Amateur harpist needs used car ideas

My husband and I are looking to purchase a used car for me. The max we can spend is $5K. We’d like a reliable, safe automatic with good gas mileage (average 30 MPG or better).

It would be a nice bonus if we could find a car that could accommodate my harp. It is a large folk harp, just over 5’ tall and 55 lbs. The problem is the wide base, which is too big to fit in the trunk of our Saturn SL1. When we need to move the harp, we have to go through a complicated dance of flattening the passenger seat, squeezing the harp in through the front passenger door, and turning it at just the right angle! It barely fits this way, and I’m not strong enough to do this maneuver by myself.

It would be great to have a car that would more easily carry the harp so I could move it to gigs. We’ve wondered if a hatchback or larger sedan might work. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the makes/models out there so we have no idea what to search for in used car listings.

Would anyone here be able to offer some suggestions? Hopefully something that would meet the harp need without sacrificing too much in the gas mileage department?

Thanks in advance for the ideas.


You need a minivan or other tall vehicle. There are plenty out there, and you may also find smaller crossovers such as the Scion xB or Honda Element, which are cavernous inside and popular with the surfing crowd. A fellow hiker/biker carries 2 bikes inside her Honda element.

Happy shopping!

Harpists are confined to station wagons and minivans. I knew one harpist who drove a Volvo wagon and another harpist that I am acquainted with has a Ford Taurus wagon. I’ve helped both harpists load their instruments. I’m not certain when Ford discontinued the Taurus wagon, but you should be able to find one for less than $5000 and have enough left over for repairs. The gasoline mileage won’t quite be 30 mpg, but it will carry the instrument. I don’t know anything about the prices of Volvo wagons.

Another possibility might be a Honda Element SUV. You might measure the height from the floor to the ceiling. Perhaps the harp will stand upright. I think the Honda Element is old enough that there may be some around $5000. The mileage might be better than the station wagons.

Wagon, minivan or a hatchback.
My dad has an 07 Focus 4door hatchback ( zx4 5door ) his 1955 Epiphone dog house upright bass viol fits great. It is probably taller than the harp and narrower than the harp’s base but…
Take the harp with you when car shopping.
No, they won’t laugh. ( I could tell some stories about my Ford dealer and all the stuff people bring with them to test fit. )

Jen, If Lugging That Harp Around Doesn’t Generate Enough Income To Buy More Than A $5,000 Car Then You Should Seriously Take A Step Back And Think About This.

You have a husband? I’d consider the following alternates for starters:

[list]Jaw harp. [/list]
[list]Karaoke, beer, and chilli-dog night. [/list]
[list]Get some lesssons so you can turn a profit or hang it up. [/list]
[list]Buy a pop-up camper in need of repairs (couple hundred bucks) and convert it to pop-up harp trailer.[/list]

Just so you know, as a general rule of thumb, when a “hobby” requires the purchase of a special vehicle, it’s time for a new hobby or “plan B”.


Although , having the right vehicle which accommodates that hobby in the first place is the invaluable step in this equation. ( Surfers, hang gliders, Skiers, Mountain bikers, etc all shop long and hard for perfect vehicle )
Now if she can just get there from here.

My 92 Explorer was the only truck I needed for both my paying hobby and the daily grind.
It would tote a few things ( 2 bass guitar amps, 4 speaker cabs, 2 bass guitars, 2 stage monitor wedge speakers, 4 milk crates of wires & gear, 2 mic stands, tool box, 5 piece complete drum kit, stage lights & cables, drummer and me ) OR all five guys/girls and tow the trailer. In all weather, all over the four corners and reservation.

It’s for sale by the way ( just got an 08 expedition ) and would be perfect for that harp AND fit the budget with money left over.

This would be probably way under $5k, but the old Honda Civic “Wagovans” were great for this kind of thing. I think the newest ones are 1991s.

Otherwise, I think if you just search for “station wagon” you’ll find a lot of good mid-to-late 90’s more conventional station wagons like Accord, Corolla, Camry, Taurus, Focus, Cruiser/Century, etc. at the lower end of your price range. The station wagon kind of went by the wayside in favor of the small car-based SUV’s in the late-90’s/early-2000’s, so you might be able to find things like early Rav-4’s or possibly newer Hyundai or Kia SUV’s in that price range, but for my money I’d go for the better mileage of a slightly older station wagon.

Make a quick cardboard dimension model of the harp and check out Subaru Legacy wagons.

“Just so you know, as a general rule of thumb, when a “hobby” requires the purchase of a special vehicle, it’s time for a new hobby or “plan B”.”

That’s harsh. Everyone should follow their passion if they can. Should car guys forgo their hobby because it costs several thousand dollars for their special vehicle?

If you do not have extra passengers I would go for a ford ranger with a camper top.

If the OP lives in a cold climate, this solution would not be good for the harp.

I manage and play with a chamber orchestra that does free outreach concerts for underserved areas. I appreciate your problem. I have to have a minivan so that I can transport tympani, string basses, etc. There are times when I would prefer the gasoline mileage and better handling of a passenger car, but I won’t give up music. The minivan (a Chevrolet Uplander) is my personal use vehicle. I’ve loaded it up with three tympani, two French horns, three passengers and three music stands at a time. Be glad it is only a harp that you are transporting.

Small station wagons (such as the Matrix/Vibe) may work and give great mileage, but they may be too small to fit the harp. The Honda Fit may work, and the Mazda 5 will definitely work, but they may be a little out of your price range.

Hey, at least it’s not a concert grand piano.

Maybe a used Diesel bread van-anybody know the mileage these things get?You should have plenty of room(even haul something for someone else maybe) share fuel expense-Kevin

Wow, I’m Offended! I Thought I Gave Some Good Advice. This Was One Of Those Often Misunderstood “Dry Humor” Pieces Of Advice.

Did you think I was serious about replacing a harp avocation with chilli dogs, beer, and karaoke or a jaw harp ? Jen wouldn’t do that I’m sure. Embedded in there was advice that could actually help avoid the purchase of a special vehicle or at least get a discussion going in that direction. That was plan “B”.

Do you know how much free advice is worth? Sorry for any offense taken. There must be somebody that got at least a little chuckle or had their thought process jogged.


The PT Cruiser would handle the harp, gets about 30mpg if you go with the standard non turbo motor, and there will be some available for $5,000 or less. The issue is these are not the best made most reliable cars, so budget more for repairs.

Stay away from Volvo wagons, just to expensive to repair any Volvo you could get for $5,000. There are a few old Camry, Accord, Corolla, and Civic wagons but they are rare birds.

Your best bet maybe a Taurus or Mercury Sable wagon. If you drive them easy they’ll get you around 25 mpg on trips, and just about 20 mpg in city driving. Pretty reliable and lots of mechanics can work on them with plentiful parts.

Thanks for all the suggestions. You’ve given me plenty of ideas for SUVs and wagons. Those would provide more than enough room, I’m sure. My harp is not the huge orchestra variety so it doesn’t need a huge vehicle. If our Saturn SL1 only had a hatchback, it could easily carry the harp.

Someone suggested a Ford Focus hatchback. Are there any other good hatchbacks I should consider? Something I might be able to find in my price range?

There was a Chevy Malibu with a hatchback, Saabs have hatchbacks, a couple of Mazda models have hatchbacks, as well as the Focus. Hatchback styles are very practical, but seem to be much more popular in Europe than in the US. Therefore a lot of hatchback models available around the world are not imported into the US.

There are a few out there now and there are more coming, but the new ones will be out of your price range.

No emoticons, Bunkie!

But I was really focusing on the new hobby thing, as Ken did.

Just a simple smiley and I’d have wet my pants… :wink: