New or Used: Avoiding The Trampoline Effect

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used avoiding the trampoline effect

TTAC Commentator wannabewannabe asks:

Sajeev and Steve,

This is one of the columns I always read on TTAC, and now it’s time for me to submit a question. I haven’t been keeping up on new (and slightly used) cars as much as I used to, so I’d love to get the advice of you guys and the b&b.

Here’s the situation. My mom just totaled her 2007 Scion tC. Don’t worry, other than a few bumps and bruises, she’s fine. But that does leave her in the position of needing a new(ish) car. Of course, I volunteered to help her come up with a list of possibilities for her to consider. The insurance company has given her an estimate of a $13k payment for the Scion, so let’s use that as a baseline. I just talked to her and got her wants and needs and possible price range. They are:

1. She absolutely wants a sunroof. The Scion was the first car she ever had with one and she completely loved having one.

2. She wants the car to have a CD player and/or full iPod compatibility.

3. After this accident, she’s convinced of the utility of airbags and safety, so the car should have a full complement of them. She even said she’s willing to pay a little more for a car with good safety ratings, and safety is more important that looks. Along those lines, I told her she should absolutely have stability control. Having a safe car will go a good ways to getting her over the post-accident fear she has right now.

4. While she certainly likes a car with decent fuel economy, she pretty flexible there and it’s frankly not hugely important.

5. The one thing she always disliked about the Scion was the stiff ride, especially with the lower profile tires. It aggravated her back, which needs no extra aggravation.

6. She also owns an old Dodge Caravan which she had bought to transport my grandmother when she was still alive, and while she pretty much hates the van, she does like the higher seating position because my mom is short, and it allowed her to see out better.

7. Possible price range of about $13k to $25k max, which should open up the options somewhat.

A few things about my mom. She’s in her early 60s and short. She’s an accountant. Right now, she’s driving an old ’89 Toyota Camry that used to be my grandfathers, so she’s in no rush to buy, and she can take her time to find the right car. But the Camry doesn’t have airbags and just isn’t near as safe as what she wants, so it’s not a long term solution. After all the bad publicity that Toyota has gotten in the past couple of years, she’s a little wary of the brand, and she said she probably wouldn’t buy another Scion because of the ride and because she didn’t like the way the brakes felt (the way she described it sounds like the ABS was activating too easily), which the dealership never remedied under warranty. She’s open to both new and used cars, but if it’s used probably no older than the Scion she had, so nothing over 3 years and about 35k miles. She has no foreign or domestic loyalty. Also, she lives in Dallas, so recent blizzaster notwithstanding, she doesn’t need all wheel drive. In fact, front or rear wheel drive makes no difference really.

What I’m looking for is a broad list of recommendations, so I have a starting point to create a finely tuned list for her. What say you?

Sajeev Answers:

William, unfortunately your list doesn’t exactly narrow things down. Everything comes with a metric frack-load of safety features, a CD-MP3 deck and even if a moonroof isn’t optional, Webasto makes a great factory-like upgrade in the aftermarket. I would recommend a few test drives in CUVs, Sedans and Coupes in your price range to see what’s gonna spike her punchbowl. So to speak.

I think the CUV is gonna be her new BFF. And there are plenty of ’em that blend the good of the tC with the high seating position of that Caravan. Since she has a bad back, I’d default to slightly larger units (no micro Kia Souls or equivalent) with more wheelbase and weight. If she liked the tC’s sense of punchy style but won’t buy another Toyota, a mere CR-V or Escape ain’t gonna cut it. I’d go Nissan Murano, Mitsubishi Outlander (maybe), Ford Edge (Panoramic Roof, anyone?) or maybe a somewhat-old Acura MDX.

Steve Answers:

You ever hear of the trampoline effect? It’s when you go from one extreme to another. Kinda like when someone who owns a Ford Festiva decides he needs a bit more safety and buys… a Suburban… an Excursion… a Canyonero.

I think your Mom may be in the grips of that effect. The Tc is small. Cockpit like. A bit claustrophobic. While most midsized sedans today have plenty of room in them without the Big Bertha gas penalty and uninvolved driving experience of a CUV.

Fusion, Camry, Altima, Legacy, Accord… There is a reason why the mid-sized sedan market is still the bread and butter of the car market. I would nix the Elantra due to it’s cocoon like interior along with the prior gen Passat. But pretty much anything else would be fair game.

I would start here. If she wants bigger she can always move up. But today’s midsized cars are the equivalent in space to most full-sized cars without the ‘feel’ of bigness.

Go midsized and adjust if needed.

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 76 comments
  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Jun 10, 2011

    Why go for a CUV with relatively lousy gas mileage? And why go for a bigger "mid-size" sedan?? She was happy with a small coupe before, just didnt like the (slightly) firm ride. She would LOVE a Honda Civic. Coupe if she prefers style, sedan if she wants a bit more practicality. If a CUV is a hot button for her, then I would recommend the RAV4 over the CRV any day. Better seats, better styling (esp the interior), just as good of quality level, and better mileage too (I think). The 4-cyl is good performance with great MPG, the V6 is crazy powerful and still pretty good MPG. For a while, the V6 RAV4 was the fastest vehicle in the Toyota lineup.

  • Eldard Eldard on Jun 10, 2011

    A Kia Optima would be quite nice. Or for a real trampoline effect a Hyundai Azera. So big yet so cheap.

  • Dusterdude It is wrong at all levels that a president should be on a picket line- period.
  • Tassos Before you rush to buy this heap of rusty metal, maybe you should wait a day or two.I hear Tim will have an Model T next time.
  • Redapple2 I d just buy one already sorted. Too many high level skills (wiring, paint, body panel fitment et. al.) that i dont have. And I dont fancy working 100 s of hours for $3 /hour.
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.