Author Topic: Have we found the perfect car? Or is perfection determined purely by price?  (Read 5428 times)


  • Bristles
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We have two little ones in car seats. We plan for two more, eventually (4 total). We need a second car soonish (beater commute car about to kick it). We recently found the 2014 update of the Nissan Rogue, which starts at like 21k msrp and offers an optional "third row" (I put it in quotes because it's hilariously tiny and definitely for kids only.) it gets 28/33mpg.

Seems to me like a great option for our current and growing family, the only catch is the price (waiting as long as possible and buying used would be the goal, but they're very hard to find even new)... Should we compromise on the mpg to get an older, more used, cheaper car? (Important note-we are car idiots. All maintenance is outsourced). Is there some magic formula for determining upfront cost savings vs. long term mpg expenses?

Also, how do you all with the car seats avoid the dreaded third rows? As much as I hate the mpg ratings, I can't see a better long term option for us than a third row of some sort. :/


  • Handlebar Stache
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The Toyota Highlander (some models) has small 3rd row seats, as does the Mazda 5 (also very small seats). Minivans have spacious 3rd row seats (e.g. big enough for adults and/or large children) and lots of storage capacity. I believe there are also older Honda Pilots (and maybe current) that have 3rd row seats. All of the above mentioned cars are widely available in older used models and have good reliability. There are likely others that I don't know about.

If you want to be able to consistently carry 6 people, 2 of whom are likely to be in car seats or booster seats - there are more options than just the Nissan.

Strategic car shopping is enhanced by not being locked into one particular model or year of car.


  • Bristles
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Yeah! And a lot of those a really great cars! I particularly covet the Honda Pilot. But they also have mpg ratings in the teens to low 20s, with the exception of the mazda5, which is the highest at 21-28, I believe. How much up-front savings (also considering increased maintenance costs of a vehicle with 50K+ miles) justifies the loss of Mpgs?

The calculators all depend on how log we'll have the car (I.e. You save $700/year on gas), which is kind of an unknown (hopefully a long time?). Also, maintenance costs are so hard to estimate/compare.


  • Walrus Stache
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Fuel efficiency won't be stellar, but Toyota 4Runners and Lexus GX470's also have a 3rd row option and will be immensely reliable (and also available used, though a newer-ish GX470 won't come cheap).

I would seriously consider a minivan. They are much more practical than a lot of people realize, and fuel efficiency is better than one might think.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I think a lot of this answer depends on really thinking through how you plan to use this car. Questions like these come to mind:

How soon are you planning to have the other 2 kids?
How often do you see yourselves travelling around together as a family?
Could you get by with taking 2 cars if the number of times the 6 of you will go out together is not frequent?
Also, are you planning to finance or pay cash?

There's a middle ground where the inefficiencies of the third row seat cars in MPG will outweigh just occasionally taking 2 cars whenever everyone wants to go somewhere. And if you use one as a commuter car, then assuming the commuter car gets used by 1 person, the other 5 could fit into a sedan or other more fuel efficient car if needed.

I guess the underlying question is what is your expected lifestyle?

I like the Rogue a lot myself, but I wouldn't (a) let myself so fall in love with it that it could cause me to make a bad decision or to overspend, and (b) buy it new or within a year old. I personally would be looking for a car that's 3-5 years old with 60k miles on it. YMMV :)


  • Handlebar Stache
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There's no magic formula, just apply math to your expected expenses:

Will the more expensive car recoup its cost in a reasonable time period? How much will a used, cheaper car save you?

Also, +1 to considering a minivan.


  • Stubble
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If you can wait until the arrival of kid 3 and maybe even kid 4, you can save money by just not getting a car. 

Apart from that, if you have to transport 6 people on a regular basis, the correct answer is a minivan.  Since it will likely offer utility until the first two kids are out of the house, you can justify buying a newer used minivan since you'll have it for probably at least 12 years. 

With six people, I'd stay away from cars like the Rogue; there are simply too many advantages to sliding doors and the cargo capacity of a real minivan. 


  • Bristles
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No real advise re the car you're asking about or what car to get but just a reminder that kids never get any smaller than they are right now.  They grow...constantly...and never shrink back down and you will be going places as a family at least until they graduate from high school if not college.  That being said, a car that fist 4 elementary kids is often (usually) wayyyy toooo tight for 4 teenagers especially on a trip longer than 30 minutes.  So when buying a "forever" or long term car think in terms of comfortably transporting 6 adults for hours at a time in reasonable comfort.  You may be surprised at how many cars you eliminate from your list.


  • Bristles
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Wow! I admit I am shocked. Never would have expected Mustachians to be telling me to consider a larger, lower mpg car. Ha! I'll start looking in the 5~ish year old used market for proper third row vehicles, I guess. Yikes. See what we find.


  • Bristles
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I'd hold off until you're actually trying for kid #4, but at that point you would need a bigger car.

I wish we could wait longer... And we will wait as long as possible. But it seems silly to replace the commuter and have to size up the family vehicle in two years. (...ish)

Thank you everyone!


  • Pencil Stache
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The Rogue seems kinda of small, I believe it is based on the Altima. It might physically fit 6 people but I can't imagine it would be much fun.

As most said, I think a minivan would be near perfect. I like the Mazda 5's for a smaller minivan but any of the current minivans are pretty good. The Chrysler minivans are very popular here, you can find base new ones under 20k and still many well equipped used ones for a decent price as well. They used to have reliability issues, don't know if they still do, but the sheer volume of them I see on the road seems to indicate it's not a problem.


  • Stubble
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there are other options for you that will fit the need for 6 passengers.

buying that new Rogue (or even slightly used)... it will still take a good amount of time to recoup the initial purchase price you had to put out with just the fuel savings.

if you are really thinking about overall savings.  purchase, fuel, repairs, insurance... etc all need to play a part.

you might find that getting a slightly older toyota highlander, which someone else mentioned, or maybe a mazda5... which is still small, and about the same size as the rogue inside... works out better.  the initial purchase price will be much lower, even old toyotas are still very reliable, cheap to fix, and insurance may turn out cheaper.  all of which would offset that slightly higher fuel cost for a long while.


  • Bristles
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I wouldn't get any of those cars that cram in a third row seat. Even if by some miracle the kids fit comfortably back there as they grown the third row seat generally takes over almost the entire cargo area so the utility of the car on trips or even grocery shopping would be almost gone. 
I am not a minivan person. I've just never liked them, but if you want reasonable mileage and space/comfort then you should be looking at a minivan.


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