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