Stacy hates driving. Before you get out the pitchforks, she has been in three serious accidents, none of which were her fault. Now she wants something safe and that gets her out into nature. What car should she buy?
Unless you have been in a serious accident or know someone who has it’s hard to fathom not enjoying the act of getting behind the wheel. I’ve mentioned a few times that my wife is a wheelchair user, but I don’t think I ever told the story as to how she got there.
In 2001, she and a friend packed up a 1994 Accord and drove across the country. They were on their way to a rental agency in San Diego when she spotted a sign on the California highway that read, “Caution High Winds.” She adjusted her speed accordingly, but the Santa Ana winds that came barreling down the mountain had other ideas. The Honda got pitched sideways and flipped five times, ejecting her and her friend from the car. She woke up in the hospital with a broken spine and a fracture in her neck, which could have been fatal had it been an inch bigger.
After months of rehab, she decided to go back to school and eventually get driving again. Needless to say, that transition was a challenging one. Today my wife drives almost every day and can navigate crazy New York City traffic better than I can.
Once you get the full picture on what Stacy has been through, you might come to understand her, and hopefully help her pick the right car to reduce the stress of driving.
Here is the scenario:
I hate driving. I’ve been in three catastrophic car accidents that were not my fault. The first involved a first generation airbag, that collapsed one of my lungs. The second one was a head-on collision on a twisty coastal pass, the resulting injuries required me to have 12 inches of colon removed. The last one was a car that hit and bounced off a transit bus hitting my car. These accidents have very negatively impacted my life and I’m very scarred by driving. I just moved to Minnesota from Oregon and I sold my beloved Honda Accord.
I need to buy a new car that will help me get through the MN winter weather and help protect me from other crazy drivers out there. I also like to go camping and doing outdoor activities and would need to hold my photography backpack and a case or two of wine.
Budget: $20,000 - $25,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Average Miles Per-Week:
Wants: Safety, 4WD /AWD, Decent MPG
Doesn’t want: Anything rear-wheel drive or something with subpar safety ratings
Expert #1: Tom McParland - You Don’t Have To Enjoy Driving To Enjoy The Journey
Wow, Stacy, you have been through some stuff. Clearly, the best vehicle for you will have all-wheel-drive and a solid safety rating, but more importantly, encourage you to get out and enjoy the things you love to do. You might not love the act of driving, but if getting behind the wheel gets you into nature perhaps it won’t be so bad.
It might be cliché but you need a Subaru. You’ve seen the commercials that try to hit you in the feels, but you know what? That brand backs it up with really well built and incredibly safe cars. Every single Subaru is an IIHS top safety pick. Their all-wheel drive system is one of the best in the industry for tackling foul weather, and the automaker puts a lot of thought into developing technology to avoid collisions in addition to surviving them.
The all new 2017 Impreza should fit the bill just fine. An Impreza Premium Hatchback with the EyeSight safety suite has an MSRP of $24,950. The Impreza also gets an impressive 38 MPG highway, so you won’t spend much on fuel either.
Now if you wanted something a little bigger you will have to spend a bit more on a Forester which will set you back $28,565 for a Premium trim with the Eyesight package. However, with some solid negotiation, you should be able to get that Forester closer to the $26,000 mark.
Expert #2: Patrick George -Believes Driving Is Fun Until It’s Not
Stacy, I’m certainly going to be the last person to criticize you for saying you don’t enjoy driving. It seems like you’ve experienced the worst aspects of driving, and after that, who wouldn’t be wary of a turn behind the wheel? People suck, and I’m sorry they’ve ruined what can be a joyous experience—under the right circumstances.
Ideally, because we believe in spreading the gospel that driving is actually fun, I’d like to recommend a car that can do that. Two options, one more serious than the other. If you really want a safe, fun, enjoyable car with amenities like heated seats and a surprising degree of off-road capability, get a Mazda Miata. You can find one for $25,000 easily, and it’s the most fun car around for that price. Safe as any modern car, and like a motorcycle, able to maneuver you out of any trouble spot.
Okay, you probably won’t do that, so instead keep it in the Mazda family with one of the more fun crossovers around and one of my typical go-to car recommendations: the CX-5. All-wheel drive, all the space you’ll need, surprisingly capable handling in a handsome package. An all-new one is coming out soon for 2017 but I’m not sure I’d wait for it; the outgoing model is about perfect and will suit your needs and budget perfectly.
Expert #3: Michael Ballaban - ‘Volvo’
There ain’t nothing safer than a Volvo. Volvo’s led the way in safety innovations for decades, and safety is really its whole thing. Even when Volvos were at their dull and dreariest, the things were still sold practically on the entire basis of safety. When you get in one, you know you’re probably going to be fine, unless an apocalyptic asteroid lands on top of it.
And if an apocalyptic asteroid lands anywhere, you’re probably going to be dead anyways, so it’s not like any car could’ve saved you.
But if that asteroid hit a Volvo V70R, you’d at least be doing with some semblance of style and fun. I know you said you hated driving, but there’s no need to reinforce that notion. Plenty of people say they “hate” driving, but that’s because all they’ve done their whole lives is drive on boring roads, sit in boring traffic, tootling about in boring cars. The V70R might understeer at the limit, but lord knows most people never even get close to that on public streets.
Plus, every V70R – whether with an automatic or that neat manual shifter ball thingy–comes in all-wheel-drive, perfect for any Minnesota winter.
You can get a V70R, with relatively low miles, for way under your budget. Volvos are pretty reliable, but even with that you’re set up for a tidy maintenance budget as well.
Expert #4: David Tracy - Likes Off-Roaders
I just drove the 2017 Jeep Compass for the first time, and as far as fuel efficient cars that can go off-road, this little compact crossover seems among the best, based on my short drive. It’ll get you 30 MPG on the highway, and will take you out into the sticks without suffering any underbody damage or scrapes to the fascia. The 8.5 inches of ground clearance helps off-road, and also in harsh Minnesota snow.
As far as safety goes, it’s essentially just a bigger Jeep Renegade (which is another vehicle you might consider), and that car did fairly well in crash testing, so it’s probably safe to say the Compass will do OK, too.
The new Compass isn’t out yet, but wait a few months, and you could pick one of these up for 21 grand. Or, if you don’t want to wait, and you’re cool with a smaller vehicle, the Renegade is even cheaper.