What vehicle should I buy?

I am going to be needing a new vehicle soon. I have driven a van for 21 years, and I still love my Pontiac Montana (even thought it made the Worst of the Worst list on CR) but it isn’t long for this world. My husband thinks we need to downsize, now that our baby will be a licensed driver soon, and we no longer carry hordes of kids on field trips and vacations. I need something not too small because I have a pretty large dog crate, and I do still need to haul the afore-mentioned baby to school and other places - with his golf clubs, trombone, baritone, and synthesizers. We also have need to tow a small utility trailer on occasion. My first thought was a Honda CRV, but I have read some stuff that makes me wary, and I have also wondered about a Volvo wagon (not the SUV). I am kind of at a loss and need some input. Thanks for any input!

For towing a utility trailer, I think you should have something with a V6 engine. I4s are efficient, but they are almost never designed for towing and the ones that are designed for towing usually have a very low towing capacity.

I think a minivan would be a good idea. Both the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey have V6 engines and can tow up to 3,800 pounds.

I would not want to tow a utility trailer with either a Volvo or a Honda CRV. Car-based SUVs like the CRV and the Toyota Rav4 are nice vehicles, but they are not designed for towing. Only truck-based vehicles are really designed for towing, and minivans fall somewhere inbetween.

How heavy is the trailer/what do you put in it? It’s easy to underestimate how much they weigh. How often do you use it? A Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander would be other options.

Check out mileage for your choices here:


I know two people with the CR-V and they are quite pleased with it. Other vehicles in this size are the Ford Escape (Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribure are the same basic truck), Toyota Rav4, Pontiac Torrent, and many others. Edmunds lists 39 compact SUVs:

Check out the info on each model to see if there is towing data. You could also check the manufacturer’s web site.

BTW, what did you hear about the CR-V that has you troubled?

If the utility trailer is small and used infreqently, you will be vey happy with the Toyota Matrix,a van version of the Corolla, which is much smaller overall than your old van, but has lots of room in the back for the dog carrier. It comes with an optional larger engine, same as in the Camry, for extra power.

My younger brother is in the same postion, and he loves his Matrix. All three kids have flown the coop now and they drive the Matrix South to Florida every January for a month in the sun. He also has a small utility trailer to carry very bulky objects, lumber, etc.

If you tow very much and want something still eco. a RAV4 v6 may work. Rated for 3500 lbs, plenty of room, exc. handling…what else could could you want ? Goes like the dickens and less than 1 mpg less than the four. I’m not a Volvo fan anymore (or less) cause they don’t help the American worker, except in repair. Also a CRV fan if load in trailer is minimal.
Also Honda Element or newer Scion xb.
Then, if you loved a Pontiac Montana, you have absolutely no restrictions on what you buy if it’s big enough.

The Pontiac Vibe is essentaill the same car as the Matrix. GM and Toyota share the design.

I like the Scion xB, but whatever you consider you’ll need to look at its towing capacity and be sure it meets your needs. Trying to tow even occasionally with a vehicle too small can result in a catastrophic accident. Remember, control and stopping power are the “safety” parts of towing. Difficulty getting the load going will frustrate you, but difficulty controlling or stopping the load can kill you.

One of those four door Nissan pickups looks good to me. I did like the Ford E-150 full size van with the 4.6 engine but that isn’t what you are looking for. You wouldn’t need a utility trailer then. Plus, you can steer it!

Yes, both are good choices!