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What car would you get if you were...? Please help this car dummy

Click clack help me figure out what car is best for me since I dont know jack!

I’m 34, single woman moving to California and need to buy a car. I live an active lifestyle and am a painter on the side. I would like a car that is versatile enough to let me enjoy the Cali sunshine (convertible?), carry a bicycle or a surf board, and that is still reasonably fuel efficient and comfortable if I want to go on a long drive to explore the new state.
People have suggested the VW Eos, a Jeep Wrangler, and a small SUV or crossover (but I do not even know what the later means).
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.


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jump right in to the Malibu Barbie lifestyle in the model of your choice.

I am willing to buy new or used but I think I would prefer used because it is really annoying how much a new car depreciates. I do not know if that is a solid reason for buying used. As far as a budget, Id like to stay under 30,000 if possible.

So, you already have a work vehicle for the ladders/scaffolding and associated equipment, and this will just be a “fun” vehicle while you aren’t working?

To me, carrying a surfboard implies something that is wagon-like, rather than a convertible like a VW EOS. (Is it even legal to carry something like a surfboard in a convertible? Even if it is legal, I don’t think that it is advisable.)
And, used VWs tend to be very repair-prone as as they age.

Anyway…how about something like a Ford Flex?
This is a stylish, longish-SUV that is available with FWD, rather than AWD.
(In CA, I can’t imagine that you would need AWD unless you plan to drive on the beach.)
And, you should be able to find one with a sunroof if you want the sun on your head.

A nice-condition used Ford Flex with FWD can be had for ~$20k, and it is capable of getting 24 mpg on the highway. The AWD version can only achieve a max of 22 mpg.

lol no. i’m a doctor. sadly, i haven’t figured out how to incorporate ladders and scaffolding into treatment. mostly the vehicle will be to get to me to and from work (about 7 miles maybe). but as an active person and artist, i want to be able to throw a bike on/in it or a bigger canvas.

I’d look at a used Honda Element with a sunroof and get a rack for the surfboard. The Element is great for the active lifestyle, you can throw a ton of camping gear, etc, in the back, and the back area is rubberized so you can throw wet surfing gear in there and hose it out later for cleanup. The back seats are also waterproof.

You will also be able to fit a bike and large canvases in the cargo area.

2011 was the last model year for the Element. You should be able to find a nice used one with low miles in the $10k-$15k range.

Thanks VDC driver. I will look into the Ford Flex. With the EOS having a hard top, I thought I might be able to strap the board to the top. I also figured a bike rack would work on trunk or get the trailer hitch kind. And just so I understand you, if I do go with a VW, you would suggest me getting one that is new instead of used? Or they are just a pain in the long run, period?

Thanks Jesmed1!

No, please avoid VW’s. They are not reliable.

Do u own a car now? Just ordering what type of cars you have owned and like. You could buy a nice used truck. 20k will get you a nice truck. Driving <10 miles to work will be easy on gas. Commuting 50 miles is not easy on gas

Get a Consumer Report New Car Preview from the local bookstore, review those that look interesting to you, and spend some off-time doing test drives. The CR will show you all the various options available as well as give you comparative reliability data for each, going back in many cases for 10 years.

It would be folly for me to think I can select the perfect vehicle for you. But, with the proper data, you can do a much better job selecting the perfect car yourself.

Sincere best.

With a $30k budget, I’d go the Element route myself. Spend maybe 15 grand on a REALLY good condition one with low miles, and spend the other 15 on a boat. :wink:

Cavell -
I had a mazda protege and toyota corolla in the past, both that I inherited just because I needed a means of getting back and forth. For that, the cars were fine. But now that I have a more active life, I do not want my car to limit me. I really dont care what the car looks like.

Mountain bike -
Thanks. Thats what my mom suggested but Barnes and Noble didnt have it. Guess I will have to try another one/place. I think I am just limited by having very little exposure to or interest in cars.

Shadowfax - thanks. I had a sailboat before…maybe again. I am not interested in spending 30K, I just know that technically I could. I’d ride a bike everywhere if I could.

You don’t usually need AWD if you are going to the beach, but if your active lifestyle includes winter sports like skiing, or if you get into painting winter scenes, then you may want to consider it.

I’d suggest a Subaru Forester or Crosstrek XV. The Outback is nice, and larger, but it might bust the $30k limit a little. The 15 Outback is supposedly a lot more comfortable as well.

Traveling in the mountain areas of CA can be tough in the winter without AWD or 4WD, or tire chains.

Subaru’s are not just a car, they are a lifestyle. But there are alternatives that are just as good, Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4.

If you don’t know jack about cars, I would suggest too you read CR publications and only buy a car model from the most reliable long term manufacturers. Then look at the models from these that serve your needs. If you are trusting the opinions of just a few well meaning people, you also need to do research on your own.

If you do get a Honda Element, don’t hose it out. While the interior is spacious and can be aggressively cleaned, hosing it out will damage electrical components. Some Element owners have discovered this the hard way.

Since you have $30,000, I suggest you look at small SUVs like the Mazda CX-5. My daughter put a 2015 Sport version on the road for less than $25,000. Hers does not have any options. The Touring model has more base equipment and is a bit more expensive. You should still put it on the road for less than $30,000. I f you keep your vehicles for a more than 8 to 10 years, the depreciation should not be a big deal. You don’t need AWD, but if you want it, I’d make sure the CX-5 has the larger engine to pull the extra weight. A hard top convertible is not a good idea if you want to haul a surfboard. You need a roof rack to avoid damaging the roof paint and you would have to cycle it on and off when you want to surf or go topless.

Keith - thanks. I will be in southern california but it would be nice to have a car that could handle winter if I needed it too.
Dagosa - yes yes I will read CR. I just was looking for other sources of info too.
Steve - haha no hose! got it.
Jtsanders - it’s not like im a surfer…yet. I guess I just want options. I definitely bike and can see it being a pain in the ass to put the bike rack on and off unless i got the trailer hitch kind. thanks for your suggestions.

thank you , everyone. this is helping guide me. thanks!