Corey had an unfortunate encounter with a deer and now his car is out of commission. We don’t know the condition of the deer, but he needs a new ride. It should be both good for Washington D.C. traffic and something he can use for outdoor activities. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
The short version is that as I was driving into work I hit a deer at 6:00 AM on a normally pretty busy highway. However since all federal workers were off for President Bush’s funeral, there apparently weren’t enough cars on the road to ward off all the deer. Essentially I hit a 6 point buck going 65 mph and destroyed the front end of my car. It was a 2003 Honda Pilot with 186,000 miles so needless to say I did not opt for comprehensive insurance so I will be donating the vehicle to NPR, so I don’t feel as guilty during their monthly pledge drives. So basically I need a car soon, and now I don’t have those $5,000 dollars in resale value.
I need something reliable, that isn’t terrible to sit in bumper to bumper traffic. Good gas mileage would be nice too. I like to hike and bike ride so something that can handle some gear would be nice. I would love to get a pickup truck but I’m holding off until move somewhere with more space. As for budget, I can spend up to $30,000.
Budget: up to $30,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Washington, DC
Wants: Reliable, easy in traffic, can handle gear, good MPGs
Doesn’t want: Something with a lot of maintenance.
That’s too bad about the deer. Those animals are no joke when they come out of nowhere. I know you are waiting on the whole truck thing, but I say take this opportunity now to get something with an open bed that can handle your stuff. But you don’t need a giant pickup for the D.C. motorways, though an F-150 would probably make for a better deer fighter.
I say you should find a nice Honda Ridgeline. It’s the truck for folks who are smart enough to understand they don’t need a big-boy pickup that can tow a yacht just to drive to work. The Ridgeline brings the Honda reliability you have come to love and while the fuel efficiency isn’t stellar, 25 MPG on the highway is probably a bit better than your 2003 Pilot.
Here is a pre-owned 2017 RTL-T at just under $30,000. This one has leather seats and some upgrades that will make the commute a bit more bearable. It also comes with the Honda Sensing safety suite that should help keep you out of trouble from inattentive beltway drivers. Then if you decide to leave DC you can just bring it with you and not have to worry about buying something else.
Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I recently drove a second generation Toyota Prius—the most Prius-y of Prii—and I didn’t hate. Actually, I kind of found it charming.
It’s got that tiny shifter, and that fun screen that tells you when the batteries are powering the wheels, or when the engine is doing all the work. Plus, just look at this 2008 model for sale near you for only $6,000! As you can tell by the pictures, there’s tons of room in this thing!
Is it blasphemy to recommend a vehicle that was once regarded as the anti-Jalopmobile? Maybe it is. But I’ve come around to the second-gen Prius; Compared to the average car on the road today, it’s at least interesting. And interesting is good. Plus, it meets your criteria perfectly: Reliable, good to sit in during heavy traffic, fuel efficient, and can handle your hiking gear.
Go ahead and take my Jalop-card, because I’m gonna say those three words: Buy The Prius.
Oddly, I have very little to say against my coworker’s other two recommendations. I’ve road tripped both a new Ridgeline and a 2nd-gen Prius and they’re faultlessly comfortable vehicles. But will they lift your heart with joy every time you walk to your driveway?
For that, you may want to step out of the realm of normalcy and into the land of Bubble Era extravagance.
This is a Nissan S-Cargo. It’s a basic front-wheel drive economy car under the skin (good reliability and mileage) but wrapped up in an ultra-practical but also charming and retro van body. Every drive will be one of people happily waving to you and letting you in when you’re merging. Given you’ll be in DC, a little bit of road positivity is going to go a long way.
This one at Gary Duncan’s (not far south of you in Virginia) is practically new and only $12 large. Why not?
You’re donating your car to NPR? Corey, you’re alright, my man.
Since you want something easy to drive in D.C. traffic (easily the worst drivers in America—New York is horrible, but there’s rhythm to it, unlike the total chaos of the District) that you can take to do outdoorsy shit, I was going to suggest a nice Subaru wagon of some sort. A Crosstrek or a Forester, maybe. Those are good, but everyone has one.
How about a nice Volkswagen Golf Alltrack? Better yet, a CPO used one with the warranty intact? It’s punchy, fun, practical, AWD and a little different from the sea of Subarus out there. Plus, it’s a wagon, and supporting the wagon market will make you feel just as good as donating to public radio.
There’s a ton near you but if you’re up for a road trip, here’s a green one for $29,000. I love that green color.