New or Used: Wants, Needs and Bathwater

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

Steven writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all wheel drive and Turbo=bad gas mileage, I drive about 40,000 miles a year and betwen the gas and the upkeep I am getting killed, hence time for a new car.

This is what I want, good to great on gas,auto, 4dr or wagon safe and comfy on the road, no suv, no RWD,( drive from NY to Boston year round, I am in sales so it needs to be somewhat presentable. No americian cars, sorry no faith that they will hold up in the long run, and need some soul (hence no Camry) since I live in the car, budget anywhere from 15k to 30 k, I would perfer used but with prices this high not sure if it makes sense, I like Saabs, Audi,Acura, had a bunch of Accords but not since 2006. Lately have been very tempted by a 2011 VW Jetta TDI, great MPG but VW does not have a great rep. It seems VW TDI hold their value very well so that is why I am considering a 2011, love Saabs bc they do not hold their value so a great used buy ( had 2 in the past) I need some quick help from you and the board, before the volvo needs another $1500 in repairs/ maintance. thanks

Sajeev answers:

I’d definitely gravitate to a new vehicle, given your budget, career and high prices of lightly used vehicles. Which pushes me (you) to the mainstream sedans that you might hate. You need to test drive a bunch of them to see what really speaks to you: important for someone in your line of work.

Okay, so no Camry, but you should at least drive the SE model. Ditto any Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu: I know, I know! The Accord is also worth a look, but I am gonna recommend two sweethearts in this class: the Hyundai Sonata (SE or Limited) and the Mazda 6. Both are rather cool for their class, and the Hyundai has a great warranty (with roadside assistance) for a road warrior.

Steve answers:

I wouldn’t throw out the Camry with the bathwater just yet. Last Tuesday I test drove all the new Camrys and found the Hybrid model to be the absolute embodiment of everything you likely want. Plenty of power and comfort. Exceptional fuel economy (43 city, 39 highway). Surprisingly tight handling and ‘healthy’ road feel in what is supposedly a traditional conservative car.

I would put that model near the top regardless of the bulbous marshmallow nature of the outgoing generation.

The rest of the results are pretty much in line with what Sajeev suggests. On the new side there is the Fusion, Sonata, 6, and Altima. On the used side it depends on whether you’re willing to consider any unpopular cars. Yes, SAABs are cheap now. So is the Infiniti G25 which is one of many near luxury sedans that fall through the cracks due mostly to ‘spec junkies’ wanting the more powerful model.

If you’re willing to consider a 1 to 2 year old CPO car that offers a fantastic warranty, I would opt for a step up. The C-Class, Audi A4, and Infiniti G25 would be on my list as well. Although to be frank, I would likely just go with the new Camry Hybrid if I had to drive all those miles in the pothole marred northeast. Good luck!

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

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

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  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Aug 31, 2011

    This doesn't add up. On the one hand you say you drive 40K miles a year but then you say you've driven it about 4K since Jan. You also say you don't trust an American car for the long haul but then you say you are interested in a Saab which is a GM. If you are looking for a car that will last the for the long haul and won't cost you an arm and a leg in maintenance, insurance and repairs you do want a GM or Ford.

    • See 3 previous
    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Sep 01, 2011

      @golden2husky Could get a LaCrosse CXS with the 3.6VVT V6 and maybe a great engine would make the experience liveable. Plus those cars usually had ebony leather interiors so you could pretend you were in a German car.

  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Sep 05, 2011

    OP here thanks for the replies, test drove/rented 10 cars that the group suggested with the exception of teh 12 Camary Hybrid not out yet, drove the 11 camary, did not like the seats or the truck space. In the end I went with a Jetta Sports wagon TDI, the car just felt right, right size, front wheel drive,pretty comfy, great on gas ( over 700 miles this weekend adv 43 miles per gallon) It is a leap of faith on how it will hold up but I did my research and am going in with my eye open. Thanks.

    • Jollyjerry Jollyjerry on Sep 05, 2011

      Glad to hear you bit the bullet. I was rooting for the TDI Sportwagon. Hopefully, with good care, the car will last you a good long time.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Union fees and corruption. What can go wrong?
  • Lou_BC How about one of those 2 foot wide horizontal speedometers out of the late 60's Ford Galaxie?
  • Lou_BC Was he at GM for 47 years or an engineer for 47 years?
  • Ajla The VW vote that was held today heavily favored unionization (75/25). That's a very large victory for the UAW considering such a vote has failed two other times this decade at that plant.
  • The Oracle Just advertise ICE vehicles by range instead of MPG and let the market decide.
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