Searching for reliable, gas efficient car without spending my life's fortune!

I’m looking around for a solid car, most likely an SUV because of my awful knee arthritis - need something easy to get in/out of and not low.

Of course would love to be able to afford an SUV hybrid, but dont have the funds.

Am currently driving gas guzzler 97 Ford Explorer.

Plus helping my 20 yo son find another car too. The old 87 Subaru wagon he’s driven, finally died the other day. Thought about doing ‘Pimp My Ride’ but around here in SF, CA it would be stolen in a hearbeat.

Bottom line:



Theresa in SF

2001 - 2005 Toyota Echo

A family friend has bad knees. She bought a Honda CR-V so that she could reduce the knee pain when she entered or left the car. You can find one to test at your local Honda dealer. You don’t have to buy it, just see if entry and exit are less painful for you.

If you live around San Francisco, any 4 wheel drive vehicle is a waste of money. You need a 2 wheel drive vehicle that is easy to get in and out of and you have a lot of choice. All three cars you mention are bad news!!! They are 4 wheel drive, and the Blazer and Ford Escape have a poor reliability record. The 4-Runner is a great vehicle for the Australian Outback, but uses a lot of gas and costs more in maintenance. All 4 wheel and AWD vehicles cost more in maintenance, and use more gas than 2 wheel drive units. All the ones you mention use at least as much gas as your Ford Explorer!

Cars to try are: Mazda 3, Toyota Yaris, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Honda Fit, Honda Civiv, and I would look at Toyota and Mazda compact pickup trucks, as well as the Ford Ranger pickup, if you don’t carry a lot of passengers. There is a 2 wheel drive Honda CRV model, which, as mentioned , has easy access, is easy on gas, and very reliable. Your other choices are some minivan models, like the Honda Odessy and the Toyota Sienna.

The basic truth, Theresa, is that price has nothing to do with quality in cars. To keep your driving costs down, keep the car weight and engine size down, and pick a sturdy model. In this age of complexity and gadgets, the simplest cars from reputable companies are the best. If I lived around SF, I would buy a small car with a decent size engine and large enough windows so I could keep track of who was around me. You may find the Honda Fit to be just that car, but it has only been on the market one year and may be hard to find used.

Whatever car we recommend for you would also be valid for your son, except he may have a car a little older. I would then add the Mazda Protege, predecessor to the Mazda 3. A tough little car and fun to drive.

Get something built by Honda or Toyota and you will be a happy camper.

Try one of the mid-sized American models like an Impala, Crown Vic, Sable, Taurus, Buick or Cadillac. Most of those will be cheaper to buy AND maintain and should be comfortable enough to get in and out of.
Also, the only real investment-type of car is if you found an all original unrestored hemi Cuda convertible that someone didn’t know what they had and bought it for a song, fixed it up, and resold it at the Barret-Jackson auction.

The cars you mention all require that a person sit down into the seat. That also means they must rise out of it to exit the car. That’s what the OP wants to avoid. A 2WD SUV that allows the driver to slide in and out without putting stress on the knee joints would be a good fit. I mentioned the CR-V before because I know someone who got it because of her arthritic knees. But any small SUV might be acceptable. Others are: Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tuscon, Kia Sportage, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Pontiac Torrent, Suzuki Grand Vitara, and the Jeeps Compass, Liberty, and Patriot. Yu should be able to find one of those that allows you to slide in and out without stressing your knees. That’s 12 trucks. The list narrows because the Mazda, Ford, and Mercury are triplets; the Chevy and Pontiac are twins. Have fun!

Ford 500 or Mercury Montego

Minivans are high and easy to get in and out and burn less gas than SUVs. I am enjoying our Caravan. The image factor is something you’ll have to get over.

How about a 2wd Toyota Highlander??? Decent gas mileage (mid 20’s). EXTREMELY reliable (based on the Camry platform). You don’t need 4wd…so why waste your money…And it’s high enough so it’ll be easy in and out.

Another car would be the Honda Element. It sit’s higher then most cars…not sure if it’s high enough for you.

Let me suggest you test sit a Mazda 5. It’s based on the Mazda 3 platform, but it’s a little taller and the seat height might be better for you. Should be very economical. Some of the other suggestions you have gotten may work also. You will have to do some trial and error. The Ford 500 is supposed to have higher seat height for easy entry/exit. These are now renamed to Taurus, but used ones are called 500s. The Chevy HHR might work for you. Sort of like the Mazda 5, it’s taller than most small cars. Like some other folks, I recommend against 4WD or AWD. It’s just added weight and maintenance with poorer fuel mileage with almost no upside for average drivers.

My brother with his bad knees loves his Chevrolet HHR. Not too low and not too high.

The AWD is a joke anyway in Highlanders. I think the same on CRV’s. I watched a one stuck in the last Nor’Easter on Sunday in a parking lot. The Front Wheels spun away as the back ones seemed to intermittently kick on trying to get traction and then stopping in a jerky movement. I noticed the same thing with CRV’s when stuck.

I simply drove my 2004 WRX up the to the car equipped with ultra high performance all-seasons and helped dig him out a bit with a collapsible shovel. Good karma comes back around.

I’ve always found that AWD is fine for good traction in light snow. But in heavy snow where you have to drudge your way through…4wd is FAR SUPERIOR.

My minivan requires the driver step up to get in. That puts a lot of stress on the right knee. Theresa could try it, but I don’t think a minivan will be right.