I Adopted A Dog During Quarantine, Now It's Time For A New Ride! What Car Should I Buy?

Erin’s dogs Jasper (left) and Dee Dee (right)
Erin’s dogs Jasper (left) and Dee Dee (right)
Image: Erin Marquis/Raph Orlove
What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Brian lives in D.C and adopted a puppy during the quarantine. Now that he will need to get to vet appointments, eventually to dog parks, and other adventures with the pup it’s time for him to upgrade his old Ford Focus. He wants something compact, but big enough for the dog and fun to drive. What car should he buy?

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(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

Like a lot of people, I just adopted a new puppy during the quarantine. My old car (a 2000 Ford Focus) was barely hanging in there as it is. I needed a more reliable vehicle anyways but had always been hesitant to spend the money for an upgrade. I decided now is the time with the needs of the new pup. I drive my car a few times a week, but anticipate doing so more to get the little guy to appointments, parks, etc.

I like the idea of a small SUV or hatchbacks for the dog. I live in the city where parking is cramped. Length and width are important for me. I am looking for something that is similar or not much bigger than my current car (2000 Ford Focus: 67" x 175"). Length is more important than width since I have to parallel park everywhere.

I have looked at Subaru CrossTrek, Hyundai Venue or Kona, and Honda HR-V. I like their price range and dimensions. Style is not super important to me. I wouldn’t mind it if the car had a little bit more pizzazz than those cars though.

I can spend up to $30,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $30,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Washington, D.C.

Wants: Compact but spacious, fun, rear-camera

Doesn’t want: Something too big

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Pizzazz!

Illustration for article titled I Adopted A Dog During Quarantine, Now Its Time For A New Ride! What Car Should I Buy?
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Brian, having a dog during these difficult times is great especially if you live by yourself. In fact, I think the dogs are probably one of the few creatures that are happy about this whole situation. There are a number of quality vehicles that are easy to park in the city and also offer enough space for the pup to be comfortable. You already listed all the safe bets like the Kona, Crosstrek, and HR-V. None of those are bad choices, but as you said you would like something with a bit more “pizzazz” that is fun to drive.

If you are looking for something that you can let loose once you get out of the city, you may want to consider is a Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG. The GLA-class crossover was not what I would call Mercedes’s best effort. It doesn’t really feel “premium” considering the sticker price, but once they mixed in a bit of AMG most of those flaws could be overlooked. With 355 horsepower and a claimed 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds, a mediocre crossover was turned into a legit hot-hatchback. Starting price was around $50,000 but thanks to the magic of German car depreciation you can get one for under thirty-grand.

I only found one within 200 miles of your location and it’s all the way up in NJ, but it has reasonable miles and black wheels so that seems like a winner.

Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - Practicality!

Illustration for article titled I Adopted A Dog During Quarantine, Now Its Time For A New Ride! What Car Should I Buy?
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Those GLA45s are fast, but I don’t know if I would rush to call them fun, other than that they make lots of farty sounds from the exhaust.

If it were me, I would go for something more joyful in being roomy and comfy and tall.

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Knowing you’re in D.C., that brings to mind the nearby Japanese Classics, which has a ton of super chunky Japanese vans in minty condition. There are a ton of roomy Toyota HiAces, HiLuxes, and Land Cruisers that are very choice. But I’d look at another.

This 1991 Mitsubishi Delica is well under your price range (cheap enough to afford getting a rearview camera installed, that’s for sure), super cute, and actually shorter than your old Focus.

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The whole thing is basically a Mitsubishi SUV with a van body on top, so it can drive to any dog park you could possibly imagine. Hell, if you wanted to take your dogs to the middle of Rausch Creek, here’s your ride.

Expert 3: Justin Westbrook - Einstein!

Illustration for article titled I Adopted A Dog During Quarantine, Now Its Time For A New Ride! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Universal Pictures
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I can’t believe our luck. You wanted Pizzazz, I give you the best dog ride in all of time (get it?), the DeLorean DMC-12. I did not go seeking this car for you. It found me, deep in the plunges of Auto Trader.

Checking the boxes for potential “makes” that could be good for you, I spotted the little “[1]” next to “DeLorean,” 75 miles within a zip code Google told me is Washington, D.C.

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And wouldn’t you know, the damn thing runs! According to the listing, this DMC-12 recently went through a maintenance overhaul from the company shop in Texas. The seller claims it could easily be used as a daily driver, so I don’t see a problem here.

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And best of all, it’s already dog approved. Have you seen the movies? Those butterfly doors are perfect for Einstein to hop in and out of the car, no problem. A crossover will be harder later in life when jumping isn’t so fun, so the DeLorean being low to the ground is a good move.

There’s just one catch—for this one, we’re stretching the budget to $35,000. I’m not even sorry about it.

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Expert 4: David Tracy - Mini!

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I see that you’re mentioning options like the Subaru CrossTrek, Hyundai Venue, Hyundai Kona, and Honda HR-V. This probably means that you’re looking for a sensible suggestion. Only one problem: You came to a website filled with total, out-of-touch car loons.

Okay, let me reel that back a bit. We’re not really out-of-touch, we’re just so enthusiastic that making a sensible suggestion like, for example, a Honda Accord, literally requires us to focus to the point where we break a sweat.

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Look at my colleagues above. Justin and Raphael are clearly not ready for a morning workout, so they followed their hearts. I can’t blame them. Tom tends to be on the more logical side, so he doesn’t end up with a drenched T-shirt when he recommends a normal car. He’s lucky like that.

I, on the other hand, have struggled for hours trying to beat my braincells into submission to propose an automobile that is actually not that wacky. I have succeeded, though the car isn’t boring, either, because suggesting a boring car might actually kill me.

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I lost five pounds of water weight while doing it, but it was worth it. You need the Mini Countryman.

I have to admit that I’ve never driven one, but my former coworker Michael Ballaban has, and he liked it. Plus, Doug DeMuro is a fan, as you can see in the video above.

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The vehicle has four doors, and it’s fairly tall, but it’s actually shorter than your old Focus. Plus, even though it it’s not exactly lightweight at 3,300 pounds, the turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four makes a solid 208 horsepower in the John Cooper Works trim shown at the top of this section.

That car, by the way, is for sale in your area for around $20,000 with 63,141 miles on its odometer. You can find other models, like the S (which still makes a solid 181 horsepower) for significantly less. It’s cool, it’s fun, it’ll fit a dog, and it’ll maneuver into a parking spot.

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You need the Mini.

Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.

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

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DISCUSSION

Hey Brian, I was in a similar boat a few weeks ago because I rescued a husky and the Fiesta ST wasn’t going to cut it. I moved up to a Golf Alltrack, but a Sportwagen could also work for you. Good power, top trim models have parking assist (allegedly, not much parallel parking in rural Saskatchewan), impressively small turning radius, and it’s a pretty comfy place to be. Dog fits great in the back seat and there’s still plenty of cargo room. With VW’s financing right now, it could be worth looking into.