By on April 9, 2014

ymo

Steve,

Thanks for sending along your email address, and for you all that you do to demystify the process of buying and owning cars. I find myself in a unique situation, and I would like your thoughts.

My wife is considering taking a job that is 135 miles away from our home. She will commute up once and return 3 days later. We have 3 young kids, and they attend a school that is about 15 miles from home and a similar distance from my office. Should she take the job, I will be in charge of picking them up 3 days a week, in addition to dropping them every day already.

I share this background with you to illustrate that we are already driving some significant miles. Her car is a 2011 Honda Odyssey with about 45,000 miles on it (and rising at about 19K per year), mine is a 2002 BMW M5 with about 84,000 miles (perhaps 14K per year). Simply put, she doesn’t want to drive my car to the job because she’s afraid of it, and I could really use the utility of the van from time to time when she is gone. I have no intention of selling the BMW—it’s worth less than I have in it, and it makes me smile.

We’re considering an additional car for my wife for the commute. It has to be dead reliable, as she will be far away with no time to spare while she’s using it. Right now I’m considering a lease (never thought I’d say that) or buying used (although I’m nervous about picking up someone else’s problems). When crunching the numbers, I see that the Corolla/Elantra/Civic segment is going to cost me more in insurance than going up a class, so the all-in cost is probably similar to a larger vehicle.

What am I overlooking? Is there some magical bare-bones vehicle I can lease or buy used that will provide decent MPGs and trouble-free motoring? Ugly/unloved models are no problem. I can be patient in looking for the right vehicle, but time is a semi-precious resource.

Thanks for your help!

Steve Says

You have just described why so many people now drive Camrys, Accords and Altimas.

A lot of folks like to match the size of the car to the size of the commute. Small commutes are often done with smaller vehicles. Long commutes encourage more stretching room and since many mid-sized cars now have as much room as full-sized vehicles a generation ago, they are becoming the new norm for road warriors.

In the case of your wife, she will likely have about six empty seats and space that will likely remain unused for those journeys with the Odyssey.

But as you mentioned, your minivan is still needed. It works. As for fuel economy, the Odyssey gets around the mid-20’s in mixed driving and the high 20’s on the highway. Plus you never know how the world changes. That potential job for your wife may come and go within a year or two. Or it may be you who winds up caring for the family thanks to an unexpected downsizing.

You didn’t mention a budget, but given your Wall Street money management job and the fact that you seem to be in that fungible mode where so many cars can potentially fit the bill, I would start with sampling a few rentals before finally paying the big bill. You may also put some feelers out there to see if any of your colleagues are trying to get rid of a used car that has been well kept.

I would wait a bit picking an alternative to the Odyssey. See how things work out once the financials are well-established, and then go forward from there. As for a family friendly mid-sized vehicle, or anything else in the world of new and used cars, I’m sure the Best & Brightest will have far more popular choices than the 12 year old brown Saab 9-5 wagon I just bought at the auction.

Then again, maybe not. How would she feel about a brown SAAB wagon?

Note: I can always be reached directly at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com .

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

174 Comments on “New or Used : Do Two People Need Three Cars?...”


  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    diesel and a stick?

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      certainly a diesle with the long commute. This woud be perfect. But if she is afraid of the M, she likely will not like standard.
      If leasing is their decision…VW is offering the jetta at 199/mo and passat at 309/mo right now.

      • 0 avatar

        No leasing! Money down the toilet.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        Trouble is, at 135 mi*2*50 weeks, you’re talking 13,500 miles a year just for the commute. Will anyone lease a consumer a car for north of 15,000 miles per year? And at that point, does it even make financial sense?

        $199 and $309 are already nearly pocket change; a straight purchase has got to be similarly affordable.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Simple answer – You can never have too many vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Amen!

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      I came here to say this.
      Mrs. Ark and I have 5 cars between us. And after paying off my most recent acquisition 2 months ago I said that’s it. No more. But seeing the pricing on new 2013 Civic Si’s has me convinced I need to keep the miles down on my current daily driver.
      So no, there’s never enough. Also, it’s a disease.

    • 0 avatar
      Redshift

      Just chiming in to agree. Between my wife and I we have 7 cars plus a parts car.

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        Me and wifey have 5 in our fleet:

        1. 2004 F150, 6cyl, stick,90k miles, my daily driver.
        2. 2008 Subaru Forester Sport, stick, 78k miles, wifey daily driver.
        3. 2009 Caddy DTS Premium, 30k,miles, road trip/going out car.
        4. 1991 Mustang GT Convert, stick, 31k miles, warm weather fun car.
        5. 1967 Pontiac Catalina Ventura 2drHt, 63k miles, was my Dad’s last new car, cruise night car(see avatar)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    She fears your M5? Well it is a 2002 model so I’m sure it doesn’t yet have all the 500+ safety systems that have been made standard in the last decade.

    How about a lease on something like a Prius? High mpgs and decent residuals. Or as Steve suggests a plain 4cyl family car like Camry/Sonata/Altima/Accord/Fusion/Malibu/etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Seems like they want bigger cars. Why not something like an Impala, Taurus or Avalon. For mindless cruising on US interstates, they are probably the most comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Marcelo, I say this as someone who was raised on big American Iron. The average “midsize” car today puts the fullsizers of the 1980s and 1990s to shame. Unless you really need to carry four full size adults on a regular basis there really is no reason for the full size American cars of today.

        Living in a retirement village and need to carry your adult children to dinner with you? God bless you and your Avalon. Need to carry yourself and three business clients to lunch? That Impala LTZ or Cadillac XTS should do nicely.

        Which actually made the thought occur to me. The OP hasn’t said what kind of work the wife is doing. Maybe she needs that capability?

        • 0 avatar

          Who knows, could be!

          Yeah, thanks Dan, I understand. Cars like Camry have really gotten up there in size. Comes down to a question of preference then.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          We are talking cars; but is that what *she* would want; she may prefer a CUV; since those ride well, sit up high, get comparible mileage, and are easier to put car seats in.

          (While is why the full size car market is in major decline.)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with your suggestion, its important to take the end user’s thoughts into account. Although unless *she* is paying for it, it should be a joint decision. I would also add OEMs refuse to build full size cars in N.A. long enough (or with enough interior room) for carseats and rear passengers. Nobody is going to miss 12in-16in of trunk space for additional passenger room.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, if she wanted a CUV I bet he’d’ve mentioned it. Anyway, that’s what the Honda is for. The third car is just to go and get back from work.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          Dan, unless you’re transporting basketball players, I can’t imagine 4 full size adults not fitting in a Camry, Accord, Altima, Sonata, or Passat. Plenty of legroom and headroom in all of them. The Mazda6 feels a little smaller while the Optima lacks headroom, especially with the sunroof. The Fusion is probably roomy enough too, but I’ve never sat in the current model.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      @PrincipalDan, she fears what she perceives to be lack of reliability and the lack of a spare tire. She probably also fears my reaction to the inevitable dings taken in a university parking lot.

      • 0 avatar
        thunderjet

        I thought she might have feared the power.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps one of the smaller SUVs.
        I’ve been kicking the tires hard between a Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.
        Both are a few inches shorter than my current Saturn,so parking shouldn’t be an issue.
        Moderately priced,and still a few 2013s left.
        Mileage decent enough,esp since a lot will be freeway miles.

        As for leasing,certainly a good option on a new car that you don’t want to keep around,just beware dealer trying to hit you up for scratches when time to turn in.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I just rode with four people to a baseball game in a CX-7 and as a rear passenger it found it adequate but somewhat small. I’ve ridden in CX-5 but not as a rear passenger, its interior is entirely too crampt for its size, IMO. Not sure on CR-V, haven’t been inside one in probably eight years.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            28: “I’ve ridden in CX-5 but not as a rear passenger, its interior is entirely too crampt for its size,”

            Really? I’m 6’4″ and I thought it was spacious. Are you thinking of some other vehicle?

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Had a CR-V for a service loaner a couple months back. Typical Honda nice, but the interior is getting a little dated; the MMC for 2015 should freshen things a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Car Ramrod. Ah, my father’s best friend once allowed his wife to drive is 1987 Oldsmobile 442 after her Cavailer died and they were down one car while shopping. She feared dinging it as well because it was his baby.

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      Maybe she fears the operating costs of an E39 M5. As much as I’d love to have one, I know I do…

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        This is a point.

        Also, there is something to be said about minimizing the commuter mileage on the E39 M5, as it is already gaining the prestige and desirability of an E30 M3 without all the problems of actually being a terrible car.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        An M5 sedan, driven carefully in good weather on relatively flat run, can get about 21-23 MPG(trip mpg). I have managed 24 in my M5 powered 2002 525i touring. I think the longer body helps with airflow, something I consistently noticed when I used to drive Suburbans. The 525i when still stock, managed high twenties even a 30-31 at times(trip mpg). Now it is rarely driven as fuel around here is near $4.00 for premium. I take it to BMW meets and to track events. It isn’t tracked.

        Same use for my E36 328is coupe powered by an M5. It is driven more often just for fun, but I have never consistently checked MPG as I don’t take trips in it and usually can’t behave when driving it. When my next personal V-8 conversion(MX-5/1UZ-FE/300Hp) is completed and sorted, the 328 will probably see a lot less use… Uh!… hooning.

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          You swapped an M62 into both a e39 wagon AND a e36, and you’re talking about swapping the Lexus V-8 into a Miata as an upgrade? Part of me wants it to be true because its the most insanely awesome thing I’ve heard.

          Pics! I would expect that you are quite the forum god :P

          • 0 avatar
            GiddyHitch

            +1

            Shut up and take my money for that M5 e39 wagon!

          • 0 avatar
            3Deuce27

            “most insanely awesome thing I’ve heard.” Actually the M62 and S62 swap is done quite often, less so with the S62 because of availability, but they do come up from time to time. Eastern Europe seems to be a hot bed of the S62/M62 swaps.

            The 1UZ-FE is beginning to be a quite common swap, but usually into Supras and old RWD Corola’s etc. The 1UZ-FE is an extremely good engine… 6 bolt-main bearings, all aluminum, Steel crank and rods, tough enough to hold up at over 1,000 Hp. Engine is very popular in New Zealand and Australia where a lot of parts development has been done. US sourced parts are coming online.

            Swapping engines is my fun retirement business, but I have been doing engine swaps since about 1963. Some of my earliest swaps were Flathead V-8’s into ‘Tee’s’, ‘A’ V-8’s, Sm blk Ford into a 544 Volvo, Capri V-6 into a Bug Eye and two Karmann Ghia’s, 301″ Chevy into an A-100 Healey, the ubiquitous Vega/Monza swap, 440″ into a 62′ Valiant, and many more. Today we/I primarily do LS engines into ‘F’ bodies with some early Corvette Sting Ray’s(1963′-67′)/Stingrays(68′-75′), and C3 & C4 Corvettes. We have also swapped LS’s into Gen-2 & 3 RX-7’s and a few other cars, Merc’s, ‘Z’s.
            As if I didn’t get enough of this with over 60 hours a week at the shop, I’m now helping a friend put a 5.0 into a his 93′ Miata. This is my first V-8 swap into an MX-5. My 1UZ-LE swap will probably not take place until next Winter, as we have to much work to do for horsepower freaks that need a big fix and the race season is upon us, but the parts are already finding their way to the shop. Now I just have to find a suitable Miata to modify.

            I, actually, may even do the swap with the auto tranny that is coming with the engine, if, the tranny clears the Miata transmission tunnel. This would make the swap easier and a lot cheaper. I think it could be done with the auto for under $7,500, including the Miata. The JDM engine, transmission, elec-harness-ECU and various parts were around $1,600. The T-Bird 7.5″ IRS dif was $150.00, I can probably find a decent Miata for under $2,000, miscellaneous parts, aluminum drive line, aluminum racing radiator/fans, exhaust, Wilwood brakes, Tein coil-overs, etc will take it too around 7-8g’s.

            I recently sold the E36/M5, but got it back as a trade-in on a E-30/S62 build, if we can’t source an S62 in a timely manner, we will put in an M62 until a S62 is sourced, though now the client is considering having us put the S62 into his E-46 Touring.

            As a recommendation, I wouldn’t do an E-39 saloon, as it would be cheaper and easier to just buy an M5. The wagon/touring, wasn’t built, except for a prototype, so I being a big long roof fan, just had to make my own.

            Being a “God’ isn’t required to do these swaps, its just basic mechanics and pushing through the difficulties. After you have done a few, nothing really sets you back for long, though, a lot of time can be spent figuring out a solution and chasing down a part or the particular expertise needed.

            These days, interfacing the electronics is usually the only stumble point. Its not like it was in the old days with everything being analog, the switch to FI and engine functions tied to the transmission, makes for some head scratcher’s.

            I’ve had my fun with my E39 M5 Touring, so it may be for sale at the end of Summer, as I might be acquiring a new E-31_ 328i or 328D Touring, though, I’m not happy about it only being available with AWD and auto box.

            Google M5/s62/m62 swaps or 1UZ-FE swaps too see a lot on either swap.

            In the mean time, enjoy these and get some grease under your finger nails> http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=14538

            http://youtu.be/cHxew98QoGY

          • 0 avatar
            ellomdian

            Yep, I fat-fingered the S and M. I know a lot of people who swap the M62 because 540i’s and 740i’s are getting VERY inexpensive now (and the engines usually aren’t the expensive part to maintain.)

            But I typically see more recycled Dodge V10’s (Ex SRTs) than S62’s over here in the states.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Apologies to the rest of the thread for the BMW geek talk, but I can’t ignore this.

          @3Deuce27 – Did you just say you stuffed an S62 into an E36? Or was it the S38 from the E34? The phrase “my next personal V-8 conversion” suggests s62. Please tell me you have a thread detailing this adventure on one of the forums.

          Maybe this conversation should continue in the TTAC forums. Heisenberg Cartel started one for TTAC BMW owners.

          • 0 avatar
            3Deuce27

            Reg; “my next personal V-8 conversion” This means it is for my own personal use, not a client driven swap. And, it is for the 1UZ-FE into a Miata.

            The E-36 has an S62 swapped into it.

            The E-39 Touring had a complete donor car available and so everything M5 related was transferred over. I think it would accurately reflect a factory M5 Touring.

            “Please tell me you have a thread detailing this adventure”

            No ‘adventure’, this is everyday work here at Karrosserie Knesalle and we don’t have time to document it. But there are plenty of threads on the net and YouTube vids. We do keep a list of particular parts and drawings/patterns for fabricated pieces needed to do the various swaps.

            I have mentioned these swaps before, here at TTAC, with some detail, so a search of my posts will add more info.

            A quick look brings up this M5-E39 swap> http://www.m5board.com/vbulletin/e39-m5-e52-z8-discussion/137676-my-s62-swap-comes-conclusion-ending.html

            Pretty pics of a 1UZ-FE> http://youtu.be/cHxew98QoGY

            Google for more swaps and info.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    ” Long commutes encourage more stretching room ”

    Why? As long as the driver’s seat is comfortable and the car doesn’t have ride issues that make the trip unpleasant, what’s the need for a bigger car with more room? It’s not like one would lay down across the back seat during the commute or even pull the driver’s seat back extra.

    If this was my situation, I’d see the big problem here as the kids attending a school that’s going to be considered increasingly inconvenient. Mrs. Whozits is commuting 48 minutes/day (270 miles averaged over the 5-day workweek) and then doing another 30 minutes (maybe more) retrieving kids 2 more days/week. On account of school, Mr. Whozits is in for an extra 15-30 minutes per day every day and then an extra 15-30 minutes on 3 more days. Add all that up and it’s a lot of time that could be spent in so many more productive ways.

    • 0 avatar
      AllThumbs

      Why can’t the kids take the bus? I know lots of parents don’t want their kids taking a bus, but it sounds like they’re in the same school or very near and can keep each other company.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        AT,

        I didn’t make a specific suggestion but thought I’d just call the OP’s attention to the thing that makes life difficult.

        However, Car Ramrod has posted below and I now note this is in FL. I’d guess there is no bus and the nearest schools suck rocks. Here the local school district will provide some bussing to private school children, so “take the bus” would probably be appropriate here.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          You’ve hit upon it. The school is private, and it’s in the neighboring county. They do run a bus for a price (which I’m looking into), but daycare for the little one is on the way there, so I don’t know how much help it’ll be.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            When we moved for the job, we picked a house within walking distance of grades K-8 in the public school system, which is a decent one. The HS is further away and mostly the kids took the big yellow limo the district provided. No transportation worries.

            In this district, one can get a very good education if one wants to.

            You are not as lucky, I think, and I’m sorry if that’s so.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            If you like the daycare, forget about the bus. Finding a daycare my wife and I both liked was difficult. I can’t wait for our daughter to go to private school so I can save some money.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “I can’t wanit [sic] for our daughter to go to private school so I can save some money”

            Damn.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            28-

            To be fair, she’ll go to public school K-5 and maybe high school. I checked the prices of the private school nearby, and I would be saving a few thouasand dollars a year at the K-8 level compared to daycare.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Still, that’s quite a sticker price for daycare.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Its brutal. The going rate in the suburbs north of Detroit is at least $225/week. That might not even be bad compared to other places.

            I shouldn’t complain too much because we can afford it. I can’t imagine being a working single mom (or Dad) and trying to make it work. I feel like you get what you pay for too. There are some cheap daycares out there that are awful.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @bball

            I’m not even in the same universe but I’ve thought about some contingency plans. My mother is a grade school teacher by education, and a mentally challenged person’s teacher by experience. I thought what I might do if she is still in adequate health at the time this were to happen of forming an LLC in her name and suggesting she handle any children until they are of school age (as my grandmother did with me). I found out you can channel IRS flex spending money toward daycare, so I could channel money I’d end up giving her anyway tax free and then she could use legitimate things as deductions. The rules of daycare LLCs vary from state to state but from what I could interpret you could watch up to six children not your own in PA without a state license.

            Oh also one of my friends is a private nanny but not quite ritzy enough to be an “au pair”. She told me she gets $450/week/5days, so do you feel better about $225?

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            My 2-year old grandchild is in daycare to the tune of $1000/month and Mom pays even if he’s home for a day. The price drops as he ages, though not in large increments. As an infant, I think he was $1300/month.

            And those aren’t Manhattan prices, that’s a midsize Midwestern city.

            I’m apalled. Luckily, my daughter has a good job that makes this expense very worthwhile but, as bball40dtw hints, what’s it like for a minimum wage parent?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Kix

            I’m not even a parent and I was thinking the same thing about the *good* parents in the min wage bracket (because they are in the minority, but they do exist). I think the people at the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy I belong too are going to kick me out.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            KixStart/28-

            Yeah, we pay the $240/week no matter what. The daycare mercifully graces us with two vacation weeks a year where we only have to pay $120 to save our spot. I think she gets exceptional care and learning opportunities at her current daycare, so its probably all worth it.

            I think child care costs are a huge issue for a household with two working parents on modest salaries. You make too much to get assistance, and you are working just to pay for child care.

            BTW- I have a customer that runs an Au Pair firm. Its for higher end customers that pay for the Au Pair’s college, room & board, immigration paperwork and so forth. The college age girls all come from Eastern Europe. I think it resembles a prostitution ring.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “I think the people at the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy I belong too are going to kick me out.”

            If they do, you’ll be welcome here in Left Wing La-La-Land.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @bball

            Literally two people working for childcare? What has happened in our country… also that au pair agency sounds like an SVU episode waiting to happen.

            @kix

            Thx Kix

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            bb: “I think child care costs are a huge issue for a household with two working parents on modest salaries. You make too much to get assistance, and you are working just to pay for child care.”

            In some of these cases, they’ll look for work on different shifts but that bites. If these people don’t have good extended family support, life will be hard. Heck, even with good extended family support, life will be hard.

            bb: “The college age girls all come from Eastern Europe. I think it resembles a prostitution ring.”

            28: “also that au pair agency sounds like an SVU episode waiting to happen.”

            LOL but doing so ruefully.

          • 0 avatar

            Daycare cots are crazy My wife runs her own home based business, when we had our first and expenses went up she thought about going back to a regular better paying job and found once you figured on daycare it wouldn’t be a real increase over what she was taking home. Once you add in the 2nd kid it makes no sense at all to send em to daycare even if she had no income when ypu add in commuting costs etc.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            Day care is insane. I live in “gentrified” Brooklyn NY. The fancy new Bright Horizons charges $2,700/month for newborns, 5 days a week, complete with organic snacks and 9-month waiting list. Some places in Manhattan are more.

            On the other hand, I found a hidden gem for my toddler — for $700/month, she goes 3 times weekly and the care/trust I have is high. The kids learn and interact, and the aides love them. It’s a bit rougher around the edges, “diverse” in a way that makes some uncomfortable and geared toward working-class people. That’s fine by me.

            We’re not talking about cars here, are we?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @bball40dtw:

            Yep, been down the day care route. I do believe the vig on a sizable Mafia loan would be cheaper than day care for an infant.

            It’s especially bad for babies – they have you by the nuts and they know it. Your only other option is to quit your job, and they know that’s not happening.

            It does get a bit cheaper when you get into pre-K. And don’t forget to write off the tuition – you get a tax credit for it. That’s about all the good news I can give on day care. I’m thankful I’m done with it.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @28:

            These days, when you have a job worth keeping, you keep it no matter what. If that means every spare dime goes to day care, then that’s the deal. Unfortunate but true. At least you get a tax credit for it.

      • 0 avatar

        It all depends my kids go to a Charter school there is a bus but it runs a very long route (he would be on the bus for almost an hour) But the drive take about 10 minutes so I drop my kids off and My wife picks em up.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The “stretching room” thing threw me off too. I’m 6′ and have done 300 mile trips in a Mini, never felt the need for more room. throw in a couple passengers, sure, but for a solo commute, how much space do you need?

      And can someone explain this “…that the Corolla/Elantra/Civic segment is going to cost me more in insurance than going up a class,” Why does a Corolla cost more to insure than a Camry?

      I’m thinking Prius C. Not too expensive, good resale if you don’t keep it long. Stay away from leasing, the kind of mileage your wife’s racking up will kill you.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Ramrod

        I wondered this about the insurance cost, too, but it’s real. I spent a while on my insurer’s website getting hypothetical quotes, and corollas, elantras, and civics would cost us about $350 per year more to insure than an camcordima. The crotchety old man in me prefers to blame the teenagers that often wreck those smaller cars.

        The biggest issue with the hybrid is that the mpg benefit pretty much vanishes on the interstate.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “The biggest issue with the hybrid is that the mpg benefit pretty much vanishes on the interstate.”

          Mmmm… The C will probably still outdo any gas challenger by 10-15%, maybe more. But, yeah, it’s not the double that you see in urban traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      kyleck

      Exactly. What is that even supposed to mean, “stretching room”? You are sitting in a seat with your hands on the wheel no matter what, the space behind you doesn’t make one difference if there’s one person in the car.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    135 miles? ONE WAY? Sheesh, here I thought my 100-mile R/T commute was awful – which it is! At least I’m thankful I have my Impala – a great highway cruiser.

    For a single R/T commute this distance, A Prius may be the ticket, if it’s comfortable enough – you need to rent one and check. Otherwise, any of the mid-sizers out there will do just fine. Just be sure whatever you choose fits you well for the long haul!

    As to the thought of having a 3rd vehicle, well, we had one for years as a toy – always a convertible, but since my job moved so far away, we decided to downsize and get rid of the toy to save money. I’m retiring in 2 years, so obviously I’m a lot older than the person inquiring, but having a 3rd car comes in very handy, especially if one happens to need some shop time.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Car-specific advice: If you like the BMW, and can afford the insurance and whatnot in addition to the expense of another car, you might as well keep it. You’ve got enough going on that having a spare car won’t hurt.

    For a reliable commuter vehicle, consider the Prius C. The low end Nissans are also quite nice. Click’n’Clack like to recommend the Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Best option is keep driving the Odyssey. Fuel costs are still less than another car payment, and you won’t be in bad shape if the situation changes.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    There wasn’t a mention of whether Mrs. has expressed any preference or inclination. Since she will be doing the driving, start there. I wholeheartedly agree with Sajeev about trying rentals to narrow down the preferences, it may offer perspectives and requirements that would otherwise be overlooked.

  • avatar

    Why not used? A 2 yr old large car (Impala, Avalon, Ford 500 or Taurus) will have a substantial chunk off the original price and not be in too bad a shape. Just have it over to a mechanic you trust, do all the preventive maintenance needed, drive it a week or two to see if there are an bugs, then hand it over to the wife. Safe, cheap, competent road cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      What he said. A previous generation Impala with the 3.9 is just about perfect for this. And you can fit three child seats across the back seat. It is a very nice highway cruiser.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    OP Here. You guys have already given me a lot to think about– thank you! Here are a few details that might help you help me:

    – Her drive works out to about 14,000 miles a year. She would stay in corporate housing near the job 3 nights a week– that’s why I get more kid driving duty.

    – The commute is all rural highway (I-75 in Florida). My wife has a lead foot, and her Odyssey never gets better than 21 mpg with mixed driving (it has the six-speed auto)

    – My wife is 5’3″. She doesn’t much care about the size of the car, but I don’t want her in a Sonic/Accent. In fact, she doesn’t care about cars at all, but she can drive stick. The car will likely never carry anyone but her

    – Fitting 3 kids under the age of 10 is a struggle in the M5 with child seats. It’s fine for mornings, but it’d be nice to have more room. We also have a labrador who is NEVER going to see the inside of my current car.

    – I agree that we need to wait and see if the job is a “fit” before doing something, but I had no idea how soon this would be published.

    • 0 avatar

      Well if size is not a hang up, as I wrongly interpreted, just get a Civic, Cruze, Jetta whatever. Take a Saturday morning, take a look at all of them, at least sit in them and see how comfortable she feels. Then get one, brand-new or slightly used and be happy.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Get a Prius for the commuting duty, they are known to be one of the most reliable cars out there and is a great commuting appliance. Otherwise a Corolla would also be a good choice. In either case I’d get a 2-3 year old model and not take the depreciation hit for a commuting appliance that will likely only see use a couple of days per week. Though she (and you) might find it is handy for other things like a quick trip to the store when the van isn’t needed.

      • 0 avatar

        Honest question, why a Prius for highway duty?

        • 0 avatar
          Sam Hell Jr

          I can think of a few reasons.

          One is that, even though the difference between the Prius’s 50+ hwy MPG and an ICE sedan’s mid-30s isn’t that great, it’s still savings that will start to add up with this kind of mileage.

          And the Prius is great if you regularly hit gridlock (especially in hot weather with the AC blaring); all of a sudden the city mileage advantage comes back into play.

          OP mentions the lady is a leadfoot. The Prius can neutralize some of that.

          Consumer Reports red dots, up and down the line, for whatever stock you put in that.

          And finally: pretty big seats, not too much car.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            14,000 miles at 35 instead of 50 mpg is about 450 bucks a year.

            I’d have to be a lot harder up than the OP to put my wife in a noisy and not particularly safe econobox for 40 bucks a month.

          • 0 avatar

            Great points, Sam Hell Jr. What I was thinking was that the lady will be driving that distance by herself. I know the Prius never breaks, but if it were to, it could be hassle to get a quick fix, in other words, a roadside mechanic that could get a normal car running again, may not know what to do with a Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      kyleck

      Honestly I would try to find a CPO Civic, Corolla, etc. You won’t have to worry about reliability- it should have a warranty, it will be fairly cheap, and it will have more than enough room for your wife.

    • 0 avatar
      Frank Galvin

      The Labrador should have been disclosed earlier! With the size of carseats and boosters, why not look at a crossover or SUV? Subaru Forester is the perfect size (I live in Subaruville USA – Western Massachusetts) for fitting three kids abreast with plenty of room for the beast in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      A Cruze is a great tool for long commutes if she finds the seat comfortable. Cheap, quiet cruiser, with good economy.

      Civic is also an obvious choice. I hear more sound deadening was part of the ’13 (or was it ’12?) emergency refresh. Also great economy and aces all the latest crash tests.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Get a prius-v. Usefully bigger than a regular Prius, and as the are not as popular you can get a much better deal on one. To the effect that they are really cheaper than the regular one. A little better ride too. Mom loves hers. As reliable as sunrise.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      The answer is always Miata. Except when it’s Mazda3. :)

      Seriously, if price is a wash between compact and midsize, get the one that gets you the best fuel economy. That’s still going to be a compact, though the gap is pretty narrow these days. And today’s compacts are closer to being midsizers anyway.

      Honestly, this sounds like a prescription for a 2014 Corolla, much as it pains me to say it. Comfortable, good fuel economy, reliable, boring, and a large enough back seat to take the office mates to lunch or dinner every once in a while without complaints.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m one person and I need three cars, so yes. Primary, secondary, toy.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Bingo! In my case, bad weather commuter (xB), load hauler (Ranger), toy (Solstice). Plus the two motorcycles, which alternate between good weather commuters and toys.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        If I could get a non-beater small truck like Ranger, I might make it my primary. But since I can’t I’ll keep the Pontiac, esp since I suspect all resale of GM product is going to (or already) taking a huge nosedive.

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    Naturally, a 9-5aero wagon is one of my favorites.

    By the way, Steve…did you sell cars on ebay about 10 years ago? I bought a 97 Saab 900s off ebay in an Atlanta suburb in 2004…the guy’s name was Steve. Any chance it was you?

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    #1 – Leasing – Less than 10% of the automotive buying population should be considering leasing [ we are in that 10% btw .. and do lease a Benz ] You may or may not be one of them . Assuming you’ve got a good CPA and FA on board .. ask them where you stand when it comes to leasing

    #2 The Commute – Though I’ll guess you both have already explored this question .. … does the paycheck /job etc involved justify the added time , aggravation and expense of a 270 mile RT commute .. not to mention lodging meals etc ? Honestly depending on your locale the Excedrin bill alone could outweigh the benefits of this new job [ a moment of levity if you will ]

    #3 More cars = more hassles = more maintenance = more insurance = more aggravation etc . As a friend of mine in the NE and I were just discussing yesterday … More of anything …. always turns out to be more of everything . Including the negatives

    #4 But if you must … If the benefits outweigh the costs involved [ all of them ] … All the numbers , facts and figures add up … and in light of my assumption this new job may not be permanent [ all bets are it\'ll place a huge strain on your marriage ] I’d either lease if the CPA FA says go ahead … or buy used . But I would not buy new !

    Just one man’s opinion mind you … but there it is

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I’ll chime in. Your dead on the bigger car, more expensive on everything parts, fuel, buy in cost, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I doubt that leasing is the correct answer here. If the job doesn’t work out and/or Mrs. Car Ramrod finds something closer to home, they’re stuck with whatever they lease for the remainder of the lease term.

      Leasing a luxury car is never the answer.

      They should buy something that will fill the need, be as economical as possible to operate and looks like it has good prospects for low depreciation.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      +1. More stuff = more stuff to take care of.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      ” More of anything …. always turns out to be more of everything . Including the negatives ”

      ‘Mo rides, ‘mo problems.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      Not a good idea for her to drive the M5. Those 14K/year would be expensive miles, especially since you’re getting into the high upkeep cost zone with it anyway. Keep that car and try not to pile on too many miles.

      She should drive the Odyssey until it’s worn out. You’re family could use a third car or medium sized SUV for local mileage, kid/dog hauling, going to the garden centre, etc.

      @GTSLR: Hey, is that LJKS as your avatar?

  • avatar
    Onus

    1.0L ecoboost fiesta. If your wife can drive stick. Maybe the 1.6, there is only so much engine so hopefully her MPG will improve even with a lead foot.

    • 0 avatar
      gtrslngr

      Size wise which I forgot to address … I’d think … considering the length of the commute if I were in his shoes I’d prefer my wife be in something a little bit larger and a lot more comfortable for that long weekly haul . Something in a mid sized entry level luxury car perhaps .

      Lexus IS , ES

      What ever Infiniti is now calling their mid size sedan

      VW Passat / Audi A4 [ but only as a lease ]

      Mercedes C Class [ again only as a lease ]

      etc

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    The argument about what size car to get made sense many years ago as small cars were under-powered and noisy while large cars ate gas. But now, the gap has closed. The current midsized crop of cars get tremendous highway mileage while the small cars, like my newly purchased 2013 Mazda2, offer the ride quality and lack of road noise associated with a midsized car of 10 years ago. My Mazda2 is significantly more content and quiet on the interstate than my 2000 Honda CR-V.

    The only difference is purchase price and overall size but that’s about it. One can buy a Fit, Mazda2, Sonic, Rio, or whatever new for considerably less than a midsized used car and that’s what I would do. They offer enough room and amenities for any type of trip and are easy to park once you get to your destination.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Also that what were once small cars are, frankly, as big as the mid-sizers in the back seat and trunk. The new Sentra is huge. Might not be a bad choice, either.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    OP. I second the drive the Honda into the ground argument, its the most financially reasonable.

    Is the drive mostly highway speeds? I’m assuming it is and if so a Cruze (or Jetta) Diesel would seem to be a good fit here. Its probably the most comfortable and road-trip suited in the compact class and it gets excellent MPG. Diesels are tough to kill too. Hybrids make sense around town, diesels make sense on the highway.

    If you want something used, a w-body Impala is cheap, reliable and fairly fuel efficient. A w-body Buick shares all those attributes and costs nothing to insure.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I think if you run the numbers, you’ll find that the Cruze Eco would have a lower total cost of ownership than would the diesel. Most of the year in this part of the country, diesel is 40 cents more than is gasoline and the highway mpg improvement is not enough to ever pay for the additional purchase price.

      There’s nothing about a diesel engine that makes it inherently more reliable or durable than is a spark ignition engine. I think people get that impression from the durability of truck engines, but that has more to do with the materials used in truck engines and their duty cycles than that they are diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Those Cruze diesels are expensive and I’d wait a year or two before buying a new engine type from GM.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    Mustang V6/Auto.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The car decision is irrelevant.

    Your wife should not take that job. Your young family needs her at home every night, more than they need whatever pay this job offers.

    And get rid of that BMW before it kills you with repair bills.

    • 0 avatar

      Hummm, we may be in a similar situation soon. Everybody must makes their own decisions, but kind of harsh (and easy) to give that kind of advice, isn’t it? People do what they have to do.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I hope you’re referring to my advice on the BMW. I make no apologies for advocating family strength and unity over financial considerations.

        • 0 avatar

          Not really, I’m sure the guy who made the question and his wife have agonized enough over the question. What they don’t need is people they don’t even know piling on.

          Plus he came here to ask a car question, not get family orientation.

          • 0 avatar
            Car Ramrod

            This. Although by putting this question out here, I know these kind of answers come with the territory.

            My wife and I have so far lived in 3 states, seen each other through grad school (did I mention she was commuting to TN for school after we moved to FL?), and worked to support each other. Her passion can’t be relocated– she happens to love heart failure and transplant (she’s a nurse practitioner not a doctor before pelope start suggesting an S65 AMG) and the opportunities just don’t exist where we live. I also can’t uproot my practice, and we love the kids’ school. Also, we have extended family locally.

            Will it suck sometimes? Yeah, but the kids will see her far more than they saw me 5 years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          The BMW advice is ridiculous too. He likes it and can afford it. It’s an awesome car. Not everyone is trying to get from A to B as cheaply as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      And, if she takes it, the obvious vehicle is a G-3500, F-450 or similar truck, rented for a short period, to relocate all the property as they uproot and move the family there.

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    How bout this?

    Buy a beater van to drive around town while. As Steve has written 564189515 times, vans are nearly unsellable. So go find a $3000-$5000 van (or other kid-friendly hauler) that you can safely and comfortably drive the kids in for 3 days a week. Cheap to own and insure…when you’re done with it, it’ll be worth marginally less. It’s already almost worthless.

    Preserve that 02 M5. That is a modern classic.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I’m not sure it would even need to be a beater van, might be able to get a fairly nice used one for a reasonable price.

      But for cheap-cheap-cheap, what you’ll get is a Chrysler. Personally, I do not trust them. I’d look at the reliability on the Nissans, the MP5, things like that.

      If at all possible, I think I’d try to stick to something smallish. If 3 seats can be squeezed into a small sedan, it would serve.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Along this line of thought… I’ve never had to put car seats in my recently purchased ’08 Corolla but I do think 3 would fit, the rear is fairly spacious for a compact car. I should borrow a seat or two and check it out.

        I like a used Corolla as a recommendation for other reasons… Although they’re not cheap, they are very reliable and they won’t depreciate all that fast (you’ll pay more but you’ll get more back later). A new one might not be a bad idea.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Isn’t squeezing three car seats into a smallish back seat exactly the problem he is trying to solve? If it’s a pain in an E39, a Corolla is probably not the answer.

          He needs a commuter car for the wife to free the Odyssey for him to use to shuttle the kids around.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            burg,

            Mostly, that’s the case, but I expect there will be times she’s going to want to pick up the kids with whatever vehicle she has on hand.

            If you have two jobs, significant commutes and do lots of kid-shuffling, as is the case here, all of your daily drivers really need to be big enough to hold the family.

      • 0 avatar
        mhickman73

        Agreed on the Mazda. They have a timing chain as well, so one less worry. The Quest is a disaster from 04+ Avoid those.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    I think a used Transit Connect wagon (just the little van with a second row really) would be your best bet. Has the utility of the minivan and the space when you need it but at a much better MPG point. Not to mention not much can go wrong with a basic 2.0L DOHC and a simple 4-sp automatic.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    3-car family here, and I feel your pain. We have a different situation though, buoyed mostly by my wife’s inability to drive a stick.

    We have an S2000 (DD/track/fun car), a 92 Rodeo 4×4 5-speed (my winter beater), and a 2010 Mazda 3 hatch (her car).

    Driving the S2000 in the summer and the Rodeo in the winter was fine when my commute was 20 miles each way, but due to a position/location change it recently doubled. Now between mileage (both of my cars are bad to terrible) and wear and tear, I’m not a fan of the position I’m in.

    The easy answer here is teach her to drive stick and then commute her car (she works from home but runs errands, goes to the gym, etc). We’re working on it but haven’t quite gotten there yet. Alternative idea is to upgrade the SUV to something newer and more family-hauler, but the Mazda isn’t paid off yet, so I need to wait another year or so.

    OP, in your situation, your best bet is probably in a purchase of a new mid-trim level C-segment car. It’ll be livable on the highway while returning good mileage on the commute, and leaving you the van for family hauling. I’m partial to the Mazda3 myself, but honestly I’d buy just buy whichever one intersects your price/feature desire point. My only real requirement is Bluetooth integration, and since that comes standard on pretty much everything, I’d pick on interior comfort and driving dynamics. So buy the one you feel most comfortable in.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      Your current situation really isn’t out of the ordinary. You have a nice stable of automobiles that combined can accomplish anything you need. The Rodeo has probably bottomed in value, the S2000 will appreciate, and the Mazda is what it is. No need to change things up.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        I paid $1250 for the rodeo after tax, and associated tag and registration fees last summer, so yeah. I’d say it’s bottomed out; I wouldn’t be surprised if I could sell it at a slight profit actually.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      All you really need to do is grin/bear your situation until the Mazda is paid off, and replace the SUV with another. Anything Rodeo-sized made in the last half decade will be far more fuel efficient, more powerful, and much better to commute in. My daily is a BMW X3, and it suits medium-length commutes very well.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Maybe I am missing the point here, but here goes. He needs a car for momma bear to commute in that is safe reliable fuel efficient with a modest entry fee from what I read. He has the fun car (BMW) and the family hauler.
    What is the issue? Do you need a third car? Yes.

    Answer: off rental 30k miles or so Camry. Checks all the boxes and love or hate car no one is going to argue the safety, reliability, mpg, or resale. Heck you can even find the rentals with all the goodies; leather, roof, heated seats etc if you look hard enough and open your wallet a bit further.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Why would you buy an off-rental Camry when a new one can be had for low $20’s? About 4 years ago, I negotiated a new “lightly optioned” Camry for $18.5K-ish +TTL. Inflation being what it is, I think low $20’s is a comfortable target for the current model.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    A golf TDI, last model year so should be reliable, great on fuel, good ride, good deals as it is last model year can be had with a stick, with that commute you want something that is not a penalty box,

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Why spend $27k on a Golf TDI when any number of compact cars (Corolla, Cruze, Focus, Civic) will have the same operating costs and be under $20k? The higher diesel efficiency is generally counteracted by the cheaper 87 octane gasoline. She’s not doing 135 miles each way each day. 14,000miles/yr isn’t high enough where diesel is an obviously better choice.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Well, by saying that you’ll keep the M5 because you have more in it than what it is worth* and you like it means you don’t care about “need”. You want 3 cars because you won’t give up your fun car. For what you “need”, you’d drive the Oddy, sell the M5, and your wife would buy something with the M5 money.

    Just come to terms with your M5 being your want and nothing more. My wife has her dream car that is practically useless for a family that includes a kid in a rear facing child seat. With my wife being a part time nurse, semi-stay at home mom, we actually only need 1 car. Our schedules work out to where neither of us absolutely has to have the car when the other person does. So, we have 1 family car, wife’s fun car, and I’m getting a fully superfluous fun car for me this fall. 2 cars we don’t need, but we enjoy them and can afford them. So, for the best way to satisfy your wants and needs, I’d determine if your love of the M5 is enough to justify the $300/month that it will cost to get your wife something to drive. If not, ditch the M5. If so, enjoy your M5 and know that there is a price for happiness.

    *We all have more in our cars than what they are worth unless you got a killer deal on something and could sell the car for more than you paid. It is a consumable good.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Quentin,

      While I appreciate your point of view, everybody has more than they “need.”

      In this case, with his wife working remotely, he might find it helpful to have a spare car in case of a problem with one car or the other. Since he can’t get much for the BMW and enjoys it, then why not keep it? Everybody’s entitled to a toy or two.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Oh, I agree. I was just saying he should consider the M5 as the want and that will help him easily make the decision. If he would be willing to continue putting $300 or whatever toward keeping the M5, it is definitely worth keeping.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          Sometimes I wish I’d kept the Acura TL I had before, but not becuase it would serve my purpose any better– it would just be easy to trade without a second thought.

          If the goal is marital harmony, trading an M5 for a van and 3 days of solo child care is not a winning recipe.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I think you may have answered your own questioned, why not get a used
            Acura TL? One of the most reliable cars that will still have decent resale when you don’t need it anymore

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            Actually – I’d go for a used Acura TSX… Well, that’s what we did. Genuinely unloved in the used market for a Honda means you’ll get a 3yr old “off lease” model for about $22K with all the bells and whistles. Fantastic commuter car for a spouse who likes leather and Bluetooth.

  • avatar
    DougD

    If you can swing it financially, another vote for the third car. If it’s a stretch maybe start out commuting the first month using the minivan and see if you can do without, or what other needs & issues develop.

    I know a few couples who did a similar scenario and after a year it ceased to be a problem, one decided the job wasn’t worth the effect on family life, and the other decided the family life wasn’t worth the effect on the job..

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      This. I wouldn’t make any big decision until you’ve lived with the situation for a while. We bought a 2nd family friendly car before having our one and only child. Turned out to be way overkill for what we needed. We could have just kept the 1 family friendly car and 2door, 4 seater and been just fine. Now I’m in the process of getting rid of the extra, unneeded family car. Luckily, I got a good deal on it so financial impact is minimal.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Just a thought: JB’s V-6 Accord for the wife, you drive the Ody, and ditch the 5. Also, Steve mentioned an Ody getting high 20’s on the highway. Congrats to whoever is getting that; don’t think my 05 has ever broken 21.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “…She will commute up once and return 3 days later. We have 3 young kids,…”

    Dude doesn’t need another car. He needs a divorce lawyer. Or a hot Au pair.

  • avatar
    Tinker

    I’d suggest a year or two used Mazda CX-5 gets respectable real world mileage. But I think in your/her case you need to consider a new model. When we were looking a couple years ago, we saw a deal we could not pass up, a used CPO Mazda CX7, a dealership rental unit, it had 30,000 miles on the clock but we drive relatively little so we figured it would average out. But in the same case, a high mileage vehicle might not work to your advantage.

    Advice: Investigate CAREFULLY the whole economics of used vs new. Avoid the lease. Consider how much you might save buying used and how much it might cost for your situation. I’d advise you to get a CX5, it’s comfortable on the highway, all sorts of interior room, and even the base model is well equipped. But if you want HER to be happy you might want to buy it new, so you can equip it as she prefers, rather than just buying a base model used edition.

    Alternate choice, RAV4?

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Steve’s response to keep the Odyssey seemed to glaze over the fact the OP will need the Odyssey for shuttling the kids. Hence the wife needs something else.

    I like the Prius idea, as long as wifey is okay with a center stack and dash zone that swallows people whole. Never sat in one but seems akin to driving in rising quicksand.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Two vans for redundancy.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      We’ve come to like that center stack bridge thing. We could still easily live without it and word is the next Prius won’t have it because it was a little too polarizing.

      I’d also like them to go back to a column shifter. Unless you’re actually shifting gears, a column shifter makes more sense to me, as it frees up valuable console real estate for other purposes.

      And I like the top-center readout panel. People often say you get used to it within minutes and that was my experience. Every other car I’ve driven, I end up craning my neck at some point to see something through the wheel. Center-top works better for me.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    There are a lot of $199/month lease specials going on right now. One that seemed attractive was the Camry at $199/month with 1000 down on a 2 yr lease, same deal with the Camry Hybrid but with $2000 down. Both with $.20/mile over the 1000/mile/month allowance. The last figure is important, because usually if you are a heavy driver, the per mile over charge is what gets you. The $.20/mile is a pretty accurate estimate of what the per mile depreciation would be if you bought the car outright.

    By the way, I think the key to making the job work is for your wife to love the car that she drives to work. There’s no surer path to hating a commute than to hate the car in which you are commuting.

    Midsize cars have really upped their game in terms of MPG, especially highway MPG. Today’s Honda Accord is as frugal as the previous generation Civic. As another poster pointed out, insurance can easily make up the difference in cost and then some.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      When the time comes these are definitely deals I will consider. It’s worth noting that when we got married she drove a Grand Prix. The bar may be higher now, but anything is a a step up from that POS (which was brown, as some people on here will no doubt be elated to hear).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        3100 or 3800?

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          3800. That may have been the only option selected. Brown on brown cloth SE with seats that made a fart noise when you stopped, absolutely terrible brakes, rapidly yellowing headlight lenses, ugly gold BBS wannabe rims and quite possibly the worst stereo I ever heard…but it was paid for.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yeah I do remember those, although I don’t recall the “SE” type cars having the 3800 so yours may have been a special order. They were def cheap (aside from the trip computer which seemed to be standard) but I personally liked the 80s looking fake BBS wheels. That’s the sort of car I would have loved to pick up for peanuts, add aftermarket fixes, and swap in the GT parts from the junkyard (leather seats, door panels etc). But then again I’m not normal and you and your wife prob are so I can see the contention.

          • 0 avatar
            Car Ramrod

            I think the 3.8SE was a new combo for 2000. That nose looked terrible without the grille between the headlights. For what we got on the trade, I wish we still had it around as a beater.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Father of two here –

    You have three children, all of whom I gather need to be in a back seat and in either a child seat or a booster. You work full time plus, I assume. I also assume you own a house. Your wife will be gone for three solid days most weeks, so you are not only going to be working full time, you’ll also be the primary childcare provider during those three days.

    Assuming all that is correct, your most precious resource is time. What you need is to streamline and simplify your life as much as possible. i know how little time I have, and I only have two children and my wife works very occasional hours. Automotively, I would suggest that you get your wife a new sedan of some sort for her commute. When she’s not home, you’ll have the Ody for family duty. When she is home, you drive the new sedan.

    As far as the M5 goes, at this point in your life it is a distraction. If you’re dead set on keeping it, consider pickling it and putting it into storage. Cars in general, and older cars in particular, don’t like to sit and ones that do usually start having problems. If you have to start doing things to keep it running well, it will quickly turn from something you enjoy into something you resent.

  • avatar
    sunilshah

    Swap out the M5 for a Tesla Model S with rear facing seats.
    Assuming: a) cost is no object
    b) one (or more) of the kids can use the rear facing seats

    Also, swap out the Ody for a Camry Hybrid for the wife.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    For the money you want to spend lease a BMW 320i Xdrive. When the lease is up, if it was a decent vehicle, keep it and retire your M5 to weekend duty.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Well, this must be a TTAC First… Somebody has asked for car advice and we’ve reached 100 comments without a recommendation for a Panther.

  • avatar
    Pepper

    Similar situation although I’m doing the multi-day commute (180 miles each way) and my wife is home with the children. Long story short, it sucks but you sometimes do what you have to do. Just got into a Golf TDI (leftover ’13) at a decent price. It’s a great highway cruiser, very comfortable and should do the job for as long as I need to do this (few years max). Good luck with your situation. It’s not easy but it does prove what you and your family are made of.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Something even lower profile and newer than a Panther: Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Room for the kids, room to take the Labrador to the dog park, and leather seats that are easy to clean.

  • avatar
    dude500

    How about a Mazda5? Sporty yet economical, small yet seats 6.

  • avatar
    Reino

    While I believe that one parent being away from home for 3 nights a week is a surefire way to ruin a family, that is neither here nor there.

    Do not sell the minivan and definitely do not sell the M5. She will need a commuter car that gets over 30 MPG highway for the long mileage. Any typical mid-size or compact will do the trick.

    There is nothing wrong with having three cars. My wife and I do and we have zero children.

  • avatar
    George B

    My vote would be to have your wife rent a Camry for a week and see if she likes it. They’re reasonably efficient, roomy, and very unlikely to leave your wife stranded anywhere. The engine and transmission are proven carry-over units from the old model. If your needs change, it will be super easy to sell a used Camry. Another choice would be rent it before you buy it with an Altima. Better fuel economy in exchange for dealing with a CVT.

  • avatar
    darkwing

    Dumb question — are there any regional commuter options she could use to get back and forth? Then you’d only have to be worry about getting a small, depreciated, in-town car.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    None of the above. This problem can’t be solved by a car. A 120 mile commute is basically undoable. I propose mom take an apartment as close as possible to her work. Walking distance if possible, to keep her overall time in a car down. Resign herself to being home for the weekend. You save the cost of a new car. In fact, you extend the life of her existing car.

    Otherwise, overall long-term cost per mile—its pretty hard to beat a Nissan Versa. You can talk about this economy car or that economy car with this or that technological advantage, but the Versa has a usable back seat for the kids and a very low price.

    Finally, if you don’t mind my saying so, this whole thread is sexist. Why is it assumed mom does all the driving? I’d say the fair thing to do is have an understanding that mid-week trips are only an occasional thing. For every mid-week trip she makes, you make a weekend trip to her place. You may not appreciate spending a weekend in a student apartment with the kids sleeping in the living room, but they will consider it a great adventure and cherish the memory the rest of their lives.

  • avatar

    Some random ideas/thoughts/babbling.
    It’s Florida,you’re probably going to be able to find some low mileage used 2-3 yr old sedans,just make sure the presets don’t have rock,hip-hop,country stations-the kids or grandkids are in it too much :)

    Definitely get a third vehicle. In a few yrs you’re going to appreciate the heck out of an Odyssey,so start babying it now and keep the mileage off.(Plus having the third vehicle will buy peace of mind in case one of the others needs some shop-time.)

    While the arguments against a lease are valid,I’d like to suggest a couple of reasons for leasing.
    Instead of buying a “for now it’s okay” car,rent one for a couple of yrs as it’s probable in a couple of yrs you’ll end up moving closer to her work or she’s going to quit because of time away from the kids.
    For the yrs of the lease you’ll both have peace of mind from having a fully warranteed “new” car.(And if you end up not liking it,you’re not locked into another couple yrs of car payments.)

    If you do decide to buy,consider if it will meet your needs 3-4 yrs down the road.

    Good luck whatever you decide.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    “Is there some magical bare-bones vehicle I can lease or buy used that will provide decent MPGs and trouble-free motoring? Ugly/unloved models are no problem.”

    A lot of these New or Used emails seem to stick the wife with some terrible but practical car. Around where I live, these often have “(heart) (wife’s name)” on a custom license plate. Meanwhile the husband has something any of us here would love to own. I’d like to think it just means the wife isn’t an enthusiast and doesn’t really care. I’ll tell myself that.

    If she really doesn’t have any preference of her own, I’d look at used Nissan and Mazda sedans, compact and midsized. Their used values aren’t as high as Hondas’ or Toyotas’. Insurance shouldn’t be as high as Hondas’ (but that can really vary by model, or with some carriers, by model and trim level or number of doors). But this is her chance to be imaginative. If the minivan’s still around, this one doesn’t have to be practical at all. (That said, the Miata isn’t a good long-distance commute vehicle.)

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      I know it sounds crazy, but she really, really doesn’t care. Last time she was due for a new ride, I asked her to just test drive a van–any van. She picked out her color and checked every single option box. This potential 3rd car will have a limited purpose and limited glamour

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think the 2010-2012 Fusion is a competent yet under-appreciated car that would provide a nice solution to your quandary. The SE with the piped leather seats looks really classy. You might even be able to get a Milan for less money since it’s from a dead brand.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          @Kyree,
          Why just the 2010-2012 years for the Fusion? For the extra gears in the transmission? I rented an 07 once with the 4cyl/4-spd auto, and I really liked it, but it was well above 3000 rpm @ 70 mph.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            There’s nothing bad about the earlier Fusions either. Methinks it’s just his preference for the refreshed model.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            @danio

            Correct. I think the car looked a lot better after the refresh. Also, you probably shouldn’t try to finance something from ’08 or ’09 at this point.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t think you should lease, at all. I think you should get a previous-gen Accord that was well-cared-for…maybe a 2011 or 2012 (any older than that and the purchase savings will likely be offset by higher interest rates). The previous-gen Malibu and (post-facelift) Fusion should also be on your radar, and both can be acquired cheaply and are cheap to own while rivaling the Accord for reliability and solidness…

  • avatar
    baconator

    Going through similar calculus myself as I’m taking on a longer commute. Mine is a little skewed by a desire for a California HOV sticker, which puts the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi at the top of the list. $350-400/month on a lease, about the same on a 60-month note.

    For non-HOV cars, lease deals on Passats are < $175 / month and it seems like a good cruising car. The VW diesels are not on such good lease deals, but they pencil out as a good purchase due to the high resale values.

    Kia Soul and Mazda 3 / 6/ CX-5 also look good financed, as do base model Subarus. All of them are reasonably fun to drive, too. The Accord with 6MT is something of a bargain, too, for how good it is, although the lease deals are not on particularly exciting terms. The Camry and Altima, IMHO, are such poor drivers that I wouldn't want to be in them for long periods of time regardless of the finance terms.

  • avatar
    onthercks07

    first of all…don’t take this the wrong way but I think you both need a reality check. Assuming you have three young kids in elementary school, are you really ready to take care of them by yourself three days out of the week? Is your wife prepared to take the risk of a major accident? Is your marriage prepared to take on the added stress of you two not seeing each other for three days a week?

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news or be hypercritical, but maybe the answer here is you need to downsize your expenses so that your wife (and you and your children) don’t have to take on all of this risk. Or look into mass transit options. Just my two cents.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I think the questioner has stated on a few occasions that this is his wife’s passion. What does that have to do with downsizing expenses?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed, onthercks07, and I got skewered when I said so in my comments way above ^^^. Poverty together is better than prosperity apart, unless you don’t value your family that much.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Gah!! Grad school! Specialist Nurse Practicioner! I feel your pain.

    After the hell of grad school during young kids yeah this setup will be bad, but not as bad.

    I’m sort of in a different section of the same boat. Oncology NP wife has great but demanding job, about 1/2 hour trip each way. To work at a different facility would requre relocating, or a solution similar to yours. We’re staying put for now.

    And oh yeah, the car. Just buy something she likes, crikey you’ve got the income so don’t overly worry about depreciation. Fusion, Camcord or something else popular and normal will be easy to sell when required.

    Best of luck with this & make sure you let us know what solution you go with. Always fun to have closure on these articles..

    Keep the car well maintained. Keep your relationship well maintained too.

  • avatar
    jjf

    Both the wife and I work from home, and juggle our jobs and young kids without using daycare. It isn’t easy. When my daughter got into a top rated private school, we choose to move rather than spend 2 hours/day commuting. I figure 10 hours/week wasted in the car would offset whatever benefit the school provides to my kid. Once you stop commuting you realize what a waste of time it is. At this point in life time is a precious commodity that shouldn’t be wasted.

    It it were me and your wife’s job is worth the logistical challenges I would move somewhere to minimize the pain, but I realize it’s not always an option. My recommendation for the commuting option would be to sell the M5 buy a 3 year old high mileage cam cord and put the miles on it. You aren’t going to have time to enjoy a BMW anyways for awhile. Buy the m5 back when you have time. Take it from a guy who has a BMW R1100R that hasn’t been ridden since my now 7 year old was born.

  • avatar
    56BelAire

    my .02,

    Why would anyone(husband or wife) with young kids apply for and take a job 135 miles from home requiring 3 nights a week in “corporate housing”?

    Me no like whole arrangement…..recipe for marriage problems.

    Signed, Dr. Phil.

  • avatar
    Toshi

    1) I think the commute situation seems inevitable given what has been explained in the comments: NP wife and local practice and familiar schools for the OP + kids.

    2) I’d keep the M5 as a toy, if it makes you happy. Odyssey must stay as kid carter. This implies a commuter for the wife, as per the OP’s thinking.

    3) My pick for a car for the hypothetical wife would be a well negotiated purchase of a new 4-cylinder/CVT Earth Dreams Accord sedan. It’ll crest 30 mpg on the freeway, will retain value predictably, and would be useful as a secondary kid hauler. It’s also less polarizing than Prii and I predict that the wife would be happy with it, the ultimate goal.


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

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States