Hoon’s challenges of buying a USED family vehicle

kamil used cars

“Fine, go ahead – get a new family car… or a new used family car, whatever you think is right, you always make the right decision”

-Mrs. Hoonette Kaluski

Gawddamit woman, you can’t leave this that open-ended!

Now, some explanation is needed. Like 97.36% of people who read this site, I too prefer to buy my cars used. Unfortunately the used car market for 3-4 year old cars is kind of dead-ish. There have been much fewer new vehicles sold in the past three/fours years than in decades before due to the recession. This translates into a fewer used cars on the market. The the demand for used cars hasn’t changed, however. Basic economics leads us to believe that used car prices are very high… and they are!

The above is the reason why I was looking at new cars. Combine that with incentives, low interest rates, warranties, and that new car smell, and it would have been silly even for a seasoned hoon to ignore the new car market. If there was ever a good time to get a great deal on a brand new car, it is now.

After spending a good amount of my Saturday at various dealerships, often knowing the product better than the people selling it, looking at leases on new cars, I got home and grabbed a cold beverage. I then started thinking, which is never good:

kamil MDX

  • We’re a one-car family.
  • In my very conservative budget I concluded that I could swing a $25,000-ish used car.
  • The Missus is a horrible driver, one of the worst, a skill she inherited from her father.
  • Our insurance is already high due to Missus’ bumper car adventures.
  • Boston’s excise tax on a new car will be around $1000. ($90 for the MDX!)
  • We don’t drive much (reason why I was looking at leases)
  • I know cars well and I can fix or tend to most things (I worked as a mechanic’s assistant through college).
  • Why in the hell would I “rent” a new car for three years?
  • But we do need a reliable and safe car.
  • Bonus points for “luxury” items such as heated seats, satellite radio, camera, sunroof, etc.
  • I have one very important thing on my side – TIME! I am in no hurry.

Naturally, the first thing I did when looking for a new used car, was to see what kind of a Mercedes G-wagen I can get on that budget. Nope, a ten year old, 100,000 mile G500 is not the right answer.

But the G-experiment reminded me of the fact that I now want a true 4×4 vehicle capable of trekking across the world in any kind of condition. Yes, it will be serving as a bumper car for my wife and transport to grandma’s house for my two little kids, but damn it, that’s what I want and that’s it. Go ahead, judge me, I don’t care. 

kamil used cars 3

The second, most obvious, thing for me to look at were Land Rovers.

No. Nope. Just no! Maintenance and repairs on a used Land Rover of any kind will cost as much as a lease on a brand new LR4 and I cannot afford that. It’s simply a bad idea and I have had enough cars where I had to say a prayer before turning the ignition switch. Nope.

Then I looked at Toyota Land Cruisers. 80- and 100-series usually have a lot more than 100,000 miles. While I have a lot of respect Toyota’s best trucks, I simply don’t want a vehicle with that many miles. There are also Lexuses (Lexii?) LX450s, LX470s, GX460, and GX470s.

The 2006-2008 GX470 actually fits the bill perfectly; a 4Runner in make-up and fancy clothes with similar dimensions to my MDX. Their deprecation puts them even with 4Runners but most 4Runner buyer seem to forget that these exist. Used 4Runners are typically high priced and not as nice, especially inside. FJ Cruisers are off the list due to weird doors and limited visibility, but I do love those.

There is also the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Not as comfortable but as long as it’s got the basics (hardtop, A/C, power windows, etc), I can make it work. In reality, that’s probably the vehicle that I want the most, yet it’s the vehicle that is the least comfortable. I love the idea of a family car without a roof and I understand that it requires compromises. It’s a Jeep thing and y’all should understand.

What is out there I would want for $25,000?

Option #8746 is simply keeping the MDX until it poops* the bed. It is certainly the most cost efficient choice and it’s been a damn good car. I am simply just bored with it.


*Chief blooger forbid cursing on the site, so I can no longer use words such as s***, p***, f***, c***, c***s*****, m****f****, t***.  🙁



  1. Why not keep the MDX? There's something to be said about a reliable, paid-off car. I still miss my TSX and even tried to buy it back from the guy I sold it to.

  2. You can't go wrong with a Wrangler. Plus when the Missus hits something, you can either pound out the plastic bumpers or replace them with steel offroad bumpers that'll never get damaged in a parking lot mishap.

    1. And if you are able to find a later one (2010+ I think) in Sahara trim, you could get leather and heated seats and navigation although they might be hard to find under $25k. Those options might put them closer to $30k

  3. Oooh, the Land Cruiser. Terrible gas mileage, but it has the rear seat that splits and folds against the side walls, just like a Previa.

  4. What you need is a car with proper bumpers, shaped like a cuboid so parking accidents go into the "stupid"-account rather than in the "skills"-account. You'd want lots of space, and easy maintenance. All that is obvious from your post that ends in a question mark. Something special, low mileage, and not too expensive?
    [youtube 029nFGSzZZY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=029nFGSzZZY youtube]
    You know your audience, so don't act surprised.

    1. Why SUV? If your wife is not a great driver, why not get something easier to drive, smaller, and more "fun" Mazda 3? Learn to carry less stuff? Or get a wagon. We have kids, we got by fine with mid size sedans and then herself got a city car. Small is beautiful, this is Hooniverse, what hooning can you do in a crossover SUV?

    1. I saw an Adrenaline package yesterday.
      Depending on where I end up with finances next year, that is on the shortlist of practical 4 doors I want to check out.
      Just look at it!
      <img src="http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2009/08/20/15/35/2008_ford_explorer_sport_trac_adrenalin-pic-17528.jpeg&quot; width="600">
      Ugh- 40k models are in the high $20's, low $30's which is about the same as a non-Adrenaline V8.
      EDIT: some higher regular V8s are mid teens.

  5. I'm constantly shopping for my "next" car. You're situation is awesome because you have the green light from the Mrs, including a complete "get out of jail free card" on the car choice. I just rode in a Jeep yesterday, and even though it had a 4" lift and 37" tires it wasn't that bad. Have you considered Nissans? Not the new Pathfinder because it is a full crossover now. The older gen Pathfinder's and Xterra's aren't too shabby offroad.
    And WTF is this BS about no cussing on the hooniverse!?

      1. I just re-read your review. You didn't like its size at first but then got over it. I didn't really see any other faults other than lack of a trunk to carry your groceries home.

    1. No minivans or wagons, as per boss, and this is a little of both.
      And frankly, if I'm to buy a used $23,000 Benz it will be a crappy G-wagen.

    2. a raw bumper cover for that thing is $490 w/s on ebay…. yes thats untrimmed. The bumper assembly is 20 pieces. the lower-grill-corners are a 100 a piece. He would be at $1800 after paint for a 5mph bump in the front.

      1. Do they come in red? Cause then the repair is just a hair dryer and nail polish away.

    1. Kris_01 has it. Scammers tend to post 10k+ vehicles in the 2-3k range to rope in suckers. If you reply to that ad, you will find out that the truck (with California plates) is in Montana, and they just need a little money up front to ship it out to Maine.

  6. Saab 9-7X Aero checks all the right boxes. Look for a low mile 2009 model. Here's a 2008 with 67k miles for $16,500. http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehiclede
    <img src="http://images.autotrader.com/scaler/544/408/images/2013/7/10/350/302/32280374278.350302105.IM1.03.565x421_A.562×421.jpg"width=500&gt;
    A Trailblazer SS without the boy racer/middle age Hawaiian shirt looks. You do have to give up two front cupholders to have a little Saab weirdness with the ignition in one of the cupholders.
    I have been very happy for over 125k miles with our 2004 2WD 6cyl Trailblazer. The last of the mid-sized, RWD, body on frame SUVs.

    1. "The last of the mid-sized, RWD, body on frame SUVs."
      Doesn't an Xterra fit that market? Or a (up to 2012) Liberty?

        1. Sorry, I missed the mid-sized part. The Liberty and Xterra are definitely compact on the inside. MLBrown is correct though that the 4Runner is available in RWD and that is a mid-size right? Although good luck actually finding a non 4×4 4Runner on any lots

  7. I hope Mrs. Kaluski doesn't read comments. Since you have a budget of 25k. Itching for something new, but are keeping your current car. Can do mechanicals. Why not be selfish and get something for you? A cheap, and interesting, beater that you can either find a parking spot for or just park on the street. Or get in with a buddy of yours that has space and get a project to work on. Who knows, maybe your kids, or even just one of them, might be interested and you get quality time out of the deal.

    1. I'm paying $300/mon for parking right. Second car is not an option. No street parking.
      Also, I have no time to drive another car.
      Also also, I just bought a Lemons car.
      Also also also, I just bid on a Lada Niva on eBay.
      Also also also also, I'm trying to talk my neighbor into going halfsies on a Miata.
      But yea… I need/want a new family car.

      1. That's a lada dough for a parking spot. I thought it was bad for me across the river. Haha, good luck!

  8. You could be totally Jalop and buy Miatas for everyone in your family, and just travel everywhere in a group.

    1. Dude… You can't say J**** here. He just said in the article that you can't curse on this site anymore. This is a fucking family site.

      1. Easy on the new guy.
        Welcome, most of us are reformed unregenerate totally unreformed former commentors.

          1. No worries, friend. Welcome to here! We don't really discriminate. We hate everyone equally! <3

      1. And your point is?…
        It's a mid-'90s Toyota; ergo, unkillable and likely more reliable than a brand new one.

  9. I'm looking at a Wrangler Unlimited for when the Cherokee makes mess in the bed. I'd love an 80-Series Land Cruiser or a Disco II, but they are pushing 10 years old and >100,000 miles. Even the most reliable car starts to show its age after crossing the century mark. A Wrangler Unlimited a few years old is right around $25k and has all the amenities you need (even if it doesn't have all the ones you want). Even better, a Rubicon will add in all the off-road goodness you could ever want for a few grand more.
    Having said all that, there is this:
    <img width=500 src="http://expeditionportal.com/ccordes/2013/La%20Aduana/HJ45%20Troopy%201.png"&gt;
    Safety? It's bright yellow! Room? It's a Troopie! Reliability? Who cares. You can fix it with bubble gum and a prayer to any deity!
    <a href="http://www.expeditionportal.com/vehicules/4×4/toyota-land-cruiser/2236-la-aduana-1981-toyota-land-cruiser-hj45.html” target=”_blank”>http://www.expeditionportal.com/vehicules/4×4/toyota-land-cruiser/2236-la-aduana-1981-toyota-land-cruiser-hj45.html

      1. That just might have basket weave seat but the rust would be bad. Thick Swedish steel on the other hand… Regarding the $3600 per year in parking, maybe you could move? Could you take something like commuter rail into work. Are you worried about something like schools?

          1. Good luck on the house hunt Kamil, cause that is a lot of money for parking. You might find things like groceries, taxes, gas, utilities are less in the 'burbs too. Plus you can have a garage then.

      1. Good man. I need to teach my girl at some point, but not sure how I feel about teaching someone on the GTO…
        They are restored vintage bumper cars, fitted with motorcycle engines, 6-speed gear boxes, suspension and disc brakes. I got to see these in person while I was in San Diego this last weekend at the auto museum. Awesome little 160mph death traps…

          1. Kamil, it's a bumper car, it practically has rubber baby buggy bumpers all the way around, it HAS to be safe, right?

        1. Top teaching tip, especially when you have that much torque:
          Just let the clutch out a little bit until the car starts to move, then pause, then put the clutch back in and stop.
          Rinse, repeat.

          1. Very true. That's a good technique to help them get familiar with the pedal feel and gain some muscle memory in a parking lot before unleashing them in traffic.
            My stupid BMW would just ignore the pedal movement if you don't apply gas. Then it would lurch and stall…
            The GTO on the other hand can get up to 30mph by 6th gear without even touching the throttle.

          2. Indeed, it's a trip! I like to think of what that must look like from outside the car… Just idling, hauling along at higher than residential speed limits…

          3. My wife taught me to drive a manual. In her 98 Geo Tracker. The clutch engaged just above the floor.

        2. Skitter has a good point, another thing to point out right away is if she feels the engine begin to stumble, to just press the clutch pedal down again. Then she can regroup and try again in a bit. In this way that whole 'oh crap I suck I have killed the car again, I'll never get this, etc' stuff will not happen and that makes it go way better.

          1. Good point! Thanks for the tips. I have been doing this for so long, I forget what it's like to be a beginner.

        3. I feel like a GTO would be one of the easiest cars to learn stick on. It's practically impossible to stall it anyway.
          On a side note, a group of investors I'm involved with recently procured a golf cart. It will be turbo'd. Not going to do 100+ like the gsxr swapped ones, but it should be entertaining.

          1. I suppose you're right. Having learned stick on an AE86, then a Volvo 240 turbo, I have a bit more of a slower learning curve, but it was a LOT easier to stall them. The GTO is really forgiving, and she's a good driver already, so I trust her. Plus, she's 6'1", so she won't have to adjust the seat…
            That should be a very interesting project. You should document it in the forums!

          2. I learned on a Ford F-150 5.0L V8. Not as much power as the GTO, and certainly more massive, but still a low-end torque monster. It's entirely do-able, and speaking as someone who learned stick on an "inappropriate" vehicle, Skitter and MZS' comments are, indeed, key. Also, she'll be able to drive anything after learning on the GTO.
            Maybe don't do the stick your arm out the window, point at the sky, dump the clutch and holler yee-haw joke, though. That's probably dangerous in the Goat, rather than funny (for the instructor).
            EDIT: speaking of which, I still need to teach my wife how to drive stick. She's got the same length legs as me, so also no need to move the seat. (And it's on the Jeep, which has many of the same problems as the GTO 🙂

        4. Why teach her yourself? The best case scenario is she learns quickly and still likes you, but your clutch is more worn. Worst case, she hates you, hates the GTO, and there's lots of crying.
          Just get her some lessons at a good driving school. It's often easier to learn from total strangers than from parents/boyfriends/spouses.

  10. Saab 9-5 wagon, They drop value faster than a Caddy, so a few years old and you be below your 25K mark and down to more like ten.

  11. Here's a nice 6-passenger vehicle with 2cu ft MORE luggage space than the MDX (with the seats up).
    <img src="http://assets.hemmings.com/uimage/15289031-620-0.jpg?rev=1"width=500&gt; http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/chrysl
    "The Missus is a horrible driver, one of the worst" Imperials were BANNED from demolition derby competition. They won too much, something about a 1" thick steel plate behind the bumper.
    "We don’t drive much" Then 9mpg won't be a problem.
    "I know cars well and I can fix or tend to most things" 440 with a 727 Torqueflight, no problems, just toss the metric wrenches.
    "But we do need a reliable and safe car." See 440 w/ Torqueflight. Mine fired right up after sitting for 3 YEARS. Safe, you have at least 6 feet between you and the car in front of you.
    "Bonus points for “luxury” items such as heated seats, satellite radio, camera, sunroof, etc." power leather seats, real wood trim, power VENT windows, at least 4 cigarette lighters, a foot control to change the radio station, what more do you need! You might could track down the automatic headlight dimmer and add that in too.

      1. I miss my (basket case) '67 Imperial Convertible. I had a parts car too, a 4-door that had been hit in the doors on the driver's side. I tried to dent one of the doors with a 5lb sledge hammer. It made the equivalent of a parking lot ding. I think the thing was made of 1/8" steel.

        1. My fantasy/historic empathy is just not good enough to understand a time when this machine made sense. That makes it so fascinating.

    1. I've been thinking about buying something with my only qualifier being bench seats and big. I was digging the Olds 88 idea but now I have to figure out how much I could get a 6bt or 4bt into one of these for…

      1. I should warn you there are a few imperial specific bits that are hard to source. The four piston front brake calipers, which look like they came off a F-350, are almost impossible to find parts for. But, it is fairly easy to swap them for later Mopar single piston calipers. Trim bits are unobtanium. They rust. I had a 67 convertible. 67-68 are virtually identical and giant unibodies. But they are a car with PRESENCE. in 1967 an Imperial Convertible was the most expensive new American car. Unlike an Olds or Caddy, you probably won't see another at the car show.

  12. Keep the MDX … and buy something practical like a Volkswagen Thing, P5 Rover, Subaru Sambar or Henry J. This is the Hooniverse, after all. As a columnist, you need to consider your street cred.

      1. The blue one on the left is the first generation and the one on the right is the second generation? 😉

      1. I get it. Well, we can't all live in these super-desirable flyover states with our cheap real estate, lack of interesting topography and DIY nightlife.

  13. I have the correct answer to Hoon Family car- what I drive-
    the Volvo V70R. AWD, a lovely interior, potent T5 engine, tons of cargo room, dog-friendly, and comes with roof rails. It does everything an SUV will do but actual offroading, but in an infinitely more fun package, and they stopped making the V70R in 2009.

  14. The Lexus GX (sold as the Land Cruiser Prado in other countries) is a great choice. Super safe, reliable, and will go anywhere.
    I bought the wife a 2001 LX470 (100 series Land Cruiser) with just over 100,000 for $15,000. I had to run a lot of VIN numbers though before finding one that had lived it's whole life in Texas and had yet to experience a northern winter. It's been a fantastic vehicle, and while it doesn't look as nice as the new Grand Cherokee, very few people can tell that it's a 12 year old truck.

  15. So Imissed the original post, but I'm honestly going to suggest getting a left over Grand Vitara.
    Longitudnal 4-cylinder, 4-speed auto, 4wd with low range. I've seen leftovers as low as $16,500 with warranty, etc.

  16. If you're tired of the MDX, donate it to a worthy cause. I'll email you my address. 😉
    I think the best road trip vehicle we ever had when I was a kid was the Plymouth Suburban station wagon. It was Dad's company car, so he'd disconnect the speedometer before the trip, and we'd drive it all the way from MIchigan out to the Rockies and back.

  17. Very interesting article. It makes a lot of sense to go this route when picking a family car. I recently bought a Chrysler SUV for my wife. It's a great car and i really recommend checking them out. Thanks for the post.

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