By on April 1, 2010

Andy writes:

Hello, my wife and I are looking for a new car. We have a 20 month old and another on the way in April. Anyway, we’re looking for a sedan that’s roomy, reliable, safe and quick. Our budget is in the $40s. For new cars I was looking at the Taurus, Genesis and M35 (due to the incentives). On the used side, I was looking at Audi A8s and Volvo S80s. We live in Northern Indiana so traction is occasionally a concern. Do you have strong feelings about any of these candidates? Any other cars you would consider? Thanks!

Sajeev Answers:

If you want your kiddo to attend private schools, I’d avoid the limited production rides like the A8.  Audi’s in general are far from the pinnacle of cost effective motoring, and the A8’s uniqueness makes parts and labor even more painful when the time comes.  But if you enjoy having a new car every few years, you can’t go wrong buying certified pre-owned A8s,  running like hell when the warranty expires.

The Volvo S80 is similar, but to a far lesser extent. That said, your choices are fine: there are no bad cars in your price range. Provided you’re talking about the V8 Genesis, since the V6 model smells funny: I blame the junky leather. I’d also recommend a used M35 to take advantage of that model’s disappointing resale value. Ditto the Lexus GS350, take that one out for a spin too.  Honestly, I like the Lexus better than the M35.

But if you aren’t a badge snob, a somewhat-loaded Taurus SHO is the best performer and the best long-term value.  Plus, it has that new car smell and a lot of time before the warranty expires. (Change the oil regularly, lest turbo failure attack you in the future.) And having AWD in your climate never hurts. It’s my first pick from that litter, especially since your kid will really, really want it about sixteen years from now. They can thank me later.

Steve Answers:

The last thing your kid will want is a full-sized car for the 40 and up crowd. But that’s besides the point. Virtually any near-luxury sedan can do with your requirements and you’ve hit five good candidates right on the head.

I would suggest driving all of them. Then figure the following.

1) Are you paying cash?

If you’re not, then stop. You shouldn’t be blowing $40k+ on any car. Please cut your budget considerably because having kids and owning depreciating assets is a very nasty mix. Kinda like drinking straight alcohol and lighting up your own mouth with a Zippo. You’re gonna be in a world of hurt for quite a while… and the recovery takes time. If you do have cash please pretend I never said this.

2)  Am I buying based on fear?

Again with the lecture. But you know what? I’ve been where you were… and the dirty little secret of our industry is that anything short of an Aveo is perfectly safe. My wife and two kids are riding around in a late-model Civic. It may not be as much of a tank as an 15 mpg full-sized Canyonero. But it’s surprisingly strong in a crash. If you want to look at the ‘best fit’ I really wouldn’t rule out a midsized or compact vehicle.

3) Shop and wait…

Election years tend to be pretty rough. This year you get the benefit of the stimulus money running out. A steep reduction in state government hiring and benefits, and the general uncertainty that comes with elections. I’m already seeing cracks in the foundation of ‘tax season’ where wholesale prices are now declining substantially. Usually this doesn’t happen until May. If I were you, I would take your time and make sure your next car is your best car.

Since you’re new car folk looking for value, get a near-new car with a better warranty. There are plenty of one to two year old models around and demos that will be loaded with all the options you desire. Get one the way you want it and enjoy it. Better yet, make it a car that is about to be phased out and replaced with wafer thin cheap crap. Oh wait. You’re not in the market for a Chrysler. In fact nobody is. Just pick what it is you like and enjoy it. Just remember that happiness is short and debt is a barnacle bitch.

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67 Comments on “New Or Used?: Family Sedans Under $40k Edition...”

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I spent my childhood in LaPorte and Porter counties. Northern Indiana certainly has winter conditions but snow-clearing ability is more than adequate. Unless you live in the boonies or have a need to get to your job very early in the winter morning you really don’t need to worry about FWD vs RWD vs AWD. As long as you aren’t running bald or summer tires year-round you will be fine. But I’m sure you already knew that :)

  • avatar

    Whats the expected life cycle of this vehicle? If you are the type to keep your vehicles a while, don’t forget the 10yr/100,000 mile warranty that will come with the Genesis.

    It certainly doesn’t have the badge appeal that the Audi, Volvo, or Infiniti does, but then again you won’t ever have to worry about repairs. And personally, I think the Genesis is a pretty nice ride.


    • 0 avatar

      Are comments like these about reliability grounded in any kind of reality? I have both a Volvo (our second) and and Audi (also our second) and both have been terrific. Check out JD Powers latest dependability survey and the A6 is the choice pick. The Genesis is a tinny piece that reminds me of an ’80s vintage Nissan. Leather and Xenons, alone, don’t make it great. But I agree the A8 will be more costly over the long term than other choices. I like Sajeev’s suggestion of the Lexus and agree it’s nicer overall than the M. It just won’t work well with 2 kids.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas

      I own an Audi and my family owns a Volvo. My audi just turned 75,000miles with only a replaced cupholder outside of scheduled maintenance. The Volvo S40 has been nearly rock-solid… far beyond the quality that JDP would suggest. I’ve rented a Hyundai many times. Some are okay, some are garbage. But I would never actually spend my own money on one.

    • 0 avatar

      Check for real repair data rather than taking my (or anyone else’s) anecdotal data about reliability.

      But old luxury cars will need repairs — and they have complex electronics and expensive parts. In general, I would recommend them only when accompanied by a matching extended warranty.

  • avatar

    If he likes to be safe and doesn’t need to accelerate like the devil, get a loaded Mercury Montego with snooze-o-matic styling and AWD (or FWD and the better loved 6speed auto). I see examples with around 50,000 miles on the clock going for about 10Gs, give or take. The loan payments will be much smaller. Drive it to 250,000 miles and your kids college fund will thank you.

  • avatar

    and the dirty little secret of our industry is that anything short of an Aveo is perfectly safe.

    Hah, well that’s a lie. And I say that as someone who is close to someone who lost his wife in a car accident and now spends his days caring for his brain injured daughter. Go with something safe please – it’s worth it.

    • 0 avatar

      And a fatal accident would never happen in a Suburban, RAM or Navigator, right? Ford’s truck division only discovered crumple zones a couple of years ago, small cars have had them since the 1970s (and M-B since the 1950s).

    • 0 avatar


      Um, if a drunk driver crosses the center line and hits you head on you’re far more likely to survive uninjured in an A8 than if you’re in a Civic – that’s just the way it is. It’s not to say that can’t die (or end up a vegtable) in an A8, it’s just far, far less likely.

    • 0 avatar

      jmo, a Civic driver is far less likely to die than a Suburban driver.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas

      Agreed. Some cars are safer than others. Buy one that has good crash ratings, stops well, goes well and corners well. Even though a Mini gets good crash ratings, it would only survive a crash against another Mini. So buy mid-sized or larger.

    • 0 avatar

      How well you survive a car accident has much more to do with how the accident plays out than the car itself. After all, this Mini took on a Tahoe and managed rather well:

  • avatar

    How about a certified LS430? The generation before the lastest model can be had for under 30k and are better cars than any of the others mentioned.

    Here’s a good thread about someone who bought one:

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly. The LS430 is a hell of a ride and has already experienced the massive depreciation of top tier luxury rides. I’ve even seen high mileage examples for well under $20k. May not satisfy his sporty car leanings…

      Kudos to Steve for pointing out the folly of financing a $40k family car. Maybe the dude’s a super baller, but I can’t fathom spending that much dough on what basically amounts to an appliance vehicle. How bout a crappy people hauler camry or something for the bulk of trips and an older bimmer/porsche/vette/whatever for the weekends?

      On a completely different note… I bet $40k would buy you a hella pimp new sienna.

  • avatar

    Hey..Give it up, REPENT!!!
    Two kids = MiniVan
    Once you go the the dark side you will never look back

    • 0 avatar

      Ain’t it the truth. 2 small children means 2 bulky car seats. And a newborn and a 2 year old will mean 2 rearward facing seats. That sucks up a lot of the front seat travel. Never mind the difficulty of strapping a child into a car with swing out doors while trying to not dent the car parked next to you.

      Add in the usual child related gear one needs on a trip and you’ve maxed out most trunks and mom and dad haven’t even gotten their luggage in yet. Get yourself a nice minivan with a dvd player so you can have some peace and quiet on the road.

      Sure the minivan isn’t manly, but with the money you save vs the 40+ grand sedan you can buy yourself a 2011 Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      thats one fast cat


      For all the reasons below, you should really think about it, suck it up, and by the USED minivan. Aside from all of the stuff, two yung uns mean spilled milk, lost cheerios, and applesauce in the seats.

      By a 50K Chrysler/Honda/Toyota MVan, use it for four years, wad up and repeat. (In the meantime, you can keep that 2010 Ford Mustang pristine….)

  • avatar

    All that big sedan roominess starts to disappear when you have to deal with child car seats, especially the rear-facing ones. Go test mount your car seats in something like a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Seinna and you’ll see what I mean. The depreciation hit isn’t bad on these either, so they are actually worth considering new.

    • 0 avatar

      I managed to fit rear-facing child seats in an ’89 Colt 2-door hatch, then in a 88 Saab 900. The Saab would probably be rated a compact, and that Colt would be a sub-compact. I’m not sold on the ‘bad old child seat’ story.

      I’ll admit that I’m only 5’9″ so my driver’s seat didn’t get moved all the way back, but if you only have one child seat, it should go behind the passenger seat anyway (to load from the curbside) – except that your passenger may be taller than the driver in some cases.

    • 0 avatar

      I fit a rear facing car seat in the back of an RX8 without a problem – actually in many ways it fits better than it does in my Honda Pilot. Granted the passenger seat can’t be fully reclined but there is still plenty of space up front and the rear suicide doors makes loading really easy.

    • 0 avatar

      We managed to fit rear and forward facing car seats in a 94 Eagle Summit when we had the first kid, but there’s a big difference between managing to do something and doing it comfortably.

  • avatar

    Outback beats them all.

  • avatar

    Couple of cheap-skate and random ideas

    1) Acura MDX – it’s not a sedan but handles very well for an SUV. comes with part-time AWD and has great crash scores. Built very well, pick up a 04-06 for a better-made tranny for 13-18k (depends on mileage) and pocket the difference. You can run this car to 200k miles easy. Pick a similar Odyssey if you want something more anonymous

    2) Heavy RWD sedans are fun but will severely disappoint in the winter unless you’re running snow tires. Ask me how I know

    3) Higher mileage = more depreciation or lower price. Target 100k+ miles plus models for a super discount. Lexus and Acura are what I would look at here. Buy private party so you can get the service records. High effort but a high return strategy. I got a sedan which retailed at 50K new to pencil out at $200 a month for my ownership period.

    3.5) At 40K you’re looking at a modern sedan with modern sedan problems (electricals, sensors, ridiculous labor intervals). Most of these high-end cars are made to be leased and develop problems past 6yr/60k miles. I think the sweet spot are early 2000 models for Japanese makes

    4) Acura RL b/c the resale values suck and it comes with AWD

    5) I’ve been looking at the Infiniti M series. I think you’ll grow to hate the crappy MPG the Infinti’s serve up. Are the interiors really larger than the G?

    6) Lexus LX470 – can run to 300k miles, go anywhere, super-reliable but it will kick you in the shorts on gas (twice). Pick up one with 100k miles for 12-20k depending on the year

    7) BMW x5 – only if you like doing car repairs. Great crash scores, great handling, very comfortable cruiser but can be a money pit for maintenance. Pick up one with complete service records.

  • avatar

    I like the Genesis best. The Taurus is nice but not as good looking.

  • avatar

    As long as you’re looking at Hyundai, there are DEALS to be had on the Azera – nearly as spacious as the Genesis, much less expensive.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree here. A Hyundai dealer might only have one or two (or none) in stock at any given time, and chances are they’ll be willing to practically give them away. Even better would be a pre-owned, as once again, the dealers want them GONE. Just make sure you get a CPO warranty since the 10/100K warranty is non-transferrable.

  • avatar

    May I suggest Buick LaCrosse V-8? It is outstanding as a family sedan. Fast, super reliable, superbly comfortable and roomy, with a huge trunk (and a large trunk opening to fit that supersized stroller). The rear seat is extremely good for proper child seat installation and has three separate pairs of LATCH anchors. It is very quiet and reasonably fuel efficient. It is also very cheap. I am talking slightly used with low mileage.

    Think outside the box!

  • avatar

    Take a look at the 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited. Don’t laugh, take a look. Great engine, back seat that would give a limo envy, and all of the UA gremlins have been taken care of. It also has a powered rear sunshade to keep the sunburn off of the little ones. The mileage is about 22 city and 30 highway as well, outstanding for such a large car. Its a steal for around $36,000. You will also benefit from all of the eyes on Toyota lately, you know they will go over each car with a fine tooth comb before letting it out the door. The downside? Handling. You will have to beef up the suspension if you want to carry any speed through the turns. If you can only find the 2010 WAIT for the 2011. JMHO

    • 0 avatar

      The writer said he had 2 KIDS, not 2 GRANDKIDS!! Had one for a week as a rental – my son calls it the Avapuke. He’d be better off with a Maxima – more style and better driving dynamics overall. The Avalon is a modern day Grand Marquis.

  • avatar

    I think the Volvo S80 is the right move. You can get either a V8 or an inline 6, AWD and you won’t have to spend $40K to get a low-mileage used one with plenty of warranty left because of the catastrophic depreciation. Nice looking and gorgeous interior. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Volvos are safe apparently.

    In the Boston area there are scads of ’09s with 20K miles for under $30K.

    Or, unless your ego demands otherwise, do what I did and buy a new Accord. Big, safe, boring, won’t impress the neighbors (but get the 5 speed manual – I did) or the local constabulary.

  • avatar

    If you’re looking for new, you might also want to consider the Suzuki Kizashi. MSRP for an AWD Kizashi ranges from $21,749 to a high of $26,749. The warranty is 3/36k bumper-to-bumper and 7/100k powertrain. Pity the AWD only comes with a CVT….

  • avatar


    If you did not have the LIMITED trim then you can not compare. It is like a totally different car than the lesser trims. I know the image is that of a Japanese Buick. I felt the same way when we looked at the 2005 limited that we ended up buying. try test driving one someday and you might change your mind. You can always debadge it if you don’t like the name.

    • 0 avatar

      The badge is not a bother and I don’t mean to criticize your decision as, after all, a car is purely a personal choice based on many factors. But I felt the Avalon I drove (an ’09) was plasticky and tinny and not worthy of the price Toyota was asking. Plus, the seats were flat and very uncomfortable. Plenty of power, sure, but it felt like a marshmallow. The Maxima, to me, is an underrated car and a far better value with superior driving dynamics. Did you drive that car in comparison?

  • avatar

    My $0.02:

    Unless you go CPO and dump it as soon as the warranty runs out, forget the A8. I was a service adviser for a German car repair shop for 3 years; about 30% of our business was Audis and Volkswagens. They are truly awful cars once they get out of warranty. I mean people complain about Mercedes and BMWs being unreliable; I’ll tell you what-the issues with their cars pale in comparison to the crap I’ve seen on VAG products.

    I’ll give you details if you really want them, but I don’t really feel like typing out a small novel if I don’t have to. Suffice to say that the A8, as good-looking as it is inside and out, and as nice as it is to drive, is a flaming hunk of crap.

    Another commenter mentioned the LS430; if you still have a pulse, don’t bother. They may be reliable but they are staggeringly awful cars to drive. More body roll, squat and dive than my ’73 Riviera, and the 3UZ-FE is a gutless lump that combines an unwillingness to rev with a complete lack of low end torque. The car’s only redeeming quality is that it’s reliable.

    You’d be better off with a used S500 or S550 4Matic (if you want awd) than either the Audi or the Lexus. It splits the difference reliability-wise (and thus maintenance cost-wise) between the two while still giving you AWD and being enjoyable to drive. Hell, a 7 series would be a better choice than the Lexus or the Audi as well but you’ll give up your AWD.

    Oh, and I’d avoid the Volvo for the same reason I’d avoid the Audi; it’s cheaper to fix than the Audi but not much more reliable.

    Other than the S/7 and the other cars on your list, look at a used G8 GXP; they’re solid cars and they drive well, and there’s usually 1 or 2 on ebaymotors at any given time. A G8 GT would be a decent option as well.

    Also, if you can sit on it for a few more months, the current-gen CTS-V will be available used in the $40k range-they’re about $50k now-and the CTS-V is a damn good car.

    • 0 avatar

      Now THAT’s a first – someone claiming an MB S-Class has better reliability than something else. My MB never made it out of warranty before having its problems. The last gen S-Class was horrible! My neighbor dumped his at 30K miles because it stranded him twice in the middle of nowhere. Gimme a break.

    • 0 avatar


      I serviced them-both Audis and Mercedes-for 3 years and my relatives have a W221 S600. Between myself and the rest of my family, we’ve also had a W220 S600, a W220 S500, a W140 S500, two 560SELs, a 6.9, a 350SE, a 300SEL 4.5 and a W111 chassis 250SE. Nevermind the Es and SLs we have/had. The only cars that Mercedes has made in the past 40 years that have been truly problematic were the W163 M-Class SUVs.

      Anyhow. The W220 was a solid car with the exception of three issues:
      The ABC and Airmatic suspensions were both leak-prone, the 3 valve V8/V12 engines will develop oil leaks @ the oil pan gaskets, the valve cover gaskets and a small cover plate on the timing cover below the oil filter housing, and the crank position sensors have a nasty habit of failing without warning, usually between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, and more often than not they do leave you stuck when they fail.

      They do occasionally lunch their airflow meters, but it’s more of a “yeah, another E320 we had in 6 months ago did that too” thing, not an “oh, yeah. No problem, we have the MAF for your A4 in stock, this is the 4th one we’ve done in the past 3 days” thing.

      The W221s that I saw had no real issues (albeit possibly because they were still newer and relatively low-mileage cars when I /quit), and our S600 has been absolutely flawless.

      Audis, on the other hand… Oh let’s see. Let’s start with the engines, shall we?
      -Premature failure of water pumps leading to timing belt service intervals along the lines of 70-90k miles instead of 105k
      -Premature failure of thermostat leading to same
      -Sludge issues caused by ineffective and ridiculously complicated PCV system-which itself becomes sludged up and quits working, leading to oil leaks-and a laughably small oil capacity (4.5qts? please) and an overly long oil change interval
      -Timing chain (only one cam is driven by the belt, the other is driven by a chain connected to the first cam @ the back of the head) tensioner failure due to oil starvation caused by sludge issues even when following recommended maintenance intervals
      -Timing chain tensioner gasket failure leading to oil leaking down the back side of the head and the block due to excessive crankcase pressure caused by a failed PCV system
      -Spends more time with the CEL on than off due to MAF failures, oxygen sensor failures, coolant temperature sensor failures, and vacuum leaks
      -Oil coolers and coolant expansion tanks are both prone to leaking coolant, as is the plastic flange at the back of the cylinder head

      It’s worth noting that the tensioner gasket is usually done with the valve cover gasket, and that the job is 4.5 billable hours. The PCV system is usually done at the same time since it’s plugged and most of the rubber hoses are oil-soaked and falling apart/spongy; there are a total of 30 parts that are replaced during this service, at a cost of something like $400 (it’s been a few years) and another 4.5 hours in labor. Oh, and the timing belt service is about 5 hours, since the recommended procedure to R&R it involves removing the entire front clip on the Passats and A4s or finagling it through the passenger side wheel well in the Beetle/Jetta/Golf. All three of these issues typically come up at about 80k miles (give or take 20) and the total cost to address all 3 is in the ballpark of $3k with labor costs being what they are in this part of the country (about $125/hr, $200/hr @ the dealership).

      Most of the same issues as the 1.8T; doesn’t have a coolant flange at the back of the heads to leak as far as I recall, and it doesn’t have any real issues with sludge, but other than that all of the issues are the same. And it’s more expensive to fix than the 1.8T; the chain tensioner gaskets on this are 7 billable hours.

      1.8T, round 3. No sludge issues as it’s not a turbo, but the PCV system is still garbage (at least on this engine it’s only a plastic hose across both valve covers and a couple of small rubber elbow hoses at the back of the intake manifold that need to be replaced), it still eats vacuum hoses and airflow meters and it still pisses oil all over the place.

      An’ here I go again on my own… Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known… Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…

      Ehem. It’s the same old song as the other three; oil leaks from every conceivable orifice, coolant leaks out the wazoo. Not quite the same appetite for MAFs as the 2.8 and 1.8, but they still go through them.

      Compare that to the MB engines, which suffer from oil leaks and consistent failures of crank position sensors every 60-100k. They have no other common issues of any kind; the aforementioned airflow meter issue is not uncommon, but it’s not so bad that it’s possible to predict exactly what’s wrong when someone calls and says “the check engine light is on in my 2001 E320” the way it is when they call and say “my 2002 A4’s check engine light is on again.”

      And remember how timing belt replacement on Audis is often hastened by water pump failure? In 3 years I replaced one water pump on a ML430 with 165,000 miles because it was leaking, and did one precautionary replacement on a 1987 560SL that had 140,000 and had a slight amount of dried coolant (literally, just a few drops) below the weep hole.

      And while BMW engines typically suffer from cooling system issues-and they’re arguably more severe than the Audis as BMWs like to eat their radiators and hoses as well as the water pumps and thermostats-replacing a water pump on a BMW isn’t usually a living hell of insane labor charges the way it is on the Audi engines, so it’s not really as big of a deal. And what other issues to BMW engines have? You mean besides valve cover and occasional oil pan gasket leaks? For the most part, nothing. Some have VANOS issues, but that’s about it.

      I didn’t get to see many of the 2.0/3.2/4.2FSI/5cyl VAG engines before I left, but of the handful of 2.0Ts that I DID see, all of them already had PCV issues at less than 50,000 miles. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.

      Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the rest of the cars, shall we? Let’s start with the transmissions. In 3 years I replaced 4 Audi automatics and 3 manuals. All of the cars had less than 100,000 miles on them. I replaced 2 Mercedes 5G-Tronics; both cars had over 150k. Never replaced a BMW transmission.

      How about the rest of the drivetrain and the suspension? Try asking me how many times I’ve had to sell a rear output shaft reseal on a transmission in an A4 or A6. I won’t be able to tell you, because I’ve lost count.

      Likewise, I don’t remember how many times I sold a complete rear diff reseal, which is a labor-intensive and expensive job, and one that’s especially painful to quote on certain A4s because the ETKA diagrams that show the rear diff leave out a seal or two that you need to do the job. You try ordering a part from a dealership that you don’t have a part number for and which doesn’t show up on the factory illustrations sometime. See how far you get. Total cost is about $1500 on most Audis.

      I’ve replaced driveshafts in a couple of A4s and A6s as well; never had to do that in any of the BMWs or Mercedes we saw except for on a single 1987 535is that had 225,000 miles on it.

      And what’s up with the whole split a-arm thing on the Audi front suspensions? They use 8 control arms on the front end of the A4/6/8 because it supposedly allows for more precise control of camber angles when cornering. That’s great. Awesome. Mind you, it doesn’t help any because the cars are still godawful understeering pigs, but at least it works on paper. Problem: They fail all the damn time. I can’t recall seeing a single A4/6/8 make it to 100,000 miles without replacing all 4 front upper control arm assemblies ($1200) due to cracked bushings, loose ball joints, or both.

      Some BMWs have issues with control arm bushings as well, but they’re less common and typically less expensive to fix than the Audis. And this is mostly a non-issue with Mercedes vehicles; the W220s have a funky front suspension design of their own that does cause premature bushing failures, but it’s typically at a higher mileage (100k+ vs. 70k), it doesn’t happen as often (say about 75% of cases vs. every fecking Audi I’ve ever seen), and it’s the only Mercedes that I can think of offhand with any kind of issue with premature failure of suspension components.

      Know what else the Audis go through like a cop through a box of krispy kremes? Tie rods. 9 times out of 10, by the time your control arm bushings are shot your tie rods are ready to retire, too. Neither BMWs nor Mercedes do this.

      Oh let’s see… that’s most of the basic mechanical stuff covered, what other issues do Audis have that their German counterparts do not? Oh yes. Interiors.

      They look great when the cars are new, but between the dye or paint or whatever it is that they use on certain plastic parts like the door handles (not the lever you use to open the door, but the handle itself in the door panel) wearing off and entire lines of pixels in the information display failing, by the time they’ve seen 5-6 years they look like hell. Sure, the digital displays in BMWs and Mercedes fail sometimes too-the late E32/early E38 7 series, the E34 and the E36 are all famous for it, and it’s not unheard of in some Mercedes (particularly the W210 and W203) either. But it happens a hell of a lot less often in the Mercs than it does in the Audis, and the BMWs are going on 20 years old. What’s Audis excuse?

      And then there’s parts availability; it’s not yet an issue on the cars that the OP is looking at, but it bears mentioning anyhow. Last time I checked (a few years back), I could still order a set of brand new floor mats for an M1 from BMW. Hell, BMW rebuilt an entire 2002 using largely new or NOS parts a few years back as a publicity stunt. And I can still call Mercedes and order parts for a 1962 190SL (incidentally, one of our customers DD’d a 190SL for more than 40 years; the car has over 700,000 miles on it, the engine burns little oil, has decent compression and has the original head gasket. Find me an Audi that’s done that. I can dig up Mercedes that have all day long, all I’m asking for is one-just one-Audi that’s managed to hold its **** for that long. You won’t find one.), if not through the dealership (though some parts are still available that way) then through MB Classic. VW/Audi? ROFL. Not a chance.

      Hell, there are some parts that are NLA for the Audi 4000. The thing isn’t even 30 years old. I can buy parts for a Mercedes going on 50, but an Audi from 1985? Sorry. One of the last jobs I dealt with before I quit was an early 90s GTI. I forget what year, but I want to call it a 1991. 2.0L/8v. The car had a little switch on the throttle body to detect WOT or some such. The switch on this guy’s car had failed, causing it to surge and generally run like crap (well, crappier than the 2.0 usually runs, at least). Called VW with the part number to order a new one. No longer available. Part had been discontinued. Called Audi to see if it was used on any of their cars. Also NLA. And none of the wrecking yards I called had the correct throttle body for the car. That thing wasn’t even 20 years old and it was already unfixable and undriveable without a little bit of backyard engineering. That right there should tell you all you need to know about how VAG views their cars.

      Owning a VW or an Audi out of warranty is a mistake that most people only make one time. People that do it more than once, on purpose, are either masochists, intellectually challenged or insane.

    • 0 avatar

      Andy, if you take nothing else from this conversation, at least listen to Geeky1. He is wise in the matters of multi-thousand dollar VAG repairs.

      Every acquaintance of mine that has owned a VAG product out of warranty only does it one time. Well, I did it twice, but I REALLY learned my lesson the 2nd time.

    • 0 avatar
      Ricardo Pearnosh

      Geeky1 – pure gold. As a wannabe Audi owner since I was, let’s see, about 13 and my friend’s Dad had one, this is awesome info.

  • avatar

    Andy, some general advice:

    1) If you are set on buying a sedan, I recommend making trunk space a major criterion.

    2) Go with something more reliable rather than less, or at least with a good warranty (new or CPO). You don’t want to deal with unexpected and/or pricey repairs while trying to manage two small children at once.

    By the way, will this car be your only car? If not, what else do you have? If your other car/minivan/Canyonero will be the primary people-mover, then you obviously have a lot more flexibility.

  • avatar

    Perhaps this will help our questioner find a good used car.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    What’s wrong with a Mazda 5 and the balance on the bank for family vacations, marriage therapy, school supplies and braces (not necessarily on this order)?

  • avatar


    Have not driven a recent Maxima, but I have read reviews which were very positive. I just do not like CVT transmissions, although the one in the Maxima may be better than the example I drove. I did drive an older Maxima with a manual trans about 10 years ago, and it was a blast. The reason I suggested the limited is because of all the rear seat room. It is basically the equal of a Lexus at about $10,000 cheaper. I agree about the plastic, although I have read that the 2011 has a better interior in that regard. Be well!

  • avatar

    My wife and I recently went through the same exact process. We live in New England where severe weather can be a consideration as well. While AWD was not a deal-breaker for us (I have been driving in NE for decades without it), it was perhaps more important to us than you.

    I spent a few months researching the various options in the $30-40k price range. I looked at the Saab 9-5, Lexus IS, Volvo V70, Acura TSX and TL, Infinity M37x, Honda Accord and Subaru Outback. The finalists that we actually test drove were the Audi A4 (Sedan and Avant), BMW 328ix and the Subaru Legacy.

    Ultimately we settled on the Legacy (we got the new 2010 2.5 GT). We got all the same features (leather, heated everything, premium radio with USB, traction control, etc) that any of the competitors offered for less than 75% of the price. Add in Subaru’s world renowned AWD system, the fact that the new Legacy GT has better torque and horsepower than most of the other options and that Subaru has singificantly better reliability than most of the competition.

    Also the new 2010 Legacys interior is uncomparibly spacious for a midsize sedan. I have a couple of friends over six feet tall who ride in the back seat regularly with room to spare.

    Honestly, at it’s price point, I feel that the new Subaru Legacy is a very difficult car to match.

  • avatar

    $40,000 buys a nice Mercedes E-Class and a vasectomy.


  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Look, you got kids, you need a Minivan. You could get along with a full sized SUV, but the cost, depreciation, and gas are much worse, and the MV layout is much more child friendly. You can get into the back seat to swat a misbehaving child without excessive effort. By the time the kids are grown the van will be old enough to dump economically, actually, we went through 3 of them, but they were Chryslers.

  • avatar

    Someone mentioned the Acura RL. Something to consider since it has AWD and atrocious resale. Can be had for next to nothing used. Around my parts people are paying more for 1 year old Accords. My in-laws have one and have been very happy with the overall reliability. Not the most fun to drive but it’s comparable.

    I can personally account for the GS350 as my wife and I cross shopped a similar mix of cars and picked that one as the clear winner. Toyota worked out the AWD gremlins after the ’06 model and IMO it’s a better all around vehicle than the M35 & RL – and gets pretty good mileage too, (22/30) per our observations. Zero problems in the year we’ve owned ours.

    As for German – well, friends don’t let friends “buy” German cars. Lease is fine but you do not want to be on a first name basis with your mechanic.

    I like the new Taurus but personally I’d opt for a used Lexus over a new Ford. Probably snob appeal, but spending $40k on a Ford is something I just couldn’t do. Now a couple years from now I would probably consider a used SHO depending on the price.

    Lastly, I’d stay away from the S80. Volvo is sold, right? Who knows what will become of them in the future. Nice enough car but not great enough to spend serious money on.

  • avatar

    Answering your question directly, I’d recommend the Genesis Sedan. Roomy, luxurious, and an incredible value. I was just at the dealer and saw three ’09’s…V8 w/tech packages, going for $37K. That is an incredible deal. I live in outside Detroit and know about winters and RWD. If you put on decent snow tires there is no issue….especially with modern cars and their antilock brakes, stability and traction control.

    Having said that, I tend to agree with the posters that recommend a minivan. Nothing is a convenient, for a small family, as a minivan. The kids go in and out easier. You can easily transport them and their friends and all the gear that comes with children.

  • avatar

    FYI: At 20 months old, the car seat should be in the back seat and facing forward.
    It goes by weight and at 20 months they weigh enough.

    I vote Ford Taurus. Plenty of room in the back for two car seats and an adult. Trunk is big enough to swallow the strollers and groceries. Toss in all the synch stuff and its a keeper.
    the LS430 can seem like a money pit for gas at times.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, it’s not just weight, it’s also neck and tendon strength: they should be able to walk well.

      That said, what most advisories say is to keep your child rear-facing as long as they fit. The dynamics work out better; this important because the whiplash-inducing force that would discomfit or mildly inure an adult can cause serious harm to a child (eg, broken neck or sternum)

      Once they’re forced forward-facing, keep them in a five-point harness as long as possible: many children can slip under three-point belts if they’re small and/or slouching

  • avatar

    Are you or your partner very tall? If so, most of these are going to give you problems vis-a-vis rear-facing car seats. Loading cargo (eg, a stroller) is not going to be a pleasurable experience with the relatively tight trunk openings in most modern sedans.

    I would really suggest something with a higher hip point and, as a bonus, a lot of rear seat track space: you need to be able to get two rear-facing car seats in there, at the right angle, and not touching the front seatbacks at all. If you’re under six foot, this is doable; if you’re over, it’s hard even in full-size cars

    Next, it sounds like you want something fairly sophisticated in ride rather than something more economy-oriented, so no CR-V.

    I’m thinking Venza/Edge/Murano and possibly Crosstour, honestly, unless you’re willing to go minivan.

  • avatar

    What we appear to have is someone with a young kid and another on the way — which suggests someone not too old, logically in turn suggesting someone not filthy rich (OTOH there’s a possibility it could be some 50-ish guy on his second or third marriage with a recently-married trophy wife) asking about sedans in the $40k range.

    WTF? $40k??? Do real people pay that much for a car when they’ve got child care expenses looming?

    It struck me that this site is a perfect mirror of the decline of the middle class, and the middle class ethos, in America. Either a TTAC poster (a minority, to be sure, but a statistically significant one) says self-aggrandizing things like “. . . my daily driver is a 2008 Lexus LS 460, while my weekend ride is a Porsche 911 Carrera S , but I want to buy a Bugatti Veyron blah, blah, blah . . . .” or else the default mode (the majority) is for some guy to post the following: “. . . what should I buy to replace my ’89 Honda Prelude with 314,00 miles? Would the ’97 Wallaby Balloonfire with 187k miles on the odometer down at my local Cheap Charlie’s be reliable enough? Being unemployed, I’m wondering if . . .”

    So there’s hardly any solid middle class or respectable working class left in America, a fact you can verify simply by driving through any patch of the fly-over territory east of the Left Coast or west of the Bos-Wash Corridor. All we’ve got left in this country are either grotesquely overpaid yuppies engineering the next financial bubble, or the newly proletarianized former middle class desperately trying to dig themselves out of the ruins of the last financial bubble created by their yuppie overlords.

    • 0 avatar

      The grandparents were dirt poor but had a “work” car and a “Sunday” car.

      In the strickly blue collar town I’m from, most families had a “work” car and a “nice” car. That has now mostly changed to a “work” car and “her” car.

      I am not seeing having a car that has only limited use as a slam against the middle class ethos. Even having a limited-use third car or truck should be looked down on for what reason?

  • avatar

    And the answer is……SHO. At least that what I would do.

  • avatar

    @Werther So sad, but so very true. Future generations are really going to struggle in this country unless we get our act together soon.

    @Geeky1 Thanks for the extensive information on Audi! I kind of knew some of this already, but had no idea how bad it truly was. Lots of good info on BMW as well. Spot on about the cooling system. These are not cars for the squeemish, but when they are running right it’s like flying on the ground.

  • avatar

    Many posts highlight the fact that transporting a baby and a todler is more akin to moving the 3rd Army then anything else.

    When it takes five minutes to load the kids at the house, five to unload at the store, five to load back up at the store and five to unload at the house, maybe the picture will be more clear what the family hauler needs to embrace.

    A sedan will be laughed right out of the day care parking lot and for good reason. Be prepared to eat about $15,000 one month into owning the wrong vehicle if you go with a “family sedan”.

  • avatar

    I actually got my first drive today with a Genesis sedan.

    It was the 3.8L ( I didn’t notice any bad smells). The Hyundai was pretty good, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for buying one, but I’d personally go for the SHO or S80 T6. The V8 version of the Genesis might make it a whole different story.

    My experience with the big German sedans is limited so I can’t help there.

    If you really want to be a risk-taker, check out a used ’04-’07 Jaguar XJ8L.

    I’d also suggest taking a look at the Flex Ecoboost.

  • avatar

    Jesus I htink that one poster listed every R.O. he has ever done on an audi. Also, a lot of the problems he listed are on older models, the type of stuff that has been through a couple owners at that point and people are taking it to an independent to save money. Seriously the A8 is by far the best car on that list, maybe the best sedan you can buy period. I’ve driven audi and VW my whole life. I work for mercedes benz and still drive VAG products. Don’t let the repair stories scare oyu away from an a8 if thats what you want. The 4.2 engine is pretty reliable and dependable. The newer “short” 4.2 has proven to be even more reliable. like all cars, some stuff doesn happen, the front control arms area common replacement before 100k. There is a coolant flange on the 4.2 that is a common leak-its like a $20 part and a couple hours laboe to replace. They do cup tires like mad if you don’t rotate often, the boots don’t seem to hold up so you need to check them periodically so you don’t have to replace axles. the self leveling on the headlamps seems to go out every few years, its maybe $160 a side to fix. For the most part though they are as reliable as any other german car and the quality, drive, and all weather capability have no equal. The newer cars with the “short” 4.2 don’t get a timing belt service like the old ones. they really don’t require any expensive shceduled service. Just get yourself a good warranty thta includes air suspension components and you’re all set for a trouble free ownership experience.

  • avatar

    My daily driver is a 1998 LS 400 that I bought used and whenever I wonder if I should replace it all I need to do is read a thread like this one. Geeky1 pretty much lays it out and even the “German cars aren’t THAT unreliable” crowd almost always qualifies there defense with something like “well except the suspension parts that go around 100K” or “it’s reliable except for the cooling system” etc. You never hear those qualifications from the fans of the solid Japanese makes. If my 13 year old Lexus had the problems that even the German fans acknowledge, it would have been dumped. I have over 180K on my LS400 and here is the complete list of unscheduled repairs I have done: one headlight switch and one O2 sensor.

    I understand love of BMW, etc for how they drive but let’s face it they pay the price in reliability. even posters who come to their defense on the reliability front aren’t making much of a case. If they are used to owning these brands I guess “it’s reliable except the (insert major system name here)” sounds line a great endorsement but for those of us without the German ownership experience, it is not.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 xyzzy
      I was about to reply to Geeky1’s objection of the LS430, until he posted the seemlessly endless design flaws he sees in the shop of various German cars. Enough said.

  • avatar

    Dude, I have to comment because a few years ago, I was where you are now. Baby and another anticipated. Same price range…

    Knowing what I know now, I would recommend a CPO 5series wagon – I’ve got a few friends with them in the same boat and they love them. Maybe an extended warranty A6 wagon if you really have to have the Audi.

    Why do you need the truly roomy compartment? Because once you get the second kid, you’ll have a front facing kid seat behind one front seat and the rear facing kid seat behind the other front seat, and let me tell you – that rear facing kid seat really eats up the space when you have to put it directly behind the passenger seat. You might think you could still put it in the middle, and have the other little guy on the side but that’s really tough unless your back seat is truly expansive – not in this price range. When I went around I actually put the car seat in demo car back seats to check the fit before driving.

    Next – trunk space. Putting a single umbrella stroller in the trunk is pretty easy even if you’re in a civic. Now, make it a costco trip with boxes and stuff, and make that umbrella a double stroller… You get the picture. Maybe you want to go jogging with the wife’s double Bob stroller – yeah, just try it. The trunk gets eaten up really fast when you add the second kid. I agree that the aesthetics of a sedan are far superior to those of a wagon, but when you’ve got kid seats in back, I don’t think anyone reasonable would hold the wagon against you.

    The answer for me was a new Acura TL with manual and sport tires.(2nd to last year before the body style got really weird). Pretty close to 30k, and alleged Honda reliability, and met a lot of your requirements. I replaced the tires recently, about $1900. The week after, found out my wife had burnt out the clutch and flywheel – another $1900. Adds up pretty fast for this “near-luxury” car – I hadn’t imagined this level of upkeep when buying the car – the civic I had before cost almost nothing to keep running.

    Good luck!

  • avatar

    Keep up the Canyonero references TTAC!

  • avatar

    I hate to say it at the possible flame fest I’ll face, but if you can stand the chrome, current-gen Acura TLs with ~10K can be had for about $30,000. Pay a little extra and you can even get the grille painted. Safe car no doubt, will get you from point A to point B in relative comfort, and probably last 200K doing so.

    If you feel like going over budget a little, then there’s always the 6MT SH-AWD model to look at…

    Let the flaming begin.

  • avatar

    “Yuppie overlords” — best quote of the week

  • avatar

    Minivan? When our second child was born we bought ourselves a two-seater roadster with manual transmission. You guys need to pick your wives more carefully ;-)

    • 0 avatar

      +10 and AMEN!

      My lady, whom I will be marrying and who wants a large family has told me on no uncertain terms that I should spoil myself when I purchase my next vehicle and get a gently used sports car or luxury coupe. She complains that I never think of myself. Her only requirement is that she be allowed to drive it every once in a while. She loves SUVs/CUVs and plans on having one of the GM Lambda triplets. (The Buick is her favorite.)

  • avatar

    Everybody is different, but I got religion after my daughter was born. Pre-child my wife and I had a Land Rover Discovery and an ’86 911 Carrera Coupe. I spent weekends tinkering with the Porker and driving on Martha’s Vineyard beaches in the Disco with my buddies, surfcasting and drinking beer. Now I’d rather kick a soccer ball in the back yard with my kids than replace a blower motor on the 911.

    Fast forward to today (two kids) – my wife has a Ford Taurus X and I just bought an Accord. Other posters have said it, but to reiterate, “family sedan” is a misnomer. You *cannot* fit a double stroller in a sedan trunk, never mind the other child-based detritus. The T-X does a fabulous job for vacations, driving 2 hours to grandma’s with 2 kids and dog, etc. The Accord is useless unless it’s just me and the kids bopping around town.

    So Andy, whatever you do, buy a minivan or good sized crossover (amending my post above re: the Volvo S80). The Ford Flex is where it’s at. Wish it was around when we bought the T-X.

  • avatar

    I came a great post on this same topic of car buying on hub pages. If you are lloking for some continued reading I would check out

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