I Need An Affordable Family Ride To Own For Six Months! What Car Should I Buy?

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Steve is taking is family from Seatle to Georgia and needs an affordable long-distance hauler that he’s only going to own for about six months. He’s looking for something reliable and comfortable to make the trip. 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:

I am buying a car in Seattle to keep only for a few months. I’m traveling with the family to Georgia and I plan on selling it there. I need it reliable and comfortable enough to haul the family and not breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

Here is the general wishlist:

Six passenger minimum. Automatic.

Third row seat size is not important: all small children.

Trying to fit in below $8,500 initial price. Decent resale value after six months.

Keep below 150,000 miles on the SUV/Van/Other initially though could go higher if the vehicle’s maintenance checks out.

No maintenance required initially. (The damn AC needs to work, tires good.) We’ll do one cycle during the trip based on the estimated 7,000 miles we’ll drive.

Gas mileage—pbbbt—I’m not worried about it

No right hand drive Japanese fire trucks (this trip).

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $8500

Daily Driver: Yes, for a bit

Location: Seattle, WA

Wants: Six passenger, reliable, cheap

Doesn’t want: Something too funky

Expert 1: Tom McParland - It’s Van Time

Image for article titled I Need An Affordable Family Ride To Own For Six Months! What Car Should I Buy?
Image: Craigslist

Steve, it seems like you have quite a trek ahead of you which is going to be even more challenging given the current health situation going on in the county. My colleagues will likely come up with much more creative choices but I’m going to give you what is likely the only real option. That’s a Toyota Sienna.

While you can get get a bit wilder with the #vanlife, the Sienna isn’t fancy but it’s a tool that will reliably get the job done. Here is a 2006 XLE, seven-passenger version with leather seats and middle row captains chairs. (Trust me you want those for kiddos. It has just under 150,000 miles and if it was well-maintained the car should easily handle the distance with minimal out of pocket costs.


It’s being sold by one of those corner used car lots for $8,000 and you can likely find something cheaper from a private sale. I own a 2008 XLE of the same generation and it’s a been solid family car.

Expert 2: Rory Carroll - It Is, Indeed, Vantime 

Image for article titled I Need An Affordable Family Ride To Own For Six Months! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: CL

Tom’s right. It IS Vantime. My personal theory is that if you’re asking what kind of car to buy, the odds that you need to buy a minivan are fairly good. But since we already suggested the minivan, I’m going to suggest a superior type of van, a van of real refinement and class. A van with correct-wheel drive and a leather bed in the back. This 1997 Ford E 150 with Starcraft conversion.

I pretty much grew up in a 1992 Chevy G20, converted by Tiara. It had maroogundy Velour seating, real wood trim and moodlighting. It carried our family back and fourth across the country a number of times in real comfort. We’d had minivans before, a series of wonderful Dodge Caravans, but once my dad had the experience of floating along the freeway, perched high above the other dads on a throne of gold-trimmed velour, there was no going back. The Tiara was a part of our vamily through my college years, when it was known as the Big Van on Campus, its last mission was band van for my brother’s band, Tanooki Suit.


So, Steve, do what my dear-old dad did. Get yourself a burnout-capable luxury machine.

Expert 3: Raphael Orlove - Everyone Forgets This Thing 

Image for article titled I Need An Affordable Family Ride To Own For Six Months! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: CL

I have nothing to say against a big van, but I think you can do things with more panache.

Obviously the right thing to do in the grander scheme of the universe is to pile all your Beverly Hillbillies into this 1972 Plymouth, which will delight everyone outside the car with your daring and style. The comfort of those on the inside, however, is less guaranteed. Hot vinyl bench seats, slick with sweat as you turn South: not ideal.


But the idea of a large American station wagon is charming and should not be ignored. Here is an oft-overlooked 2011 Ford Flex for sale near you asking just $81,00. Mileage is right on the edge (pun intended?) at 169,000, but it looks like it’s in great shape, and you can even get it with a tow kit. Everything about these wagons is perfect, down to the three-row seating for seven, except for maybe the fuel economy of the big 3.5-liter V6 under the hood. But who cares?

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