New Or Used? The $25,000 Question
This August, we will have a 23-year-old German au pair coming to live with us. She will be taking care of our three boys – ages 6, 4, and 1. I am looking for transportation for said au pair that fulfills the following criteria:
- accommodates 2 boosters and 1 car seat– i.e. older boys need to be able to access the seat belt buckles with the car seat in place (presumably in the middle?)
- reliable and low maintenance
- good in snow and ice (we live in Cleveland); preferably AWD
- under $25,000
My wife drives a 2013 AWD Toyota Sienna. It fulfills all the criteria but number 5.
My first thought was a used Volvo wagon, but a quick internet search revealed a very limited selection under $25k with less than 150k miles on the odometer. Used minivans are similar… not a great selection, and those under $25k are generally high-mileage specimens.
Currently, I’m thinking along the lines of a used Grand Cherokee, but I’ve never owned or driven one. I just know that there are a buttload of them on on the road and in used car lots.
My other thoughts: Escape/CRV/RAV4/CX5/Cherokee, but might be too small in the back. Forester, also might be too small, and seems overpriced right now.
I’m not a car guy and I’ve never bought a used car… so please, any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. And yes, having been a loyal TTAC reader, I realize that the car I’m looking for is a used rear-wheel drive sport wagon with a set of snow tires, but no. We both work 40+ hours a week (hence, au pair) and barely find time to get oil changes. (I know, I know. I don’t change my own oil… THE HORROR!)
You are dead to me. But really, even us emerging middle-aged enthusiasts let others change the oil every now and then.
As for your next issue, none of the crossovers you mentioned can easily seat three children across. Even the old school Volvos that offered real space aplenty back in the ’90s could never accommodate three super-sized child seats and/or boosters of the modern day. Today’s side impact technologies put an even tighter squeeze on middle-row seating. So long story short, since you have the Sienna, I would keep that and get your wife a third car.
If you absolutely must have all-wheel-drive and a new vehicle, my top pick would be a Kia Sorento. You are going to be $2,000 to $3,000 over on the $25,000 budget before tag, tax, title, and the inflated doc fee. But the Sorento has received outstanding reviews, and you should be able to make it a keeper for a long time given the third row.
Another good option would be a front-wheel drive vehicle that comfortably handles three adults and three children with proper restraints which also offers a solid safety record. If you chose this path, investing in a good set of snow tires would make a far greater difference in inclement weather than all-wheel drive. I happen to love the Ford C-Max. A small army of owners prefer the Chrysler minivans, and I’m inclined to think that the extra space for the full-sized minivan would come in handy for your family.
A Chrysler minivan will likely be a great fit if your au pair is comfortable driving something that big. I would encourage you to rent out both of these vehicles and see whether your au pair is comfortable with them on the road if, and only if, your wife is resistant towards offering her the Sienna.
All the best!
You can reach Steve Lang directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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