Image: Youtube Screenshot
What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Adam is a father of two and does medieval sword fighting. (Relatable!) But his Kia Soul has been an unreliable mess and, unfortunately, stranded his family when they were fleeing the California fires. He needs something durable and interesting—basically armor with four wheels. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)


Here is the scenario:

So here’s my situation. I’m a father/medieval sword fighter in Oakland, CA. After searching through a bunch of reviews. I decided on a new Kia Soul! It could fit in one car seat just fine and there would be room for a second in a year or two. Also, I could just fit my armor and shield in the back, and a roof rack meant that I could pack for a week-long medieval camping event a few times a year.

Seems perfect, right? Except... this has been the most unreliable car I’ve ever driven. Its had power problems, electrical problems and most recently stranded my wife and two-year-old daughter on the side of the road while they were trying to escape the smoke from the Camp Fire, all in the five months I’ve owned it.

I’m getting rid of it under the lemon law and need something else. What should I get that I can drive two adults, take two car seats, and can carry a suit of armor, shields and a pavilion, while still being small enough to get around and park in the Bay Area? And, of course, good mileage would be nice. Also, it would be great if I didn’t have to get a boring color.

I have a pretty short commute but I do take long trips sometimes for medieval events. As for budget, I can spend up to $40,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $40,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: San Francisco, CA

Wants: Durable, fun, practical

Doesn’t want: A beige box

Expert 1: Tom McParland — Swords!

Image: Andrew Collins/Jalopnik

I’ll be straight up and admit that I picked this topic because I saw “sword fighting!” I mean, who doesn’t love that? But as much as I want to focus on the fun aspect of your hobby, a key phrase came out in your story regarding your Kia: “Most recently stranded my wife and two-year-old daughter on the side of the road while they were trying to escape the smoke from the Camp Fire.” I’m glad your family escaped that tragedy safely, but as a dad myself I would laser- focus on making sure that the next ride would be as reliable as possible.

There are all kinds of more interesting rides that my colleagues shall come up with, but you need a Toyota 4Runner. Sure the mpgs aren’t great and it may not be the most “compact” but you can fit two kids and plenty of gear in the car and its reputation for being almost indestructible is top notch. It’s also a solid camping rig. And while we do not suggest that people drive their Toyota’s back into the fires, one brave man has already proven that their survivability is impressive.


While the 4Runner doesn’t come in the best variety of colors, you can easily change that with aftermarket wraps or something. The good news is that there are plenty of examples in the sub $40,000 range like this red SR5, but don’t even bother with shopping for a lightly used one as the prices will be almost the same as new.

Expert 2: Patrick George — Wagons Are Often The Answer


Adam, I’m very sorry to hear about the wildfires. I’m also sorry to hear your Kia Soul ended up being a lemon. That’s a surprise to me, as I haven’t heard of too many issues with those or the newer Hyundais and Kias. But a new car letting you down in the event of a natural disaster is inexcusable.

I think a wagon is the answer here, as is often the case. Initially I was going to suggest a Mini Clubman or a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, but while both brands have gotten much better in terms of reliability over the past few years (we owned a 2015 Cooper S that gave us zero problems ever) why take the chance?


I think you join the millions of other Americans who are living the Subaru life and get an Outback. You’ll have room for the kids and all your Kingslayer gear, plus it’s not too huge for navigating city streets. It should be a lot more dependable than your Kia was, and you can easily snatch one up for well under your $40,000 budget.

Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky — When a Sword Is Your Main Requirement, You Don’t Get a Boring Car


Adam, you described yourself as a “father/medieval sword fighter” which means that in no way should you be driving anything as modern or rational as the other choices up there. I’m sorry, but you gave that up when you bought your first suit of armor. You simply can’t drive a boring car. Luckily, you have plenty of options.

As a knight, or at least someone who pretends to be a knight in a pretty committed way, you need a vehicle to carry all your knight-crap. Traditionally, what was this position called? Right—a squire.


So, you need an automotive squire. Why not look for cars that were actually called “squire?”

I was looking at Ford Country Squires first, but your “small enough to get around and park in the Bay Area? And, of course, good mileage would be nice.” requests make those massive V8 land-yachts a bit of a tricky choice.


However, Britannia saves the day, with their smaller Fords, including this charming 1957 Ford Squire wagon.

Look how cool this thing is! It’s a little wagon, with wood detailing and a perfectly-patina’d blue paintjob. There’s almost no rust, and everything has been mechanically rebuilt, so it runs like a top.


Yes, it’s old, but it’s dirt simple mechanically, and any issues it does have you’ll be able to figure out and have the same blacksmith that made your halberd or whatever repair.

With the rear seat folded flat there’s plenty of room for armor and swords, and when you’ve got the back seat full of kids, I suggest you get a nice roof rack made to hold the big stuff—at only $6,500, you’ll have plenty of room left in your budget to get something good.


This is an incredibly charming little car, small and nimble, good on gas, able to hold your stuff, and, come on, it’s called a Squire. You’ll be the coolest knight in the realm pulling up to the melée in this thing.

You know I’m right. Don’t be Sir Boring. Get yourself a Squire.

Expert 4: Michael Ballaban – Get Yourself A Little Color

Photo: Volkswagen

Okay, okay, I know, it’s a hair over your budget of “up to” $40,000, but let’s not split hairs when it comes to the Volkswagen Golf R. It’s got everything you need, and something all of those other cars don’t have.



You can have it in three shades of yellow, Magma Orange or TNT Orange, approximately 50 shades of red for all of your driving pleasures. I counted literally six shades of green, and no, that doesn’t include turquoise. The 2019 Volkswagen Golf R comes in just about any color you want.


Okay, okay, I know those special colors cost even more money, pushing it ever more just slightly out of budget. But you also get leather seats, navigation, all-wheel drive, AND nearly 300 horsepower in a hatchback that’s small enough to navigate any city street, yet with a big enough trunk for all of your sword-swallowing needs.

Plus, like any true knight, you’ll be able to go around saying things like “Golf RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.”


Or is that pirates?

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (

Share This Story

Get our newsletter