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Looking for road trip car options

My kids are not too excited about the prospect of driving my Honda Civic on a road trip during the summer of 2011. What leasing/rental/purchasing options might exist? I’m not really into buying a new car right now but the idea of being stuck in a small car with two teenagers isn’t exciting either. We’ll be driving from Boston out west and then back again and want something that’s fuel efficient. I’m afraid if we rent, we’ll get stuck with something bad on gas, but I’m not prepared to be stuck with a new/used car purchase either for something so short term (4 to 6 weeks on the road). Please, I need ideas.

If your teenagers are reasonably well behaved and interested in scenery and can entertain themselves it won’t be so bad. I"ll assume you are breaking the trip up with visits to national parks etc…Once you leave Boston the scenery improves. I did coast to coast and back in 32 days via the Northern route…time passed fast.

You can rent something full size like a crown vic / grand marquis, cadillac cts, nissan altima (they seem to be roomy in the back, Mazda 6, Accord, the list goes on.

It’s going to be a lot more cost effective to just take your own car though.

I don’t consider a Civic a “small” car but that’s just me.

Are we talking about a two-door Civic coupe or a four-door Civic sedan?

If we are talking about the sedan, I recommend you lay down the law and take your Civic on the trip. If we are talking about a two door coupe, I think a four-door Civic sedan or a vehicle like it would be appropriate.

Thanks for your input! Yes, we will be breaking a lot and won’t be in the car every day, and I agree about the scenery. I’ve driven across the country twice (northern and southern routes) and once you’re past a certain point, it’s a fabulous picture.

Yeah, I don’t consider my car small either and my family is short, but I think my husband was worried about all the stuff we’ll be taking. I told him that putting a roof rack on could help with space issues. Thanks!

You’re right: it’s a four-door. I’ve already laid down the law, but as teenagers, they don’t quite like my idea of law…or anything else that comes out of our mouths. [Deep breaths…] Thanks!

Based on a quick look at Enterprise.com, it will cost approx. $1800 to rent a “premium” (Buick Lacrosse or similar) for a period of 5 weeks. Then let’s say you drive 4000 miles at at average of 27 mpg, then you will use 148.1 gallons of fuel at $3 / gallon which will be another $450. So it will cost you around $2300 to go the rental route. Let’s say your civic costs $0.40/ mile to operate (national average is $0.54 / mile) then you will be looking at $1600, in theory, to take the civic. Oh yea, you also have to consider the fixed costs that the civic will accrue while it just sits in the driveway. Hope that helps.

Start shopping now (Craigslist, e-bay) for a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis. Look for a Geezer-owned car with 90 to 120K miles on it, the lower the better. You will pay $4-$6 grand for a nice one. Take your trip and enjoy the most comfortable car on the road with the best air conditioning and they give 22-27 mpg depending mostly on speed driven…When you return, sell the car for what you paid for it. But I must warn you, you might not want to give it up…

Why these cars? They are “full-size” body on frame construction, rear wheel drive. The power-train is the same as an F-150 P/U truck, bullet-proof. In the unlikely event something breaks, ANY mechanic or shop can fix it quickly. The trunk will hold EVERYTHING. They are the consummate interstate cruiser…

Thanks for doing all the research on that for me. The Civic will be cheaper.

You know what? I’m going to check this out. I just love everything you say about it and I think my husband and I would feel pretty cool…if we can find one. Price is an issue, though, and I don’t know if we’re prepared to dole out 4 to 6K (even though we’d get it back). Thank you so much!

More info…
They were made from 1992 to now… They got a make-over in 1998. They are called “Panther Platform Cars”. Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town car. They all share the same running gear. The Lincolns are 6" longer, that space becomes rear-seat legroom…The Vics come in two or three different trim levels, the LX being close to the Grand Marquis interior. If they have dual exhausts, they have the “HPP package” handling and performance…Most of the Marq’s and all of the Towns had air suspension in the rear. This can be a nice feature on a trip carrying a full load…But only if it’s working properly…About half of the Vics have it too…

There was a period, '96 to 99, where they had a poorly designed intake manifold. They tended to crack at the thermostat housing and leak water…You want to be sure that has been replaced on any Panther you are looking at…

There is a web-site for these cars, crownvicnet.net, something like that, where those obsessed with Panthers gather and lie and brag. Here, you can learn all the fine details, more than you will ever want to know… Take a look at the P71 cars, former police cruisers, highly prized by the faithful, who trick them out, a regular cult following…

some how spending $4-6K on an unknown car for a long trip and assuming you can recoup your money when you get back seems risky to me… get a sears clamshell car top carrier, pack very conservatively and remember there are laundromats along the way. Get a movie player for the kids. You are anticipating problems that may not even come up.

Yet another great idea. As you can see, we’ve got a lot to think about. I need to look at car-top options, too. Thanks!

I think it’s time to trade. For the foreseeable future, you have a family of 4 with 2 teens. The choices that most people have made are the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Both are capable of 30 mpg plus on the highway in 4 cyl. The less expensive Ford Fusion/Mazda 6 tests out well too. Break the bank, make the plunge. Make trips with similar economy and much better comfort.If you can’t come up with the bucks; I agree, rent one for trips.

Come to think of it, those batteries in your Civic Hybrid probably take up a lot of cargo space. I may have jumped to the wrong conclusion.

When I read your original post, I was thinking it was just you and the two teenagers, and it didn’t occur to me you had the hybrid version of the Civic. Now that I know it is a hybrid and that you will be a party of four, perhaps a larger vehicle is in order.

How light can you all pack?

While the idea of the Panther car is worth considering, no one has mentioned probably one of the best things you could get; a mini van. You’ll have plenty of room inside for passengers AND luggage AND souvenirs. If you can find one with a rear DVD entertainment center, then more power to ya, though it might be more common an option than one would assume. The Caravan is pretty popular, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting it fixed should you break down.
Whatever you buy, have it checked out by a mechanic before you plop any money down to purchase it. That $4000 vehicle might wind up costing you an extra $3000 should the transmission/engine die on you.