We're Looking at Buying an SUV

We seem to always do things backwards. When the economy was booming, we were broke. And now that everyone’s driving “green”, I’m ready to make a big leap.

We always wanted a truck, for its carrying capacity, but we were concerned about fuel economy. So we bought Hondas instead. At its peak our 1988 Accord got 42 mpg! Seriously!

It died for good in 2001. Had 168,000k on it. I cried.

Well, now we have kids. And stuff. And our kids have stuff. So do their friends.

You can’t imagine how often I’ve wished I could offer rides to their friends, pick them up on the way to something or give them a lift home. Only you can’t do that anymore unless you have a big vehicle. Six-yr-olds are required by law to sit in booster seats, and you can’t fit 3 of those in the backseat of an Accord.

And – I’m starting to work art fairs! Hooray! Which means hauling my tent plus chairs plus walls plus art. I’ve used our 2000 Focus ZX3 (purchased when the Accord died) for that in the past, but it’s getting old and there have been some Incidents. And it doesn’t have the extra seating.

But now we really want a mini-van. Or an SUV.

Honda’s Odyssey seems to be the gold standard for mini-vans, but I rode in one recently and I just didn’t feel the love. My friend’s Town and Country was comfortable and lovely, but a tricked-out T&C costs $30k (the Odyssey’s even more).

I’m actually considering a Dodge Durango. It’ll cost $8k extra in gas, but they’re $10k cheaper. And I’ll be able to haul kids & stuff. We’ll avoid that “We’ll have to take two cars” problem.

Except…I just know some young do-gooder environmentalist will put one of those “You Gas-Guzzling Scumbag” stickers on my window.

And I’ll say “I was recycling before you were born, you whippersnapper!”

I’m wondering if anyone else has fought this particular battle of the conscience, and wondering what you chose to do?

I’m kind of in your boat, sans kids. For the first time in my life, I’m seriously considering a truck. The me from 15 years ago would hang his head in embarrassment for just thinking about it.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at the Honda Ridgeline. Nice truck. Good amount of storage. It even has a trunk under the bed. It’s also kind of stylish which, unfortunately, is very important to me. The downside, for me, is the Ridgeline only comes with an automatic transmission, which makes it so much less attractive as I’ve never owned an automatic, and hate driving them even when it’s unavoidable, such as when I have to rent a car on a trip.

ETA: …and trucks shouldn’t have automatic transmissions anyway.

Durango? So you are going to buy used?

I bought the vehicle that worked best for me. Nissan Pathfinder.

Yeah, I’m looking at used ones - I think they flooded the market when gas shot up a couple of years ago.

Are you loving your Pathfinder? I don’t think I’ve ever driven a V8, not even a rental.

Yep. Love it. It’s a 2006 V6. V8 wasn’t available that year. The V6 does well even at the altitudes that I drive. I use 4x4 about 180 days out of the year. Lot’s of snow. 70,000 miles with out any problems what so ever.

Minivans carry way more people and more stuff. My parents have owned both, and I have borrowed both. I would take the minivan every time, given the choice, when I was moving or going on long trips.

We have a Durango at work; the owner donated it to the business because it was uncomfortable with five people in it, and did not carry enough stuff for his family to go on vacation, let alone work equipment. The big boss (his dad) has an Odyssey. He carries seven people comfortably, and when he’s working, he can get tons of equipment in there. The big boss has been driving his Odyssey for six years with nary a hiccup. The Durango developed major mechanical issues within three years.

Spend the extra money (or get a less-fancy version) of the Odyssey.

We’ve been very happy with our Mazda 5, which is sort of Shetland pony-sized minivan (microvan?) It has lots of storage space, and can seat six, if the two in the way-in-back row don’t need legroom. The price is significantly cheaper than full-sized minivans, and it got a good review in the latest Consumer Reports.

Well Q.N. Jones, now you’ve got me off looking at Pilots. Instead of cleaning my kitchen. Doggone you! :wink:

Ispolkom, I just heard that from someone else, apparently the Mazda 5 is a good one.

When you get your minivan, be sure to check out the cargo space - some definitely have more than others. My parents had a Mazda MPV back in the '90s, and it didn’t have nearly the cargo room you’d expect. The back of the back seat was like 18 inches from the rear hatchback, and when combined with the curve of the seat and hatchback, it really limited what you could stuff back there.

Mind, this car would be an old model now, so maybe it’s no longer an issue. But do be sure to check before buying.

We’ve got a Honda CR/V and recently rented a Ford Escape on vacation. They’re both the mid-size (i.e. smaller) SUVs.

The CR/V hauls a decent amount of cargo and the seats fold down / out of the way to help with that. With the Escape, we had to really work to get all our luggage (for 2 week trip and we used nearly everything we brought, so there wasn’t much overpacking). into the back of the Escape.

Then we got back to the airport at this end, and loaded all of our stuff in the back of the CR/V - and had room to spare. Aside from that, the Escape was pretty nice (it had a lot of upgrades - which you can do without if you’re really looking to pare down the cost but if we were buying, we’d get - I spend a lot of time in the car and might as well be comfortable).

Pluses of the CR/V (or any similar-size SUV): You can haul a fair bit of stuff and with the seats folded down, that increases the capacity.

Minuses: Obviously this class of vehicle only holds up to 5 people which might not meet your needs.

We used to have a minivan (Dodge Caravan) and liked the ability to take up to 7 people (though its cargo capacity frankly SUCKED when all seats were filled). We miss the seating capacity when we do Scouting trips etc. but decided that for our changing needs, the CRV was a decent compromise. I really wanted something with the height of a minivan / SUV, as well.

When I was a little kid my parents owned a minivan and we could fit 6 adults and 7 kids in reasonably comfortably. When I was much older they had a Durango that could fit 6 adults or 7 kids, a little less comfortably than a minivan. The back seat was definitely not ideal for an adult, especially a man or larger woman. But the back seat of a minivan has never seemed particularly comfortable either. My aunt has an Explorer with a pretty comfortable 3rd row. So I’d agree “a minivan can carry the same number of people slightly more comfortably” but not “more people” and certainly not “way more people”.

On the other hand, my Escape is a great vehicle for me - it drives a lot better in the snow than a car and has some room for stuff but still drives like a car and gets good mileage. People are usually surprised how small it is when we pack people in it. It’s really not any bigger than a midsize sedan when it comes to passengers. You can fit “way more” people in a minivan or larger SUV than in my little Escape. But a Durango and a minivan are pretty close to equivalent.

We are buying one this weekend. We are down to either the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute or Honda CR-V. (We are buying used.)

I love the Escape. It handles like a car, not a huge SUV but still has enough room for “stuff.”

If we were looking at higher price ranges, I would definitely look at the Honda Pilot. My parents have one and we have borrowed it many times. I love everything about it.

I have a 2002 Tribute with 128K miles on it. Very low cost of ownership vehicle, has been incredibly reliable. I love, love, love my Tribute. Her name is Fionna and I love her.

Obviously as you are probably aware, Tributes are built on the same platform as the Escape but in my opinion has a nicer tuned engine and suspension and the interior/exterior trim packages are not as utilitarian as the Escape’s. (Disclaimer: Haven’t looked at the newer Escapes, I grant Ford may have moved the aesthetic away from utility towards comfort/stylings).

I have a daily driver, and then I have an Expedition. The fact is, no one’s ever done anything to me or my truck. There are still millions of SUV’s on the road, and while there’s a non-zero quantity of people that have had issues, it’s statistically insignificant. As for your own conscience, like you say, you were recycling before they were born. I’m satisified with knowing that my Expedition isn’t a daily-driver, single-individual commuter car.

Except, in my current circumstance, what I say above isn’t entirely true. I’m not actually at home, so I have a company loaner car. Not only is it an Expedition, but it’s the extended version of the Expedition. It is daily-driver, single-individual commuter car. It gets an average of 12.9 mpg (but that’s running at 100 mph when I can do so). How do I deal with my conscience in this case? Well, it’s considerably newer than my Expedition, and I tell myself, “My God! I’ve never, ever driven a better vehicle at any time in my life!” I didn’t know that driving could be so marvellous, and so now I feel so good when I drive it, I no longer really care what other people think.

I had a 2010 V6 last time I was home as a rental. You know what, after the Expedition I describe above, I could really see myself in an Escape full-time. The one I had had all of the modern Ford bells and whistles, modern interior, and really excellent driving characteristics. I was considering a Fiesta for a daily-driver replacement, but may actually consider an Escape (or Kuga, if I can hold off long enough).

My husband has the 2005 Escape Hybrid, and likes it. Comments about its size are correct - I wouldn’t want to put 5 adults in there for an extended trip, but cross-town would be no problem. Has lots of cargo room in the back, and the seats fold down almost flat should you need more. We bought a 42" Sony Vega TV (the old-style tube kind, not a flat screen) and it fit back there no worries. He consistently gets 26 MPG, more in summer. (Winter here kind of sucks for the batteries.)

Why not a station wagon? It will ride, handle, go and stop better, use less fuel, and cost less to insure.

Do BOTH!!!

I Love my Honda Ridgeline!!

Does anyone even make station wagons any more?

Of course. Volvo, Saab, BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Volkswagen…

… Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Dodge…

I really like my Suburu Outback. It gets awesome gas mileage, and is short enought that I can actually put things on the roof and get them down again. I think it is considered a station wagon, but it has all-wheel drive which is nice.