Car recommendations for a growing active family

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Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby sunnyday » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:40 pm

My wife and I have a 3 month old and own a 2006 4 door civic (138k miles) which she uses to commute 43 miles round trip and a 1995 Mazda Miata (153k miles) which I love and use to commute 4 miles round trip. We just took a 5 hour road trip and had enough space in the Civic to fit everything, but we'll be taking a 12 hour road trip in December which will include 3 adults and a 9 month old. I'm tempted to try it but fitting luggage, baby gear and gifts will probably be too tight :) It's a 14 day trip so renting a minivan or suv would probably cost over $500.

We hope to have at least one more child and possibly a third. I enjoy camping, mountain biking and paddle boarding so something like a RAV4 could be a good fit. I'm hesitant to buy new and outgrow it in a few years, yet used RAV4 and CRVs don't seem like that great of a deal. Do any two row SUVs have enough space for 1 infant, 1 toddler and 1 adult or 1 infant and 2 toddlers?

If we buy new our budget would be $30k, used would be $20k but will to spend less especially if I use it as my commuter. We would like leather and some nice options. Would also like something that's good on gas (especially if my wife uses it as a commuter) and of course something that safe. Any recommendations?
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby livesoft » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:55 pm

Roof rack. When you get a dog, you can put it on the roof, too.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby sunnyday » Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:06 pm

livesoft wrote:Roof rack. When you get a dog, you can put it on the roof, too.


Roof rack over a hitch rack? Seems like a roof rack will fit more, I just wonder about the gas mileage hit even when there is nothing up there.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby sunnyday » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:01 pm

Just found a roof bag that could work better than a roof rack - http://www.amazon.com/Rightline-Gear-10 ... +cargo+bag. But I think I'm delaying the inevitable -- having two kids and a Civic will be tough -
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby pennstater2005 » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:12 pm

Possibly a used Volkswagen Touareg? The Volvo XC90 is what I've been considering if we end up with a third child. Although it has a third row of seats. I've seen plenty of these used approx 4 years old for around $20000 with leather seats. I just did a general search on autotrader.com
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby Sunny Sarkar » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:37 pm

I'd pay the $500 rental - it's much much cheaper than owning something before I actually needed it. Your 2 current cars seem perfectly adequate for your normal life.

But if you must, take a look at the Subaru Forester too. I listen to Cartalk and those two experts always praise the Forester highly. I drove an almost new RAV4 last week (company rental) and was underwhelmed. The new CRV looks good from the front, but weird from the back IMO (haven't driven it though). VW Toureg looks great, and I've never driven a VW I haven't liked, but I'd check consumer reports for reliability before I buy a VW.

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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby henry » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:49 pm

If buying new, how about a Mazda 5 minivan? It occupies a unique place in the marketplace in that It's basically a "mini minivan." It seats up to 6 people. MSRP in the low 20s. Reasonably good mileage for a minivan (city/hwy 22/28). Reviews that I have read say it handles well for a minivan though a bit underpowered.

If you want a compact SUV similar to RAV4 or CRV, others that I can think of--
Subaru Forester
Mazda CX5
Chevy Equinox
Dodge Journey. Seats up to 7.
Nissan Rogue
Kia Sportage
Hyundai Tuscon
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby bigmantenor » Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:00 pm

I would second looking at the Kia Sportage IF you decide to buy new. We test drove one when we bought my Forte, and it is quite nice. You can get the nicest trim (SX) with the premium package (adds all the creature comforts) for just under 30K. It has a pretty respectable 21/28 mpg rating as well. We were skeptical at first about buying a Kia, but they have come a long way since the bland econoboxes of years past, and you can't beat the warranty. The Mazda CX5 is also a nice choice; drove one of those as a rental car and it was a very nice ride.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby Alex Frakt » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:21 am

sunnyday wrote:My wife and I have a 3 month old and own a 2006 4 door civic (138k miles) which she uses to commute 43 miles round trip and a 1995 Mazda Miata (153k miles) which I love and use to commute 4 miles round trip. We just took a 5 hour road trip and had enough space in the Civic to fit everything, but we'll be taking a 12 hour road trip in December which will include 3 adults and a 9 month old. I'm tempted to try it but fitting luggage, baby gear and gifts will probably be too tight :) It's a 14 day trip so renting a minivan or suv would probably cost over $500.

Mail the gifts and everything else you don't need for the actual trip to your destination and then drive the Civic. You don't need a larger car at this point. Save your money until you have a second child at which point you'll want a three row vehicle unless you know that you'll never need to carry more than the four of you. I've been looking at 3 row vehicles and I wish I could wait a couple more years because they all currently have lousy gas mileage. This will change as the next generation of minivans and three row SUVs start appearing in the 2016 model year (i.e, mid-2015). We may even get some hybrids or diesels.

If you are determined to get something right now that will work through 2 kids if you don't expect to carry more then 4 very often, take a look at the Mazda5. It's relatively cheap (25k real world pricing as loaded as you can get it), has the best mileage of the bunch and gives a lot more flexibility than a two row SUV despite having very similar exterior dimensions. Don't expect to fill 6 seats and carry a bunch of stuff though, for that you'll need a real minivan or a three row SUV, but you can fill 4 or 5 seats and carry a quite a bit of stuff. It even looks like you can get a paddle board inside, although any passengers will have to ride behind you because it will run from the dashboard to the rear hatch. Finally, even though it's not a Miata, it is a Mazda, so they made it as fun to drive as possible.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby jeepster » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:06 am

FYI - car seats are (in general) huge. I think there might be a few brands that can fit 3 across a backseat, but not many. Everyone I know with 3 car seats or car seats/booster mix has a 3rd row.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby momar » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:34 am

I just got a new Mazda CX-5. Really nice.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby tyrion » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:05 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:Mail the gifts and everything else you don't need for the actual trip to your destination and then drive the Civic. You don't need a larger car at this point. Save your money until you have a second child at which point you'll want a three row vehicle unless you know that you'll never need to carry more than the four of you. I've been looking at 3 row vehicles and I wish I could wait a couple more years because they all currently have lousy gas mileage. This will change as the next generation of minivans and three row SUVs start appearing in the 2016 model year (i.e, mid-2015). We may even get some hybrids or diesels.

If you are determined to get something right now that will work through 2 kids if you don't expect to carry more then 4 very often, take a look at the Mazda5. It's relatively cheap (25k real world pricing as loaded as you can get it), has the best mileage of the bunch and gives a lot more flexibility than a two row SUV despite having very similar exterior dimensions. Don't expect to fill 6 seats and carry a bunch of stuff though, for that you'll need a real minivan or a three row SUV, but you can fill 4 or 5 seats and carry a quite a bit of stuff. It even looks like you can get a paddle board inside, although any passengers will have to ride behind you because it will run from the dashboard to the rear hatch. Finally, even though it's not a Miata, it is a Mazda, so they made it as fun to drive as possible.


Totally agree with this. We have 2 young kids and were in the market for something with 3 rows to accommodate carpooling, friends, and grandparents. There isn't anything with good enough fuel economy to justify owning it for part time use of the 3rd row seat. But hybrids, diesels, and high mpg engines (Mazda Skyactiv, Ford Econoboost) are coming to larger vehicles soon, and it should be worth the wait. The current Mazda5 hasn't received the Skyactiv treatment, but would be a strong contender once it does. The current model is reasonably priced so that's probably the best of the bunch at the moment.

For your 4 mile round trip commute it probably doesn't matter - you could drive anything. I would recommend a bike!
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby MnD » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:26 pm

Subaru Outback AWD wagon. Holds a ton of gear in the back and is a mid-sized vehicle as far as seating and comfort. It's not SUV height, so loading unloading passengers and gear is easier. I get the limited versions - leather and other goodies but more expensive than the base models of course. Use for everything from commuting, bad weather vehicle, camping, skiing, long road trips..... Lots of flexibility. Shopping for my third one in fact - the older used ones make great teen/college vehicles.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby Andyrunner » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:35 pm

x2 on the outback. If your the outdoors/camping/sporty type of person, I can garuntee 3/4s of your friends already have this vehicle.

Putting kids in and out is very easy, plenty of storage and the AWD is awsome during the winter. Only downside is it feels like your driving a bus but thats because its a wagon.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby harrychan » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:37 pm

I would aim for a used Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot. Highlander's 3rd row seats are great for occasional use. Pilot may be an overkill as it is extremely large. On the roof bag, I wouldn't use it as it would cause micro scratches if any sand gets in between your roof / bag and it shifts.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby Jamieson22 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:26 pm

We have 2 kids (2.5yo and 4 month old) and recently got rid of a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee for a 2013 Subaru Outback. The Outback gets WAY better gas mileage and there is more rear legroom for car seats than in the Jeep (I can sit as far back as I want in Outback and toddler still can't kick my seat). Even the infant carrier behind my seat provides no issues whereas in the Jeep it rendered the front seat almost useless.

Add a rooftop carier and it should fit your needs well.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby livesoft » Mon Jul 01, 2013 5:29 pm

Europeans must be chuckling since all the cars in Europe are small, yet families still take vacations.
European rooftop carrier video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMk208Op1Jc
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby sunnyday » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:24 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:Mail the gifts and everything else you don't need for the actual trip to your destination and then drive the Civic.


After thinking about it a bit more we'll probably do this and just pack real light. We'll be pretty cramped for about 30 hours in a car but we'll manage. I've gone on mountain bike camping trips with my miata before so I'm used to maximizing space
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby letsgobobby » Tue Jul 02, 2013 12:55 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:
sunnyday wrote:My wife and I have a 3 month old and own a 2006 4 door civic (138k miles) which she uses to commute 43 miles round trip and a 1995 Mazda Miata (153k miles) which I love and use to commute 4 miles round trip. We just took a 5 hour road trip and had enough space in the Civic to fit everything, but we'll be taking a 12 hour road trip in December which will include 3 adults and a 9 month old. I'm tempted to try it but fitting luggage, baby gear and gifts will probably be too tight :) It's a 14 day trip so renting a minivan or suv would probably cost over $500.

Mail the gifts and everything else you don't need for the actual trip to your destination and then drive the Civic. You don't need a larger car at this point. Save your money until you have a second child at which point you'll want a three row vehicle unless you know that you'll never need to carry more than the four of you. I've been looking at 3 row vehicles and I wish I could wait a couple more years because they all currently have lousy gas mileage. This will change as the next generation of minivans and three row SUVs start appearing in the 2016 model year (i.e, mid-2015). We may even get some hybrids or diesels.

If you are determined to get something right now that will work through 2 kids if you don't expect to carry more then 4 very often, take a look at the Mazda5. It's relatively cheap (25k real world pricing as loaded as you can get it), has the best mileage of the bunch and gives a lot more flexibility than a two row SUV despite having very similar exterior dimensions. Don't expect to fill 6 seats and carry a bunch of stuff though, for that you'll need a real minivan or a three row SUV, but you can fill 4 or 5 seats and carry a quite a bit of stuff. It even looks like you can get a paddle board inside, although any passengers will have to ride behind you because it will run from the dashboard to the rear hatch. Finally, even though it's not a Miata, it is a Mazda, so they made it as fun to drive as possible.

I agree. The small, 3 row SUVs really aren't fit for kids as they get older (RAV, CRV, etc). If you end up with only 2 kids, one of those might work well enough and have space for those emergency situations where you want to bring parents along for a ride to a restaurant or something. However, if you routinely need to take 5 folks (3 kids, 2 adults, or more), then I think a real 3 row vehicle is indicated, and that would be a minivan or a larger SUV like a Toyota Highlander/Sequoia, Chevy Traverse, etc. They aren't cheap and the mileage is lousy.

We have a 2006 RAV and it is too small for us: 2 kids, 2 adults, 1 dog, camping gear. We bought a roof top carrier which makes camping doable again, but it doesn't help with carpooling, with having family over and wanting to go down the road to a park together, etc. This summer we're renting a minivan for a weekend, but many times throughout the year we wish we had a legit 3 row vehicle. One option is to buy an older, 3 row vehicle as a backup - like a 5-10 year old vehicle, nothing fancy, but reliable. We haven't taken that step yet.
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Re: Car recommendations for a growing active family

Postby epilnk » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:20 pm

I really wish I could find a station wagon I liked with a small pop up third row seat. It wouldn't even need to be comfortable, rear facing would be fine; all I want is seat belts that would allow me to haul a couple of extra kids across town now and then. (In my day we could pile a half dozen kids into the trunk of a station wagon since nobody used seatbelts or expected comfort anyway.) The perfect car caught my eye recently, but I just don't think I'm up to the challenge of buying and maintaining a 15 year old mercedes.
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