New or Used: the 4-1-5 Family Hauler

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used the 4 1 5 family hauler

TTAC reader civicguy writes:

My wife and I currently own an 04 Honda Civic EX (mine) sedan and an 03 Honda CR-V LX (hers). We have two Golden Retrievers who travel with us a lot to visit family, etc and we are expecting our first child this March and probably another child while we are driving this new car. This means we are running out of space and need something big, compared to the CR-V at least.

I will be done paying off my Civic this summer, the CR-V has been paid off for a year. We want to get ourselves on a 4-1-5 year plan meaning that we want to sell her CR-V, buy something nice for her, finance it for 4 years, have 1 year of saving that payment for a down payment and then selling the Civic, financing for 4, saving for 1, and we keep trading who we buy for every 5 years. This means we will only have one car payment at a time while also getting rid of that nasty depreciation issue if we ever buy new with saving the 1 year of payments. However, it also means we will need to keep these cars for 10 years at time (which is hard for me who has had 6 cars in the past 9 years…my teenage years were dumb like that).

This means the car we are replacing the CR-V with must hold up well without many major issues for that 10 year span.I know it can happen, both our families are Honda families going back awhile. Her list of requirements are:

~Must be SUV (I’m trying to convince her of the convince of a minivan but she says we are too young (mid-20’s) for that)

~Good MPG, relatively speaking of course for a vehicle this size.

~Major issue free for 10 years, or as much so as possible.

~No more than 2 years old, maybe new if the deal is good enough.

~Trying to keep in the 25K range, give or take 5K.

~Enough room in the second row for 2 car seats.

~Enough room behind the second row for 2 dog crates and as much luggage as possible.

Contenders so far:

~Honda Pilot

~Nissan Pathfinder (true that it needs to take premium gas?)

~Toyota Highlander

~Hyundai Veracruz (big enough? Don’t know much about them)

~Mazda CX-9

~Ford Explorer

~Honda Odyssey (2011 only – I’m trying to sneak this in…)

Am I missing any? I’m not again domestics necessarily just usually always had Japanese cars in my past with good results. Also, what should I really be looking for in this mid-size SUV segment? Should I try to stick with used or can new be worth it? Never bought a car new before so kind of scared of that but since we plan on keeping it so long does it matter? Great thanks from me, my wife, my dogs and my unborn child :)

Sajeev Answers:

Yes, the Pathfinder takes premium gas. But since its not turbocharged and you never mentioned towing, odds are you can run regular and not lose much fuel economy (no leadfooting!) and any durability. I’ll let Steve discuss your 4-1-5 year plan, as I never look at vehicle purchases with such attention to a financial scheme. In my experiences, people fall out of love with a vehicle, decide something is more interesting, get disillusioned by 1-3 months of “excessive repairs” or–back when credit flowed like a soda fountain–a sweetheart finance/lease deal showed up to shift your current plan. So, as per my plan, I stick with product.

Advice: test drive them all, with dog crates and children in tow. More to the point, if one doesn’t have a perfectly flat load floor for the doggies, run away. Long trips with uncomfortable pets is no fun for anyone. In general, used cars can work if you buy vehicles with low-ish resale (no Hondas) and avoid 1-2 year old creampuffs with CPO warranties. Given your need to drive a vehicle for 10 years, owning a 13+ year old whip might frighten, but you’ll get no sympathy from my mostly reliable, 16-year-old Lincoln driving self. But I digress…

The Veracruz is a good idea, even if the one I sampled had toxic new car smell. It has the features, size and warranty to work with you. I think the best product for your needs are the large, efficient and somewhat fun to drive GM Lambda Crossovers. They are all good enough, so cross shop on price: I suspect a used Saturn Outlook is the “smartest” of the bunch.

Steve answers:

Here’s what will really happen.

In four years either you or your wife will get tired of the ‘new’ vehicle. You will spend one year mulling around about it. Then continue on the cycle of wealth destruction that comes with financing new cars instead of ‘owning’ what you have. Your plan doesn’t work. But Honda will certainly appreciate your patronage.

Look, you are not running out of space. You are expecting a baby. That’s all you have to deal with. Keep both cars. Use the CR-V when it’s required to transport the shit smelling mongrels (just kidding, we have dogs) , and the Civic for errands and commuting.

You want to be financially responsible to your family? Buy nothing. My wife had a 1997 Ford Escort that she used once our first kid was due. Bought it for $5000 back in 1999 and sold it for $3000 in 2003. 60,000 miles. 30 mpg. A good safety record, and no regrets. The Civic will be even safer. The CR-V is pretty much the optimal SUV-lite mommy mobile. You already have what you need. It’s not the answer you want but it’s the truth.

One more thing: your financial idea is just another excuse to spend money. That’s not an insult. If you really want to save money for the long haul, do exactly that, so that next time you can buy ‘the car’ with cash.

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

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2 of 103 comments
  • Bryan Kauffman Bryan Kauffman on May 18, 2011

    I agree with Steve. My parents hauled around 4 kids in a 2 door chevette. But at the same time, a person is always going to be hindered by auto expenses. So either you pay for repairs or you pay the payment. Take your choice. Until people give up automobiles, theres always gonna be cost. Back to my parents, they tried what steve said. They dumped thousands of dollars into used cars, trying to keep them running. They would have probably been better buying new every few years. But during those times (80s & 90s) interest rates were far higher than today. So financing costs were high as well. They should do their patriotic duty and spend their money. By saving, they are hurting the economy.

  • MR2turbo4evr MR2turbo4evr on May 18, 2011

    Let's face it, you're not going to listen to reason, so why not do the exact opposite of what i would do: Screw your 4-1-5 plan. Buy the biggest SUV you can find. I would recommend a Suburban or Expedition for the reasons stated in previous comments. Also, make sure you buy it brand new. You wouldn't want to worry about exensive vehicle repairs now, would you? High vehicle payments? Just ammortize the loan for 7 years. Immagine how cool your wife would look driving this beast. Your neighbors would turn green from all the jelousy. Wow. And you would have soooo much room for all your pets, kids, and stuff. Make sure that the vehicle is made in USA though to support your country and help the economy. And please report back to us in a few years to let us know how things are going.

  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.
  • Sgeffe There's someone around where I live who has a recent WRX-STi, but the few times I've been behind this guy, he's always driving right at the underposted arbitrary numbers that some politician pulled out of their backside and slapped on a sign! With no gendarmes or schoolkids present! Haven't been behind this driver on the freeway, but my guess is that he does the left lane police thing with the best of 'em!What's the point of buying such a vehicle if you're never going to exceed a speed limit? (And I've pondered that whilst in line in the left lane at 63mph behind a couple of Accord V6s, as well as an AMG E-Klasse!)
  • Mebgardner I'm not the market for a malleable Tuner / Track model, so I dont know: If you are considering a purchase of one of these, do you consider the Insurance Cost Of Ownership aspect? Or just screw it, I'm gonna buy it no matter.The WRX is at the top of the Insurance Cost pole for tuner models, is why I ask.
  • Mebgardner Wishing for the day of open source software in EVs, including the OS. Lets have some transparency in the algorithms and controls. No Fair data hoovering my phone when connected.I'm also wondering at the level of CANBus components in this vehicle.