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safe car for college guy who wants to carry skis and a surfboard

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


Our son is going to college in Southern California and plays soccer there. He skis and surfs, and usually takes friends with him. He wants something to carry skis and/or surfboards (roof rack) and to go to appointments in Los Angeles when required. He likes the Suburu Crosstrek XV, the Toyota Rav4, the Toyota Prius and the Mazda CX5.
In researching in our area (Houston) I have found several that are within our price range(ish) and that are Certified Pre-owned, which makes us feel better about buying a used car. He wants anything we get for him, so he's truly not too picky.

Safety is my top priority--driving in traffic in L.A. scares the bravest souls. I'm leaning toward the Suburu-but would welcome any/all comments on the models listed above.

Priorities: Safety & braking / Materials & workmanship / Cargo capacity

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch / Wagon / SUV

Car Needs: Errands about town / Long trips / Fun toy

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 24000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 17000

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Response from dfj240

2:58 pm July 12, 2016

As a current owner of a 2016 Subaru Impreza (Same as the CrossTrek, but lower ground clearance), I can very much recommend the CrossTrek. It sounds like he has an actual need for the extra ground clearance and rugged nature of the CrossTrek, and our Subaru is an absolutel delight to drive. It is my wife's primary car that I bought for her and our two young children. I bought it for safety, durability, reliability, and also how well it drives. It's very manueverable, and agile. The CVT transmission, like all of them, leaves a bit to be desired, but it's quite good for a CVT. The CrossTrek is available with a manual transmission, and, if he's interested at all in driving a manual, I highly recommend it.

The Mazda CX-5 would be my second recommendation. It has a good engine, durability, good fuel economy, and has good space. I don't feel like it's quite as agile as the Subaru, but it's close enough to not make much difference. Safety however, goes to the Subaru. The Mazda will be fine, but Subaru is arguable the safest car manufacturer in the world these days, which is one of the main reasons why I continue to buy Subarus for my family. The Rav4 is never a bad choice. It's comfortable, reliable, and has a good 4WD system. Subaru has the best AWD system, and Toyota has the best 4WD system, in my opinion at least. My wife owned a 99 Rav4 for nearly 15 years, and loved it. It was just too small for us, as the back seat space wouldn't even comfortably hold our children. The Toyota Prius I have never been a fan of. They get good fuel economy, and are generally reliable, but I've seen too many excessively high repair costs and heard too many nightmares to be able to recommend it as an automotive professional. Some will disagree, and that is to each his own, but I don't recommend it. Best of luck and happy hunting!


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Subaru Crosstrek
Mazda CX-5
Toyota RAV4

Response from LectroFuel

3:05 pm July 13, 2016

If you want something fun to drive, go for the Mazda CX-5. Mazda revised the front end structure of the car for 2014. In 2013, it scored marginal on the small overlap crash test. In 2014, it got the best possible rating. It holds a lot of things in the trunk. If you test drive one, make sure the road noise doesn't bother you. Mazdas are known for that.

As an owner of two Prii, I can totally recommend the Prius as being extremely safe, practical, and reliable. It's a great car for either going around town or on long trips. They aren't the most fun cars to drive, but they get great gas mileage and hold a surprising amount of things in the trunk. I can carry two surfboards on my Prii (and even one on the inside!). Many people take their Prii to the beach in Southern California. dfj240 said that the Prius has high repair costs. That happens way down the road. I have a 2005 Prius and a 2016 Prius. The '05 has 240,000 miles and nothing has ever broken except a $300 A/C repair.

The Subaru Crosstrek also seems like a great choice.


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Mazda CX-5
Toyota Prius
Subaru Crosstrek

Response from dfj240

3:34 pm July 13, 2016

I agree with the above. I have seen both sides of the fence when it comes to the Prius repair costs. I have heard of several, including the above where they have nothing more than typical repairs (those, like A/C, that you will see on ANY car), and then there's those that have to replace battery related components, and some other things that are worth noting and is a worthy enough reason, in my opinion, to warrant making sure that you have the ability to look into the service history of a secondhand one that you might be considering.

Of course, I recommend this for any secondhand car.

Furthermore, Lectro is spot on when it comes to the CX-5. They were badly criticized early on because of how poorly they scored in front end safety, but Mazda responded, and did so very well. The CX-3 is also available, and is a bit smaller, but the CX-5 sound like it would be perfectly sized for what you want, and it is DEFINITELY the more fun to drive of all the cars recommended so far, and those that are being considered. I'm happy with the handling of my 2016 Impreza, but it's not particularly spirited. The CX-5 is definitely more exciting, even without going fast. It just has a very springy and happy attitude.

I still like the CrossTrek for what you are looking for, but the CX-5 is definitely not one to overlook, and could easily take the top spot depending solely on the test drive, I think.


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Response from colin42

10:08 am July 17, 2016

Most cars have a roof rack option so any could carry sport equipment. However if he wants to put his surf board in the car look for something with length. Although you may need to go older look at the Subaru Outback 2011 on are reasonably reliable and the repairs that are needed drive half shafts / wheel bearings are easy fixes.

Alternative if AWD isn't required consider a Prius V.


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Subaru Outback
Toyota Prius v

Response from NormT

1:37 pm July 20, 2017

For college student who needs AWD, safety, and close to 4p mpg, look at a 2017 Buick Encore for $16,000. They are about $10,000 off MSRP.

Our 2013 Buick Encore could see 39 mpg on a tank of fuel at 60 mph....with AWD! Super quiet, nice elevated rude height, and one of the nicest interiors in the segment and segments above it. Don't mess around with the $25,000 economy cuv's with spartan and nosey interiors like Cx-5, Rav4, Forester, or CR-V.


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Buick Encore
Chevrolet Trax
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