I want a wagon or a MINI SUV, don't know squat. Opinions?

I’m going to buy used, no question about that. (Depreciation on a new car is just obscene). But not * very * used. I was poking around Edmunds.com yesterday for prices and I just ended up irritated.

I don’t care about looks, although cute is certainly ok. I want ** roomy ** for my big butt (which also makes me sit tall so I need head room…honestly, it’s like sitting on a pillow!) , ** responsive ** (auto trans, I’m tired of stick) and above all ** SAFE ** , which is my main reason for buying a new car since I hardly ever drive (about 10 miles a week most of the time) Otherwise I could stick with the car I have which is in good internal shape, for a long time. I want airbags and whatever else is out there in the way of good safety features. And I want ** reliable ** - it’s no good to me if it’s breaking down all the time.

I also want a **rear ** that is good for carrying things, most importantly my dog(s) (I often have a foster as well as 75 pound Maggie) without being an evil SUV.

Oh, and I’d like to stay ** under 15K ** . :smiley:

I welcome your input, Dopers.

Sounds like a 2-3 year old Subaru Forester or Outback would serve you well.

Subaru Outback. Meets all of your qualifications, and then some.

In NJ, the used ones tend to be priced on the high side because they are so popular. But a new one is usually around $25K, so you should be able to find a used one in your price range.

(We are on our second one. Our first one was totalled in a crash–the car was squashed but the passenger compartment was 100% intact. We liked it so much that we bought another one.)

Safe and Mini SUV don’t really go together, IMHO…but I’m just a car snob. My sister bought a Forester. I’ve heard no complaints from her yet, but then again, she bought it brand new, so she better not be asking me to fix it yet. I don’t particularly care for Subarus, but that’s just due to prejudices because of my location, the low popularity of that brand here, and the general unavailability of parts.

Usually I think:
Bigger=more expensive
More expensive=generally more reliable.

I guess in the end, you get what you pay for.

I am a Jeep man, but the next vehicle the bernse family buys will be a Subaru.

They kick ass. Even an Imprezza Wagon (a fairly base model) should fit the bill for you.

Personally, we’re going for a WRX. :slight_smile:

By the way, I think you will need to get '99 or later if you’re going for automatic on a Subaru. I’ve heard about a lot of problems with the earlier automatics, which I think have been mostly cleared up (though I don’t really know all about it, as I own a manual Outback).

(This is one vehicle in which the automatic and manual transmissions are very different. While the AWD on the manual is normally 50-50, the automatic is normally 90-10 or so with a microcontroller to adjust the spread. This gives the automatic mileage nearly equal to the manual, but is more complicated so it took time to get it right.)

A lot of the vehiciles you’re looking at aren’t all that safe when compared to smaller cars. The whole ‘wider is better’ ad for whatever brand of car is right.

There is the whole issue of instability with increased height of the car. Really tall (like most mini vans and SUVs) means its easier to flip over, especially with the horse power they cram in some of them :confused:

Survivability in car accidents usually comes under dissapation of force, and as I remember mini vans and suvs don’t have particularly good crumple zones and add in the fact that they’re less stable…

Generally more expensive cars are built with stronger materials (my mom has a 92 Nissan Maxima and that son of a bitch has what seems like bank vault doors and frame) and stronger materials generally increase safety.

Consumer reports is a good place to start. Also talk with some mechanics at auto rebuild shops… ya know the guys who put totaled cars back together. They see a lot of what happens to cars and can probably give you some good advice.

One thing to consider about a car… Sure that huge cavernous trunk may seem like a great thing (look at all the stuff I can cram in there). But keep in mind your own build. If you can’t reach half the trunk space then how usefull is it really.

That and lastly think about what sort of driving you’re going to do. It seems like a lot of people get SUVs and Mini Vans and what not that don’t actually use them for what they are best for. If you’re just doing 10 or so miles of driving a week then fuel effeciency probably isn’t an issue.

Anyhoo, good luck and have fun car shopping :slight_smile:

(Btw feel free to go into dealerships to poke around and abuse the sales men. They’re a fairly good source of info about the cars and their safety reccords. “But is this model any safer than the '9X…” and the won’t shut up :slight_smile:

Subaru is definitely getting a plug here.

I’m not sure these meet your needs, but since I’m eyeballing the same kinds of cars, I’d wonder if you’d consider:

Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV-4

They seem to be kind of roomy, but still a reasonable size.

Ford Escape… I’ve been test driving them and once the wedding is out of the way in May, I am buying one.

Why? Mini-SUV that actually has room and feels solid like a full-size SOV and is not built like a toy-box i.e. CR-V and Rav4’s.

Meanjoe, maybe do some more research first incase you haven’t. I remember reading somewhere that the Escape had the lowest cust satisfaction rating out of all SUVs last year. I don’t remember where I saw that.

After doing some research, I found that Nissan vehicles are typically low maintenance. I don’t how much they go for used, but I bought a Pathfinder brand new off the lot and haven’t regretted it since. They have a good reputation for longevity. It’s a comfortable ride, has good power for those mountain roads, and the sound system kicks ass. Mileage is 19 mph open road. That’s about its only drawback.

If you’re eager for a really good deal, look for a Hyundai Elantra station wagon from '99 or '00 model year. The depreciation on those things is obscene, meaning you’ll pay very little, but I hear they’re pretty good cars. Just don’t buy a Hyundai from before about 1995 model year.

The Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Subaru Impreza Wagon (regular or Outback) are also good choices in this category and may offer better build quality, but you’ll pay more initially.

Unfortunately, the fact that you’re not looking for a brand new car kind of limits your choices, because the small SUVs and wagons/hatchbacks have just recently begun to gain popularity. So, there weren’t nearly as many choices a few model years ago as there are now…vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla Matrix and Pontiac Vibe (early '03 models) or '02 Mazda Protege 5, Suzuki Aerio, Saturn VUE, etc. If you’re willing to a go a little older, try for a '93-97 Corolla wagon (there was no wagon version of the '98-02 style). Good luck.

-Andrew L

Do you have any more information on this? I’ve never heard of this problem and we never had any troubles with our automatic '98. The transmission on our automatic 2001 is noticably smoother, though.

I agree that the Forester is also a good choice.

Another option is a Subaru Legacy wagon. An Outback is basically a Legacy wagon with a different suspension, a raised roof, cosmetic changes, and some features that are definitely convenient to the outdoor-oriented user, but hardly essential. (I believe the newer Outbacks are more different than the newer Legacies, but the above holds true for ones a few years old.) A regular Legacy is several thousand cheaper than a regular Outback.

Okay, it appears this may have been what I’d heard about … a NHTSA safety recall on the automatic shift lever for about 20,000 [Outback] Legacies made in 1997. Should have been taken care of, so probably not a problem.

Good thing to point out about the regular Legacy, which is definitely cheaper and should have what Stoid is looking for.

Not to keep plugging the Subarus, but it really does seem to fit the criteria of the OP (I don’t know about Saturn wagons, those can be had quite cheaply though). As far as the usual concerns over SUVs and safety – the Subaru vehicles are both not as tall as the other ones (and really aren’t terribly typically SUV-like anyway), but more importantly have a horizontal engine to lower the center of gravity.

If you do go for a wagon, the [Outback] Legacy or Impreza is your best bet. Just check the headroom for the dogs & yourself.

I used to have a Nissan Pathfinder which I liked rather well. Reliability was great but mileage was not. Also it’s rather large with a higher center of gravity, thus more prone to roll-overs. After it’s cruel demise at the wheels of a driver who didn’t believe in red lights I did a lot of research and bought a Subaru Forester. Great reliability, mileage is good and roll-overs aren’t a problem with its lower body style. It’s still roomy though and I like the all-wheel drive. But what really sold it for me were the good crash test results. :slight_smile:

Please to ignore the extraneous apostrophes in the previous reply. Thank you.

MeanJoe, the CR-V and RAV-4 are actually structurally superior to the Escape, since they use a modern monocoque body design, instead of the ancient, heavy body-on-frame design of the Escape. Lighter does not equal lower quality, lighter equals better design, with actual attention to the customer instead of just cynically hauling in cash. The Ford Escape might be overall structurally stronger than the Honda or Toyota, but the fact that it uses such inefficient, obsolete technology is unforgivable, especially considering how much Ford charges for the bloody thing. Oh… and safe for you doesn’t mean safe for the guy on the other end. That stiff frame will rip right through the other car in the collision, crumple zones be damned. Please, think of the other poor sap, and get a car that is safe for both you and him.

It looks like you guys are coming up with pretty much the same things that I was learning on Edmunds.com. I like the price break on the Hyundai Elantra, but most people seem to be impressed with the Outback.

I guess it’s time to hit a Subaru dealer and a Hyundai dealer and see.

Thanks to you all and I’m not shopping yet, so any additional info or comments will be read and appreciated!

go to www.crashtest.com
you will see that the Subaru is MUCH safer than the Hyundai
Plus, when you go to sell the Subaru, it will have held its value much better than the Hyundai. The Hyundai is cheap for a reason.

I love, love, love my Ford Escape.