Suggestions for Mom needing "new" used car

Can anyone suggest a reasonably-priced brand/model vehicle to me? Have 2 kids, a very modest budget and want to get the safest/most reliable car with the best gas mileage I can afford. Loved my Passat Wagon. It was quirky and fun to drive but did not love the cat/O2 sensor issues that plagued it. The repairs cost me nearly the same amount I paid for this car. All suggestions would be appreciated.

What does reasonably priced mean? Do you want another wagon? If I was looking for a car for 3, I’d look at a less popular economy sedan. We have a 2009 Chevy Cobalt LT1 and the kids love it. My middle kid drives it most of the time. My youngest told me yesterday that she had a dream in which I bought her a black Cobalt just like the silver one. A 2008 Cobalt LT with automatic transmission, ABS, and OnStar will cost about $11,000 fro a dealer. A similar Honda Civic EX would run about $15,400. And a Toyota Corolla will cost about $12,000. A Hyundai Elantra SE with similar features will be $12,000. Test drive them all if you are interested in sedans. The Civic might turn out to be worth the money if you like it enough. And look for the car in the best condition. Even late model cars can be damaged by abuse.

Start by looking at Consumer Reports Car issue, April 11. They list cars to avoid, and make some recommendations on good, reliable cars. In past issues, they also make used car recommendations based on their data.

most used car’s reliability will lie in how well it was treated by its previous owner(s). Have anything you’re looking at inspected by a mechanic before you buy

With kids, a faux par mini van like a used Toyota Matrix or cheaper (we hope) Pontiac Vibe might be worth a look. Corolla innards will assure relatively good economy and decent reliability if you get a “good” one used.

Small sedan with good gas mileage = Ford Focus.
Midsize sedan with good gas mileage = Ford Fusion (4cyl FWD drive version)
Both have good reliability, either new or used.
Wagons, minivans and SUVs can all be great, but you lose a bit on the mileage side.

It really depends on how much you have to spend and what style of vehicle you want. That’s probably the first things you have to narrow down.