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Car Suggestions

Now that I have a 2 and 4 year old, my 2007 FJ Cruiser has just become non-functional. I’ve loved it, but it is a pain to get kids in and out of car seats, plus, with the lift kit I have on it, it won’t fit in my downtown work parking garage. Time for a new car.

I’ve always trusted Car Talk recommendations, so I’m looking for few. Here are my considerations:

  1. Looking for a used car with 50k or so miles on it. I’m not particularly a ‘car guy’, so I’m pretty open to types/models/condition.
  2. Mechanical reliability. I typically own a car for 7+ years, so looking for something that is reliable and low maintenance. Ex - I’ve always owned Toyotas
  3. Looking for a smaller SUV.
  • We live in the city (Austin), so big cars can be a pain
  • Good gas mileage would be nice
  • Big enough to throw a kayak, bike, fishing gear etc. in/on
  • AWD a small plus, but really not necessary
  • Two kids in car seat for a while and all that goes with it…
  • 3rd row seat would be nice to have - does not need to be roomy, just there if needed
  1. Our other car is a Subaru Outback (which I really like)
  2. No…I just can’t do a minivan yet…
  3. I’m 6’2". Don’t want to be cramped
  4. Daily commute is 7miles. I don’t drive a ton.

I can get about $15k to trade in my existing car (62k mi), I can put more money in if needed, but don’t want to go overboard.

So far, I’m looking at something like a Mazda CX-9 or a Hyundai Santa Fe. I suppose if I found a Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander it would be nice, but seems like I’d be in the 100k mi range, and not sure I’d need the size.

Any other considerations? So far, I’m leaning to doing the whole transaction at CarMax. I think I could get $2k or so more for my car on the private market, but just don’t want the craigslist runaround.

Appreciate the thoughts!

Nobody but you can choose the perfect car for you. We’re all way too biased toward our preferences.
Stop by the bookstore, pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide, and test drive the ones that look good to you. That’s the only way you’ll end up happy.

My daughter just bought a Mazda CX-5. It’s a very nice small SUV with excellent gas mileage. The 2L engine is dissed in the automotive press, but her Mazda has the 2L, and acceleration is reasonable, if not spritely. That is the Sport model. The two higher end CX-5s use the 2.4L engine and the testers prefer that one. And you will pay more, of course.

Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV are also good options. And if you want to think outside the box, a used Honda Element is a great vehicle. Extremely good for cargo hauling and camping, with a rubberized floor for easy cleaning. Many outdoors people love these things.

I’m really leaning towards the Mazda CX-9. Any issues with reliability? How is the reputation of Mazda in the 2011-13 range?

Consumer Reports call the used CX-9 a ‘good bet’, with ‘better than average’ overall reliability. So I’d have no problem buying one, reliability-wise.

I would want to see the Carfax (flawed as it is), and if it passed than, I’d have my mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection.

Just beware of the CX-9 brake booster problem:

I have a 2010 CX 9, only 40K miles so can not say much about reliability. I am guessing a Honda or Toyota would be a bit better, but this one is more fun. I just put in a rearview camera and navigation system in it (DIY) and it is even more fun to drive.

I have never seen anything but praise for the CX9. I love the interior a lot more than a Pilot or Highlander. It really feels more like a luxury vehicle. Being a bit obscure, the prices are usually quite reasonable. Of the others, I prefer the Highlander. The Pilot tried too hard to look trucky, but the interior looks like it’s made of Lego.