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Fun dog hauler with personality, value, touches of luxury and reasonable reliability

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


I've got one of those VWs -- a 2012 JSW TDI surrounded by a cloud of toxic death each time I drive to the store. And, if rumors and court documents hold true, VW will soon ask for it back, while sending me flowers, a nice note and a big check for my trouble. This, of course, means I have to replace it, and I've begun the research.

We would like to spend as little of the VW money as possible, because we're among the first 100K to pre-order a Tesla 3, and we'd like to put the remaining cash toward the Tesla when the time comes. What we need is a dog hauler -- wagon, truck, van, whatever -- for three large, often muddy beasts. And because I'm not dead yet, I'd love for it to be fun to drive and have some personality, despite the risks that might entail. (Previous to the JSW I owned a 2001 Saab 9-5 that I bought off EBay from a combination car wash/used car place in Texas. It died 300 miles into my road trip back to CA and stranded me often over the years but, man, that car could move and I loved it.) For the record, I should note that I have only been able to briefly own a Toyota Camry and Honda Element before the dullness of both caused me to send them packing.

Our current road trip car is a unicorn. A 2001 E320 we bought this year from its only previous owner. It has 120K miles, perfect maintenance records, an engine that runs like a champ and cost us (I kid you not) $1. Dangerously, however, it has given us a taste for luxury and the foolish notion that ancient high-end cars are a great used car buy. The siren song of an elderly E320 wagon is strong, but we know that unicorns are not pack animals and we're unlikely to get lucky twice.

So we're on the hunt for a fun to drive, cheap dog car/truck with some personality and as much luxury as we can get away with without needing repairs every 30 seconds. We're open to beaters and taking some risk, but we''ll also spend what we must to keep from being total idiots. What wise counsel can you offer? What's the best strategy for us to take in our hunt?

Priorities: Cargo capacity / Handling / Warranty, maintenance cost

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Wagon / Minivan / SUV / Pickup

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Errands about town

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 100000
Maximum age: 15 years

Maximum price: US $ 15000

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Response from mkaresh

3:44 pm April 25, 2016

Your least risky bet is probably an Acura TSX wagon.

Not easy to find, and getting old at this point, but you might like the Lexus IS SportCross, if it has enough space for the dogs.

The Hyundai Elantra Touring has middling reliability, but repairs shouldn't be too expensive. Somewhat upscale and sporty with the top-level trim. Most fun with a manual transmission.

Finally, if you want fuel efficiency and if the dogs will fit, the Ford C-MAX is cheap as a used car and handles surprisingly well.

OR you could look for an out-of-warranty Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar (X-Type), but as you realize it's a crapshoot. Once up in years these cars make the most sense for people who can and will perform most of their own repairs. Among this bunch I'd probably be most inclined towards the 3-Series.


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Acura TSX
Lexus IS
Hyundai Elantra Touring

Response from Sokitset

10:00 am May 1, 2016

I too have one of "those cars" and I'm facing a similar dilemma. Hard to say what VW is going to offer for these cars though I assume it will be just enough to get us to agree to drop rights to any subsequent legal action. I'm not in queue at Tesla and very disinterested in extending the amount I have remaining to own this car.

Surprisingly, I'm starting to think that a gas engine Sportwagen might be the way to go. I don't want to reward VW for their behavior...but there is little in the market that is comparable w/o adding to the pot. I had planned to hand the TDI to my kid in 4 years. Not likely now.

I am also keeping an eye on the used market for well loved 3-series wagons, Audi Avants (A4 & A6) and last gen E350 wagons. Love the wagon format. Some attractive items out there if you can make sense of a $20k - $25k used vehicle that will touch 100,000 miles in the next couple of years. Youmight experience very low depreciation if you stepped into one of these cars and sold it in 12-24 months once your Tesla is ready to come home.

See you in the VW payout line.


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Response from Member5055

3:59 pm May 23, 2016

In previous buybacks, manufacturer's paid KBB value for age and mileage, and assumed "excellent" condition. Given that value plunged a year ago, I assume they'll have to base it on the value at the time of the scandal, but who knows? The court documents also say they will be providing additional compensation for time/trouble, which is rumored to be $5K.

Like you, I don't want to put another dime into the car, especially since my 2012 is fully paid for. So I'm searching now and will buy the replacement the minute the VW requires either new tires or maintenance beyond the cost of the $500 dealer credit we already received. It's all a terrible shame, because the car was absolutely everything I wanted -- a wagon with a reliable, long-haul engine that was fun to drive. Like you, I planned to own it for a long, long time.

I've thought hard about the regular gas JSW but they come with three problems -- worse mileage, worse performance and an engine that is often plagued with VW's usual reliability issues. Add that to rewarding bad behavior, and I can't quite go there.

If you buy Audi or BMW, be sure to either have some sort of warranty or a mechanic on call. They're wonderful cars, but can get expensive fast as the miles pile up. The same is true for Mercedes -- it's not just the problems, it's the cost of fixing them!

I've toyed with the idea of a RAV4 EV, which are a bargain these days, but they get killed on resale, so I can't count on anything at the other end. The new Kia Soul EV has an amazing lease deal, but may be too small for the hounds (plus I have to worry about wear and tear) and three years is a long time when technology is moving fast. So possibly a Ford Escape Hybrid (they're used as taxis in NYC and SF and regularly get 300K miles), an Acura wagon or an older Lexus or Toyota Highlander.



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Response from NormT

11:39 pm July 22, 2017

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