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Which crossover? I'm Cross and Over it- Help! Advice?

Thanks In Advance for your help. I’m in the market for a small suv/cuv. I’m a single mom- so no man to go shopping with, and on a tight budget. (sorry for the sexism- it’s blatant in the auto buying world.) I have 2 young boys (6 & 8), and a dog. I drive to Tahoe like once a year and commute daily. I have no idea whatso ever what any of these car terms mean and I’m overwhelmed from internet research and salesmen. I just want to quit.

I have a 96 pathfinder that gets about 13 mpg. Last week the timing belt went out, and it’s just not worth fixing. (other minor problems). Initially I was looking for a certified used cuv, but some smooth talking salesmen got me thinking about new, which can be close in price to certified. What I need: cheap, reliable, Safe, ^ mpg. I guess everyone needs that. New cars I really liked: Mazda cx5, santa fe, and Rogue. I still want to look at the Outlander Sport. I didn’t like sportage- it felt cheap, and tuscon drove oddly. I’m concerned about the rogue’s reputation for transmission problems although they may have solved it? Year? I got an offer for a “one at this price” Rogue for $17,500- very very base model. The lowest I could get the cx5 was $22700 which after all the added fees is out of my budget.

I’m starting to think I should go used and forgo the certified part. What years might you recommend for various cuvs? Rav4/cvr/rogue/… or should I go with the Rogue 2013 base- possible tranny problems.

Thanks so very much for reading my LONG question and any advice is appreciated.


How about a Nissan Versa Hatchback S model with conventional 4 speed automatic? Good gas mileage, lots of utility, and fits your budget.

The Rogue has the main deficiency of poor visibility but does tends to be cheaper. The satisfaction ratings from CR are, IMO, one of the most important to pay attention to. They cut through the hype and give you an idea of what vehicles work for most. RAVs, CRVs and Forresters tend to consistently do well there, while Rogues are inconsistent to say the least. I suggest you take your kids with you for testing these and other makes and address the price after you choose several acceptable ones. It’s much cheaper in the long run then buying a cheaper vehicle you can’t live with.

I would not choose a Rogue first just because it was cheapest. Buying a better used model of another make that you can live with for a long time, makes much more sense. If you find the Rogue is best for you after considering all others regardless of price, you have done your job. It’s all relative and nearly every new choice will look good from a " 96 Pathfinder" point of view. I would recomend you look more and include CR recommendations in the search.

" I’m starting to think I should go used and forgo the certified part. "

There are some things to consider when deciding new, certified pre-owned, or used. There is no rule that makes one group a better deal than another. Each vehicle you look at, whether used, certified, or used, must be considered and compared on its own individual merits. There are good deals on used, new, and certified and bad deals in each category. You won’t necessarily pay more for a certified car than a comparable used car. It’s likely, but not always the case. I bought a certified car for less than any comparable used car I could find.

Finance costs vary
Are you paying cash or will you have to borrow money ? Interest rates on loans often make used cars cost relatively more in interest costs and there are people who have paid as much or more buying used than new.

Warranty coverages vary
Used cars carry the biggest risk, often with little or no warranty protection. Certified cars come with warranty coverage and new cars usually come with the best warranty protection.

Find the vehicles that interest you and compare finance costs (interest you’ll pay) and warranty coverage (both the bumper-to-bumper and the drivetrain) on the vehicles. Note that manufacturers’ original warranty coverage usually begins at the car’s original in-service date and not when you purcahse it, in the case of used and certified. Also, I’d value a manufacturer’s warranty much more than a car lot’s warranty or one provided by an aftermarket provider.

" . . . I’m overwhelmed from internet research and salesmen. I just want to quit. " I understand that. I like cars and know something about them, but I feel like this every time I buy one by the time I’m done. The right deal takes a lot of work, but know that getting a bad deal - wrong vehicle, poor warranty coverage, over-paying- can be longer lasting. Immerse yourself in the shopping process, ask lots of questions, take lots of notes, do lots of looking and driving and comparing. It’s part of the learning process that leads to a car and deal that you’ll be comfortable with after you take delivery.

I strongly recommend your buying a vehicle with some manufacturer’s warranty included, preferably both bumper-to-bumper and drivetrain. Make sure you understand when it begins and ends and what’s covered. This helps practically eliminate “buyers remorse” and you’ll sleep better.


I assume you are feeling some pressure to decide quickly since your current car is not running. Pressure makes car shopping much less fun. While leasing a car isn’t perfect perhaps it will get you into a new car and keep you within your monthly budget. This means you could lease a Rogue and don’t worry about long term transmission issues. Warranty repairs will cover the transmission and anything else during the time you lease it. That gives you 2 -3 years to sort out what your next car will be and time to put aside money to buy it.

Another option is something used and cheap. I’d suggest you look for used Dodge Calipers that are being sold by rental companies. They have been maintained, and should last you a few years. Again it gives you 2-3 years to save up and buy the car you want later.

Right now you just need to get something you can live with and afford to get you back on the road doing your normal daily activities.

My personal recommendations are as follows:

Try to find a 3 or 4 year old Rav-4 that comes with full maintenance records, and that gets the approval of your mechanic. Rav-4s are among the most reliable vehicles ever produced.

Avoid the Outlander. Mitsubishi sells very few vehicles in the US, and some industry authorities are of the opinion that Mitsubishi will soon follow the example of Suzuki, and leave the US marketplace. Once a vehicle is orphaned, it may become more difficult to find parts, and its resale value will take a major hit.

Here’s a few options. They are all 2010 vehicles and all under $20,000 from a dealer.

Chevy Equinox LT1 4-cyl, 2WD about $17,000, 22 city/32 highway mileage.
Ford Escape XLT 4-cyl, 2WD about $16,000, 21 city/28 highway mileage.
Honda CR-V EX 4-cyl, 2WD about $18,600, 21 city/28 highway mileage.
Nissan Rogue SL 4-cyl, 2WD about $16,200, 22 city/27 highway mileage.
Toyota Rav-4 Sport 6-cyl, 2WD about $17,900, 22 city/28 highway mileage.

These are mid-level offerings. There are base models with fewer amenities that will cost less, but these are all well under $20,000. All will have some time left on the full warranty (3 yr/36,000 miles) since this is the start of the 2013 model year. Any of these will have excellent reliability. Just makes sure that they have not been abused. You should find 2010 vehicles with around 20,000 miles. I just bought a 2010 car with 14,500 miles. If I can do it, you can too. I searched local dealer used stock on line. There will usually be a price, description, and the mileage. Set limits on price and mileage and see what is available. If you find 4 with less than 20,000 miles in your price range, go drive them and see if any of them work for you.

I’d say a CR-V would be a good bet used, or a RAV4 for that matter. Either will get good mileage and be very practical and reliable. I tend to like the Hondas better, I drive an Accord, and any Toyota I’ve driven just feels bland and boring in comparison, albeit very well put together.

You could try the Toyota Venza which is what I want to do. I still have this 02 Sierra 4WD and I like it because I can get in and out easily. I can’t do that very well with a crossover.