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rykoala 06-25-2008 08:24 PM

Family car with good MPG?
I have a 98 Ford Taurus. I drive it nicely and get 22-23mpg with it, which is up to 6mpg more than its rated for. Its a comfy car and I like it.

Problem: Friday, it got rear ended. Whiplash for my wife and daughter who were in the car, minor scratches, and, of course, a blown transmission. I guess they just don't like it when you're in gear (automatic) and you push the car. Stripped out first gear in the trans.

So, I want to get something that's going to get better mileage to replace it. I doubt the insurance company will do anything other than total it. It'll cost $3k for a new trans, and its not worth that much (bad paint, body work problems).

I'm a big guy, 6'1" and my wife, daughter, and son are all normal size, but my daughter is a bit tall, and my 12y/o son is growing. I need something with the rear leg room that the Taurus had, but with a 4cyl and an automatic so its easy for my wife to drive.

I've see the Toyota Tercel Wagons, but I don't know if they are what I need. BTW I will probably have about $2k to spend so something new is out of the question.

What can ye suggest?

Thanks for any ideas!

SVOboy 06-25-2008 08:32 PM

Hope the family is okay!

I'm partial to mid 90s accords and camrys. My mom's 93 camry (stick) gets ~30 when driven by normals.

NeilBlanchard 06-26-2008 11:08 AM


The new Camry can do around 32mpg, and the Camry hybrid can get around 45mpg.

I'm 6'-4" and my brother is over 6'-6" -- he fits in a Honda Fit! I fit in the backseat when the front seats are adjusted all the way back. The Honda Fit has an awesome backseat -- it is very flexible, and you have ~21 cu. ft. with the back seat up, and ~42 cu. ft. with it folded down flat. There is ~5'-6" from behind the front seats back to the hatch door -- the car is a Tardis.

I'm sure that you can get in the 40's with the Fit. The automatic is a 5-speed, and the Sport model has shifting paddles on the steering wheel -- if you want to choose the shift points.

Daox 06-26-2008 12:10 PM

Tercel wagons are pretty old and still carburated. I'd agree with SVOboy. Go with the Accord or Camry. However, finding one for $2k is going to be a challenge. My only other suggestion is the smaller Saturn SL1 or SL2.

Johnny Mullet 06-26-2008 10:05 PM

You can get decent MPG's from a 3800 V-6 powered Buick Lesabre or similar model. They are pretty cheap and reliable. Also pretty roomy inside.

trikkonceptz 06-26-2008 11:34 PM

What about the mid 90's Buick rivieras? They have a low CD and I'm sure with proper driving could yield numbers in the high 30's. They should also be relatively cheap now a days.

ebacherville 06-26-2008 11:56 PM

look at chevy cavaliers also there pretty inexpensive and can yeild some good MPG's there rather roomy.. even the 2 doors had a decent back seat the 4 doors were very roomy in my opinion..

The camery and accords are also a good option but usually fetch a fair chunk of change.

Really I say just go drive all kinds of stuff and see what you like then find the one for you.. even if its not the ones you drove..

RH77 06-27-2008 01:01 AM

Rick's List

Originally Posted by Johnny Mullet (Post 38753)
You can get decent MPG's from a 3800 V-6 powered Buick Lesabre or similar model. They are pretty cheap and reliable. Also pretty roomy inside.

2004-ish Century's had a 3100 V-6 that was pretty efficient. I sqeezed 6 family members in one I rented -- got low 30's in the Ohio hills.

I would agree to Camry-4 -- and add to that...

-Ford Fusion 2.3L, 4-cylinder (low/mid-30's)
-Newer Chevy Impala (3.4L/3.5L) (low 30's)
-Malibu Maxx (sliding rear seats) and a great 3.5L V-6 at around 30 mpg
-(give it a try for legroom, but...) Kia Optima 2.4L, 4-Cyl (low 30's)

One of my favorites: the Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix (mid-30's).


rykoala 06-27-2008 01:30 AM

Thanks everyone. It really does help! Today the insurance company totaled the Taurus. I'm getting $1700 for it but am also saving up to try to have $3k for something. Looks like we're going to go without a car for a few weeks to save money. I'll be riding my new recumbent bike that I built to work, while we use the bus for family travel. Its not a permanent solution, but its a good one for a short while while we get funds to buy something that's not a junker. The Taurus was UGLY. It drove good though.

But I digress!

Thanks again everyone.

Ryland 06-27-2008 01:33 AM

I really like the Toyota Corrola/geo prizim/chevy prizim, it's a 4 door, I fit just fine in the back seat at 6 feet tall and 235lbs, gets 40+mpg with a 5 speed, is well built, extremely easy to work on and often costs less then $2,000 to buy.

elhigh 06-27-2008 10:34 AM

I like the Tercel Wagon too, but I don't know that that's what you really want. With one person aboard it's okay, but it's never going to be a speed demon, and not even a speed delinquent when everyone's aboard. Much-vaunted Toyota reliability notwithstanding, the last Tercel Wagon came off the line in what, '88? They weren't wildly common in the first place, and they're just going to get rarer, and same goes for parts.

I checked out a new Yaris yesterday. There was a fair amount of room in the back, and the front looked actually roomy for such a little car. The five-door should have a mountain of space for whatever you need to do if you don't need all the seats.

My personal fave and dream car is the previous-gen Scion xB. I like the compact form factor, the way the body fills the car's footprint right out to the corners and encompasses a gigantic volume inside. The rear footroom is the kind of thing usually not seen outside of limousines, and the car is hugely popular for livery outfits in cities. Tuckable shape, big space: no wonder. Driven conservatively, the xB should easily get into the mid-30s mpg-wise.

SuperTrooper 06-27-2008 12:05 PM

$3000 Hmmm.

I did a quick search on autotrader for sedans and wagons in your area. Not much there. Check out craigslist daily.

Check out a couple of local car auctions that are open to the public:

Nevada Public Auto Auction

Your cash will go further there. You'll usually pay 25-50% under retail, but you need a good eye for condition. Hondas and Toyotas ALWAYS cost more than other brands, even in poor condition. You should be able to get into a decent 2000-2002 small sedan for $3K. Also consider the smaller 5 passenger Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager for those years. I know 3 friends who consistently get 28-30 mpg on the highway with them, and talk about room.


A 30 day subscription to CARFAX ($29.95) is worth it's weight in gold!

I phoned in the VIN to my daughter sitting at the computer and she'd tell me the history. I avoided a couple of really nice LOOKING cars that had long expensive repair histories.


tjts1 06-27-2008 01:26 PM

If you can find a 96+ Volvo 850 wagon 5 speed or a 98 (stay away from 99+, too many electronics) Volvo V70 5 speed wagon. Either would have to be 5 speed manual 5 cylinder 2.5 liter non turbo with 170hp. Don't worry about miles on the odometer as long as it has a service history. These cars are dirt cheap right now because everyone seems to think volvos are heavy, inefficient and expensive to maintain. Far from it.
Wagons have a CD of .32, FWD and much easier to maintain and work on than any other European car if you know how to turn a wrench. If you leaves all the work to a "professional" mechanic, they will take you to the cleaners. At 65mph we average 33mpg and 25mpg city on 87 octane. The leather on high end models tends to fall apart so look for cloth seats which are much more durable. The fewer the options, the more reliable its going to be.
All have front and side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, ABS and traction control. Theres enough room in the back to comfortably sleep 2 people with the rear seats folded down or fit 4 bicycles on their side.

On our camping trip last week we averaged 28.8mpg with a loaded car driving 300 miles up and down highway 1 along the Mendocino and Sonoma county coast.

bhazard 06-27-2008 02:08 PM

I wonder what kinda mpg you could get with a 5 speed SHO taurus. Probably easier to hypermile than your plain jane auto taurus. Plus it would be a familiar car.

ebacherville 06-27-2008 03:33 PM


Originally Posted by bhazard (Post 38969)
I wonder what kinda mpg you could get with a 5 speed SHO taurus. Probably easier to hypermile than your plain jane auto taurus. Plus it would be a familiar car.

Yeah i was rather shocked when i say the new corvettes were rated at 27mpg.. thats pretty good considering, i bet if you hypermiled it you could pull down 35 mpg easly.. wish i had one to try it out on :)

IndyIan 06-27-2008 03:59 PM

A ford escort wagon from 96 to 00 might do you well. The older ones 91-96 had a four door hatchback to. Solid simple cars with manual trannys. If you are lucky you might find a 91-96 Escort LX-E 4 door which had a Mazda engine for some zippyness but for lowest overall cost probably the 1.9L ones are better.
A 95-99 SOHC 5spd Neon should beat nearly everything for mileage and have alot more power but they are not the most reliable cars. Parts are cheap though. Don't get an automatic for mileage though, the 3spd kills highway mpg.
I think for cars this age you are really looking more for the condition of the car you are looking at instead of the reputation of the car in general. A full service record car is probably worth paying quite a bit more for.

PS. Also a Ford contour was available with a manual trans.

brucey 06-27-2008 04:04 PM

I've hypermiled a C6 to 40+ MPG according to the HUD. It's VERY tedious though because the difference between a constant 40 mpg and 2 MPG is about - that much of a difference in throttle. lol

Any sort of 5 speed 4 banger wagon is going to be great. I'd try for a saturn.

Figjam74 06-27-2008 04:49 PM

Try the Hyundai Elantra on for size. I'm 6'3" and find it to be a very comfortable car to drive (Mine's a 2005 hatchback). Rear legroom isn't bad either.

rykoala 06-27-2008 08:35 PM

I *wish* I could get something with a 5 speed in it. I really do. But, my wife has a muscle disease and the constant clutch movement hurts her a lot after driving around town for the day running errands. As a result, she tends to wear through clutches faster. We've been that route. I'll see though. I'd rather have a 5 speed than a 3spd auto, but a 4spd auto isn't too bad with the o/d.

Thanks for all the suggestions. We shop soon.

SuperTrooper 06-28-2008 10:15 AM


Originally Posted by bhazard (Post 38969)
I wonder what kinda mpg you could get with a 5 speed SHO taurus. Probably easier to hypermile than your plain jane auto taurus. Plus it would be a familiar car.

UGH. Stay away from SHOs. Those Yamaha V6s are maintenance intensive headaches. :mad:

Johnny Mullet 06-29-2008 12:22 AM

Those engines were hand grenades.

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