Purchasing a car (New or used)

I want your advice about what cars I should investigate for travel. We have been driving a Ford E150 Club Wagon/E250 and now E350 for the past 30 years. The kids are grown and have their own lives. My wife and I need a vehicle for travel that has respectable mileage and space in the front for drinks, computers, tissues, other stuff or easy access to stored stuff. I was thinking of a VW TDI for the fuel economy, but the seats are uncomfortable for long distance travel (I have a Rabbit and it is everything I wanted, but has the most uncomfortable seats.

Accord or Camry 4 cyl? Camry Hybrid? Fusion 4 cyl? Fusion Hybrid (that’s what I’m thinking of)?

I would recommend reading Consumer Reports auto guide and narrow your choices down to several vehicles. Since you are going to use the vehicle for travel, rent vehicles matching your choices and take the vehicle for at least a 200 mile drive. You will learn more about the comfort of the seats. This is particularly important since you have been using vans for your travels. We owned a 1990 Ford Aerostar and while we owned it, purchased a 1993 Oldsmoblie 88. I could not find a comfortable seating position in the Oldsmobile even though it had power seats. The Aerostar remained our travel vehicle. We now own a 2003 Toyota 4Runner SUV and a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander minivan. We find both comfortable for long trips, although the 4Runner usually gets the nod for highway travel.

As far as cars are concerned, my insitution has Honda Civic Hybrids in its fleet and I used one a year ago for out of town travel. The mileage was about 41 mpg, but I didn’t have quite enough legroom. A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip to a conference of 5 hours each way in a Nissan Sentra that my institution rented for me to make the trip. I found the seats to be comfortable and had enough legroom. I didn’t check the mileage. The Sentra must have been the bottom of the line, because it didn’t have a cruise control or a power outlet to plug in a cell phone charger. Although the Sentra wasn’t uncomfortable, I made a pleasure trip of the same distance in our 4Runner a couple of weeks later and much preferred the 4Runner for the seating position.

Particularly since you’ve been using full size vans for travel, try out any potential purchases for fit just as you try on a pair of shoes. You may find that a regular car isn’t a good fit.

Have you any experience with a Honda Element? Is it too noisy? Are the seats comfortable? How would I go about renting one? The rental companies do not seem to carry this car. Even if they did, they do not guarantee the vehicle and model. Do the dealers rent cars?

Mercedes E-Class CDI sedan – 40MPG in the lap of luxury. Find a nice gently used one for 1/2 – 1/3 MSRP.


How much do you want to spend? There are dozens of cars and trucks that meet your criteria so far.

If I was in your wife’s posittion, I’d get a Toyota Matrix or a Hyundai’s hatchback version of the Elantra, called the Touring, I believe. Both are easy on gas easy to drive and park and have good seats. They are also good highway cars. Both are extremely reliable.

Sorry, I’ve never driven or ridden in a Honda Element. Sometimes dealers have service rentals, but I don’t know whether the Honda Element would be one of the service rentals.

I thought about looking into a Honda Element when I purchased the Chevrolet Uplander minivan. The Honda Element would probably serve my needs–I frequently carry musicians and musical instruments. I think I could get at least 2 tympani in the Element. However, in my Sunday shopping, I thought the sticker price of the Honda was high and I had doubts that I could negotiate a price that I wanted to pay. The Chevrolet Uplander I bought was a “program” vehicle. I’ve had it for three years and it has given me good service. It had 15,000 miles on the odometer when I bought it, but I have no idea how these miles were driven (it may have been used by the railroad to drive up and down the tracks to see if any spikes had come out of the ground). Perhaps a Honda Dealer might have a “program” car that you could use for a road test.