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8 Months Pregnant and Looking For Family Friendly Vehicle

Help needed! My husband and I are looking for a new vehicle to accommodate our expanding family (I’m pregnant with our first child and we also have a black lab). We’ve looked at 2004 Honda Odyssey (w/around 155K miles) and a 2005 Ford Escape (w/around 120K miles). We were leaning towards the Odyssey, but I’m having some reservations (more to do with the guy selling it). So we’re now looking more at the Ford Escape. My question is this: Having never owned an American-made car before, what should I know about the 2005 Ford Escape? This particular one we’re looking at looks like it’s been kept up nicely and from the Carfax, we discerned that it used to be a rental and had two other owners. Our concern with it, though, is in regards to the repairs it’s had to the front rotors, front wheel bearing, and front axle. The rotors have been resurfaced three times, wheel bearing replaced once, and front axle replaced around the 20K mark. Should these types of maintenance issues be perceived as red flags?

Avoid the Odyssey. Those transmissions often have problems.

What about a Rav4 or a CRV? With front wheel drive.

Widen your search!! Toyota Sienna, CRV, RAV4, Mazda CX5 are all good choices. I would avoid a Ford Escape, as well as any used Subaru model or Volkswagen.

One infant and one dog is four dependents. The Lab needs a big area…way in the back, well away from a child in case of an accident. What ever you get,
make sure you get a divider to place between the passenger compartment and the rear cargo for the dog to separate where the infant will travel. Personally, I would think of a minivan for an infant. Not because you need the room, but you can sure get use to sliding doors, hopping into the back with the infant and in a locked environment, hook up the child and use the walk through to get to the front.
Therefore, I would recommend a used Sienna. I would avoid the Escape.

With your dog, I would look at a used Honda Element…one of the best dog cars ever.

BTW, Fargo was a great movie !

Based on customer feedback I recommend the Toyota Sienna 2WD. This van is the champ when it comes to dependability.

"Should these types of maintenance issues be perceived as red flags? "
YES! Absolutely. You do not want wheel/axle problems, probably due to an accident, in your family ride.

Fargo? Loved the movie, like the town, Been there many times having lived in North Dakota. But you know it’s a cold climate your first spring when everyone starts stripping their outer clothing off at 15F because it’s getting warm out.

Thanks everyone for the words of wisdom. We just got back from looking at some other vehicles: two '98 CR-Vs (one EX AWD, the other LX 2WD) each with over 200K miles (both priced at $3,999), a '98 Subaru Forester L with 159K miles (also priced a little under $4000), and a 2003 Honda Odyssey (didn’t actually get to look at it; dealer said we could come back Monday after it’s been detailed). We’re going back Monday to test drive them all (would have done it today, but we got there shortly before closing time) and we’re looking forward to seeing what the Subaru has to offer.

@Docnick‌ Why do advise against getting a used Subaru?

@JoHouston, how much do you want to spend? I would guess no more than about $5000 based on your choices above. The 1998 vehicles are all very high mileage and 16 years old. I would spend my money on something newer. I’ve found that buying an unpopular model offers big cost savings. In this case, you can buy a significantly newer car. Age and condition are very important. And at the age vehicle you have to look at, condition trumps everything else. You could get a 2004 Ford Focus wagon for around $5000. A 2004 Honda CR-V would be at least $2000 more, and the one you are looking at is a1998 and costs $4000. A 2003 Sienna starts at around $5000 and it is an attractive option. A 2005/2006 Hyundai Tuscon is also about $5000. A 2006 Kia Sedona is another possibility. It is likely you could find any 2004 to 2006 with 100,000 to 120,000 miles. Mileage, age, and condition will beat reputation any day.

Subarus older than 2007 with the 2.5 engine (like the Forester) frequently have VERY expensive head gasket problems. On top of that, any old AWD vehicle could have issues with their AWD system. That’s why, unless you need it, skip AWD in used, and especially older used cars.

@Jo, I advise you to skip the Odyssey. Those transmissions are known to be bad (see link below).

Subarus of that vintage commonly have head gasket leaks which are very expensive to fix.

The CRV’s you mentioned tend to be quite reliable, although they are getting on in age and have high mileage. Nevertheless, if well maintained they can reach 300k miles, but it’s still a gamble on a 16 yr old vehicle with 200k miles.

If you could up your budget to, say, $6,000, you could get a newer CRV with much lower mileage and a lot more life left in it.

As others have noted, Odysseys of that era almost all eventually develop transmission problems that require a new transmission, a very expensive repair. My brother’s needed a new transmission at 125k miles, and was needing another at 250k. That is typical. Sad, as it is such a nice vehicle. If you can find one that has had the transmission replaced in the last 25k miles (with documentation) it might be worth going for, if it is otherwise in decent shape. The only major problem is the transmission. Otherwise it’s a good vehicle. The generally similar Toyota Sienna doesn’t have any major weak spots, though minivans generally are less reliable than most other vehicles, and often hard to work on.

The Escape was made for over a decade with modest changes before last year’s redesign. It’s not the most inspiring compact SUV, but it’s usually cheap and acceptably reliable, at least after the first few years. I wouldn’t avoid the Escape, but there are a ton if them out there. If it’s cheap, it’s worth a look. Otherwise the nicer CR-V and others make more sense.

Some of the examples you’re looking at seem pretty expensive for their very high mileages. There is no point in dropping that kind of money on a car that could die at any time and will almost certainly require a lot of fairly expensive repairs (stuff wears out.) I’d not be looking at anything with over 150k miles. Those. 200k vehicles may look like good value, but they aten’t when you start adding up the costs of keeping them running. And that’s only if they don’t have a major problem that sends them to the scrapper. Most engines these days are good for 200k, but I’m guessing you want to have this for a few years and have a modest budget. You may have to compromise and buy something a bit smaller than is ideal. Someone ekse mentioned the Focus wagon. Good option. Not very popular and should be cheaper than a compact SUV. It’s not as tall, but otherwise the interior space is similar. I don’t recall what other small wagons were being made in the mid-late nineties, but there were no doubt a few. Or look at the less popular SUVs and minivans, because everyone wants a Honda, Toyota, or Subaru. A Nissan, Mitsubishi, or Mazda, not so much, not to mention the domestic brands (though I’d have a hard time recommending any but the Escape.)

@JoHouston While Subarus are very nice cars, their drivetrain is extremely sophisticated and requires that all 4 tires are exactly the same size. If you have a flat, you have to disable the AWD system by pulling a fuse, making it a 2 wheel drive vehicle. Regular tire rotation is also a must since front and back tires wear at different rates.

If you need a new tire when the other 3 are half worn, you need 4 new tires to prevent destructive wear on the drive train.

Many owners are less than dilligent in maintaining their Subarus and you will likely end up with a vehicle that will soon require very expensive repairs.

Having said that a NEW Subaru might be right for you if you are dilligent and fanatic about its required care and maintenance.

I’m so glad I joined this site’s discussion forum! You all have provided a great deal of insight into this issue. The repair costs associated with older Subarus, as many of you mentioned, are certainly something we will need to bear in mind. Same goes for the Odyssey and their transmission issues (I used to drive a Dodge Grand Caravan and know ALL TOO WELL about failing transmissions!) We’ll keep looking at CR-Vs and see if we can’t find one a little newer with fewer miles. I just discovered a 2004 Ford Focus that’s going for $4,900 with around 150K miles. We’ll have to check it out tomorrow.

I just wanted to mention that we’re only going to need the vehicle for a couple years. My husband and I are both finishing up school this year and really just need something to hold us over until he starts working full time as a nurse (and we can afford something newer that fits our wants/needs more specifically). My mother-in-law is helping us out this go round (hence the $6000 budget) so we’d like to find something that doesn’t completely wipe out that sum.

150,000 miles is still too much. Look at something with under 120,000 miles. And look at private sales, too. The asking price is typically a lot less than a dealer sale. At this age, you should get a mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection. If you still want the car after the inspection, just subtract what it needs from the asking price and make an offer.

We are already doing head gaskets and converters on 2009 Subaru.

I’d look at the Mazda MPV or Mazda 5; The MPV is the predecessor to the 5(not to be confused with the CX-5). The MPV/5 are smaller minivans than the Grand Caravan/Odyssey/Siena, and should be less expensive, too, in the used market.