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Family Car Debate

Hi Car Talk Friends,

My Wife and I have a two month old baby boy and our family car, a 1995 Subaru Outback is on its last leg. We are trying to find a new car that will be safe and reliable to drive our new family around in. We are picky and don’t really like any new cars that are out there. Right now we are pretty hung up on trying to find a 1980’s Toyota LandCruiser. Our problem is we can’t decide if it makes sense to buy an older LandCruiser or just suck it up and buy a mini van and start going to soccer tournaments. Is it practical to buy a car that’s as old as us, or is buying newer is the smart way to go? Does anyone have experience with LandCruisers and their dependability and ease of maintenance? I guess that is what’s giving us the hardest time. The other problem we face is IF we can find one, should we go diesel or gas? Any advice would be much appreciated.



The land cruiser idea I would say is a bad idea. Chevy traverse is what I am looking at, but there are many options in the new market.

I would say swallow your pride and get a new reliable Honda or Toyota

Good reliability, high value retention, etc.

Considering you have a young family, I would place safety and reliability over image and looks. A new vehicle will have all the latest safety features. The older LandCruiser will have none of that

Nobody says you have to go to soccer tournaments. That’s just a stereotype.

If your’e planning on more kids, and have a few dogs, a minivan would be perfect. If not, then a CR-V or RAV4 would do just fine

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Wow. You want to go from a 95 that has become unreliable to a 1980 that was unreliable when new? You know the old definition of insanity. I agree quit deliberating and go buy a new something or as close as new as you can afford. When the kid is older that will be a time for a land cruiser family hobby project.

Edit: OK maybe unfair to say unreliable when new but after 30 years, certainly unreliable now. Gotta go. Work to do.

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Look, you have a baby now. That changes everything, as you are discovering. The tool for the job is an SUV or mini-van.


No car that old is reliable, no matter who made it. If that’s one of your main goals, look for something newer.

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Additionally, the difference in safety equipment from 1980 to…let’s say…2010 is so substantial that I have to question the logic of wanting to carry an infant around in such an old and–by comparison with modern cars and minivans–unsafe vehicle.

OP–I hope you are not one of those people who reduces the issue of passenger safety to how much steel is surrounding the occupants, because there is SO much more to passenger protection than just how much steel is surrounding them.

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There is no debate here. You have a child so your only concern is safety and reliability. There are plenty of new vehicles in the 30000 dollar range. the things you should look at are all child related like car seats, ease of getting said child in and out of the vehicle. Put your ego on hold for 18 years then buy a mid-life crisis vehicle.
While I don’t recommend vehicles as a rule but the KIA SOUL seems to one of most versatile non van things around.

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Like 1980s Jeeps, Broncos and Scouts the Land Cruiser is a hobby/toy and not daily transportation. For those with the time and money to spare and a well equipped shop to play with old classics are a lot of fun. Otherwise they are chronically expensive problems.

Thanks for the input guys. I had a feeling we would get the advice that most of you are giving us. We can’t afford to go newer than 2008 it anyways. Can’t afford the payments. So in my head I was thinking that something a little older would be a fun car to have around while our kid is growing up and we could work on it together. Nothing against mini-vans really, I had a hand me down 86 Grand Caravan when I was in high school.

Thanks again.

All new cars of your size are safer than what you have been driving. For a young family a reliable compact such as a Corolla, Mazda 3 or Honda Civic would be great. Equip it with winter tires and you will be fine. When the baby is ready for soccer, buy a minivan.

If you still feel insecure on the road invest $200 in a defensive driving course.

You probably have not driven all those new cars out there. I would feel a lot safer in a Mazda 3 than in a 1995 Subaru Outback.

Just a reminder but it was 18 below here today. Reliability becomes pretty important when its that cold. Even around town, you don’t last long at those temperatures with a broken down car. Add an infant and the time is incredibly short. In the winter, reliability is as important safety factor as air bags and seat belts.

Buy a minivan and start going to soccer tournaments? Seriously? Just how soon are you going to put this kid on the field?

I don’t don’t think you need to be in a rush to do anything, but if you want another vehicle, I’d be looking at the IIHS safety ratings of any vehicle that I’d be looking at if I had a two month old baby.

With one kid, you don’t need to go automatically to a minivan/SUV. Trust me, we did just fine with our Ford Focus when we had our first son (been a surprisingly reliable car actually). Even after our second son was born, we’ve held onto our Focus and use it most of the time. We do have a minivan now (Chrysler Town & Country, much more of a problem child than the Focus), but we mostly use that for longer trips.

After two weeks with a minivan and its cavernous sliding side doors, you’d be excused for feeling a little smug and a little sorry for parents who are wrestling with normal doors and a baby carrier…

Been there done that, I actually prefer our Focus because the kids can’t run away to the back where I have trouble twisting my 6 foot frame to retreive them…Though I will note that the automatic sliding doors have never worked on the van (we bought it used without proper inspections and whatnot because we needed to find one relatively quickly for a trip, granted I’ve learned a ton about DIY repairs because of this van), and the right side door does not slide very easily

The CRV is another good option. It is reliable, easy to maintain and have plenty of space for your family.

The only way I’d consider a 1980s era car with a newborn child is if it was a Volvo. Do yourself a favor and buy something six years old or newer.

Even an '80s Volvo would be a problem. Modern cars would be safer, and much more reliable.

What becomes clear very quickly, once you have a child or children, is that there is pretty much no time to do any of the fiddling you need to do to keep an old car running. You might be able to find an hour or two for a hobby, but most of your day is spent keeping up with everything (kid, work, housing, food, spouse, health, etc.). Older vehicles tend to throw you jobs just exactly when you have no time at all. Your transportation needs are met with reliable, convenient, usually mundane vehicles. As others have said, you will celebrate the usefulness of a mini-van or smaller SUV.