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half empty nest car

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

nasowas

We are approaching our 60's. Our boys left the house and left a 60 lbs Springer Spaniel behind. Our yearly milage dropped from 20K to about 12K thanks to the lack of soccer and boyscout activities. I imagine we will now fly more and rent but still do day trips in the Midwest of the USA.

Our '03 Ford Windstar (172000 miles, runs nice, starts to rust) is too big and I lust for a luxurious ride in a car, not SUV/ CUV. I want it quiet as my hearing is already damaged. I don't want to aplologize to passengers about tight space in the back or how hard it is to get in/out of the car. These passengers may be our age.

I wish I could find a luxurious riding station wagon to keep the dog from messing up sharing the passengers' accommodations.

I am afraid of VW, BMW, SAAB and Volvo specific troubles and associated maintenance costs. Tell me why I am wrong. They have wagons and I know how nice they can be. I am not the Subaru type. I think Camry and Accord are overpriced. You can tell, I like a bargain. Which wagons did I overlook?

Dog be damned I looked at sedans.
I tested the Fusion/Milan and I like their 6 cylinder engine, but they seem a bit noisy and a bit firm riding.
I tested the '10 to '12 Chevrolet Malibu and loved the ride and quietness, but they are still a bit expensive.
I lusted for a Lincoln LS but they have so many issues.
I tested an '07 Kia Amanti. I loved the ride, quietness and responsive engine. It looks a bit dorky outside but it is very nice inside.

I could kill the dog but that would be animal cruelty.

I am looking forward to your comments. Thanks in advance!

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Wagon / Sedan

Car Needs: Long trips / Errands about town / Family transporter / Daily commuter

Primary Driver(s): Short driver

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 120000
Maximum age: 8 years

Maximum price: US $ 8000

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Response from avshelden

8:42 pm April 21, 2014

The one upscale wagon you didn't mention is an Audi. I suspect it falls to the same concerns you have about VW, BMW, et al. You'd likely want an A6 vs an A4 due to the tight rear seat. I drive an '07 A4, and at 6' 0" there isn't even enough room for our 10 year old behind the me. As a shorter driver you might be ok, but probably you'd still want the extra room of the A6, especially in a older model.

Personally, I love driving mine and the reliability records on TrueDelta show the A6 isn't much worse than the Subaru Legacy, and in some years even better. Yes, I find the repairs can be expensive when they occur, but I would rate my experience to say I think I have "about average" repair rate (you can see my repair histories here at True Delta by looking for a 2007 A4 Avant 2.0T from Vermont)

The only other real wagon I can think of is the Dodge Magnum, which I know nothing about.


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Audi A6 / S6
Audi A4 / S4 / RS4
Dodge Magnum

Response from mkaresh

1:39 am April 22, 2014

I think the Audi owner in Vermont might be on the right track with the Dodge Magnum. I'd avoid the 2005, since that was the first model year.

For some reason the 2006s have consistently been the most reliable in our stats, and you can find those in your price range.

The most common repairs seem to be tie-rod ends and front control arms.

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Dodge Magnum

Response from mkaresh

2:05 am April 22, 2014

Another possibility that just occurred to me: the Hyundai Elantra Touring. This car was considered a wagon in Europe, and it has a lot more rear seat space and cargo room than the typical hatchback. It'll be harder to find one of these in good condition in your price range, but there are a few out there.

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Hyundai Elantra Touring

Response from nasowas

9:40 pm April 22, 2014

Thanks for your suggestions, member from Vermont and mkaresh! I will definitly look over a Dodge Magnum with the 3.5L. I looked at some reviews here, at carsurvey.org and edmunds. I am intrigued by the fact that there are true enthusiasts for this model. The 2.7L has a reputation. That wouold make the 3.5 L the preferred choice.
Its "in your face" design is not for everyone. But I am o.k. with it. It has design integrity by carrying the edgy theme inside and outside. That is much better than the mongrel known as Kia Amanti.

The nearest Hyundai ET in my price range is out of state. It seems to be more comparable with the Mazda Protege 5. I think I would be more interested in the Mazda6 wagon. Guess what, the nearest in my price range is out of state.

About the Audi: like all German alternatives, they are really great on the Autobahn at high speed. It is unbelievable how they roll like on rails at 120+ miles per hour. I have done it. All that engineering has to be paid for. And you can't use half of it on the US highways. There are no canyons to carve in the Midwest either.

I hope I get a few more suggestions.

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Response from mkaresh

10:05 pm April 22, 2014

I have a Protege5. The Elantra Touring is much larger inside, and much quieter and smoother.

The Mazda6 is one I should have thought of, but didn't. 2007 was the last year for it. There aren't many of these around anywhere.

Definitely the 3.5 and not the 2.7 in the Magnum. Glad you thought about this. On Autotrader it looks like there are three SXTs somewhat near Iowa (IL, WI).

In case there were some I didn't think of, I searched all wagons on Autotrader. The three most common "wagons" in your price range appear to be the Chevrolet HHR, Kia Rondo, and second-gen Scion xB. I don't know if any of these is to your taste, but they have availability in their favor.

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Chevrolet HHR
Kia Rondo
Scion xB

Response from avshelden

7:09 am April 23, 2014

I just remembered that Acura made a wagon. A quick search says it's a TSX Sport Wagon. That might actually be a great option to investigate.

I also had forgotten about the Mazada6 wagon.

I think both these options are better size wise than the Huyndai or Protege5 given your comments. When shopping for my Audi, I did look at the Mazda6 and thought the interior seemed a little too plasticky (I also wanted AWD for VT winters). Having been a former Honda Accord owner (a very happy one until it rusted out). I would but the Acura high on my list today if AWD isn't important to you.

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Acura TSX

Response from nasowas

10:05 am April 23, 2014

@ Michael: none of these fit my wants well enough. All appear 1/2 a shoesize to small for my taste.

@ Vermont: wow!



I could change my approach and include the 05 Taurus/Sable wagons with the 24V engine. If I buy one from south of the salt equator and cheap enough to redo the suspension.

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Response from mkaresh

10:43 am April 23, 2014

I didn't mention the TSX because they'll be far more than $8k.

Wish I'd known the Taurus / Sable was something you might like a few months ago. My parents recently traded a 2005 with the DOHC engine and about 82k miles in very good condition for $3k. They are very cheap to buy. But 2005 is the last year, and they feel quite dated since the underlying chassis is from the 1980s.

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Mercury Sable

Response from nasowas

11:20 am April 23, 2014

The Sable/Taurus would be the cheapo solution. The 24 V engine would make the driving experience a bit better than or at least different from the 3.8 l essex i am used to.


You know how that goes: the day after i buy my car people will come out of the woodworks and tell which deals I missed. It's the same thing as having an umbrella with you keeps the rain away.

Thank you both for your thoughtful suggestions and time. I am in no hurry but I will let you know what I come up with after the purchase. But if your inlaws have a wagon for sale, let me know. ;-)

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Response from avshelden

12:25 pm April 23, 2014

Admittedly I didn't go so far as to check on pricing for the TSX wagon and didn't realize it was only a newer option. Stretching your requirements a little bit for something with cargo room and still not an SUV/crossover, I think a Mazda5 would give you most of what you're looking for, although would still be styled somewhere between a minivan and a wagon. My personal tastes would still tend toward the Mazda6 wagon over the Mazada5, but I'm sure the 5 is much easier to find.
Given all the options presented so far, I think the Mazad6 wagon or the Magnum best fits your requirements if you can locate one. Good luck.

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Mazda Mazda5
Mazda Mazda6

Response from ahm1127

1:04 pm April 23, 2014

I loved my Aerio & it was available with AWD or front wheel drive, didnt like the SX4 as much. I would also suggest the Mazda 5.

I currently drive the Ford Fiesta but I would only suggest with manual, Americans can handle different. Focus is bigger but costlier.

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Suzuki Aerio
Mazda Mazda5
Ford Focus

Response from nasowas

9:38 pm April 28, 2014

Update:

I bought a car that broke the mold. Practicality won.

On Saturday I took a Kia Rondo with 4 cylinder engine for a test ride. It was not to my liking and out of my price range. It is a decent vehicle but it was too basic to spent $11000 on it. I only had it on smooth roads but I noticed some twitchy behavor of the steering. I also think it would be hard to come up with a blander styling than that of the Rondo. Depreciation and the need for a partial loan would keep me from choosing this one anyway.

The car I bought is an '05 Pontiac Vibe, Burgundy red with sunroof, charcoal interior (darker than I care for), automatic, and almost 90000 miles on the clock. It looks like new and was obviously taken care of, but not babied. It needs a set of tires before winter which will reduce the road noise considerably. I paid $5600 for it.

The rear cargo space will get a dog kennel. That will keep the dirt out of the cabin. Compared to the minivan I will save lots of money at the gas station. It will do everything I want to except cuddle me and go with a vengence. I also expect excellent reliability and easy maintenance.


This car is smaller and less luxurious than I had originally in mind. It is noisy and not powerful. My thinking was that this car will be a great vehicle to hand to my wife when her 2000 Contour gets troublesome. When that time comes I can get a more pleasing ride.

It was also cool that it apeared on Craiglist only today and only 1 mile from my home. The day before I could not find one within 150 miles and it was older with more miles and a $7000 price.


I want to thank you all for your contributions to the discussion, including ahm1127. It was really helpful.

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Pontiac Vibe
Kia Rondo

Response from mkaresh

9:43 am April 29, 2014

The Vibe should serve your needs very well, if not your wants.

One thing to check is when the timing belt is supposed to be replaced.

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Response from nasowas

7:20 pm April 30, 2014

There is no mention of a timing belt in the owner's manual of the '05 Pontiac Vibe. This model has a timing chain. It also has "lifetime transmission fluid". I think the transmission will live longer if I change it anyway.

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Response from mkaresh

12:36 pm May 1, 2014

My mistake, for some reason I thought Toyota fours from those years still had belts.

Be careful with transmission fluid changes once a car has that many miles on it. Many shops push "power flushes," and these can do more harm than good by moving metal shavings and such from nooks where they weren't causing a problem to a new location where they will. The more miles a car has been without ever having the transmission fluid changed, the higher the odds of doing more harm than good. I'd definitely seek out someone who knows what they're doing.

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