New Or Used? The $25,000 Question

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
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new or used the 25 000 question

Michael writes:

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:

  1. 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?)
  2. reliable and low maintenance
  3. safe
  4. good in snow and ice (we live in Cleveland); preferably AWD
  5. 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!)

Steve says:

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!

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  • GoesLikeStink GoesLikeStink on Jun 23, 2015

    He does not say what he drives. The solution is to let the nanny drive the van the wife drives his car and he gets a new toy. A used Miata of a new Abarth are both under budget.

  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Jun 23, 2015

    well I agree with give her the wifes van, if they choose not to do that I say Volvo xc 90, the old version has been around forever, they still have them on the lots, safe, good in the snow, have volvo put on the snows for you when you do a oil change, I have a xc wagon with the built in boosters ( 2001) a really great feature shame they got rid of it, my other car choice would be a Honda Pilot, the 2014 they are giving away to clean the lots for the new model, three rows plenty of room , find one new or off lease, get snows on different wheels, tire rack is your friend here, good luck

  • Kyl65759578 👋
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  • George Hughes What ever happened to the American can-do attitude. I know what, it was coopted by the fossil fuel industry in their effort to protect their racket.
  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriors
  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.