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What car to buy?

I would like some help choosing a car. I have $8000 to spend, I have 2 tall children and I am on a low fixed income so I need super reliable, high mpg, long lasting. I was pretty happy looking at the Pontiac Vibe until I saw a picture of the backseat - I currently have a 97 Saturn SL2 which has a larger-appearing back seat and my daughter complains about leg room. I’d love to hear what you suggest!

You have to try on a car just as you try on a pair of shoes for fit. Consumer Reports lists used cars in different price groups that have good reliability records. The fleet at the university where I am employed has Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala cars. The mileage isn’t too bad and these cars have room for long legged passengers.

You do need to sit in them to find out, looks can be very deceiving. Also, go to and do a search in your area for the type of car you want, specify price, body style, etc, see what comes up.

You’re going to base your decision on a photograph? That’s not a good way to shop for cars.

Take the kids and try as many vehicles as it takes until you find one that fits you and your family. Try the Vibe, try them all. Also look a Scion xB. There’s more room in them than you think.

You may need a mini van if legroom is that much of an issue.

Or maybe a Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis.

Don’t laugh. They’re very reliable, inexpensive cars with lots of leg room, and they can deliver decent mileage on the highway.

Try a Toyota Avalon or Hyundai Sonata and see if they fit.


Thanks for your comments, I suppose you are right about the photo, but it looked like the Prelude my stepdad used to cram me into. I think we will go shopping tomorrow or the next day and just try them on for feel, not worry about the price as much, then narrow it down. I was just so overwhelmed when I was trying to search all the edmunds, blue book etc. sites I wanted to do my search in the opposite order they all seem to want the criteria.
I also haven’t really given the sedans a chance, I’ll give them a look too, I forgot to think about how huge the trunks can be on those.

I remember seeing advertisements for the VW Beetle back in the late 1950’s that had photos showing 4 adults riding comfortably with 2 of the adults in the back seat. Well, if you’ve ever ridden in the back seat of a 1958 VW Beetle, you’ll find out that the legroom just isn’t there.

Even the legroom measurements that Consumer Reports gives don’t tell the whole story. The height of the seat makes a difference as well. I have a friend who built a kit car on a Chevette chassis. The legroom is great, but I had a terrible time getting my feet under the dashboard. He took me for a ride yesterday and offered to let me drive. I couldn’t get my legs under the steering wheel. I loved riding in the car once I managed to get in. On the other hand, I have plenty of legroom in either his Prius or his Escape–both in the back and front seats.

About the roomiest rear seat I remember in a car was my 1948 Dodge. The entrance was also easy as the doors were hinged at the rear. My Dad owned a 1963 Studebaker Lark sedan. It had as much legroom as a full sized car in those days.

A Vibe is a pretty small car and tall kids in the back seat doesn’t sound good. Try out midsize cars like a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and other similar sized cars. I have an '03 Honda Civic and there is surprising room in the back seat.

2005/2006 Chevrolet Malibu LT. The equivalent Camry is $3500 more.

Check out a Malibu Maxx wagon. The rear seat leg room is like a 1940s car. 1940s cars had excellent rear seat legroom. I wonder why that went away.

I would start looking at used Honda Accords of the most recent model year you can afford. They are the best buys (“I need super reliable, high mpg, long lasting”) in used and new cars with a proven track record. They should be big enough for most kids till it’s time for them to move out.
Best of Luck in your search.

Cars like the Pontiac Vibe aren’t good for rear seat legroom. A family sedan like the Camry or Accord is much better.