I Need To Drive My Older Parents Around. What Car Should I Buy?

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Image: Dodge

Pete lives in New England and now has the duty of chauffeuring his older parents around. He needs something comfortable, affordable, with good seats and easy ingress and egress. He has about $15,000 to spend. 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 -

I’m going to be taking over driving responsibilities for my aged parents. Their current vehicles are a newer 300 and a first-gen Mazda 3 sedan. My mother wants to travel but she finds both vehicles very uncomfortable. The Chrysler’s seats are cold, hard and slippery leather, and the Mazda has become too tight and pinchy. She recently took a ride in my 2000 Ranger work truck and raved about the seats. My father is having a harder time getting into vehicles as he’s had a few back surgeries and his knees are getting iffy. My Jalop side says to find a 5.0 Explorer and swap out the passenger seat with a Ranger cloth seat but my other side says to find something designed this century that gets far better fuel economy and is less apt to roll down the highway sideways. I don’t care for the lack of glass area in modern vehicles, such as the 300, and I want to be able to merge on to Route 3 south in Nashua without much hassle. We’ve tried the Rogue, Forester, Sienna, Liberty and RX but didn’t care for any of them. Ideally, my vehicle would be a Mazdaspeed 5 with all wheel drive, a long-travel suspension and seats built for the county home but such a creature does not exist to my knowledge.

I’m generally open to anything as long as it will work for me, and I can spend up to $15,000

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Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $15,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Hancock, New Hampshire

Wants: Comfortable, good visibility, easy in and out

Doesn’t want: Something too small

Expert 1: Tom McParland - It’s So Van Time

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Photo: Craigslist

Driving parents around isn’t an easy job, but good on you for taking that responsibility. Just remember all the times when you were a teen and needed to go to the mall, the movies or hang out with friends and couldn’t drive yourself.

Now, in your quest for something with good visibility, comfortable seats and easy access, the answer is clear. You need a minivan. I would recommend one of the Chrysler/Dodge products, as you can score one with “reasonable” miles within your budget. Also, the 3.6-liter V6 provides some fairly good punch for moving a vehicle this size. And the power sliding doors, combined with middle-row captain’s chairs, will make for a comfortable ride with easy entry and exit.

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Here is a 2013 Grand Caravan SXT with only 75,000 for about $10,000. As a bonus, these Grand Caravans have the Stow ’n Go seats, so it can also move around anything your pickup can handle when you aren’t shuttling the folks.

Expert 2: Lawrence Hodge - Comfort and Reliability

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Screenshot: FaithsToyota
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One thing you always have to make sure of is to keep your parents comfortable. And what better way to do that than a Toyota Highlander?

Not only is it comfortable, but ingress/egress should be easy for them. This thing is pretty much a raised Camry, so it’ll be easy to drive and to see out of, too. This example is a 2012 with just under 107,000 miles. It’s also a V6, so not only will you get decent gas mileage, you know it’s going to last forever with that famous Toyota reliability.

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The interior is cloth too, so your parents don’t have to worry about being uncomfortable. Especially with those second-row captain’s chairs.

Expert 3: Mercedes Streeter - Go Full Send, Get A Volkswagen Touareg

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From what I gather, your passengers are not fans of modern minivans and crossovers but like the comfort offered by an old-school small truck. Here’s my pitch:

As I’ve learned in my own Volkswagen adventures, the company makes comfortable vehicles, and the Touareg is no exception. It sits high enough, like an old Ranger, but benefits from being modern. Ingress and egress should be easy enough for your parents. These machines are absolute maintenance hogs (especially if you go V10 TDI), but you’ll be able to go places on-road and off-road in comfort and style. If you want the least number of headaches, perhaps the V6 would be best. But it sounds like your dream daily is a lifted Mazdaspeed 5, so maybe you’re not afraid of a little wrenching. Here’s an example that’s kind of far away, though you could have it shipped and still be under budget.

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Expert 4: Jason Torchinsky - These People Gave You Life, Treat Them Right

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Screenshot: Duncan Imports
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Pete, you’re a good son. I moved across the country to be able to help my mom (it’s her birthday today, even!) if she needed it, so I get it. That doesn’t mean you have to be condemned to drive something soul-crushing just because you’re doing something kind! You can transport your parents in comfort, ease and yes, even style. How? With a Toyota Century, that’s how!

These things were pretty much built as transportation devices to move elderly people from one point to another in as much comfort as possible. You won’t be driving your parents around — you’ll be chauffeuring them, and they will absolutely feel that way.

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Look at this 1991 Century for a mere $8,900. It’s roomy and the seats are thick, plush, wine-colored velour — no cold, slippery leather here — and your parents will be able to easily get in and out of those wide-opening doors.

Remember, this is a machine to drive around important people! Of course they’ll be comfortable!

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And you’ll have the joy of driving something interesting with a big 4-liter V8 and Toyota reliability. Your parents will be delighted to be seen exiting this elegant machine, not just another pair of lugs stumbling out of some anonymous minivan.

Aging doesn’t mean giving up the things that make life worthwhile, and choosing something like this Century will make that very, very clear.

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Expert 5: David Tracy - SDL Or Bust

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Photo: Isidro Roman Jr. (Facebook (Other)
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All of the cars my colleagues have mentioned thus far are fine. Just fine. But fine isn’t good enough when we’re talking about two human beings who spent tens of thousands of dollars and far too many hours of their lives raising you. Hell, one of them had to carry you inside of her body for nine months before painfully releasing you into this world. My point is that you owe them, and especially her. You will always owe them. The least you can do is smother them in luxury.

Enter the Mercedes W126 S-Class. It was the cream of the Mercedes-Benz crop in the 1980s, when Mercedes was at the top of its game, arguably producing the most robust, classiest machines on the road by far. This is the era of Mercedes that won many modern Mercedes diehards over for life.

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But for your parents, you need more than just any W126 S-Class. You need the SDL. This is the S-Class with a Diesel engine and a Long wheelbase. The rear seat is absolutely gargantuan. Seriously, look at this:

Illustration for article titled I Need To Drive My Older Parents Around. What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Isidro Roman Jr. (Facebook (Other)
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The OM603 3.5-liter turbodiesel will last until the end of time, and it’ll provide nice, smooth torque delivery. And fuel economy won’t be terrible. More important, the ride: It is, from everything I’ve read about the classy SDL, superb. Your parents deserve superb. The fact that its price tag is well under your $15,000 budget cements why this is your pick. SDL is the answer.

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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

(Second Third Fourth attempt at posting this - can we set Kinja on fire, already?)

Unironically, a Kia Soul would be a good option. There’s a reason they seem to be driven by either 18 year olds or 78 year olds. Fairly inexpensive, good fuel economy, decent styling and an upright ride profile that also allows easy ingress and egress.

Failing that, but along the same lines, Chevrolet’s Equinox offers many of the same characteristics with a slightly larger body style, and is available with things like all wheel drive. They’re not exactly thrilling rides, but they do the job well and aren’t too expensive.

The current generation underwent a fairly comprehensive redesign in 2017 and, while still a bit bigger than the Soul, is notably shorter than the first and second generation Equinox. Worth taking note of if you’re looking for a bit more interior or cargo space but otherwise like what the vehicle has to offer.

One additional point to the Equinox is that the doors on them (and this applies to all generations) open very wide, which can be helpful if they have mobility issues.

The enthusiast in me is crying out at these recommendations, but from a practicality perspective they’re worth a look.