Recommendations for family car

I just totaled my Ford Focus on a deer… Got $3500… We are looking for something under $4500 with good gas mileage (30+), that has decent room for 3 teenagers in the back seat. My wife really like the quietness of a Buick Lacrosse.

Looking for some ideas… We live in the middle of nowhere Northern MN…

Any recommendations of other comparable cars?

I have not been on the hunt for a vehicle in 12 years…Where is the best place to look?

I am great with a wrench as well…

Go to a large news stand–like Barnes & Noble–and buy a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers Guide. This incredibly comprehensive publication lists pros & cons, fuel economy figures, standard equipment, and characteristics for essentially every model of car sold in the US marketplace over the past 10 years or so. This will give you all of the information that you need to narrow-down your choices before looking at actual metal.

You will get a lot of well-intentioned advice from members of this forum, but the advice will be far less complete–and possibly less objective–than what you would get from an investment of a few bucks for that CR publication. Information that is less than complete is only a little better than no information, and whatever you get here will be…less than complete.

Once you have a short list of potential cars, go to and click on “used cars,” then enter year/make/model and click the “appraise it” button. On the next page you’ll see a photo of the car. Next to that will be a “research car” link. Click that link. You’ll then see pages of comments from actual owners of that year/make/model and their “star” ratings of the vehicle. That’s a good way to compare the vehicles on your short list and see which is best rated by actual owners.

To carry 3 teenagers in the back, I would look at a Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis. Alternatives are a minivan.

None will be super frugal on gas but comfort is worth something.

Under 4500.00, 30 MPG and comfort. If you find one you can flip it and make money.

Lower you gas mileage expectation a little, to say 25mpg and a whole lot of cars become available. A used Toyota Avalon would be a good choice with three teens in the back, as would the Crown Vic or a Buick Park Avenue (2002-2006).

Lower a little more, say 20 mpg and a lot of minivans would work and have a lot more room for the teens.

In your location you may want to make a note of what cars are common because of the availability of parts. A Ford Fusion may meet your needs.

Do winter driving conditions play a role in this? With gas moving towards $2.00 / gallon, mileage is no longer as big a factor…If you can deal with a rear wheel drive car, the Old Ford Panthers (Vic, Marq, Town) are available in good shape in your price range…Many have traction control…With a set of winter tires they do pretty good…

3 teens in back won’t go with 30 mpg, as others have said. At $4500 you’re looking at the biggest used US car you can find, I’d look at Buicks and Chevys.

If you were able to fit the 3 teens in the back of the Focus, then any car would work. But for real comfort you need a full size car or a minivan. I agree with others that with gas being as low as it is, you are better off finding a good car ignoring the mileage.

“My wife really like the quietness of a Buick Lacrosse.”

My work is done here.

For $4500, feel lucky if you can find a reliable car. Make sure it can seat the number of peole you require and then go for the best car in the best shape you can find from a list of recomended cars in that price range from CR automobile buyers guide. Looking for a " particular" make and model like a Buick while a better car of different make slides by under your nose is not going to get you the best car. There is really only one group of people who can successfully find you a reliable car for that kind of money and with all the conditions you set…car thieves.

Don’t spend a lot of time with the CR used car guide. It’s a good resource, but the cars you want are old enough that condition, and not car brand and model, are the most important thing. As dagosa said, find the cars that seat 5 and are in excellent shape. Once you find one that you are seriously interested in, spend $100 or so having a mechanic you trust do a prepurchase inspection.

In addition to the Grand Marquis and Grand Victoria, consider an Impala, Buick Le Sabre, and Olds 88. My Father in law has a Le Sabre, and he can get up to 30 MPG on the highway.

Thanks all… Not much for swap ads up here… Kinda hit and miss… A friend offered a rendezvous…

If the Focus was fine until it got in the accident, why not just get another focus?

You can certainly find a decent condition focus for $4500

Well, “fine” is a relative term… For me it was fine… everyone else in the family disagrees…

@SpudMuffin‌–I encountered the same situation years ago when I bought a Ford Tempo. My wife really disliked the car. She thought it was too noisy. I think your family might be happier with a larger, quieter car than the Focus and you may not have to pay much of a penalty in mileage.

Maybe you should listen to them, especially the 3 sitting in back. It seems to me you need at least a full size car. I never found any car to be too small when I was driving, and maybe that is your perspective too.

Aha; I had a 2014 Focus that was probably a bit more improved than what you had, but mine was a manual with sports suspension. I liked the ride, but my kids (11 & 17 at the time), were constantly complaining of the ride and stiffness of the car. They would say that they felt the tiniest gravel on the road. Got me out of a lot of duties for a while-they preferred to ride in my wife’s 10 yr old Camry.

Forget the Focus, it’s not comfortable for the family. Also forget 30 mpg highway. The Rendezvous will get you 26 mpg hwy, maybe.

I would also look at a Saturn Vue. My friend has had good luck with older Saturns. They tend to be undervalued and they seem pretty reliable.

And do you know Dave in Bemidji? :wink: