By on April 18, 2014


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.

The particulars:

– 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!)


Steve Says

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 (<—click).

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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87 Comments on “New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids?...”

  • avatar

    But I think we narrowed down this one before that a Tahoe was the best space/cost/mpg compared to new SUVs.

  • avatar

    The 3rd-gen 4Runner tows like hot garbage. You’d be better off doing some upgrades on the van and pulling with that.

  • avatar

    If you want to keep the car for 13 years with everyday driving by your kids I wouldn’t buy something that already has 150+k miles on it. Even for a generally reliable car that’s more than half of the expected useful life, and all of the non-maintenance-intensive useful life, gone.

    Personally, if I intended to keep the car that long, I’d spend a bit more and get a low-mileage, late-model, fuel-efficient ride with a better expectation of reliability than a Volkswagen. Say, another Accord.

    Steve… how many miles on that Solara, what kind of shape is it in, and what’s your asking price?

  • avatar

    Five teenagers ? You need a vehicle built to last. A vehicle easy to maintain with a history of high mileage. Ease of obtaining parts. Ability to switch body panels. The answer is clear: Checker Marathon.

  • avatar

    The easy answer is buy dads Tdi , you know how it has been cared for, they get good mileage which would help your commute and your kids learn to drive stick as a bonus, not sure the tow weigh, but the safest choice is dads car.

    • 0 avatar

      OP here: I know my Dad’s taken good care of his, but I’m still a little hesitant about getting a VW. My coworker’s 2011 Jetta TDI wagon (same as my Dad’s other than it being an automatic) just went out of warranty a couple months back and she just dropped $2k total of two different electrical problems (instrument cluster and alternator). Additionally, I’m also sure my Dad would give me a reasonable price but it’d still above what I’d like to spend…

      • 0 avatar

        …your coworker should expect those sorts of surprises to recur on an annual basis for the future lifetime of her vehicle; TDIs are awesome cars when everything’s in working order, the problem is that despite the great mechanical drivetrain everything else around it just falls apart…

        …what about keeping it ‘in the family’ and picking up a first-generation honda insight for your commuter?..

    • 0 avatar

      VWs are notoriously expensive to maintain once the warranty is over and one must not even look at the electricals the wrong way… If one of the kids want to DIY, here comes trouble… TDIs are excellent only for people who are very mechanically inclined and/or have very long commutes. Otherwise, leave them be. A MT Honda? Now you’re talking! Parts are cheap and plentiful, plus an abundance of online support for DIYers are only a Googling away, even for the most complex tasks. Not to mention that they’re cars that are quite easy to work on without screwing up.

      On the K24 engine, as long as you keep an eye on the oil level, 83 000 miles is barely a break-in. My wife owned an ’03 CR-V with that engine (with a 5MT) and though it went to hell and back, it took 370 000 km (230 000 miles) and a third severe accident to make it die (And the engine spun like a top till the very end). I also live in a Honda town – Alliston ON – where close about 20% of cars are Honda/Acuras and I have yet to hear about a catastrophic failure of a K24 engine that had not been SEVERELY abused long term, or deeply modified. I also drive a K24-engined car: an ’08 Accord Coupe 5MT (I suggest for an almost inexhaustible source for online support)

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. I mean, if you really need to two just a couple of times, isn’t that what U-Haul and Penske are for?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Keep the Jeep as a toy and for fishing/hunting.

    Then sit down and wonder if your kids legs are painted on.

    Re-organize your kids to what is easier for you to manage, not what the kids want you to manage.

    You already appear to have a decent range of vehicles for the task at hand.

    It’s a pity you guys don’t have decent diesel SUVs. They are cheap to run. The 3.5 Montero will be heavy on fuel.

    You can buy a 3.5/3.8 Kia Sorento cheaper, they are basically similar to the Montero/Pajero.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s true. We had a 2003 Sorento EX (with 4WD) and it was a solid car. The only problem we had was that the left brake-lamp would go out about once a year.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        The headlights also only went for 3 years, even the replacement lights. Other than a battery, I never had to replace anything, other than fuel (constantly) and oil.

  • avatar

    1. Stay away from used Mitsubishi Montero. Hard to find parts .
    2. Its hard to believe your Odyssey transmission his not been replaced it rebuilt.
    3. The TDI should be a great car. But will need a lot more scheduled service next to the Asian brands.

    My recommendations is possibly a new Hyundai elantra gt 6spd manual. I get 44mpg hwy going 75mph. Drives great has that 100K 10y warranty. New ones, base model which has standard heated seats goes for around $16000 after discounts.

    • 0 avatar

      OP here: I think what’s saved our Odyssey’s transmission thus far is that we had a transmission cooler installed when we bought it. Having said that, it’s starting to show signs of wearing out but I can’t be too mad at it having lasted >120K miles.

  • avatar

    I agree with Steve, option one is probably the best bet. Even if you get a 4Runner, your kids could still drive/destroy the Accord 5spd.

  • avatar

    Achh.. Bradys.

    Me so glad shaggy hair dead. And if all women Florence Henderson, me be gay.

  • avatar

    The first car I ever drove was my mothers 1993 Cougar XR7.

    Took my girlfriend to prom in it. First accident I had was coming back from my girlfriends house one night where I rear ended a Nissan Pathfinder .
    Sometime later I was hit by a taxi and the car was totaled out.

    Later on, I got a Ford Expedition 2002. I had an accident where I was hit by a taxi but the truck was easily repaired with the insurance. We put over 100,000 miles on the truck and eventually traded in.

    Whatever you let your kids have I recommend that it be underpowered and extremely strong. Have them drive around in an “armored car” with a small engine so that they can’t race it.

    I would feel safe letting my kids have an old 2.7 L Chrysler 300.

    I would never want my kids riding around in one of these light, plastic econoboxes. And I’d sure is hell never let my kids drive around in any of my beasts…

    …not after Nikki Catsouras.

    By the time I have children cars will probably fly or they won’t all be driven by computer so I’m not worried at all.
    When the kids ask for the keys to one of my HEMI’s – trying to get a feel for what true Murican’ cars feel like- I will simply reply: “no way”!!!

    • 0 avatar

      2.7? You want your kids sitting by the side of the road when The Motor That Shall Not Be Named inevitably takes a dump?

      The “tank” approach is best served by a Volvo 850/V70 with the naturally aspirated 2.4L five.

      • 0 avatar

        You can stop it right now because I never had any problems out of the car…

        Point is I’m only letting my kids drive around in a very heavy, solidly constructed, relatively slow car.

      • 0 avatar

        Forgot to add AAA Gold 100 mile towing withing 100 miles. Of course if you are going to have something to tow cars that might leave you or your kids on the side of the road no need for the towing company.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve had AAA for years and the only time I ever had to use it was to tow A FRIEND’S CAR when they needed help and didn’t have certain levels of service.

          • 0 avatar

            bigtruckseriesreview- Remember the last time a 2.7L LX car was driven? It got beat six ways to sunday by a clapped out old Camry.


          • 0 avatar

            “It got beat six ways to sunday by a clapped out old Camry.”

            Keep in mind that the slowness of the 2.7L car would be a virtue here for BTSR. Plus if I was going to smash into something, I’d rather be in the newer car. And, pretty soon a ’93 Camry will cost the same as a 2.7L Charger.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 on the 850 wagon.

        Had a 1995 Turbo Wagon that I bought for 3k used.

        It met my criteria:

        1. Large internet forum support.

        2. All known issues are documented.

        3. Safe.

        4. Easy to work on yourself.

        It’s only no longer with me because it gave its life in an accident to save mine.

        Parts are not necessarily cheap but the few chronic issues it has are all minor. The 5 cylinder engine and automatic tranny are rock solid. You might be able to find a 5speed, but they are rare because Volvo sold relatively few 850 wagons’s compared to other manufacturers and even fewer manuals which you could only get in the non-turbo form.

        You are not in the South, so you don’t have to worry about the heat degrading the plastic structure of the dash.

    • 0 avatar

      My nephew has my late father’s 1995 Volvo 940. Low power, although you can flog that engine and it won’t complain.

      But my nephew would have been fine even in one of your hemis. At 31, he’s never crashed. He got the full dose of the family caution genes!

  • avatar

    My wife is an insurance agent, she says that about 60% of 16 year olds have a accident in their first year of driving. Our boys had to drive original style Ford Tauruses some with 4 cyl engines. They were cheap and pretty reliable and safe. Each boy had a big accident, one at fault and one not. They each walked away unhurt. They were not too happy with MY choice but my rule was he who pays, picks.

    • 0 avatar

      I just went through this myself with three teenagers. The car that the original poster will eventually get WILL be wrecked and possibly totalled. So my recommendation would be to follow Steve’s advice and get the Jetta TDI wagon as your daily driver, turn the Accord over to kid duty, and don’t expect it to survive. It is safe enough, reliable enough, and easy to drive for a kid just starting out. If it does manage to last through all five kids (which will be a miracle, trust me) then you’re ahead of the game because it didn’t cost you an additional cent to purchase — it’s already paid for.

      Now start saving for the stunningly high insurance rates you will have to pay for the first three years of each kid’s driving life. If you remain in Sourhern California (and you may not based on your military career), the cost will be thousands of dollars per kid, per year. Ask me how I know…

    • 0 avatar

      Have to agree with this. Things I would look for.

      Safe in a crash (reasonably large and as new as possible).
      Low cost: don’t pay up front. (Lots of miles and no diesel). Diesels are for the long haul. Multiple teenagers make for a short life.
      Reliability is less important. The car isn’t likely to last that long. Reliability is always good, but don’t pay much for it.

      Stick? The main reason for a stick is to properly indoctrinate the next generation in the cult of the stick*. That and giving both hands a job and not using one (or more) for an iphone.

      * Yes, I’ve never bought a car without a stick. Not sure how many more cars (sold in the US) will have them.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m with you on sticks. I consider it my duty to teach kids to drive sticks. I’ve taught all four of my siblings’ kids, plus another four or so friends’ kids, and a young cousin. One of my two best former students (both of whom were girls) has a Forester with a stick.

  • avatar

    I would go with the Jetta myself, since it will be available and economical. I don’t believe one car will do for five kid. At least one of them will continue to need a vehicle, have an accident, etc. (Based on my experience, you might need ten cars, but that’s another story.) PS Your move frequency is insane, but thanks for your service.

    • 0 avatar

      See below for my comment on me agreeing that it’s likely we’ll need more than one car, but I’m hoping for the best.

      We’ve actually moved a lot more than my original post mentioned, those were just the most recent ones. 16 years married, nearly 14 on active duty and the move to our current home put us in the 16th house or apartment of our marriage. This is our third time being stationed in Cali at two different locations, but overall we’ve lived in seven states as well as Germany and South Korea. It’s been a great adventure.

      Speaking of adventure, in Germany I had a two door Golf that couldn’t pass the TuV as we were leaving (it had 320,000km) so I gave it to a guy that put it on a boat to Africa. The Golf did survive a couple laps around the ‘Ring before I had to part with it, but that’s a story for another time. We had a used Kia van in Korea that put a piston through the block two weeks before we moved back to the states. (nice timing!) The best thing about that van is that it allowed us to drive in the bus lanes in and around Seoul. That saved us many, many hours! I did (legally) verify on the Autobahn that the Odyssey has a limiter around 104mph, and that van took us from central Italy up through England, from Paris to the Czech Republic and nearly all parts in between. No, it didn’t take a lap around the ‘Ring, but I was really tempted.


      • 0 avatar

        Saw a van loaded with tourists driving around the Ring during my time there. He was doing about ⅓-½ the pace of everyone else and using up the whole road. Passing him was one of the most dangerous parts of driving there for me. Don’t be that guy.

  • avatar

    If you like the Jetta, get the Jetta. It should be a good commuter car. The Accord might not make it through all your kids but it should go most of the way. I got a job just because I could drive a stick. Putting “can drive a stick shift” on your thin early resume could warm the heart of a car-loving interviewer even if the job doesn’t involve a stickshift.

  • avatar

    Mr. Lang, thanks for writing. The Truth About Cameron has been a bit monotone lately. The obviously right answer is pops TDI. If the kids are starting out on the Accord until one of them kills it, and the jeep needs a tow vehicle, how about another Jeep? 4.0 Cherokees are nice, plentiful and capable. Plus, I like the idea of it towing the Jeepster.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Probably the nicest vehicle for a large family. It also has a nice badge.

    If VW could make this it could be described as different or maybe stylish??? If it existed.

    Diesel all the way and 26mpg, very utilitarian, but functional.

    And a great(?) handling family mover :)

  • avatar

    I’ve seen it before. With old ford/chevy trucks, cherokees, buick lesabre/regal/centurys, and a few others but those stick out to me. Cheap to maintain, very reliable, very durable, and all practical, but all lacking in the gas mileage department which helps kids learn how to budget.

    • 0 avatar

      Noted from anti121hero… buick lesabre/regal/centurys
      You actually listed one of the best choices!

      These Buicks get great mileage. 20 city/30 hwy.
      Add in the larger size with great mileage they are perfect.
      Very dependable too with low cost parts found everywhere.

      You can find a low mileage older Buick for less money than high mileage Honda or Toyota. These Buick’s last just as long. Pay the extra money to get one without any rust on the undercarriage even if it needs to be shipped from a southern state.

      The only thing is you will not find a stick-shift.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    4Runners are indestructible. A college friend of mine got a 99 new when he went to college. Sold it last year with 220K. Still alive, never cost him anything– just got tired of it.

    The 850 is definitely not the second coming of the 240. Last two I was in (one non-turbo, one GLT) had slipping transmissions.

  • avatar

    I second who ever said there is pretty much no way any car is going to last through 13 years and 5(!) kids. One or more of them is going to wreck it. Possibly multiple times. Much as I absolutely HATE them, this truly is a use case for a Panther. The cost of gas will keep them closer to home.

    Though absent that, get the Jetta and sacrifice the Accord to the kids.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, hoping one car would make it through all five kids probably is a bit of wishful thinking. My four siblings and I all crashed a car growing up, two of the accidents totaled the respective car. Having said that, I’m a bit of an optimist so I’m hoping for the best.

      And I really don’t think I could get a Panther…

      • 0 avatar

        I’d skip the Panther, to. But for your kids’ sake, think twice about any of the earlier, non stability controlled SUVs. Whatever plus they may offer in crashing into a small car, the rollover tendency is too great. Especially when you are talking earlier models and inexperienced drivers. I recall the data from the days of Dodge Shadows that had two door model with four times the rollover frequency than the 4 door models. Only difference: age of drivers. With that many kids using whatever you buy, the odds of at least one of them getting into trouble is pretty good.

        Here’s a different idea. Considering the age spread of your kids, whatever you buy is likely to have a tough life…and lasting from one to done is going to be unlikely. So, with that in mind, how about considering the purchase of a vehicle with massive depreciation (that admittedly will not be as good as an Accord) and expect it to last for half the time frame you want. Then repeat. The likelihood of on or two of your kids denting the crap out of what you buy is pretty high (grades are an irrelevant barometer, BTW). That means even an Accord will be pretty much of no resale value when you are done with it. If you run the numbers, I’d bet that with a prudent purchase you will end up spending no more money, and maybe less when you consider all the expenses from start to finish. No, a top tier Asian brand will not be the car, but you can buy a much newer car with less miles if you choose wisely. The car chosen will also be much less of an insurance risk, and since you will replace, your last child is not stuck driving a worn out rolling embarrassment because the older kids beat it to death.

        Just something to think about…

  • avatar

    No suggestion but deepest sympathy for kid number 5.

  • avatar

    Only one choice. Toyota Prius circa 2005-2008. You can pick them up with 80-110K on them for about $7-10K. They are good for 300-400K with little to no maintenance short of the traction battery and brakes. 45-50 mpg. Heck, at 100K, they probably haven’t gone thru a set of brake pads yet because of the regenerative braking. People get scared of these things because of the cost of the replacement battery but those batteries are good for at least 350K.

    Avoid out of warranty VW’s. They are horribly unreliable like their German brethren.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Disaster, in my neck of the woods there are no second generation Priuses under $10,000 with under 100,000 miles. In defense of the car though, 100,000 miles on a Prius is like 50,000 on a conventional car. The per mile cost is about as low as you can get. They are safe and not subject to hoonage. A second generation Prius would be a good car for a succession of teens. It’s not the best highway car. It’s kind of noisy on the highway, subject to crosswinds, and has little reserve power. Some people put up with these shortcomings and swear by the car though. I think the 07 Honda Accord would be better for the highway commute as would be Dad’s ’11 Jetta GDI.

      There are folks that know me out there who didn’t think I could go a full post without mentioning the C-Max, well, you’re wrong I – uh, never mind.

      • 0 avatar

        You from Cali possibly? In the East and especially the Midwest, they don’t garner the same prices. They aren’t real quiet but I’ve not noticed any issues with crosswinds and with 110 total horsepower they aren’t dogs, though it isn’t uncommon to find people driving them like they are to maximize fuel economy.

  • avatar

    I grew up the oldest in a family of 5 kids. My dad made a good living and we only had TWO (2) cars at a time. There is no need for 4 cars, your kids will cope, after all, we did. Plus, why do you have 5 kids? Doesn’t the military provide birth control on base? The kids can walk, use the bus, get rides from friends, after all, we did and so did the Bradys, who never had more than 2 cars

    • 0 avatar

      @BobinPGH: You might be surprised to hear this but we have five kids because we wanted five kids. It always makes me laugh when people express sympathy or apologize upon hearing we have five children. I’m not sad I have five kids, why should you be?

      Why do I feel like we need another car? Simple, the jeep doesn’t really count as a full car to me, as per insurance it is only going to be driven a couple thousand miles a year at most. Having just finished the frame off restoration – I did 90% of the work – it’s not something the kids will drive until they’ve been driving for a while. I’m the second oldest of five kids and I remember plenty of times when two cars just weren’t enough to get to all the activities everyone had going on. Ergo, we’re looking for an additional vehicle.


      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sad but Earth is. Your carbon score must be incredibly high with all those cars (and you want another), all the travel, being in the military and 5 kids and let me guess, is there another one on the way? The most steak-eating, jet flying everywhere, run leaf blower all the time, cigar smoking and 6.4 Hemi Challenger RT racing single guy probably has 1/10 of your carbon score and would have a hard time getting up there even if he tried. Not only are your child greedy but also car greedy. How can you afford it, are you a general? We and the Brady Bunch got along with 2 cars, so can you. And I would stay away from the Volkswagen, everyone I know who has one has trouble. Do consider the Buicks, they won’t drive them as much. When I was a teen, I was embarrassed to be driving a Country Squire, too bad they don’t make wagons anymore

        • 0 avatar

          Now, now… you’ve got to address the hamster issue before hectoring a responsible family man.

          • 0 avatar

            >> Now, now… you’ve got to address the hamster issue before hectoring a responsible family man.

            I get the distinct impression you aren’t talking about the Kia Soul.

          • 0 avatar

            Not directly, but I love Kia Souls.

            After a thorough cleaning, of course.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX


          How sad is your view of the world – you see children as just another mouth to feed – from a limited pool of resources – and I see children as a resource to solve problems and make the world a better place.

          We also have five kids, with no regrets.

          As for the car – I don’t see how 1 car will survive 5 driving children. Just get the cars as needed.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          This is a a car blog. No one cares for your sentiments on his family and number of kids etc. If your gonna be an a$$hat find another blog.

        • 0 avatar

          As someone who needs his kids to pay for my social security, I’m greatful that he had a bunch of kids.

          The US is suffering from too few people having kids, not too many.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m one guy and I have 4 cars. 2 of them are Jeep Wranglers with inefficient old 4.0L inline sixes in them. Keep your opinions to yourself. If you are worried about momma earth, the good news is, I can only drive one of them at a time.

  • avatar

    Family of 7. You want a stick shift vehicle that can tote around the family and will outlast 5 kids learning how to drive.


    My brain comes up with one answer. A fully mechanically restored 1973-1982 Suburban. Unusual, but not impossible to find with a stick.

    Your kids can hit a Prius (or a brick wall, for that matter) and the ‘burb will be none the worse for wear. Every single part can be found at the nearest AutoZone (or junkyard!)

    It will outlast your family and the Zombie Apocalypse.

    • 0 avatar
      Zekele Ibo

      >> Your kids can hit a Prius (or a brick wall, for that matter) and the ‘burb will be none the worse for wear. (…) It will outlast your family…

      I agree it could outlast at least some members of the family. Specifically the ones in the car when it crashes.

      Seriously, we’ve learned enough these days to know that in a crash you want the vehicle to crumple so the occupants’ bodies don’t take the full force of the impact. I’d rather my kid were in a Smart car than in some ancient Suburban, or a decades-old Volvo.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’d help each child buy his or her own beater and make sure they pay part of the cost. They will get in wrecks, so safe and inexpensive trumps reliable. In fact, bad cars at a really low price might be perfect. Buy cars like they’re going to be destroyed in a movie stunt. Besides buying safe cars, I’d probably buy domestic cars with dealerships in any rural area the military sends you.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’d help each child buy his or her own beater and make sure they pay part of the cost.”

      I was going to say something very similar to this. I’ve never understood the need to buy a car specifically for the kids. However, if OP does as Mr. B said they’ll likely have a heck of a lot more respect for their respective cars. Also, it’s possible that OP can get away for a whole lot less than $7k by helping his kids get their own cheaper cars, if they even want to drive.

      In high school I went to school with a kid who got a brand new A6 because he reached the ripe-old, responsible age of 16 and reached the milestone of getting his license without taking out a cone.

      • 0 avatar

        The main reason to buy a car for your children is so that you don’t have to drive them places. Mine have a very involved activity that they go to four or five days a week, and I’d like to have my evenings back.

  • avatar

    W- body. Cheap to buy and easy to repair. Lots of spare parts for when someone damages it. Bonus points if you can get a Buick or Olds and snag cheaper insurance for the “buyer profile” and drop collision due to the value. One thing I would say is think twice before buying something with a lot of seats. Do you really want your kid to be the one that the group uses to taxi themselves around in? Something about being responsible for a van full of kids driven by an inexperienced driver would make me strike the van off the list.

  • avatar

    Well, Kate Gosselin’s vehicle of life lasted through 8. Or did it? Either way a Honda outside of the frost heave zone can take a licking and keep on ticking.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you mean the Freightliner van they took to Disney (where Khate was the only one frowning in the happiest place on Earth)? It smells pissy, but what do you expect from someone who lines up potty chairs in people’s driveways?

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi Montero > 4Runner

    Parts are easy to come by…not sure why there is a complaint there. A neighbor has one with 270k and uses it to tow a 16ft sailboat.

  • avatar

    Man I hope that goofball complaining about carbon footprint is being satirical, otherwise that’s just wound way too tight.

    Have you considered a truck something like an F150 supercrew, maybe from the 04-08 timeframe? It’ll tow, it’s got four doors, large enough to be relatively safe, isnt going to be raced around, parts are cheap and plentiful, can get a manual (though you may have to search hard), it can be bought with a contractor grade interior . There’s certainly enough history to know what fails and what might need replacement.

    It’ll be crap on gas of course but that’ll keep the trips down.

    The other idea about a Prius is an interesting idea, I haven’t followed them closely enough to know if their long term maintenance is suspect or not though. One negative is that every prius I see on the interstate is being driven like a bat out of hell.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go burn some tires in celebration of people with a low carbon footprint.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would be looking for a well used dodge Dakota crew cab which can be had in MT form very reasonably and will go the distance. Cheap to repair etc and will take the beating. 5 kids? Whatever rig you get is going to look like a derby car by #3 so a pick up makes sense. You only have to worry about the front half.

    You can also find Nissan frontier crews with some miles for under 7k. I personally don’t like the idea of my kids in the back of an extended cab truck but if you are good with it that would be another option.

  • avatar

    26 years in the ER here – I’ll just say – make sure your kids wear seat belts all the time – please. Have had to tell too many parents their teens were dead. Also – tell them if they are ever drunk/stoned, if they call you, you will come and pick them up anywhere and not get mad. Worst I saw was four unbelted kids in a JEEP that rolled, all dead, teen driver drunk (autopsy blood alcohol).

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be dead right now if not for a seat belt, one of the better things ever invented, IMO.

    • 0 avatar

      100% agree. If they can’t wear seat belts, forget any other rules.

      It is unbelievably hard to enforce anything if you aren’t in the vehicle. Since cops (especially in suburbs who have nothing better to do) will sometimes ticket for not wearing seat belts, and they also toss it on top of a ticket or in lieu of a bigger ticket – tell em if the EVER get caught without a seat belt, they get maximum penalty (whatever the hell you can do to make it hurt).

  • avatar

    Here is what worked for me through 3 kids.

    A 94 ’80’ series Land Cruiser. Something equivalent now would have to be the 100 series, which is faster, unfortunately..

    What I liked:

    1. Size. I know, size does not equal safety. But it helps. Other vehicles tend to yield. Not sure why — very visible and also it is an attitude thing.

    2. Good visibility.

    3. Slow.

    4. Not embarrassing.

    5. Yes it will get dings, but it dishes out more than it takes. Parking lot road rash? Should have seen the other guy.

    6. Bad gas milage. Let the kids buy their own. Too expensive for road trips.

    Assume that EVERY teenager will get in a wreck. Hope that it is just body damage. I think it is the ‘self esteem’ thing. The kids in the top tracks (AP) are encouraged to have confidence and take intellectual risks. Doesn’t translate well into the world of driving. My oldest kid drove it partially through the back of the garage. The brick outside is still bowed out. And the license plate is embossed into the dry wall. Their first wreck is an invaluable learning experience — you really want it to be a fender bender.

    Post Script. I ended up a repo-ing from the youngest when she went to college. I rehabbed it and drove it off road. I still have it and use it for short trips and the rare times I haul stuff.

    There are a lot of big, slow, reliable vehicles out there. This is just one man’s story.

    [I did have one experience that still perplexes me. What is the most reasonable response to finding a used condom on the food? Congratulate them for ‘safe sex’ or telling them to clean it the fu*k or pretending like it never happened. — a multiple choice test without an answer]

  • avatar


    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. :)


  • avatar

    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.

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