By on June 22, 2015

2012 Toyota Sienna

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!

You can reach Steve Lang directly at [email protected]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

148 Comments on “New Or Used? The $25,000 Question...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “I am looking for transportation for said au pair that fulfills the following criteria:”

    I am looking to meet your au pair, could you please buy your wife another car so she can drive the Sienna say Sept 4? Thanks.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I don’t get it. Used Toyota Corolla. Biggest kid in front pass. seat. Nanny driving. Two smallest kids in back seat. What’s the problem? If you feel they would be safer in a bigger car, then used Toyota Camry.

    I would also suggest that you have some serious insurance and liability concerns you need to think through. I don’t know what’s the safest way to go, but the option of providing a car (who pays insurance, by the way?) sounds questionable, but then the option of having her buy her own sounds questionable too. But hopefully you have already figured that out.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Kids under 12 don’t sit in the front seat.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        In this state it is car or booster seat till [age] eight or eighty [pounds] afterwards you’re good to go. Where did you get twelve from?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The CDC

          http://www.cdc.gov/features/passengersafety/

          State laws vary. In Michigan, a 4 year old can ride in the front seat if the airbag is turned off.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I realize you don’t work for the CDC but I have a bone to pick with this logic since the doors have airbags now too.

            “Buckle all children ages 12 and under in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.”

          • 0 avatar

            And of course the only vehicles that typically let you switch off the airbags from the factory are commercial vehicles (full-sized vans) and vehicles with no second row of seats (single-cab pickups, 2-seat roadsters/coupes). I do recall someone having his/her Honda Insight modified to include an airbag switch, though…

        • 0 avatar
          an innocent man

          Here in PA, state law is kids in back till age 12.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          Looks like 4′ 9″ tall is required for the front seat in CA. Though it’s not really spelled out clearly.

          Six is not gonna happen anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        Correction, kids under 12 shouldn’t sit in the front seat! At least in my state, there is no explicit law that says that under 12 can’t sit in the front seat. Just that they must be in appropriate boosters. There is only an admonition on the TXDPS website that says kids shouldn’t ride in my front seat. This is how I am going to get away with letting my daughter ride in my RX-7 when I finally get it running :)

        And I admit, I did spoil her one day and let her ride in the front of my RSX-S on the way home from school one day. Just a quick <5 mile jaunt home. Now, I am not totally irresponsible. I did follow the owner's manual recommendations for seating a child in the front. In short, the manual says "Kids should not sit up in the front. But if you must, make sure the seat is in the rearmost position."

        Minutiae aside, I fully agree. If you are buying a car explicitly as a family car, it only makes sense to put the kids in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      baldguy

      Late to the party but agree on the Camry, I have an 08 and have three Radians in the back for my 7, 5 and 3yr olds.
      It is tight but it works.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    A German au pair may be more at home in a deutscher auto. A used Volkswagen Routan perhaps? :)

  • avatar

    Bigtruckseriesreview’s simple fact:

    “You’re either going to pay a car note or a mechanic”.

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      Yes and No.

      That was certainly true of the Grand Cherokee that I had, though my Sienna has been an exception to that rule over the last 5 years.

      Sadly, she’s recently hit the repair tipping point. Time to buy a car (shudder).

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      Or learn to use tools. Well, you can’t take care of everything, but you sure can cut down on mechanic trips.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        I’ve replaced a transmission so I think I can “use tools”.

        If you’d like to carve a couple of days out of my schedule and find me a place to do the work I’d be happy to replace the A/C compressor.

        In the meantime, how about giving me the common decency of assuming I’m a fully functioning adult?

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          I apologize, my response was meant to partially disagree with bigtruckseriesreview and was not in any way directed at you.

          But you do bring up an excellent point: time. Sure I could save money and do the work myself. But maybe I would prefer to spend time with my family. Maybe I am busy at work and doing overtime? It truly gets to the heart of why this sort of advice is truly worthless. We all have different priorities and evaluate risk and reward differently. So what works for one isn’t likely to work for another.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “car note or a mechanic”

      Sometimes both!

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Until the last 4-5 years, I’ve always been driving used Japanese for 20 years. All were bought for between $5000-$9000 without a loan. All were sold at approximately 150k-180k miles.

      In these 20 years, my only auto repair expenditures were $300 for a timing belt change and $200 for a leaking wheel bearing between 4 cars. No other costs other than fluid changes done at home.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    If Chrysler, then get the excellent Mopar MaxCare extended warranty. You can hammer the online brokers on price, and it covers everything except wear. A Chrysler with 30k miles can get a 5/unlimited warranty for under a grand. Super cheap insurance for an otherwise excellent vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      People can talk bad about Chrysler as much as they want.

      I’ve owned three 300’s and 2 Jeep SRT’s.

      Though the turn-around time on my cars is short, I’m in clubs with people who own Chargers, 300s, Jeeps, 200, Avengers, Darts, etc and I know about the vast majority of their issues when and if one arises.

      NOT A SINGLE ONE has left/quit on Chrysler because their product – while not perfectly polished, offers more than enough to keep us happy.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        You need to meet my brother. He’s had 3 new Mopars since 1994. After finding his 2003 Ram 2500 has terminal frame rust that started from inside the frame, it was the icing on the cake. Each of the 3 vehicles have needed extensive repairs, mostly in suspension, transmission, electrical or all three (Grand Caravan).

        Mopar no more.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        Your last sentence rings true. Great designs, but weirdly inconsistent QC. So the MaxCare warranty (which is a fantastic warranty) just checks that final box so I can be free to love the car.

        The 300 Luxury Series is just in a different league. I don’t even compare it to other 300s. Even the guys at the dealer always quietly remark “that’s a nice car” whenever they see it.

  • avatar

    People who want to go car shopping usually ask my advice when it comes to inspecting used cars. Many times I tell them up front to “just walk away”. High mileage, body damage, worn interiors, used German cars that they want to buy to “impress others” – yet I know they are “problem cars”.

    If you buy just about any car “NEW” you can be almost certain that it’s meeting safety standards and will be problem free for at least 36,000 miles. After that, your extended warranties will help out.

    Buying a used car is rolling the dice with your money.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      I respectfully disagree. There are more than enough people who trade in cars for no better reason than “I want a new car even though my existing one is perfectly good” or just outright lease returns that there is a healthy supply of good used cars for a discount.

      It also depends on what sort of used you are looking at. Are you looking at a factory CPO lease return or are you taking bryanska’s suggestion and getting an under <30k mile economy car with some sort of "MaxCare" warranty? These are pretty much new cars and can almost be treated as such. Or are you buying "deep used"? This is where the real fun is. First you should be handy with cars when venturing into these waters. There is an excellent checklist on the popular mechanics website that will guide you through inspecting a used car. The risk is higher, but you can avoid the problem cars with diligence and patience. And you can get some real fun and interesting cars in the process. It's a great way for a car enthusiast to get a fun family car in my opinion.

      The Popular Mechanics used car checklist:

      http://pop.h-cdn.co/assets/cm/15/06/54d1504cb1bd6_-_used-car-checklist.pdf

      • 0 avatar

        Everyone’s disagreeing with me today…

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          This is different than any other day? :D

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          I will agree with you that anyone unfamiliar with cars should stick to new cars or CPO’s. Dabbling outside that realm is just inviting trouble if you are unaware.

          I would say that as a minimum:
          – Can you change the oil on your own?
          – Can you change a tire?
          – Can you change the belts?
          – Can you identify all major under hood components and identify the location of all major fluids?
          – Bonus: Can you change a timing belt?

          If the answer is yes to all 4 of the first of those questions, then congratulations! You may receive your beginner’s used car buying license. If you answered yes to the bonus question as well, you may receive your provisional intermediate used car buying license.

          • 0 avatar

            “I would say that as a minimum:
            – Can you change the oil on your own?
            – Can you change a tire?
            – Can you change the belts?
            – Can you identify all major under hood components and identify the location of all major fluids?
            – Bonus: Can you change a timing belt?”

            I can do ALL OF THESE THINGS…plus I can INSTALL turbos and I can INSTALL bolt-on superchargers…and even tune them.

            WOULD I?

            NO

            I have enough money to have someone else do it. Helps the economy move along and allows me to make friends in circles I want to make friends in.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            It seems the parents here are working long and hard to *not* have to do their own menial tasks, including child rearing.

            I really can’t see them or the au pair with grease-stained hands holding an even dirtier drop light to pop a socket on the rear plugs.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Nearly new cars aren’t enough cheaper than new cars to bother with. Buy new, or buy old.

        • 0 avatar
          zoomzoom91

          @krhodes Yes and no. This varies widely by brand. Buying something like a midsized/large SUV/CUV that is 43K new and 27K three years old and CPO, thus with a fair bit of warranty coverage, is almost a no-brainer.

          On the other hand, a three year old Subaru Outback is only like 3-5K cheaper than a new one. Forget that.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Yep, you need two things:

    1) a third row (no way will any vehicle fit two of today’s car seats and a booster in the second row) and
    2) a good set of snow tires, which will make far more of a difference than AWD in negotiating winter weather.

    Everything else is negotiable.

    The most financially sensible option is probably a Chrysler minivan of some sort. They are available staggeringly cheap new and there are also a lot of ex-rental used ones out there which should be in OK shape.

    There are not many other new three-row options within your budget. But there should be plenty of used ones. Not sure where the $25k cutoff gets you in terms of age/mileage, but your options include minivans such as Odyssey, Sienna, and Sedona, or crossovers like Highlander, Pilot, Sorrento, Explorer, or even the unloved Dodge Journey.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      This is exactly what we did in a similar situation. 3 young kids, new au pair.

      I bought an 8 year old Dodge Caravan with 100K miles for $4K. I prefer Hondas, but an equivalent Honda was double the price.

      My reasoning:
      1. All minivans are pretty safe, esp. if driven around town mostly. Just make sure you have good tires and brakes.

      2. Au pairs + 3 kids are hell on cars. You will be sick to your stomach watching a new $25K car get destroyed over 3 years from their abuse. So invest as little cash as possible while still getting a safe, reasonably reliable vehicle.

      3. The Chrysler minivans aren’t perfectly reliable, but they easily repaired by any mechanic, and parts are plentiful. Buy from a family that looks a lot like yours will in 5 years, and get a mechanic to check it out before you buy.

      4. We live outside of Boston. AWD is not necessary, but a good set of winter tires is great for peace of mind, and minivans tend to be pretty manageable in snow and ice.

      I got exactly what I expected with the Caravan, which survived 4 years of abuse and multiple fender benders. It would have lasted a lot longer, but my F-I-L was horrified that his precious grandchildren were being carted around in an old Dodge, and helped us buy a new Odyssey.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yeah.

      I was gonna suggest “get the AVP Caravan and spend the savings on really good winter tires, maybe some chains”.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Plus a German Au Pair, assuming she got her license in Der Vaterland, will actually know how to drive. And will certainly expect for the vehicle to have snow tires, regardless of what it is.

      I can’t see any reason to get anything but the dirt-cheapest stripper brand-new Chrysler minivan you can find for this task, with snow tires. It won’t get huge mileage put on it, it doesn’t have to last forever, and the kids are going to destroy it anyway. Buy the extended warranty if you must. In this case, you won’t even have to take the thing in if it breaks, you have someone to do it for you!

      And based on having LOTS of friends and family who own the things, you really just can’t go wrong for the price. Even with indifferent care, you will get 120K out of it with not THAT much dilemma. The price difference between a Caravan and a JapaneseVan will pay for an awful lot of fixing.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      I would bet that a Panther with snow tires would seat three car seats across the back, be cheap, reliable, and safe. Might have to limit year range to be sure you get the third set of belts in the rear.

      No need to go with a CUV or SUV, or with anything that is expensive to maintain.

      Though depending on your outlook on life, and that of the au pair’s, you might want to get her a car that also looks inconspicuous in a motel parking lot. But in that case, any car will probably end up costing you a lot.

      So just walk the line, and get her a Crown Vic, Grand Marquis or Lincoln Town Car.

      She may be just as interested in having a spacious American car as she might be interested in a Germanic origin vehicle.

      But even if the Routan wasn’t sold in Germany, if her IQ is above daily temperatures in the fall, she will recognize it as a piece of German (more or less) workmanship.

      But I still like the idea of looking into the idea of trying to fit three sits into the back of a Panther.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Damn, I did things wrong. I shoulda sent my wife to work and got me a pair of them au’s. That’s the way to do it. Well played.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      My father used to joke that when a woman turned 50, a man should be able to trade her in for two 25 year olds.

      He wasn’t even remotely PC, but he was a funny guy. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

      But on a realistic note, the arrival of an au pair seems almost like the opening scene of a foreign art film that doesn’t end well for at least one of the involved parties.

      My wife went along with daycare for our son, in part for better early socialization, but there is no way she would have let another, especially younger, woman into our home. And in all honesty, I could see her point of view.

      Sounds racy, usually ends badly, unless you are blind, well over the hill or a saint. I was, and still am, none of those. Having an au pair in the house seems much more dangerous to me than having a loaded gun in the house. At least you can lock the gun up in a safe, and keep it out of reach except in case of an emergency.

      But having an au pair in your home is sort of like hanging out in a barber shop…sooner or later you are going to get a haircut, even if you didn’t set out to get one.

      And that could be a very expensive haircut, besides.

      When you consider the economics of the typical au pair situation, the au pair has little or nothing to lose by playing fast and loose. And most men, even at their best, tend to have a bit of dog in them.

      A bad formula…playing cards with a stacked deck, and gambling for all or nothing. No thanks, I’ll sit that one out, maybe daydream about it, but I wouldn’t touch that setup in the real world.

      More power to you if you are someone doing so, and it is working out for you. But I don’t like the odds, never have. The deck is stacked, and all it takes is one bad hand.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I hate to sound like a broken record and/or a TTAC B&B troll, but you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by discounting the option of snow tires outright because you supposedly can’t find time to change them out. How is AWD supposed to help you stop or turn in snowy/icy Cleveland? I’d much rather have a non-AWD Sienna on snow tires than an AWD one on all seasons. The FWD model picks up a non-significant number of MPGs to boot.

    Being willing to look at FWD vans opens up all sorts of doors for you in terms of meeting your budget goals. Buy a brand new cheapo Chrysler van (is the AVP still a thing?) with a new car warranty and laugh it all off when your transmission craps out at 12k miles ala TTAC’s own Thomas Kreutzer (or a balljoint fails, or something else). Or buy a basic used Odyssey LX that doesn’t smell too much of spilled milkshakes and diapers and has a service history. Honda transmission issues seem to be a thing of the past since 2005, but I’d still make sure it hasn’t ever towed or in general been abused. Find a creampuff Sedona if you can, they are as reliable as the other minivan players, again assuming reasonable previous owner habits. Power sliding doors seem to give everyone trouble, to this day, I’d say try to find a van without them.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      You can preach snow tires but they’ll never listen. I’ve seen many swap the vehicle rather than the tires only to be disappointed all over again plus have deeper debt.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Outside of actually going so far as to buy a different vehicle instead of better tires, think of it this way: the very first time you slide into a curb and do $1000+ damage to your vehicle, you’ll be wishing you ponied up for $1000 for a full set of snow tires mounted on extra wheels that can be used for 5-6 years.

        I’m convinced that the only people that live in northern climates who don’t have snow tires on their cars are those who’ve never tried driving a snow-tire shod car in the winter, and experienced the amazing control and safety that proper tires give you in inclement weather.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          100% agreement. I’ve tried till blue in the face to spread the gospel of snows but have found that 30+ years of FWD have pulled a cone of ignorance down over younger people in the snow belt about the importance of tires.

          Manufacturers realized this years ago and have rushed in to mesmerize such gullible folks with tales of AWD awesomeness.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          I agree that it’s people who have never tried winter tires that say they don’t need them. Space is such a poor excuse too. 4 wheels/tires aren’t that hard to fin a place to store, even in an apartment. Worst case scenario, there are plenty of repair/tire shops that will store your off-season tires for free.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Shop storage is the answer. I’ve lived in a lot of apartments where I wouldn’t have had room to store tires, but enough shops will store them for you that it doesn’t matter.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Even if they don’t do it for free it’s worth it. This guy has more money than time (hence the reason for the au pair).

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          They don’t even need to cost $1000. You can get perfectly adequate snows for $100 each. Steel wheels NEW are <$50, used can be as little as $10 from a junkyard. <$500 total with a little luck.

          Astounds me how few people use them, even here in Maine. They are all but zero cost, assuming you keep vehicles long enough to have to replace the tires once anyway.

          And he has an Au Pair to go get the them put on the car! Hey kids, we are going to the tire store! We'll get ice cream after!

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      I read this over and over and I know it widens my range of vehicles considerably. But here’s the reality: (a) changing over snows twice a year means two highly inconvenient days without a car (b) I have absolutely no place to put the other four tires when they are not on the car and (c) If I bought a FWD car, it likely would not even have room in the trunk for for tires. Add to that the actual cost of changeover, which is not nothing.

      It’s easier said than done. On the other hand, if a FWD car does fit the bill here, and I think a lightly used Accord or Camry might, then the OP can get Nokian all season/snowflake rated tires and just leave them on. I used them on my old Volvo S60, a bit noisier in the dry, but awesome in the snow.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        The storage problem is a legitimate one; I didn’t buy snows until I had a basement to put them in, which meant three years of making due with all-seasons year-round when I lived in a Brooklyn apartment. Of course, it being Brooklyn, I didn’t need to use the car all that much, especially in the winter.

        But I don’t understand (a) – changing over tires should take two hours, max – or (c) – in my TL, I put two tires in the trunk and two in the back seat, which is fine for the ten-minute drive to the garage – and the cost of the change over, while not nothing, is typically about $30 every six months, which is pretty close to nothing.

        • 0 avatar
          slance66

          $30 for a changeover….moving tires to the same rims and balancing and mounting? Or are you assuming new wheels? That’s another cost by the way. Oh, and all cars since 2007 now how tire pressure monitors, so buying new wheels, means a second set of monitors, plus calibration of those to your car each time you switch.

          This isn’t as simple as it once was.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I bought a set of 17 inch alloy wheels and Blizzak snow tires for my mom’s 2009 RX350 off tirerack, complete with TPMS sensors, for $1200 all in, they arrived mounted and balanced at our doorstep, with sensor codes written down for programming.

            For my dad’s 2007 Fit, I went to a junkyard and pulled a set of 14″ steelies off a wrecked Civic for $40, and mounted cheapo Kelly snow tires on them. Total cost was around $300 with mounting as I recall.

            I’ve also bought good snow tires mounted on steel wheels before off craigslist, during the summer when demand is low, for $100.

            So there you go, the full gamut of snow tire costs.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Tire pressure monitors do create a problem. Thankfully they are not mandatory here in Ontario.

            As for the time and expense of changing over, that is not a real problem. If you rotate your tires, then you simply swap them instead.

            And you can get this done or do it when you are changing the oil.

            So not a valid excuse.

            “I am not a Bot, I am a human…………..”

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Leave the TPMS sensors off the snows and live with the light – in Maine it is even specifically exempted from state inspection. Nearly ever tire shop around here will swap snows for free if you buy them from them. Many will also store them for you for free or a very nominal charge.

            This guy can afford to BUY A CAR FOR HIS LIVE-IN BABYSITTER. The cost of proper tires for that car for 5 months of the year is utterly inconsequential.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Fair points, but I’m guessing the OP does not live in an apartment and has a place to put tires. If it takes your shop a day to swap over a set of wheels, I suggest finding a new shop. I’m privileged in having a garage, and a pair of hands so I just swap the wheels over myself. Takes about 30 minutes all said and done using a hydraulic jack ($80 at harbor freight). Any tire place should be able to swap a set of rims in no time at all, maybe an hour if you show up without an appointment. Now if you have TPMS you might need to go to a specialist that can re-program things for you (ie have it all done at the dealer). My parents’ RX350 has an excellent little button tucked away under the dash that you program once and after that just press the button when you swap sets of wheels with their unique TPMS sensors. Some newer cars have shifted to indirect TPMS wherein the car extrapolates inflation from precise wheel speed sensor data (calculates wheel diameter) to check inflation. No more expensive sensors, no more headaches!

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Also, if he has the disposable income to have an au pair, he has the disposable income to pay for tire/wheel storage at Discount Tire or whoever else does it around there. Both Belle Tire and Discount Tire will store your offseason tires for under $150/year. If space is truly a concern, it seems like he has enough cash to find a solution.

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Hydraulic jack and a torque wrench. Under and over torqued lug nuts are very bad news. Both totally affordable at Harbor Freight.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      Get the snow tires.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Here’s the other thing…don’t think anyone else caught it.

        23 year-old GERMAN au pair? She’s used to driving on winter tires…they don’t really do that all-season tire BS over there.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Good call. She won’t be used to driving in the winter on 3-seasons as they are referred to in Europe. Winter tires are mandatory in most countries that have actual winters.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    This sounds like a Lifetime Movie as written by the old crew at Top Gear UK..

    If you have to go new, Steve’s right on with a three row CUV. Used, as new as possible, I wouldn’t get something like the ancient Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Oops you said GRAND Cherokee. My bad.

      I’m assuming you want something with AWD so your nanny doesn’t have to deal with transfer cases etc…

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking less Lifetime movie and more like adult film.

      Dear Penthouse, err, Car and Driver, I never thought it could happen to me….

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        You’re not kidding about the “less Lifetime” part.

        A guy I used to work for got a German au pair to look after his two kids. Let’s just say that there are vast cultural differences between Germans and Americans when it’s a hot summer day and a garden hose is turned on for the 3 of them to play.

        And it didn’t help that the German au pair went shopping with the wife when she first arrived, and told the wife “you know these clothes are for old women, like you”.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    If you can get passed the branding mess, get a 012-13 VW Routan and put blizzaks on it. Easily the best value going for a minivan. I would put ours up against a Sienna or Odyssey any day and its 10k cheaper due to the previously mentioned branding mess. You can probably find a loaded SEL for about 25k with CPO warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Just to clarify for the unaware: A Routan is a rebadged and slightly recosmetized Chrysler minivan. Pluses and minuses are the same as those of Chrysler minivans. Pluses: pretty much dead reliable except for the transmission, cheap to buy and operate, comfortable, well-equipped. Minuses: transmissions, slightly downmarket aura.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’d add undersized (prone to warping) brakes and weak front ends (read: balljoints) to that list. To be fair, my guess is that Odysseys suffer the same brake warp problems, if other Hondas are anything to go by. And heck all minivans are prone to many of these issues for the simple fact that they are a light duty passenger vehicle that can get loaded down with a heck of a lot of weight, on a regular basis. From there we get the more failure prone transaxles, fast wearing suspensions and brakes, just some are more susceptible than others.

        • 0 avatar
          dswilly

          They only issue ours has had is the sunroof replaced. Another plus would be the gas mileage. 23-24 commuting and easily 28+ highway. No brake or tranny issues…..yet.

    • 0 avatar
      skotastic

      I spent a good deal of time shopping for Routans, for at least it’s something different in the market and fairly smart looking for it’s class.

      EVERY single one I looked at, nearly all at used car lots, had some issues or another. I finally did buy one from a VW dealership that had not yet been sold to the public.

      It pulled to one side in the initial test drive, so I said I’ll take it; just fix the alignment. When I picked it up, it still pulled, and after 5-6 trips including alignment, new tires, etc, they couldn’t get it to track straight, and we were forced to return it.

      In the end, I had to take a bite out of banality and buy an older Sienna.

      Long story short – be careful!

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        Ours was a CPO SEL from a VW dealer with 8K on it, really like new in every way. Same as yours it was not sold to the public. I was looking at the Toyota but couldn’t justify the price for one equipped the same as the VW, it was 10k more and I didn’t think it drove as well, lots of body lean and dive compared to the Routan. VW did a nice job on the steering and suspension to make it drive very car-like. The Toyota’s and Honda’s maybe have better fit & finish, again maybe, but not enough to justify the price jump. Plus the Chrysler 3.6 is pretty quick off ECO mode.

  • avatar
    7402

    2014+ Subaru Forester. It’s probably the smallest car that can take 3 car seats in the back seat (you’ll have to take time off of your busy schedules to do an actual test fit). Excellent in snow as well.

    Just don’t check any of the crazy boxes to drive up the price (no “Touring” and certainly no “XT” and negotiate hard–you should be able to keep even a new one under $25k, though not by much.

    There are probably some 2014 models coming off lease by now that could be worth looking at.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I have a 2013 Forester (2014+ have near-identical dimensions) and have put two modern car seats in the back when we had a visitor with a child. There is absolutely no way, no how, a third seat will fit.

      • 0 avatar
        7402

        I have a 2014 Forester and shopped the previous generation of which the 2013 was the last year. I have MUCH more room in my back seat than you do and get much better mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      I have 3 kids in car seats. I think you would have a VERY hard time fitting three car seats in the back of a Forester.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Not to say it is convenient…but everyone here be talking like it is not possible to do three across. The Diono Radian is well known for being the seat to fit 3 across, better than average side impact protection, goes infant to booster and cheaper than a new car. We only have one of them but nice it only takes up one slot in the seat.

        Im sure it is a PITA to do 3 across, heck i cant even imagine 3 kids, but it is completely possible.

        • 0 avatar
          usernamealreadyregistered

          We purchased a used pre-2013 Avalon as a second car primarily because we could fit three modern car seats across the back seat. They’re unpopular enough that good used car deals can be found and reliable enough that large repairs are unlikely. With good tires it’s fine in snow as long as you’re not rural or up in the mountains. Not sexy, but no worse in my opinion than the crossover/minivan alternatives.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    You already have a vehicle that does child duty perfectly well. Why do you need a second one. Whoever is handling the children at any given time drives the Sienna, whoever isn’t drives something smaller and less costly. Wasting $25K so you have the capacity to move 6 children around at once is…wasteful.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      This. Why 2 family trucksters? This is a great opportunity to buy or lease a truly fun third car that is completely impractical. A Wrangler, S2000, Miata, whatever…

      This is great opportuniy, make the most of it. Assuming you dont do a Robin Williams and run off with the nanny this could be fun for both you and your wife.

  • avatar
    musicalmcs8706

    I lived in Cleveland for two years with my 3.8 Impala. I didn’t have snow tires then, like I do in Minnesota now. But I never had a problem on the east side, even living in Cleveland Heights where they don’t know how to plow that well in the winter. A good set of snow tires is a MUCH better investment than AWD with “all” seasons.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I was thinking their are several lease options available that would solve this issue. You will get the latest in safety technology while not parting with a lot of capital upfront. Plus, since the car is not for you, who cares if you like it or not, or would want to drive it daily etc. The OP is looking for the very definition of an appliance.

    I would think his local Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Mitsubishi dealership would have something that would fit the bill. I did not mention any domestics as generally the imports lease better. Didn’t we just have a thread in Nissan Rogue in how awful it was to drive yet very affordable. It is not like the Au Pair will be knocking out 20k miles a year. Surely the CVT will make it through a 3 year 30k mile lease.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Leasing is a great idea. With 3, you’re going to want the space a van offers. Getting 3 kids strapped in securely across the middle row, especially with a 1 year old, is near impossible in anything narrower than a Buick Roadmaster.

      Getting the kids securely fastened in a properly-installed seat is critical to safety (God forbid), and avoiding a situation where seats and belts are tangled would be ideal.

      Honda is clearing out current-gen Odysseys – you can lease one for $259/mo in my area, and it’s a 12k mile lease (thanks resale value!).

      And for the love of your Children, get some snow tires. The Au Pair won’t be used to horrendous Cleveland roads and drivers, let alone living in the Snow Belt. Tire Rack will mail you a mounted and balanced set to your door and $0-20 gets them put on anywhere.

      Look at it this way – if you get an AWD crossover but have to buy 3 new narrow car seats (like a Diono Radian) that can fit 3-across, you’re out at least $800. That’s less than a good set of winter tires on rims.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Two trains of thought:

    1) you are bringing a young woman into your house. Save money for a divorce lawyer, buy something very used.

    2)Nanny will have the kids and will need the van. Wife won’t need van. Let nanny drive van and get wife something, perhaps German even. When nanny leaves sell vehicle you got wife (or let her take it in the divorce). Not every car in family needs to fit all kids.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Can’t believe no one has suggested a 2000-2007 Volvo V70/XC70. A practiced eye can spot the BUILT IN BOOSTER SEATS in the 2nd row (look for a seat seam that runs front/back the lenght of the seat OR the absence of the diagnal stitching in the corner of seat). Furthermore there is a 3rd row jump seat (rear facing) in the back DESIGNED FOR KIDS. My wife and I own one and we plan on taking it past 200kmi just because of these features. Theoritically you could transport 3 adults and 4 children, all belted down, in a V70/XC70 so equipped.

    A A -front seats
    C A C -2nd row
    C C -3rd row

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Both the P2 and earlier MY00-02 850 derived variant have their share of reliability concerns in the period. OP does not want to buy a specialized car for the au pair only to have it in the shop.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        XC70 will harm you with transmission woes almost certainly. Plus the ones available now at that age are pretty tired.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Well, pre-2004/5.

          2004 or 2005 (I can’t recall which was the last vs. first of the change) they changed out to a 4G Haldex system that doesn’t break because you looked at it funny.

          (Which I am very happy about, since I have one.)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Guy wants to buy a new-ish car in the 20-25k ballpark, you suggest one of the more trouble-prone volvos in recent history? Maybe a 05+ car would avoid the worst of the problems (throttle bodies, transmissions) but I thought the AWD system remained troublesome throughout that whole generation.

      I don’t think those volvos are wide enough to do 3 seats across anyhow, they have remarkably snug feeling interiors, same applies to the XC90.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        If the kids were in boosters, not the jumbo front facing car seats, the Volvo would work. The integrated booster means that there is no bulk, and you can easily put three across with a rear facing child seat in the middle.

        The XC90 has a cool feature with the middle row sliding forward, so that the parent can reach the baby. The other benefit is that even outboard child seats are not up against the middle seat.

      • 0 avatar
        celebrity208

        yup

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yeah, I have no kids, but I do have a P3 XC70.

        And I would not try to put three child seats in the back row.

        Nor do they – at least the modern P3s – have jump seats, even as an option, though maybe the P2s did.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I looked at a Grand Cherokee SRT8 as a possible replacement for the company car we turned in a few weeks ago. If any of the better packaged CUVs are too small for your needs, then forget the Grand Cherokee. Its backseat is a joke.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Two year old Grand Caravan, and winter tires on separate rims.

    I know, I know, we keep saying this and nobody ever listens. AWD helps you go. Winter tires help you go AND help you stop. Who cares if there’s two inconvenient days per year? That’s a fun outing for au pair and the kids.

    Might be good to see what she is comfortable driving first, as others have said.

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      Just buy the steel wheels for the winter tires. It makes chang-overs a snap and will more than pay for itself over the course of several tire changes. Heck if you’re that space constrained keep them in the back of the van. You’ll still probably have more room with the tires and kids in the car than many of the other options being suggested.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    You’re overthinking this – a used or leased FWD minivan on snows makes the most sense. Besides, she’s GERMAN and more than likely a better driver on slicks in an ice storm than your neighbors are during the summer with a traffic cop behind them.

    I have seen a second gen RX accommodate three car seats in the second row but getting the middle car seat in and out looked like a hernia in the making and the two outboard seats listed noticeably.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    A 2nd gen Honda CR-V would fullfill most of the citeria stated.
    In my 2003 I could fit comfortably next to two huge car seats in the back.(I’m 6 foot tall, and roughly 200lbs) But in the 3rd gen my 14 year old daughter could not sit comfortably between the same car seats.
    Offcourse, all the things that make the 2nd gen. CR-V an awesome car can be considered its shortcomings too. It’s a box on wheels, so it’s simple to use, see out of, park, generally own and repair, and quite spaceous for it’s size.
    (the size can also be an advantage for someone used to quite compact European cars, also it’s plenty fast for a European with the ‘huge’ 2.4 liter engine)
    But, it’s a box on wheels, so it’s kinda noisy and can feel cheap compared to more modern offerings.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    To all of the above: I do NOT know what your problem is.

    The answer is always Miata. This man has a wife, three kids and an au pair. Six people. He obviously needs three Miatas.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Dang kids today!

    When I was 6, I rode on the parcel shelf of a ’70 Ford LTD. It had RWD, and in winter, it had bias-ply snow tires on the rear wheels only.

    I’m still here, ain’t I?

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Dunno. When was the last time you checked?

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I’m with you. From about the time my little brother turned 4 (I’m three years older), we’d fight for shotgun. Booster seat was defined as couple of phone books on a dining room chair. We’re both still here.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Psssh i rode around in the back seat of an Audi Quattro cheating death with only PROCON TEN shoulder belt and all season tires to save me.

        All season tires!!!! Its a miracle i am alive today.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    This one seem brutally obvious to me.

    Hand over the Sienna and buy something else. Whoever is carrying the children around gets the minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      This. Plus, why would Mrs. OP want to keep driving something that cumbersome?

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Maybe she’s a “transportation appliance” person, and thus doesn’t care about that?

        I’ve driven a much older Sienna – my parents’ old 2000 model – and frankly it wasn’t very cumbersome.

        I can’t imagine the more modern ones are much worse.

        (Or, maybe she uses it for other van-shaped-tasks or wants “her car” to be able to take the kids when she’s with them?)

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Yeah this is the very obvious answer. The wife is probably resistant to change and thus didn’t consider the option of giving up “her car,” but it makes the most sense. The Sienna is the perfect vehicle for the Au pair to be driving, and the wife can get a smaller CUV or something.

      Duplicating the Sienna’s function with a more limited vehicle due to budget limitations makes zero sense when the Au pair will be hauling the kids most of the time, and the wife (or OP) can use the van when they do need to do kiddo hauling duty.

  • avatar
    arun

    Somewhat tangential to the question at hand..

    For those that say/ believe that no child seat can fit three across in today’s cars, I urge you to look at the Diono Radian RXT. It goes from rearward-facing, to forward facing to booster AND it fits three across most vehicles (per their website), in front facing mode.

    It also folds flat for flight travel (which is the reason I bought it). I can’t tell you how many people, including air-hostesses, were impressed by the fact that I could carry it like a backpack!

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      I have also heard good things about the Radian. I wasn’t aware of the air travel feature. That’s pretty cool.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        I’ve got a Radian and like it – the fold-flat feature is a killer app for air travel as I just found out taking my 2 on their first flight.

        The newer versions offer more side protection than the original RXTs.

        The only issue I’ve had is that the restraint straps are hard to tighten once a kiddo is in the seat – this is apparently a common complaint and can be an issue for grandparents or if the seat is awkwardly located like in the middle.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          +1 I should read all the replies before commenting.

          I like the ratcheting strap we find it easier, the Recaro we also have is a real bear to tighen.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick 2012

            @Power6 – what Recaro do you have? I’ve got both a Pro Ride (the convertible seat) and a Pro Sport (the Forward Facing only one).

            The Pro Ride is fine for small kids but stinks as an extended-rear facing seat. It is hard to tighten the chest straps as well. The Pro Sport is great – we really like that one a lot.

            I’ve now bought 7 car seats, all of different makes. The Radian and Pro Sport are the best, hands down.

  • avatar
    pbr

    Mazda5? year-old used at CarMax under $20k. Not certain about the seating layout, tho…

  • avatar
    ekaftan

    Why not a used Honda Pilot? I bought an earlier one and normally seat my two kids with their big chairs and a third person in the middle row with no problem. Third row is quite usable, had 4 airbags and had been pretty reliable.

  • avatar

    I would hand the Sienna over to the au pair and purchase a new car for the wife. Since she won’t have primary kid hauling duties she won’t need it but can occasionally use it if necessary. If they must buy a new vehicle I would consider a 2 year old AWD Ford Flex

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    CPO Subaru Tribeca? There are a number of CPO Sienna AWD out there for under $25k as well…some with +/- 30k miles

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      The Suburu Tribeca!

      I still remember a Jamie Kitman review of the original model in which he wondered why they didn’t just call it the Slacker Gayboy and leave it at that.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    @OP: You’ve checked that the au pair does drive, right? This isn’t a given.

    Even if she does, driving in the USA is very different from driving in Germany, where one can mostly assume that the other drivers are not brain dead.

    And of course 4-wheel snows are the way to go in northern Ohio. Sheesh, it’s not even a question.

    • 0 avatar
      GoesLikeStink

      I had a nanny from Italy and asked if she could drive a stick. She said of course, only handicapped people in Italy drive automatics.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Was that just before or after she told the wife that the wife’s clothes were for old people, like the wife?

        I’m telling you, it is a move straight for the jugular. You have been warned.

        Buy and read a Penthouse instead…it will be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think van goes to new nanny, wife gets something she wants like a 4Runner or nice loaded CR-V, etc. Not worth having TWO vans, when you don’t need two.

    And as someone mentioned above, whoever is carting around the chillens uses the van that day.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    I’m a Swede. In January I visited Akron, Ohio. And it was a snow storm. One would think that they had proper winter tires in the rubber city. The rental Camry was fitted with S+M tires, useless in the winter and useless in the summer. In the northern states where you have winter every year why don’t you use proper tires? In Sweden studded winter tires are still allowed but more and more people are using studdless winter tires. Winter tires are mandatory in the winter.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You expected winter tires from a rental car in America?

      Hahahahaha

      Consider yourself lucky that you made it our of Akron without you life being in shambles.

      • 0 avatar
        stroker49

        I expected at least to see winter tires on all the other cars, I did not.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Low hanging fruit: I’m happy enough when I’m driving in traffic and everyone around me has 4 full size tires and isn’t rolling on temporary (read: permanent) spares.

          Welcome to modern day third world USA
          *cues Rick James “Ghetto Life”*

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Nope. All my wife’s friends ask her why she has such ugly wheels on her car in the winter. She has to explain to them what winter tires actually are. They’d rather lease a big CUV for $500/month than buy something used and add winter tires.

          • 0 avatar
            ekaftan

            Keep the wife, ignore stupid friends.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            I’ve never owned winter tires.

            But then, I live somewhere we get snow maybe one week a year, and it rarely sticks.

            (A “real” snowstorm shuts the city down for a week, and I use chains if I have to do anything.)

            This would be inexcusable, of course, if I lived somewhere it actually snowed…

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @stroker, welcome to ‘Merica!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @stroker49

      You have not lived until you have gotten a rental Mustang with PERFORMANCE all-seasons in January in North Dakota. BTDT, tossed the slightly code-brown shorts. What do they care? if you stuff the car into something either you pay for it, or the wildly profitable insurance they sold you pays for it. Either way, not their problem.

      Snow tires on a rental car in the US? HAHAHAHAHAHA!

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        My first trip to Germany i rented an Alfa 156 and it came with snow tires at which point my host explained to me it is required by law. They even put a little sticker on the windshield corner where you might expect see an oil change reminder, but instead it tells you the max speed rating of the tires. I didn’t go over that limit too much…

  • avatar
    GST

    FWD with good snow tires is hard to beat from my experience. Our family 1989 Honda Civic Wagon was almost unstoppable.

    1967 Camaro Convertible with snow tires and partially filled water bed was not too bad either. On a heavy snow here in Seattle, towed a friend of mine around town on his snow skiis. We were the only ones able to move around. Helped that I used to live in Wisconsin.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    2012 Flex

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    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.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    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

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lie2me: I doubt this will be the last we hear the “Continental” name. Expect it to show up on yet another...
  • dwford: Even though Lincoln’s are still all based off Fords, and sales have improved but still aren’t...
  • ToolGuy: “Impressive numbers from GM.” Exactly *not* my point. Reading comprehension is not your strong...
  • nrd515: I wasn’t planning either and if they do something like this, it’s not ever going to happen. Zero....
  • Imagefont: Nooooo! They’ll bill you twice. They’ll keep billing you for the subscription to the broken button, then...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber