miles you might not even break a sweat.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      I’m sure that’ll go over real well with the wife:

      “Honey, I’ve decided you can just bike to work. You’ll have to leave earlier, but it’s not like you’re busy or anything, right?”

  • avatar
    jmo

    ” we’re not looking for a $20,000+ car. We’d rather put our money into other places than to have a nice car that is parked for 23 1/2 hours per day.

    Ideally, we’d like to spend between $10,000 to $15,000.

    and have the means to purchase another vehicle without going into debt”

    Wouldn’t that entirely depend on what cars are available? Having recently been dumbfounded by an Accord with 120k on it being offered for $10k (and having a sold sticker on it), I’d have to think it’s in your best interest to go into debt for the new Accord rather than wildly overpay for the very used Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Agreed $10K for a used Accord with a buck twenty on the clock screams there’s a sucker born every minute to me. Given his budget though, I wouldn’t even go near a Camcord, new ones exceed his spending comfort zone and used ones are beyond a ripoff right now. Gently used Hyundai, Buick/Pontiac, and Ford/Mercury are all within this price range.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        A few years back a friend needed to replace her vehicle. I recommended a Saturn Aura. She paid $12,500 for a 2 year old Aura with 40,000 miles on the clock. This was in Ohio – here in Wisconsin it would be a tad pricier. But still, it’s worked like a charm for her.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        That Camry Hybrid at the auction that Steve passed on a few days ago is starting to look like a missed opportunity.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    It really depends how long you keep cars, and how many kids you plan on having. My wife drives a Mazda 3 hatch currently, that I think will be adequate for one kid, if a little uncomfortable while it’s in a rear-facing seat. The instant we’re pregnant with a second one, we’ll be looking for something with 3 rows.

    I agree with Steve that a full size sedan is a good choice initially, and arguably better than any of the smaller CUVs. I have a friend with year-old twins and a 08ish CRV, and she says it is just barely good enough for them, and she wishes she went bigger when they got it back then. If you wait long enough between kids it is doable

    I can’t say enought the importance of the rear seat to front seat distance for the point in time you’ll be dealing with a rear facing child seat. If you follow the recommendations, they now say 2 years instead of 1, which I find a bit ridiculous. On that topic, they keep recommending that you keep kids out of the front seat and in boosters longer, some saying to the point that they’re middle-school sized.

    Going forward, assume that you will be schlepping not only your own kids, but their friends as well as they get older. Especialy if your kids are involved in sports, need to haul gear, etc. Soccer and baseball gear is not to bad, but if your kids get involved in football, hockey, lacrosse, or anything else requiring pads you’ll need plenty of trunk and plenty of seat space. Or camping gear if the kid does the Scouts.

    The fact is, it’s not that you need 3 rows, or that you should even care if someone gets stuck sitting in the middle. It’s that your kids will inevitably be involved in activites that require obscene amounts of automotive space. Based on your situation, your wife will not only be carting your spawn around, but their friends/classmates/teammates/whatever. You can get by with a smaller car before they hit school age, but it will become very difficult very quickly staying with a smaller car.

    I’m fighting the hypothetical minivan fight against my wife whic I will brun down the house when we get to kid 2 for. She had a Chrysler T&C as a rental while her car was in the shop last month. She could not disagree that she had never been in something nearly as useful. She still refuses to drive one because “they’re ugly and I’m embarassed to be seen in one.” I made one hell of a home depot run while we had it too.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Oh dear god, a minivan is obnoxiously helpful for cargo space alone. For this very reason I’d contemplate buying one.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The one we rented had the stow’n’go seating too. I fit a bathtub, toilet, and a bunch of tile in it with the seats down… and there was plenty of room left.

        I told her we could get one and I’d DD it.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    If you’re going the sedan route, go find an unloved, under appreciated Cadillac STS(or seville if you’re willing to go old enough)/DTS at a price that is a steal, there are plenty of them out there going for less than the lucerne…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Lucerne in some years has the venerable 3800/4spd while in newer years the less spectacular 3900/4spd, both of which are seasoned durable platforms. Caddy Northstars have/had in my experience a tendency to not work as well in the longrun. I haven’t searched on Cadillacs in a long time so you may be correct about pricing, but from a dealer standpoint assuming both models are equal am I really going to price a Lucerne higher than a Deville? I’ve never seen it. Personally I would buy the H-body Buick all day long over a Cadillac anything.

  • avatar
    2012JKU

    You should be able to get a late model Dodge Caravan or Journey in that price range. My wifes 2010 Journey RT AWD has been very trouble free in the 3 years we have owned it. Does well with our little one.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    I have a late model Mazda 3 and my wife sometimes sits in the back with the baby. I wonder if that person upthread saw me?
    I’ll let you know that my wife is perfectly comfortable back there. It’s not a lazy boy recliner, but then again we’re humble people that tend to not look for any small reason to complain.
    I’ll hold off on my extended rant about how everyone needs huge vehicles despite the fact that millions of families have gotten by without them for decades.
    Of course there’s always exceptions, but at some point people just need to sit back and relax and be happy with what they have.
    It’s amazing to me the conditions that some people think are unlivable. People need to get some perspective. Comfort is at least 50% mental.
    (Then again I don’t plan on having three kids either- which changes the equation…)

    I will say why buy a 15k 5 year old used car when you can buy a new car that meets your needs for 20k-ish? Those first five years are the best years of the cars life.
    With used prices as high as they are (and widely available low interest incentives) it makes more financial sense to buy new than low mileage used, unless you’re looking at some unpopular model like Steve suggested.
    If you amortize out the costs over the long run, a new car for 5 years and then a free car for five years (because the new car is paid off) just might be cheaper.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’ve seen a few recommendations for big sedans thusfar. My recommendation: don’t.

    Anyone who is recommending a low-roof sedan over a high-roof crossover (liek the CRV) or van/MPV (like the 5 or Rondo) hasn’t loaded kids into a carseat in a long time. You’ll hate the low roof every single time you load the kid(s) into the car for the next three or four years. At least.

    Don’t even think about the Impala, Lucerne, any Panther, etc. Really don’t think about a small sedan or wagon. Get something with a high roof and low floor. Get the Rondo or 5. You have a kid, don’t be ashamed to be a parent, and don’t let society somehow make you or your spouse feel ashamed of what’s probably the most important job you’ll ever have.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Psar,
      You’ve forgotten the disclaimer that your advice comes from someone who is 5′ 18″. Us normal (or sub-normal) height people don’t need high roof vehicles. My family has never clamoured for more space than my Focus provides.

  • avatar
    mcg

    For $15000 you can get a 2 year old Caravan and an extended warranty. Within a month you’ll wonder what you ever did without it, and the extra warranty will give you the peace of mind you need as you adjust to your new life as parents.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    My wife and I always had “cool” imported cars (Porsches, Saabs, Acuras, Lexus’ etc.) until she came home one day and announced she was pregnant with twins. We drove the twins around in a LX 470 until the lease ended. Getting the babies in and out of car seats in the SUV was torture. We replaced it with a very “uncool” Chrysler Town & Country minivan. It was the best choice we ever made. Sliding power doors are one of the greatest inventions of western civilization.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    When our first child was on the way (1981) we owned a 1978 Honda Accord, which is about the size of today’s Honda Fit or maybe Civic. Recognizing that that was a little small, we bought a new Audi 5000, which was Audi’s larger sedan. I do not recall that we had a rear-facing child seat, but it easily accommodated a front-facing child seat in the back seat. We made road trips and vacations in that car, quite comfortably, including one time with an au pair who was living with us.

    Three years later, when #2 was on the way, we bought a Jeep Cherokee/wagoneer, about the size of the just discontinued version of the Ford Escape. This car served us well with two kids and stuff for more vacations (and without putting anything on the roof or stacking cargo higher than the rear seats).

    Only when #3 was on the way did we go into minivan territory.

    So, I would second Steve’s comment in support of any number of reasonably large — but not huge — sedans as being more cost-effective than currently fashionable CUVs of any size. Frankly, I think a Ford Fusion would fill the bill quite nicely. There are lots of them around at all trim levels, and their reliability record is consistently excellent, right up there with Honda and Toyota.

    Frankly, the current fashion in small CUVs is, in its own way, just as irrational as were the infamous tail fins of the late 1950s. I see reviews of the latest generation “small” crossovers offered by Honda, Ford, etc. and I read their capacity specifications, all of which are less than my 10 year old Saab station wagon. When the BMW X5 was introduced, it had significantly less cargo space than the contemporaneous version of the 3-series wagon.

    More importantly, realize that about 1/3 of the cargo capacity of a CUV is not usable, because it is above the height of the rear seats. In a crash, all of that stuff above the seat backs is going to be flying forward into the back of your head. Whereas, in a sedan, you can stuff the trunk as full as you like . . . and whatever is in there, stays in there, even in a crash. You can, of course, get some sort of a cage or other barrier which allows you to fill the cargo area of your CUV to the roof . . . but then you won’t be able to see out the back at all or take advantage of the extra space available when you fold the rear seats down and you need to carry something that needs to use all of the cargo space behind the front seats. The final option, using a roof-top carrier, makes your vehicle top-heavy (not a good thing in a high-riding CUV) and adds considerably to your wind drag, which you pay for with higher fuel consumption.

    2-row CUVs, like AWD for non off-road vehicles, are greatly oversold, IMHO.

    And I would never put my family in one of those E-series small passenger vans. Those things are some of the most unsafe vehicles around. If my family was that large, I would get a Suburban.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 for the Fusion. I purchased a 2011 SEL v6 model from a Ford CPO lot about 3 months ago and couldn’t be more pleased with the car. Though not all that flashy in the looks the department it gets pretty good MPG’s and has plenty of get up and go. Even the I4 I test drove before had plenty of power.

      The trunk seems to swallow up anything I throw into it and the back seat has more than enough room for my 7 and 4 year old girls. I’m 6′ 1″ and in all previous (compact) cars I had to put the seat back as far as it would go but in the Fusion I have plenty of travel behind where I find it comfortable. The girls in the back seat seem to have plenty of room though that doesn’t stop them from trying to kick the seats whenever they get the chance.

      The car is big enough without being too big and bloated like the Accord I test drove. The reliability records are way up there. My only complaint was the factory stereo was pretty lackluster, but that was solved by a trip to the Alpine and Focal department of my local stereo shop.

  • avatar
    Bangernomist

    I’m in the minivan camp…our ’05 Odyssey arrived 6 weeks after our firstborn and we’ve never regretted it. Two points I haven’t seen raised about rear facing kid seats that I think are important. First, you can buckle the little one into a rear facing seat without bending over much with a minivan. Your back will thank you. Second, the sliding door means you aren’t having to work around the open door to get the kid buckled up. I STILL curse my old Accord every time I have to get our 5 year old strapped in the back seat.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Buick Lucerne is good. An Impala would most likely be cheaper. A Five-Hundred has enough interior room that it FEELS like a minivan! How about an Equinox or Escape? A CR-V would definitely last a long time, too. A minivan? Hmmm…we’ve never owned one, but those we know who have loved them.

    You have lots of choices, take your pick. It boils down to what you would want to live with, personal preferences not necessarily aside.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      See you would think an Impala would be a steal, but last I checked (about six months ago) they were still going for way too much at our local Manheim. MY 10 and 11 Impy LSes were doing 12ish plus bidding at 20-50K miles, these are maybe 10K cars (wholesale) very clean in these parts from a reasonable standpoint. The twelves will probably bid even higher because of the 3.6 when they start coming through. Car market is still a bit upside down IMO.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    With how little the car is planned on being driven, go big. You need at least one big vehicle in the family if you have kids.

    I made the mistake of thinking a Subaru WRX wagon would somehow be a good compromise as a kid hauler. It was a joke, even with one kid.

    I really like the Mazda 5, and I wouldn’t go any smaller than that. But if my wife’s average mileage was only 6 miles per day, I’d probably be getting an older Suburban.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Since Sajeev didn’t opine, I’ll have to say it for him – Panther love all the way!

    any of those big 4 dour full sizers would be a good choice if you want a larger car (throw Impala, Avalon, and a Charger that doesn’t have the 2.7 liter into the mix). Wagon wise, the Magnum should fit nicely into that price range, as well as any of Mazda’s recent offerings (3, 5, 6). What’s a 5 year old Subaru Legacy wagon going for these days? With a young family, if you want to be safety conscious, you should also be able to find Volvo V50′s and V70′s readily available (V70R FTW! Your wife will never know what hit her).

    You could also get a perfectly decent new hatchback like a Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio for right about that price range.

  • avatar
    Toad

    First, Congratulations!

    Second, here’s a nutty idea: since we are dealing with somebody that lives in the Atlanta area instead of Pakistan let’s find out what type of car your wife likes to drive. Does she like big or small cars? Trucks, full size vans, Panthers? Picking out a car for your wife without taking into account what her preferences are is boorish/unenlightened/narcissistic, etc…this is 2012, not 1952.

    If your wife is like mine she is very sure of what she DOES NOT like in cars, and many of the above suggestions fit into the above category (a Panther or Econoline van? Most women under 65 years old would throw you out of the house for suggesting it! Plus driving them in urban traffic is a nightmare for most drivers). She may like a minivan, or despite the practicality not want to be a minivan mom, period.

    Steve, since you deal with urban traffic I would ask my wife to look at and test drive a small utility car like the Soul or Cube. Lots of room, easy to drive & park, good seating position, great fuel economy, and relatively inexpensive. Easy back seat access for kid and kid stuff, plus convenience of a hatchback. My wife loves hers.

    Tell us what kind of car your wife prefers and we in the peanut gallery could be more helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A wife who wants to driver a Panther is not only a keeper but a rare and gifted one indeed.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Maybe…but the women in a Panther in my neck of the woods tend to fall into 3 categories:

        1. Long time AARP member with immobilized hair and reflexes only sightly quicker. Cream puff car that looks like the day it was purchased. Shame that the car will be inherited by basket case relative who will destroy it.

        2. In the back of a soon to be retired police car explaining that a) they did not steal the items from the store, they just forgot to pay for them; or b) my boyfriend/husband was not hitting me, we were just arguing. Take those handcuffs off, he loves me!

        3. Driving with a cigarette on the lips, sporting tattoos that long ago ceased to be cute, with trash on the dash and a windshield with more cracks than a meth-head’s lips. Both driver and car looked like they have taken a few beatings but are ready for more.

        Not a club I want my wife to join. Your mileage may vary.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ha +1

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Ford Escape – the current one. It’s boxy, good looking, reasonably economical and as I recall, there’s space to fit that rear facing child seat in without too much space lost for those in the front seat.

    Also check out a newish Taurus (sedan) or Taurus X (crossover) – good interior space in both and both likely in your price range.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    If you are not worried about gas, or ease of parking, a mini-van is great. We have a 2004 Quest–the plastics are falling apart but, runs ok–you could get a lower milage Quest or Dodge product in your price-range.
    That, said, even a small sedan would suffice. We used our 2000 Protege for our first kid, and still gets daily use now that we have 3 (9mos, 7 years, 9 years), but we are not big people–for most purposes the mini-van and the protege are interchangable. On longer trips we use the mini-van.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I vote for the Marshawn Lynch Econoline special. It’s full of skittles and booze.

  • avatar
    dts187

    ***Putting on nomex for upcoming flaming***

    Take a good long look at the Patriot/Compass/Caliber triplets. More space than you’d think, acceptable gas mileage, plastic interior that is easy to clean, available AWD, and you can find them under $15k with mileage in the 30-50k range. In my opinion, the Patriot isn’t completely terrible looking.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    As long as the rear-facing car seats fit, any car will do with a single kid. Hatchbacks make life easier because you can just fling the stroller in there without trying to clear the trunk lip. Two kids aren’t a problem either, we were doing just fine with two in both our old Volvo and Lancer station wagon which is only marginally bigger than a Protege5.

    I will however say that a minivan definitely is a handy vehicle to have around. The initial reflex is to reject it, but once you get over that you start to appreciate them. I have a first gen MPV and it’s awesome. I can stand inside the van and buckle up my toddler instead of trying to do that in pouring rain while bending over. My wife was VERY skeptical of it at first but 6 months later she prefers it over our other vehicles. Kids prefer vans too, I’ve noticed.

    I’d keep the Protege unless you were looking to swap it out anyways, then consider the van.

  • avatar
    Molotovio

    The question is you want a Rondo/Mazda5 size or a hatch like a Kia Spectra5/Mazda3 type. For one kid, the latter is more than enough.
    I own the Spectra5 because I also have a 5 miles a day commute and I got it for half price than a Mazda 3.
    There is a very nice comparison of the Rondo vs Mazda 5 (a little outdated)
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/09/2008-kia-rondo-ex-vs-2009-mazda-mazda5-grand-touring/

    My experience having friends with both, is that the 5 is nicer, more refined, but the Rondo is/was stronger. But depends on what you can get used and low mileage.
    The good thing about the Rondo and the Mazda5 is that they are higher so it has an easier access with a baby.

    The fact that the Rondo is ugly is good to get it cheaper, although in that line of thought an Aztec would be the ideal car.

    GOOD luck

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Why do people think they need to upgrade to really large vehicles to cope with all the stuff an infant brings? I’ve got my first on the way, and although it’s not an ideal vehicle (Cobalt), we’ve trial ‘filled’ the car with all the baby clobber we could possibly need, and we still have room.
    I dunno, perhaps it’s because I grew up with weeny little cars in the UK that I don’t see the need to upgrade to something large.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    what about a Chrysler Pacifica? You could probably get a 2007 or 2008 fairly cheap because, well, it’s a Chrysler Pacifica.

    But in all seriousness, it actually isn’t a bad vehicle. A lot of car for the money.

    Also check out the Ford Freestyle/ Taurus X.

  • avatar
    phargophil

    I’ll second the mention of the Ford Freestyle/Taurus X. We bought one new in 2005 and have had no problems with it. Great room, good mileage, not a CUV, and no minivan mystique. Really, it’s a station wagon.

    TTAC’s own Michael Karesh has a Taurus X–that should be a good recommendation right there!

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Here’s some free advice. Spend $200 extra on the high-end car seat that doesn’t take up as much room as the Wal-Mart special instead of losing $2000+ trading in a perfectly fine car for something else.

    • 0 avatar
      PDK PhD

      Ditto. I didn’t see anything in the original question that said there was any reason to trade in the 2002 Protege5, other than “uh-oh, I have a kid on the way, I need a family hauler.”

      Why not try the existing ride as a family hauler? Unless you are expecting triplets, you should be fine with a 4 door hatch (why call it a 5 door? does anybody routinely crawl in the hatch and ride back there?).

      Besides, an assumption, but I’m guessing from your budget you don’t have money to throw away, so why not skip the car payment? You will soon be faced with a potential decrease in income due to time off work, increased routine bills (diapers, later baby food, daycare, etc.) and one time expenditures for the baby items you need but aren’t gifted at the baby shower. Why not wait and see how things are financially, first, then consider a new car w/monthly payment?

      I don’t know, maybe use the money ear marked for that new ride to start a pre-paid college fund?

      Also, the whole argument “if you are going to have 2-3 kids total, down the road, then buy a Suburban now!” does not make sense to me at all. Start shelling out all that money on gasoline now on a 2005 or older Suburban (to get into your price range), so that you have a 12 year old vehicle 5 years down the road when you -might- need it when you possibly have a family of 5?

  • avatar
    moore101

    What about a Mazda 6 wagon? They stopped selling them in 07 so it might be hard to find one but they look great and meet all your requirements.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      I tried one. Suffers from the same problems as the previous-gen Legacy/Outback wagon: Small back seat makes it difficult to fit backward-facing baby seat without compromising front-seat room. Also, ingress/egress to said baby seat is not terrific.

      Good car, but not without shortcomings.

  • avatar
    mjz

    No brainer. Brand new Dodge Grand Caravan AVP (American Value Package) has MSRP of $20,995. Pentastar V-6 and six speed auto. Dodge Journey APV is $18,995. Why buy someone else’s used problem?

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Buy the Buick, I saw one today parked in front of a Hilton on 6th and 26th in NYC and I looked twice.

    What for the next financial collapse, no idea when it will happen but it will happen and that will be the time to stick your neck out and buy America, there will be real deals in everything.

  • avatar
    jonny b

    I can’t believe no one has suggested the Elantra Touring yet. I’ve had one for a year now. I’ve got two small kids and it’s perfect. I also used to drive a protege5 and the Elantra is the perfect substitute. It’s not quite as fun to drive but you’ve got new priorities now. But just like the protege5 it’s got plenty of cargo space, great visibility and a simple, functional interior. Read the TTAC reviews. They’re pretty spot on and were a big factor in my decision to buy the car. There should be some good deals available as well as dealers make room for the new Elantra GT, which looks nice enough but not nearly as practical.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I disagree with the Steve’s options. They are not particularly good deals, reliable, sporty or have any character.

    I would go for a used Suburban or Tahoe (remove 3rd row). They are both really good trucks and last forever. Minivans are crap with paper mache transmissons and they scream “I have given up on life!”

  • avatar
    pktojd

    To the OP, congrats! It’s a life change and is most fun if you don’t resist it for a few years. Then you’ll want your life back, and you’ll find a balance point.

    When my first arrived, we had a B Passat. It worked well, had a huge trunk — enough for stroller that car seat snapped into and groceries at the same time — and enough back seat room for the upsized rear-facing car seat that usually lasts from 5 to 18 mos. It rode smooth and, to my wife’s delight, did not look like a mom mobile. (I never did figure out what she thought she looked like dragging an infant and a diaper bag around.)

    When it came time for a second ride, we opted for a 1998 Volvo V70R. It was great and, but for a tensioner pulley, might still be with us. Plenty of room for passengers and cargo, the Vovlo safety engineering, and superb ride, and all wheel drive. I would highly recommend looking for a 99-00 V70, WITH TWO PROVISOS: (1) you can identify a trustworthy indie mechanic; (2) you’re able to absorb 1k a year in upkeep costs. These cars use the Volvo cyl engine that is tried and true. Stay away from the R version; it’s got a delicate AWD system. Otherwise, they are long-term workhorses.

    When the ’98 did go in 2006, we replaced it with another V70R, this time a 2004 6-sp. That and the Passat stayed with us through the arrival of our second kid, until he turned 5.

    The Passat became a ticking time bomb (leaking oil from everywhere, except the cupholder, and that had become greasy), so I was crazy/lucky enough to trade it for a 2012 Mustang GT.

    I think mid-size wagons are the way to go. The lift-over height is lower. They generally have better mileage and handling than an SUV and most crossovers. Other than the Volvo, you’ve got the Mazda6 and the Subaru Legacy/Outback.

    Your and your wife’s size will affect the decision. Someone above pointed out that after 2-3 mos, stopping to put a kid in a car can become a strain. That’s true. But after 12 months, lifting them into an elevated SUV/crossover seat can also become a strain. And that may continue longer if they can’t climb in by themselves once they start walking.

    Lastly, heed the warnings about too much baby stuff. Lots of people are making lots of money convincing new parents that they need lots of things. Do without as much of it as possible for as long as you can, then add it as you determine you need it. Don’t bother stocking up ahead of time. Until 4 mos you need a seat, blankets, and diapers.

    Enjoy.

  • avatar
    pktojd

    To the OP, congrats! It’s a life change and is most fun if you don’t resist it for a few years. Then you’ll want your life back, and you’ll find a balance point.

    When my first arrived, we had a B Passat. It worked well, had a huge trunk — enough for stroller that car seat snapped into and groceries at the same time — and enough back seat room for the upsized rear-facing car seat that usually lasts from 5 to 18 mos. It rode smooth and, to my wife’s delight, did not look like a mom mobile. (I never did figure out what she thought she looked like dragging an infant and a diaper bag around.)

    When it came time for a second ride, we opted for a 1998 Volvo V70R. It was great and, but for a tensioner pulley, might still be with us. Plenty of room for passengers and cargo, the Vovlo safety engineering, and superb ride, and all wheel drive. I would highly recommend looking for a 99-00 V70, WITH TWO PROVISOS: (1) you can identify a trustworthy indie mechanic; (2) you’re able to absorb 1k a year in upkeep costs. These cars use the Volvo cyl engine that is tried and true. Stay away from the R version; it’s got a delicate AWD system. Otherwise, they are long-term workhorses.

    When the ’98 did go in 2006, we replaced it with another V70R, this time a 2004 6-sp. That and the Passat stayed with us through the arrival of our second kid, until he turned 5.

    The Passat became a ticking time bomb (leaking oil from everywhere, except the cupholder, and that had become greasy), so I was crazy/lucky enough to trade it for a 2012 Mustang GT.

    I think mid-size wagons are the way to go. The lift-over height is lower. They generally have better mileage and handling than an SUV and most crossovers. Other than the Volvo, you’ve got the Mazda6 and the Subaru Legacy/Outback.

    Your and your wife’s size will affect the decision. Someone above pointed out that after 2-3 mos, stopping to put a kid in a car can become a strain. That’s true. But after 12 months, lifting them into an elevated SUV/crossover seat can also become a strain. And that may continue longer if they can’t climb in by themselves once they start walking.

    Lastly, heed the warnings about too much baby stuff. Lots of people are making lots of money convincing new parents that they need lots of things. Do without as much of it as possible for as long as you can, then add it as you determine you need it. Don’t bother stocking up ahead of time. Until 4 mos you need a seat, blankets, and diapers.

    Enjoy.

  • avatar
    msr43

    “We’re pregnant”?! Seriously? That’s ludicrous. You realize you’re both not pregnant, right? Anyway, congrats! My first time commenting on my favorite car blog and it’s not event about a car…

  • avatar
    mkirk

    If you want a CUV I bet one of the Korean ones could be had for that money with fairly low miles. Maybe the Tucson or Sportage.

  • avatar
    afflo

    Remember, you may think you’re having just two, but a third could happen, possibly twins. If each one of those kids wants to bring a friend along, you could easily need room for 8 kids, plus 2 adults, plus cargo space. I’d recommend at minimum a 10 passenger vehicle.

    You don’t want to buy a minivan or a suburban and realize you have insufficient space. That would be an expensive mistake!

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    I would most definitely say used, where you know all the maintenance records and what sort of driving it has had over it’s life. With new cars coming out with increasing complex drivetrains and electronics galore, you can’t know if it will last you for 20 years or not.

    Go on carcomplaints.com and look up the reliability and common issues with the car. Get a car that has very few issues even after 7 years +.
    For instance, a 1999 Civic has less than 40 complaints! Whereas some newer Civics had transmission issues and had 100s of complaints.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India