Decent, reliable used cars

My family has been stationed in Italy for the past 4 years, and this summer we will be moving to Washington, D.C. Presently, we have a VW Toureg (main family car) and a Toyota MR2 (which only seats 2). My husband and I are looking at probably buying a used car that in another year or two will be passed on to our then driving daughter. So anyone have any suggestions for a 4-5 seater that does well in snow, strong enough for a teen (yikes), and won’t be a money pit for repairs?

Take a look at 3-5 year old Toyota Rav-4s, Honda CR-Vs, and Subaru Foresters.
Just make sure that, if the engine is equipped with a timing belt, you are not buying a vehicle that is past due for that service. Otherwise, your teen could wind up driving the car while the engine self-destructs.

If you find a well-maintained car of one of the above models, it will do well in snow, will accomodate 4-5 people decently, and will have a lower incidence of repair than most other cars on the road.

Snow in DC? Not really. Sure, we had 38" in less than a week last year. But that never happened before. Well, not in the last few hundred years, anyway. If it snows a lot, just stay home. Everyone else does. Unless you or your husband are emergency personnel. In that case, drive the Tuareg. I assume that the VW and MR2 are US cars. BTW, the MR2 would be a great commuter car.

Absolutely any car with decent tires is fine in the DC metro area. I suggest that you look at unpopular, but reliable, 4-year old cars. That way you won’t pay the price for popularity. That leaves all Hondas and Toyotas off the list. I think a mid-size car would be safe enough. The Chevy Malibu up through 2007 is the old, homely style. A 2007 Malibu LT with the 4-cyl engine is about $9800, while the 2008 is around $13,000. If you like the newer design, go for it. Other cars to consider are the Ford Focus and Hyundai Sonata. The Sonata looks so much like an Accord, that even I have trouble telling them apart. I own a 2005 Accord, which I bought new. I got a great price on it. But I’d never pay the premium for a used one.

Check “Consumer Reports” magazine. Each year they publish an Auto Issue, which contains a wealth of information for buyers of new and used cars.

I especially like the list of Best and Worst used cars. They also have a list of reliable used cars listed by price category. You should be able to find something there.

It doesn’t usually snow much in DC. Last winter was an anomaly.

I suppose a Crown Vic is out of the question…Safe, and VERY low cost per mile to own and operate…

Maybe out of the question for the OP, but not out of the question for me.

When I needed cheap, reliable transportation, a Crown Vic was my first choice.

Its clone, the Mercury Grand Marquis, has also served me in time of need, although my Mercury was a Marquis, not a Grand Marquis.

These cars are cheap to buy, cheap to own, and cheap to operate.

What could be better?

In this gush over the Crown Victoria; from someone who knows about dealing with snow, more than one Mass state policemen like the Crown Vic for the way it handles snow with snow tires and weight in the back. And this, in a place that gets much more snow than DC. If they are good for the police, they are good for you, as long as you prepare them as well.

Missing Important Information:

How much money do you think you’ll budget for this car purchase ?

You’ll get more meaningful suggestions if you give a dollar range.

I don’t know if you’re in the Maybach area or the Yugo area or somewhere in between.


The cops and taxi fleets can’t be wrong… I’ve been waiting for an excuse to retire my '98 former cop car, it now has 170K on it, but it refuses to provide me with that excuse…!

Im with VDCdriver

My vote is for a Crown Vic, which will carry 5 adults easily. They’re reliable, commonly serviced, and have a pretty decent trunk for storage along with doing very well on fuel mileage.

I’m in agreement with Caddyman about the police and taxi companies not being wrong.
Here in OK these cars are also commonly used by oil field companies and oil field operations would not be using them for year after year if they were trouble prone.
Considering the abuse they go through they hold up very well and the bottom line is what it’s all about.

I’m still struggling with “snow in DC”. I live in Central Maine and it would be hard to justify my 2 4wd vehicles if I lived a mile and a half away. Regardless of the amount of snow they got this past year, without frost in the ground a 4wd/awd is a luxury that people with limited funds should put toward better appointments.
With the frost, it’s the snow that stays for months on end and accumulates, and produces everything from black ice when the sun hits to snow/ice that can hang on regardless of the deicing. I’m sticking with cars like Crown Vics, Camrys and Accords with all weather tires rated well for snow. In DC, everyone is in trouble if the snow makes things impassable for 2wd.

I guess that you have never been in DC when it snows, dagosa!

As bizarre as it sounds, an inch or two of snow causes the city to grind to a halt as the locals–who apparently are not accustomed to driving in snow–proceed to drive at…maybe 15 mph. It seems that many of the locals panic at the sight of snowflakes, and they assume that the end of the world is being presaged by a light snowfall.

All-in-all, it’s quite a sight to behold.!

Admittedly, AWD is probably not necessary in DC, but if it makes the OP feel more confident, then perhaps it is worth the extra expense. Hopefully, it would not make the OP and family overconfident in the midst of all the incredibly timid souls driving around them.

Some people go 15 MPH and some go 70 MPH. Anyway, traffic grinds to a halt on may roads at rush hour in many places, especially the beltway, Rt 270, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and any major road in Northern Virginia. I’m just glad I avoid those roads. There are traffic jams at 5AM on Rt 270 and Rt 95 in VA. It’s mind boggling.

Not just DC, it’s happening here in Ohio as well. A few flakes of snow and everyone seems forget how to drive

“Admittedly, AWD is probably not necessary in DC, but if it makes the OP feel more confident, then perhaps it is worth the extra expense.”

VDC…Don’t get me wrong, I love my awd cars, and with snow tires they are outstanding. I continue not to recommend them in this case as I fear many, may buy them in place of snow tires. As you say, everything grinds to a halt for many reasons most of which has to do with available snow removal and driving experience of locals. IMO, adding winter tires is much more important than trying to add the option of awd at the expense of a more dependable car on a limited budget. AWD will not help an inexperienced driver with acceleration traction that will allow the driver to drive beyond the stopping and turning traction of the tires. It is precisely this situation that makes awd potentially more dangerous; false security without experience and winter tires…I rest my case with all due respect to a fellow awd car admiration society member. :=)

for the teen… buy a senior owned buick lesabre/regal in your price range. solid car.