New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids?
I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get.
– Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15…
– Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple more likely over the next several years
– Three current cars are all paid for
– Commute is 35 highway miles each way and will be that way for at least the next 18 months and maybe longer
– Car #1 – 2006 Honda Odyssey with ~120,000 miles (bought new)
– Car #2 – 2007 Honda Accord 5 speed with ~83,000 miles (bought used)
– Car #3 – 1969 Jeepster Commando that’s been in my family since 1973.
Our oldest turns 16 in a few months and we’d like to get a vehicle that the kids can all drive over the next 13 years. Note that I said ‘a’ vehicle as we keep our cars a long time and don’t intend on getting another car for the kids to share. One and done.
What should that fourth vehicle be? I see really only two paths that make sense.
First option: Get a car that pushes 40+mpg to ease the pain at the pump my commute causes. Possible vehicle: my Dad is selling his 2011 Jetta TDI 5 speed wagon this fall and I have dibs, if I so choose. This option would mean that the kids would drive the Accord, which we’re fine with.
Second option: Get something that can double as the kids’ car and that we can use to tow the Commando on our future moves. This means I would keep commuting in my Accord, which is also fine. Budget is about $7K max and we’ll pay cash.
We are leaning strongly towards getting a third gen 4Runner (’96-’01) with a V6, 4×4 and tow package as the min requirements. Manual is highly desired but not required. There are several for sale where we live (north of LA) and examples with 150-175k miles can be found for around $5k, although most are automatics. Reviews and 4Runner forums seem to portend good news regarding longevity with relatively straight forward maintenance required. My fear? My vehicle aperture isn’t nearly wide enough and that there are lots of other good options out there that we’re not considering. Whatever the fourth vehicle ends up being, there isn’t a requirement that it be able to carry all seven of us.
I leave it in your capable hands. What does your magic 8 ball say? (It better not say to buy a Panther, ’cause it ain’t happening!)
I like your first option the best.
If your kids learn how to drive a stick (good move there!), they will eventually get a far better vehicle in the marketplace as they get older and more independent.
As a car dealer circa 2014, it amazes me how so few people know how to drive a stick these days. When it comes to older vehicles, I find that sticks will go for about 15% to 35% cheaper than their automatic counterparts with a few notable exceptions
I still buy a lot of em’ for retail, and although they sit at my lot for longer periods of time, they also attract customers who are far more conscientious about maintenance and upkeep. This helps me when it comes to financing these rides. Since a car that is well kept tends to have fewer issues.
As for option 2, yes, the Toyota 4Runner has an excellent long-term reliability record. But let me throw in an alternative that will cost thousands less and have a solid reliability record as well.
I would consider a Mitsubishi Montero from the early 2000’s. If you buy one with the 3.5 Liter, they are virtually bulletproof, and the kids will benefit from a higher seating position. The gas mileage will remain abysmal. But in the real world the 3.5 Liter in the Montero will get you a vehicle with about half the miles of the 4Runner for the same price, and the reliability of that particular powertrain is solid (
Maintenance history is critically important when buying older SUV’s because a lot of them are neglected and inevitably hot-potatoed in the used car market . So get it independently inspected and only opt for ones that have a strong maintenance regimen. Otherwise you will also be buying someone else’s problems.
Good luck! Oh, and if you decide to not buy an older SUV, I have a beige on beige Toyota Solara with a V6, no CD player, and a hand shaker in between the front seats. I’m thinking about naming it, “The Rolling Leper” in honor if it more or less being an unsellable car.
If you don’t have to tow, go find the west coast version of a low-spec Solara. In a non-rust climate like central California, I think a car like that would probably be the optimal fit.
All the best.
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Nonsense. If you lock in the same car to all five of your kids, by the time it gets to kid # 4... IF it makes it that far... you really must dislike your kid. Or you're completely broke, nursing the mechanicals. Or you don't mind changing the mechanicals often, because kids break stuff. Remember when you had your first car? Don't tell me you babied it. You'd be a liar. :) Nonsense.
Forget about fuel economy if you have 5 new drivers that have no prior driving history. You will statistically wreck it many times and your insurance will be expensive. Get a car that has the cheapest insurance cost for liability only, reliable enough to last for 5-10 years and easy to drive. Something that is safe and low center of gravity (no SUV). That means a mid size car that is reliable enough and not too popular, low in power, and cheap enough that you don't care if it is wrecked, and heavy enough to be safe. I'd pick an American car that has been orphaned but large volume, something like a Gen 4 Taurus, or Malibu, or G6, whatever you can find cheap and good reliability rating. Ugly be damned, tell your kids they only need to drive for a couple of years before passing it down to the younger sibling.