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California by Way of Vermont, Second Car Advice for Young Marrieds

Hello fine folks.

I’m a Vermonter that is new to California. I married into the Ventura, CA area about 3 years ago.

I’m a musician and touring was my main pursuit for about 5 years. For those years my primary vehicle was an 02 Voyager minivan. Sherman was his name and for all his weirdnesses I loved him (one of my band’s most popular shirts was “Driving a Minivan So You Don’t Have To”) and after a new tranny and over 200K, my wife and I took advantage of cash for clunkers and got a new 2010 Honda Fit, which we have shared for almost 3 years. That’s right, I live in California and we share one car.

It’s been great, actually. Despite getting taken for a complete ride on our first (and probably only) new car purchase, we love Bert. What a car he is, holy moly. But it’s a little noisy in the cabin and the engine is fine, and I wouldn’t call him a fun car to drive, though I do find myself dropping it down to Sport mode and using the paddle shifters for a poor man’s exciting drive down the PCH once in a while.

The time has come to add a second vehicle in the mix and I am a little over my head, but excited at the possibilities. We don’t need to buy until July since we both travel for work out of state/country, and that’s when we’re back. And we’re planning to buy used, preferably around $10- $15K.

I’m wondering if I can throw some desires out there and tell you what I’ve been thinking and if you can spot a car I might have overlooked or one I should definitely avoid. I’ve also heard of the magical rust-free, highways-miles used car from California every since I was a young chap in the salty hills of Vermont, so I’m used to ignoring older cars that might be a great find out here.

I’d like to send out a list to the local used car dealers, check out craigslist, etc. I have a great mechanic here in town to check the car out. Actually, that’s another piece of advice I’d love to get your input on – is it prudent/advisable/recommended to somehow let local used car dealers know what I’m in the market for and to keep an eye out? I’m guessing there’s probably another thread on this, so I’ll look around.

Pickup Trucks and SUVS are, for the most part, off the list. But I could be convinced. A toyota tacoma with a cap on it has looked appealing from time to time….Rav4s, CR-Vs, yeah they’re good cars, but I just don’t gel with those cars. Can’t explain it.

Wish List:

-Cargo Room. I haul around drum sets and gear. It doesn’t have to be a touring minivan, but the 20’/50’ cargo room of the Fit is the baseline.

-25 MPG + I’m open to hybrids and diesel

-Quieter than the Fit.

-More powerful feeling/capable engine than the Fit.

-Fun to drive. I’m even open to a stick, or a car with faux-manual shifting capabilities. I drove a stick growing up and I really miss it.

-Comfortable. We’re adults now, and we’d like to drive a car that feels grown up. We may even have kids soon.

-Cost-effective to maintain and fix.

-$10K-$15K with at least 3-5 good years left in its bones.

On our list right now, in no particular order, and acknowledging that there are some compromises with all of these:

-Mazda5 manual
-Mazda Protege Wagon?
-Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix (I can’t tell if these are roomy enough…)
-Suabaru Forester
-Saab wagon (careful what years according to consumer reports)
-Ford Focus wagon (meh but maybe…?)

Thanks so much for sticking with me.

I’m no Ashley Judd, but glad to be here :wink:
Syd

California by way of Vermont, made that trip about 50 years ago. There used to be a lot of people in Ventura from Brattleboro back then. Good luck with your album and check out the many yard/garage sales in Ventura, A lot of people have an unadvertised car for sale at them. Heard of some great deals.

Sorry lovin my 03 blazer, 6cyl ls, only 23 mpg hwy, but lots of room, towing capacity and cargo room. OMG it is an SUV, Great sound quality on the links, maybe a Chrysler van with stow away seating?

See if your drums will fit in the trunk of a Crown Vic…I bet they do…A million cabs and cop cars can’t be wrong…They are the exact opposite of “cool” which means you can find nice ones cheap, if you can dig it…

@keith - there are a few. I see a set of VT plates every once in a while. I will definitely check out the yard sales in July if I haven’t found what I’m looking for…

@Barkydog - I get it, just not the car for me. I think we want to try to do a bit better than the ol’ minivan, that’s why we’re looking at the list I posted. I rent them all the time for tour still and they’re nice to drive but a bit overkill I think.

@Caddyman - The definitely don’t fit in a crown vic - used to live in NYC. I can dig it though, maybe someday.

I know of a vehicle that’d meet your needs, if you’d be willing to bump up a few more grand. The Mazda CX-5 will give 26mpg in the city; 35/32 if you get stick or auto. 34cu.ft with seats up, almost 65cu.ft with seats down. Basic model starts about $21k, though

@bscar - thank you, we’ll definitely check it out.

As an update, we have started to look at diesel VW wagons, subaru outbacks and as a super longshot, audi wagons. Looking for the years consumer reports says are good. So we’ll see. It’s gone from a second car to a car to kind of reward my wife for all the hard work she’s been doing at her job…and a pathway to kidsies. I’ll keep you guys posted…

Are you shopping for transportation or looking for image and “coolness”?? “I want my car to say something about me…” Good luck with that…

Saabs and Audis are unreliable and costly to fix. As are almost all European cars. I do kind of like the Jetta diesel wagons, but they aren’t going to get you the same reliability as the better Asian cars. The Mazda5 is a fine car, especially since you don’t seem to mind the minivan associations. I also really like the Forester, but beware that certain Subarus are famous for blowing head gaskets. You can learn more by searching on this site. You sound like a potential Honda Element driver. It’s boxy , quirky, and well made. The. 2nd generation Scion xB is also truly spacious and a good value, much larger than the 1st gen car. Some think it looks like a hearse, but show me a cramped hearse. The Matrix/Vibe are nice, too, and tough, being Corollas at heart. If the Fit is almost roomy enough, the Matrix will likely be adequate.