Oct 9, 2007

Deciding which car to buy: sedan, minivan or wagon?

As I've mentioned before, Marc and I will be buying a new car in the next year or two. But we can't decide what that car should be.

Size and space are major - perhaps controlling - issues. We currently have two sedans that fit into our two-car garage without leaving much room around the sides, in front or in back. So we can't buy a new vehicle that's significantly bigger than the one we're replacing (4-door Honda Accord). At the same time, we'd love to have more interior and trunk space. With two car seats in the back seat, there's no room for someone to squeeze between them. It would be really nice to be able to go somewhere with our parents and not need a second car. Is it possible to find a seven or eight-seater that still fits in our garage?

Another consideration is fuel economy, particularly with the rising cost of gas. When I met Marc nearly 10 years ago, $1.50 per gallon was high. Earlier this year, we were paying almost $4.00 per gallon. Considering we live in Southern California, we actually don't drive that much. But I can imagine a few road trips in our near future, even if it's just down to San Diego, and I definitely don't want to pay $100 for gas each way.

Reliability is a huge issue for us since neither of us is knowledgeable about cars. Because of this, we gravitate toward Japanese cars with high resale values. But it really limits our choices when it comes to wagons, since most stylish wagons are made by non-Japanese companies or smaller Japanese companies who aren't known for their resale value (like Subaru, which makes the Forester). If we eliminate wagons from consideration, we're left with just sedans and minivans.

Now, everyone I know who owns a minivan loves it. But we're pretty hesitant. There's the fitting-into-the-garage issue I mentioned earlier. And there's also looks - which, I freely admit, are important to us. We want our car to be stylish, and minivans don't really fit that description. Although this may be one of those times when we sacrifice looks for practicality.

But then there's cost. And it's easy to find quality sedans that cost less than, say, the Toyota Sienna, which my friends have raved about. Our budget for the purchase is about $25,000 (I say "about" because we'd be willing to pay another thousand or so for a car that has all of the features we want). However, before we make a final decision, I'll be contacting our insurance agent and pricing out the increase in our policy based on the cars we're considering, and also checking out the True Cost to Own calculator at Edmunds.com to estimate the costs of maintenance and repair.

Finally, our new car must have two features: air conditioning and a V-6 engine. These features make driving around LA a much more pleasant experience than it would be otherwise.

It's worth noting that we aren't interested in any fancy packages. A built-in DVD player isn't even high on the list (we have our iPod and a portable DVD player as well should we ever feel we need it). This certainly saved us a lot of money when we bought our Nissan Altima - hopefully it will also save us money this time.

Right now, I honestly have no idea what we'll end up getting. I think we are kind of hoping that between now and buying time, we will come across a car that meets all of our wants and needs and, most importantly, our budget. I'll write soon about how we're planning to pay for the car.

In the meantime, do you have any suggestions on what car to buy?


Opening Pandora said...

For us a Mazda MPV fit the bill - we got a fantastic deal on a near new one (Military family - being transferred overseas) - it was a year old - and only 10K - gets decent gas milage - compact with seating for 7.

Anonymous said...

I'll be watching this post with interest as we are in the same boat. We want to replace our SUV around this time next year and are looking for a cross-over or smaller SUV to replace it with. One additional requirement we have is that it must have 4WD or AWD since we get snow and ice in the winter otherwise we have the same basic requirements that you have. We haven't found that match yet either.

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

@opening pandora - Thanks, I'll take a look at the Mazda!

@Cynthia - Here's hoping we both find the car of our dreams!