Let?s help my 73yr old mom choose a used car, in honor of Mother?s Day ~ thanks!

In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to collect some opinions (anything goes!) on used car suggestions for my mom’s sake. She’s been driving a '93 Mercury Mystique since it was new (I KNOW! But I’ve been surprisingly content with my '91 Topaz commuter, so I don’t trust my own opinion anymore ;^D), in a hot southern climate, and here’s her latest email:

“My darling little Mercury Mystique is on its way to never-never land, and I’ve begun the dreaded search for a new car. The whole wiring system needs to be replaced as the wires ‘are baking’. Description of the the mechanic who said I won’t have a fire in the car; it will just stop, and he cautioned me not to go out without a cell phone or the phone number of the auto club. Ho hum, what fun! I have driven the Ford Escape and I love it, but the one I want is out of my budget range. I went to Car Max and found a '05 with just 17K miles. I was afraid to buy it as I felt I had not done enough shopping. This weekend I plan to test drive the Nissan Altima (supposedly the most maintenance free car a woman can own). There’s a Nissan dealer close by with a large used car inventory. And I may bite the bullet and visit the Toyota dealer. The latter turns me off. I saw the Chevy Equinox but didn’t drive it. It looked cheap after being in the Ford. I feel very confused and wish I could snap my fingers and something would appear in my parking space out front. Dealers offered a measly $500 for the Mystique which will be 13 years old in August. Babe wants it to tool around in because she does not have AC in her Saturn. My mechanic repaired two of five sensors that are out and he said with Murphy’s Law being ever present, the car could run for another six, eight or twelve months. I’m afraid to take a chance…”

A late-model Altima is a good bet, but so is a late-model Toyota Camry, and either of those will get much better gas mileage than a Ford Escape.

Your mom first needs to decide whether she wants a CAR or an SUV/CROSSOVER. Then she should drive as many as possible of whatever she wants and pick the one that suits her best.

Suggest a Nissan Altima, of course. It sounds as if Mom is quite capable of making her own selection. What she really is asking for is validation of her choice, moral support, and maybe a companion to go shopping with her. These issues are far more important than suggestions of year/make/model. For Mother’s Day, take her car shopping.

I wish I could go shopping with her, but I am on the West Coast, and she on the East. This is my next best effort, after sending a much appreciated gift. These posts will lead to a cosy chat on the phone this weekend. A comment on Speedtv.com made me think twice about the Altima as more of a gas guzzler; suggested so far has been Honda Accord, Civic, Civic Hybrid, Fit, Jetta TDI, or Prius. She definitely doesn’t want any suv/crossover types. I had good fortune driving Toyotas in the 90’s, and only went that direction after asking a couple of mechanics what they would buy, but she has so far been a die-hard American car fan… seems like the Altima advice she heard is changing her mind, however…

My 75 year old mom and 85 year old aunt both drive mid-sized buicks (whatever the model is called this week). They seem to like them and have each gone through a bunch of them over the last 20 years (trading them in every few years for the same car). She just needs to drive a bunch of cars and see what she’s most comfortable with.

A vehicle with a higher seat position would probably be better for her, depending on her back and such. So, if you have some vacation time coming up, take a trip to see her and go make a day or 3 of it while she test drives cars. Just make sure to ignore the salesman if all he does is talk to you and tell them that she is the one buying, not you.

How much does she drive? If it’s not much, the SUVs should be available at a steep discount. You can look on line at dealer inventory near her to see what the prices are like. Any small car will likely sell at asking price, but SUVs could be available at a discount. I have two friends with back and knee ailments that bought CR-Vs to make entry and exit easier. The Escape/Mwecury Mariner/Mazda Tribute are all the same truck; check out all the local dealers for the best buy.

Good point; she did drive the Escape and liked it, though it(SUV/CR-V) was not a goal at first. The higher seat position is a good point as well, as she has almost always needed a bit of a pillow to sit higher. No health problems per se; she goes to Curves and has her garden club and bridge club and church on Sundays, so she does drive daily, but not far. Thanks to that important advice price-wise as well.

My son (22) drives an Escape hybrid at work occasionally and is quite impressed with it. I’d love to see her in a hybrid (myself as well, next time), but she may not be ready to spend that much.

Thanks, everybody; keep 'em coming!

but she has so far been a die-hard American car fan… seems like the Altima advice she heard is changing her mind, however…

Well, you might suggest a Pontiac Vibe. It’s a Toyota Matrix with Pontiac badges, so she would get the American nameplate with Toyota reliability/quality. On the other hand, I think the newer Altimas are nice cars and if she likes it I’d be hard pressed to think of a reason to steer her away, assuming she like the seat comfort, etc. Seat comfort and “feel” are personal and she’ll just have to decide that for herself. As long as she doesn’t fall in love with a used Jaguar or some other maintenance hog, she should be fine.