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Which wagon should I buy?

We’ve been happily driving a 1992 Honda Accord LX Wagon for 10 years (bought it used in 2002). It’s finally dead. Time for a new wagon.

Why a wagon? We need the cargo space, and my thought is something like a Subaru Outback or Jetta Wagon would get better mileage than a compact SUV. I don’t like SUVs in general and prefer the form factor of a wagon.

We’ve got about $10k in cash to spend and I’m thinking it’s probably best to find a used car for that price. The Outback is high up on the list, and there are 2004-2005 models available for about that price, but I’ve heard varying reports on their reliability. I really like the Volkswagen Passat and Jetta Wagons, but from what I gather they’re expensive to repair and hit or miss in terms of reliability.

Any other wagons I should be considering?

Small, car-based SUVs are the wagons of today.
Check out the Mazda 3 hatchback and it’s sister car the Focus hatchback. If you don’t need AWD, those will do fine

Just out of curiosity, how many miles has your Accord wagon accumulated? I own a '97 Honda, and I'm hoping to drive it for many, many miles.

I understand why you want a station wagon instead of an SUV, even a small SUV. I feel exactly the same way, and I continue to lament the near disappearance of station wagons from the market. Sad, very sad.

I have some experience with Subaru wagons, having just sold a '96 Legacy wagon that I owned for eight years. If you feel you need AWD, the Subaru is the way to go, but they are not the least expensive cars to maintain. Subarus do not tolerate lack of maintenance very well, and unfortunately, that's exactly what happens to a lot of them.

Buying a used Subaru is a gamble, because people buy them new and think they never need anything, so they never do anything. That's when problems develop. I learned this the hard way. A Subaru can be a great car, but it can also be a pain if you buy a used one that has not been maintained by the book, or if you buy one and fail to maintain it by the book.

Then there are the infamous Subaru head gasket issues, which never seem to go away. I don't mean to put you off Subarus, but you have to be really careful about what you buy.

I advise you to stay away from used VW Jetta or Passat wagons. The VWs in your price range, attractive as they are, are from the dismal years of VW reliability. The reports you've read are true. They're not cheap to keep, and their reliability is not the greatest.

As I look for a replacement for my Legacy wagon, I keep coming back to two cars, the Ford Focus wagon and the Ford Taurus wagon.

The Focus is my favorite, because it's almost the perfect size. The Taurus is larger, but I'm surprised to discover you can often buy a Taurus for less than a comparable (year and mileage) Focus.

The Taurus is a "big, dumb, American car," but it's very reliable and has LOTS of room inside. Isn't that what station wagons are all about?

Of course, you could always get lucky and find another Accord wagon, or a Camry wagon, in good shape, but they're getting harder and harder to find.

Good luck in your search. Please let us know what you decide to buy.

forgot to mention the Vibe/Matrix twins

Take a look at a 2007 Chevrolet HHR LT. You can find one on a dealers lot for $10,000. It’s a Cobalt station wagon. We have a 2009 Cobalt LT and like it.

I feel a Jetta or Passat wagon for $10K has past it’s good reliable years and is heading into the frequent and high cost repair years. I’d be more apt to spend a bunch of money for a new motor, trans., or whatever is making the Accord wagon “dead”. Spending $10K on the Honda might be a better return on your investment than a VW wagon.

I feel the Subaru Outback is a better bet. But frankly the Accord is a better car than the Outback for $10K too.

Mazda 6 sportwagon

You’ve all raised some good points. Maybe keeping the Accord is a good idea. It needs a new catalytic converter, the electrical (windows, doors, etc.) keeps failing and the exterior and interior are in pretty bad shape at this point.

Over the last 2 years we’ve had to put about $3-4k into repairs. One thing after another. We take it to an excellent Honda mechanic and do the scheduled maintenance.

It has about 180,000 miles on it. We don’t drive that much at all - maybe 6,000 - 8,000 miles in a year.

I guess we could put $5,000 or so into it - get a new catalytic converter, a paint job, some body work, fix up the interior. I wonder if the electrical system can be fixed.

Would this make more sense than getting another used car? People have told me that you can put 250k miles on Honda Accords if they’re well taken care of… but it sure has been a money pit lately.

I'm not crazy about keeping such an old car in need of so much work. For $10k you have some decent options. The Subarus with the 2.5l engines older than 2006 have the head gasket issues. The Impreza with the 2.2l doesn't, might be worth a look. How about a fwd CR-V? It'll get pretty good mpgs and is versatile.

Spending 5K on the Honda seems excessive. I guess 2K would be my max. Good suggestions here, including staying away from used VW’s. I second the small SUV suggestions, CRV, RAV4, CX-7, even Tucson and Sportage. test drive a few. The Taurus/Sable wagons are not easy to find, but dirt cheap and should have decent parts supply, so from a purely financial stand point you can’t beat the value they offer.

Second Tex and galant observations.

What about a used Hyundai Elantra Touring? They’re well reviewed, have a “European-feel” apparently, and have good reliability ratings. If I can find a 2009 it should be around $12-$13k, which isn’t out of the question.

Sure, the Elantra Touring’s good, might be hard to find one (no a real high-volume model), but if you do, great. And $12-$13 opens up even more options. Go to, do an ‘advanced search’, narrow down the choices as you see fit. I got 200 hits withing 100 miles of me with some general search limits.

If you can find a 4-cylinder Saab 9-5 post 2006, or pre-2006 with all the engine seals already replaced, it’s a pretty good car. Some component weakness is offset in my view by the space - which I believe led every wagon but the Merc E-Class in its time - and the comfort, with great seats and lots of room. Handling is a little numb and understeery, and it doesn’t ride as well as a new 3-series, but it doesn’t cost $35k either. VWs deserve no special reputation for reliability anymore, I wouldn’t have a Passat over the 9-5. A Subaru is almost certainly more reliable, though not as comfortable.