Mama Needs a New Car

I guess there’s never a good time for a car to break down. But, of course mine kicked the bucket on Tuesday morning as we were leaving the house. We knew the end was coming soon… just not this soon!

So we need a new car quick. I just started browsing the internet, and I’m interested in a couple. But we want to hit the car lots this weekend with a narrowed down list.

Here are our car “wants”:

Good gas mileage: Although I’d love to get a hybrid. We can’t afford it. So anything with a combined MPG of 25 or more would be nice.

Decent interior room: I know you usually sacrifice on space for better gas mileage. But with two growing kids, and opportunities to carpool, I don’t want anything too compact.

Good cargo space: Another thing I hate to give up. My Isuzu Rodeo had lots of great trunk space. So, instead of a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla (which I know are great cars), I want more of a hatchback model.

Safety: Besides it’s mechanical issues, the Rodeo was as safe as cardboard box. So for my new car, I want a little bit more piece of mind, knowing it’s both reliable and safe.

Here are the cars I’m considering:

Nissan Versa Hatchback – Nissan just came out with the Versa in 2007. I don’t think I’ve seen one in person, but I like the look of it. They say it has plenty of interior space, and it’s one of the Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars according to

Toyota Matrix – A new one might be too expensive for us, but I’m interested in a used model. The only thing I don’t like about the Matrix is it looks a little too station wagon-ish.

Mazda 5 – This is another one I don’t think I’ve seen in person, because I think it’s fairly new. What I like is that it has a 3rd row of seats! It looks like a mini mini-van, but a little sporter. The gas mileage is okay. The new 2008 model gets a combined 23 MPGs, although a used 2006 or 2007 is more in our budget.

Help me! Do you love your car? Or are you looking, too? I’d love any advice.

UPDATE: As of June 1, I’m the happy owner of a 2005 Pontiac Vibe! Thanks for all the great car advice.

16 thoughts on “Mama Needs a New Car

  1. Couple thoughts:

    1.) You may actually be able to afford a hybrid once you consider any tax breaks and really run the numbers regarding gas savings. Especially considering $5/gallon gas may become a reality soon! Maybe a new administration will bring with it additional hybrid tax breaks.
    2.) Look into the Pontiac Vibe too. It is basically the same as the Toyota Matrix but cheaper and I see them used often. I know many small families who are happy with this car.

  2. I was going to suggest the Vibe too! It is the exact same car as the Matrix, but cheaper because it’s a Pontiac. My husband had one, but he’s an SUV snob and wanted something bigger. I have a friend who has one and she wants to be the Vibe spokesperson, she loves it so much. She stopped someone who was test driving one to rave about it! She has one child, planning for more, and a big dog. They drive A LOT, all over the country and she says the Vibe is the best car ever. I love my Saturn Vue too, which gets 25+ MPG.

  3. Thanks, Erin. I looked into the tax breaks for hybrids on Unfortunately, once a manufacturer sells over 60,000 of the hybrid model, the tax credit is phased out. For instance, there are no longer any tax credits for Toyota Hybrids!

  4. And, thanks for the reco on the Vibe! It does look nice. We’ll check it out!

  5. I’ve seen the Versa and Mazda 5 in person, and they are both cool cars. I actually drove the Mazda 5 recently when my Mazda was in the shop. It was really nice. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was the road noise I heard inside the car. Does that make sense? When I was on the freeway it sounded like I was in a wind tunnel. I think I have a consumer report on the Mazda 5. I’ll send it to you!

    I also test drove a Matrix before we bought the Mazda, and really liked that, too. And, like the other people who suggested it, I would check out the Pontiac. The dealer told us they are the exact same car base, but the rest is made by different manufacturers (or something like that).

  6. We like our Scion XB. Maybe you would like it too. Lots of room, decent gas mileage.

  7. just4ofus says:

    I test drove the Mazda before I bought my Pacifica and it was pretty roomy on the inside.
    The 3rd row is decent, so check it out.
    I love having the 3rd row, so I can carpool.
    You could get used if you want to knock down the price.. they’ve been out for a couple of years.
    And this month’s issue of WIRED Magazine says that buying a used car (even if it is a SUV) reduces your carbon footprint way less than buying a new hybrid! It’s all in the making of the car!
    Jason and I buy used cars.. no new.

  8. We bougth a Mazda 5 after my second child was born. I like that it is sportier than a minivan but has the sliding doors. There is road noise and we start to have a little trouble when all 5 of us are in the car. My husband is over 6’5″ and we also have a 4yr and 16yr. So it can get cramped with the big people, but when its the smaller kids it works great. I am happy with the choice.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Check out the They have Mazdas lightly used. Their prices might be the best in the tri-state. There will also be a tent sale in Northern Kentucky that get great discounts.

    Good luck.

  10. JenniferB says:

    We absolutely love our Saturn Vue. It’s roomy enough, gets good gas mileage, and is 5 star safety rated.

  11. FreshHell says:

    When my Subaru Impreza Wagon died in Jan I bought a ’99 VW Passat. I have two daughters (7 and 4) and everyone fits just fine. A nice car that gets about 32 mpg. I really like the Passat wagons, too, if you need more cargo room. The hybrids, though, can be found used now at lower prices.

  12. I bought a Honda Element two years ago. It’s amazing! I love the room and the way the doors open. It makes it a lot easier to settle in my toddler in the back. It only seats 4 total though. I love the fact that I can easily clean it and don’t have to worry about carpet or seats getting dirty or muddy.
    My friend bought a Toyota Matrix and those are great too. Very roomy and great trunk space.

  13. Since I work for GM of course I’m happy that you’ve already been pointed to the Vibe. It is built in the same factory as the Matrix, GM and Toyota share the plant. Lots of changes between newest model and older models, but let us know what you think of either. Was also gonna suggest you check out the Saturn Astra, very fun to drive, safe, inexpensive, mfg’d in Belgium.

  14. Six-year-old Toyota Corolla, picked out in about three seconds…love, love, love!

    This car is the “base” for the Matrix. Totally reliable, great gas mileage, comfy for five despite the “small car” label…the price is right, too. Nice truck with a fold-down back seat to extend it in a pinch. Maintenance at Toyota is speedy, diligent, and pleasant (and I’ve had it tended by dealers in three states, so that’s a fair test).

    An absolute dream of a car experience!

  15. We tested the matrix, vibe, etc.etc. and went with the MAZDA 3 HATCHBACK – LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. A toddler carseat fits well in the middle of the back seat, so 2 adults can ride for short trips in the back seat with the toddler. LOVE IT.

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