Used Car Suggestions?

Our dearly beloved very old minivan is about to die. I need to move on to something a little bit smaller, but don’t know exactly what I’m looking for. Any suggestions based on the following criteria?

$10K to $12K max (less would be okay, too)

2008 or newer

No 8 cylinders; an efficient 6 would be fine, 4 would be dandy. (Looking for mid to high 20’s gas mileage minimum, and I don’t care if it handles like a tortoise.)

More cargo room than a sedan, but don’t want a full size SUV or any size pickup truck. I’m thinking something wagon/crossover/small SUV/larger hatchback type of thing. Most of the time, it will just be one or two people in the car. Would like to be able to pack two people, camping gear, and two dogs on occasion. (One of the pooches is very small.)

Reliability is important, but I can’t afford service on a high end brand.

Bells and whistles are not important. In fact, I like the manual windows in my current vehicle.

Any ideas or advice?

Many thanks in advance for your help!

The only vehicle that I have driven any distance that might meet your requirements was a Ford Escape Hybrid. I think it was about a 2009. It was roomy and we got about 30 mpg on the road. You might be able to find one in your price range. A friend has an earlier model–either a 2006 or 2007. i ride with him to a rehearsal once a month. It has well over 100,000 miles and he hasn’t had major problems. I think the mileage is in the high 20s.
I have never driven a Honda Element, but a good used one might fit your needs.

Recent Scion xB would be max room for your budget in something recent.

What came to my mind reading your OP was a Toyota Matrix. It’s basically a Corolla but with a different body configuration I think. The vehicles mentioned above are also excellent choices. Best of luck.

Used 2 wd CRV. In recent CR article, they are one of the recomended cars that survive the highest mileage. Our daughter’so family is on their second and routine maintenace out to 200 k is the norm. Very roomy and reasonably economical.

The CR-V with 2 WD is a reliable choice, but relatively expensive to buy. You would have to get a 2008 LX to meet the $12,000 price point. You could also buy a 2010 Chevy Equinox with the 4 cylinder for about the same price. estimate that the maintenance and repair costs will be about the same over the next 5 years. If you stick to basic gasoline cars and SUVs (no hybrids), the cost can be attractive without getting a much older vehicle. If I was in the market for your SUV, I would find the newest vehicle with the lowest mileage and in the best condition regardless of brand. You won’t be looking at the notoriously unreliable brands anyway (Mini, Range Rover). Drive one of each that strike your interest and then get serious. A dealer is a good place for a test drive just to see if you like that particular model, and you might find something you like there. Tell them specifically what you want to test (e.g., 2008 Honda CR-V). Don’t tell them what you want to spend or they will find some way old vehicle that pads their wallet.

Now @Jtsander . You have to ask which has the most life left in it. A 2008 CRV of a 2010 Equinox. More CRVs have gone well by the 200 k Mark then any other compact SUV, and probably the Chevy by a wide margin. You pretty much get what you pay for. Edmonds uses basic averages to compute their cost of ownership while CR used actual survey samples and repair records for theirs. There are projected and there are real. CRVs win hands down in the real world over Chevy Equinox…that’s if you can trust CR over Edmonds. I like thes guys for their basic introductory and factory originated facts. But, user history makes me favor CR for actual cost of ownership.

I do like your basic premise of buying the newest in the best condition, but assuming you get an older well maintained CRV vs a newer well maintained Chevy, the Honda wins for me as a recommendation, hands down, when buying used, I have always looked for Honda and Toyota first, which by the way occupied the five each of the ten most longest lived vehicles by CR. Five Honda models…five Toyota models. This months issue of CR.

CRs surveys are usually misinterpreted. This misinterpretation is that there is a meaningful difference between the categories. The only category that can be significantly wors is the Significantly Worse Than Averge group. But that is only because it is everything with 4% or more problems reported. To me, the other categories are close enough that age and the usual higher mileage for older vehicles is more important. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with a CR-V. It may be the best SUV available is the two year older Honda. But there are other competing vehicles that should be included because the differences between those models is much less than it used to be. This philosophy served me well when I bought a car for my youngest daughter to use. It is a 2010 Cobalt LS, and I bought it for $10,000 a with only 14,000 miles on it. If I had bought a comparable Civic, I would have paid at least 20% more. The Cobalt has been a solid choice so far. I ignored CRs reliability advice for all my cars since 1998 and never regretted it. My GM cars during that time period were reliable and had lower initial purchase prices. I can’t get my wife to part with her Silhouette.

jeep Cherokee 4.0 L. not grand Cherokee, regular cherokee

In my experience CR is the best predictor on the market. Like all data analysis, it cannot predict on a specific individual vehicle, it cannot say “if you buy a Xxxx, you’ll never have a problem”, but that’s not what it’s designed to do. That’s not the way statistics works. But using its data substantially enhances one’s odds of getting a trouble free vehicle. My experience has been very, very consistent with the performance suggested by CR’s data. In short, it doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free vehicle, but using it does substantially improve your odds of getting one.

CR uses an extremely large body of data, typically over a million respondents, for the acquisition of data for its analysis. IMHO it remains the best tool a shopper has to assist him/her.

CRs surveys are usually misinterpreted@jtsanders.

Yes, I keep hearing that and evey time I do, i feel I have to set the record straight. They have an explanation for the percent difference and it is a ,per year difference. If there is a .04 or 4% difference for every year over a five year period, that means that statistically, the probability of that failure occurring at least once in the statistically higher car is the sum of those percentages.

So, over a five year period, if that 4 percent is in the major engine category, then you have a 20% chance of the majore break down happening above average. On poor cars, there are often several areas of concern. So the chances of at least one of these major repairs happening is again, the sum of those in each category. If there are three, then… Three times 20% is 60 %.

So, these precents add up rapidly when you compare a much better then average car to and average and greater still to a worse then acerage like many Chevy models are. Over a five year period when you consider all the categories, there could be as much as twice the rate of repair ( 100% difference) of one car over another, easily.

When I get my survey, it is only for the past model year. That’s why the percent differences appear so low. Taken over time, they are very significant. That’s simply why Toyota and Honda account for such high positioning in cars lasting 200k or more miles in the latest publication. Like, all ten of the top brands in each category are Hondas and Toyotas.

Not only that, but resale value of an older Honda or toyota is often greater, sometimes making up a significant difference in the purchase price. I have NO PROBLEMS selling ten year old Toyotas for fair market prices. It was always in earlier years, much harder to sell Fords and Chevys at anything approaching a fair market price.

Toyotas, Subarus and Hondas literally get many times more the interest when selling, even those with a 100 k miles. Even dealers of Fords are more apt to give you higher trade ins on Toyotas then their own products, all things being equal. They tend sell used on evryone’s car lot better then most other makes.

If all you do is own GM products, you have not experienced the difference. The repairs you have encountered, seem normal to you. Only when you experience the ownership of other models, do you realize the diffence and CRs numbers are very accurate. It’s important to understand that you could get that 20% more on a civic the a Cobalt in real life sales. The next owners knows there is potentially, much more life in a Civic then a Cobalt.

In any case, CR is right about the Mini Cooper and the Range Rover

Purge garbage

I think we all agree on avoiding luxury brands and the worst rated cars. But when it comes to buying a used CUV with a limited budget, then I agree on a bit of flexibility. The used CRV with 95K miles might have another 100K miles of life left on it, but if you can get a used Equinox with 45K miles for the same price, you might still be able to get another 100K miles out of it. Now it might be easier to find a clean Equinox and also to negotiate the price.

We were shopping for a used car recently. I found a decent Honda Accord in the local dealer. We went there on a Sunday and the place was packed so bad as if the .99 cent store was having a clearance sale. We made an offer but knew with the place packed with buyers, we don’t have much leverage. We moved on to the Hyundai dealer where we were the only buyers and they wanted to make a deal. Might have made the wrong decision, but you have to buy something and make it stay within your budget.,

I have a lot of faith in the CR numbers, too, with the caution that they are most useful for comparing similarly equipped vehicles sold in reasonably large numbers. They do have notes indicating vehicles for which the number of responses is low, but even so some peculiar results show up. Anyhow, for the kind of mainstream vehicles you’re likely to consider, the CR reliability ratings are useful, especially since the cars you’ll be looking at have been around for a few years so their weaknesses have had time to reveal themselves. For cars less than about three or four years old I don’t think the ratings are as useful as the actual number of problems is very low for cars that new and buyer expectations can overwhelm those small differences.

What would I be looking for? Hmm. I rather liked the last generation Hyundai Elantra Touring, a small wagon. It’s gas mileage is unremarkable, but it’s roomy and practical. There are very few Japanese wagons or hatches, and those that exist are often quite small. I really like the Mazda3 hatchback, a very reliable car and fairly common. It’s only negative for me is a slightly cramped back seat. Mazda also makes the Mazda5, like a shrunken minivan crossed with a wagon. It is based on the Mazda3 and should be very reliable. The Toyota Matrix another mentioned would meet your needs nicely, but Toyotas do go for a premium. Almost identical is the Pontiac Vibe, and you may find one for less. It is every bit as reliable as the Matrix.

The compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are nice, but also command high prices. Some cheaper ones are the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Shortage, and Mazda CX-7. None are perfect, but they aren’t in such high demand. The last generation Ford Escape was made for many years and is very common. It was engineered by Mazda and is more reliable than most domestic products. It’s a rather utilitarian vehicle, but it sounds like it could be to your taste.

While CR also tests cars, their survey results are clearing houses for the experiences of actual cars owners. Accepting no advertising dollars, they can afford to be honest both in their evaluations and the reporting of their survey findings. Their total data points are in the millions. They are statistically valid. When not, they leave areas open and state so.

I find it almost comical when some may say things like…“I respect their reports on lawn mowers and refrigerators but not cars.” That’s like selective evaluating some one for honesty, choosing only to believe some one in categories, YOU choose to purchase the same items. My neighbor who buys Volvos believes them. He just leases Volvos and chooses to avoid their problems and maintence inconvenience. He has the bucks to do so. It’s his choice and he will replace his cars evdrytwo to three years regardless of the make he buys. Over the pass 10 to twelve years, it’s him and hers new white Volvos every two to three years.

I agree @MarkM but would suggest too, that even when you compare a high end Honda to a low end Hyundai, the Honda still has the same components, engine, transmission and basic electronics as their low end cars. So there is still validity there.

It must be stressed too, that when things like a new Tacoma due out this fall may have some teething problems, Toyota still has a history of succesful new car roll outs. Plus, the new engine is from previous models and the trans is a Tundra derivative, all with past histories of reliability. Other then the sheet metal, the new Taco will just be a conglomerate of many parts already market tested. Your decision to buy a new untested one will be one of confidence you may have or not in their ability to assemble these car parts for the first time.

It must be stressed too, that when things like a new Tacoma due out this fall may have some teething problems, Toyota still has a history of succesful new car roll outs.

When I bought my new 2014 Highlander I wasn’t really taking a chance on the mechanical reliability. The engine has been out since at least 07. Wife has exact same engine in her 07 Lexus. The 6-speed transmission has been out since at least 2012. I only have 25k miles on it…but it’s been flawless.

Toyotas, Subarus and Hondas literally get many times more the interest when selling, even those with a 100 k miles. Even dealers of Fords are more apt to give you higher trade ins on Toyotas then their own products, all things being equal. They tend sell used on evryone's car lot better then most other makes.

My middle son bought a used Mazda-3. Great little car. We looked at many different cars on many different car lots. The used Mazda-3’s were selling significantly more then an much newer and lower mileage Ford Fiesta…even at the Ford Dealer. I never care too much about resale value when selling…because by the time I sell the vehicles usually have well over 300k miles. Most of the time we’ve gave them away to relatives, or sold cheap to a friend. My 98 Pathfinder with close to 500k miles - sold to daughters ex-bf for $100. It was still running great…not much rust…interior nice and clean…everything worked. Very difficult to put a resale value on that vehicle.

And that $100 including me helping/showing him how to change the timing belt…actually I think I bought the parts too.

@dagosa Thanks for the explanation; I would say that at year 10 the best cars have only 1/3 of the repairs per year that the worst have. I’ll stick with at least “better than average”.

CR will recommend a car with average repairs incidence, provided they consider it safe and it performs well. However, they consistently pan such excellent cars as the Toyota Yaris because it is uncomfortable and noisy. Other wise an excellent machine for urban use.

I subscribe to CR and have used the used car ratings as a guide. However, there is one caveat: CR surveys its subscribers to derive the used car records. The subscribers of CR may treat their vehicles differently than the rest of the public. They may maintain the cars better, but may be more critical of the cars than the owners who do not subscribe to CR.

I will suggest to someone buying a used car that the person read the CR reports on used cars. However, unless I have owned or driven a particular make and model, I don’t feel comfortable quoting CR’s recommendation about the car. I used to own a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander which CR didn’t recommend as a new vehicle, and have listed the model as unreliable as a used car. We sold the Uplander to our son and the Uplander now has about 150,000 miles with no major problems. It doesn’t use oil and the last time I rode in the Uplander, it ran quite well with no squeaks or rattles. I replaced the Uplander with a 2011 Toyota Sienna. The Sienna has been reliable, but no more reliable than the Uplander. My maintenance and repair expenses were about the same for the same length of time period that I owned the vehicles. In some ways, the Uplander cost less in maintenance. The Uplander came with better tires. The Goodyear tires on the Uplander were good for 52,000 miles–the Firestone tires on the Sienna were worn out at 35,000 miles. I had to have the brakes relined about 38,000 miles on the Sienna while the brakes on the Uplander didn’t have to be relined until 55,000. The Uplander battery was good for 6 years–the Sienna battery kept outgassing and corroding the terminals and it was replaced after three years. I drove both vehicles the same way. For me, the seats in the Uplander were more comfortable. I would have purchased another Upander, but GM, in its infinite wisdom, discontinued the minivan line. I am not dissatisfied with the Sienna–I am just saying that my experience hasn’t proven that it is any better than the Uplander.
I know nothing about the Chevrolet Equinox or the Honda CRV. I would have to have had some experience either owning either vehicle or driving one for some distance before I could make a suggestion.