Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Car

For a number of reasons, the time has come for a new car. I’ve been driving my little ’93 Saturn for almost 10 years, and it has served me so well (thank you Dad and Jackie!!!). But we need a car that will be able to haul the scooter and the walker, one in which we can install a ramp or lift for the scooter, one that isn’t so low to the ground that I need a shoe horn to get in and out. And, well, my little Saturn is almost 20 years old.

I never dreamed I’d be looking at any vehicle that resembled an SUV – all those disparaging remarks I’ve made in the past are coming back to haunt me. But the small SUVs are really more like glorified station wagons; some websites call them “crossovers.”

Right now we’re considering, in order of preference:

  • Honda Element
  • Subaru Forester
  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CRV
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Hummer H3

(OK, kidding on that last one, just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

I've heard great things about the Element, but haven’t been in one or seen it in action yet. According to reviews, it’s more truck-like than the others and noisier, but it is hands down the best for people with disabilities because of the way the doors open (low in the back, full double door on the side). I've had a crush on the RAVs since they first came out. Subarus and Hondas are so dependable. The Escape is a hybrid, which I've sworn would be my next car, but I’m not sure now it would be such a great choice, since I drive so little.

It's been many years since I've had to go car shopping, and I do NOT look forward to the process of dealing with car dealers. I refuse to play the games. Fortunately now you can do a lot of the work before setting foot on the car lot by locking in a quote online, even choosing a specific car on a dealer's lot. That's my kind of shopping.

Do you have opinions or suggestions?  Buy new or used? A favorite car dealer in the Portland area?  I would love for this to be a done deal in the next couple of weeks!


Tiffin said...

Hi Ter: will ask the car nuts in the family but a Honda Element was on our list when we were looking. Do you get LemonAid in the U.S., the publication which rates automobiles from just about every angle, updating every year? I think the main thing is that it has to work for you and your requirements.

Linda Koons said...

Sounds like a promising list, Terri. I wonder if the Forester might not be a little small on the inside for your purposes. I have the Outback wagon, which is slightly larger, and I think it might only just accommodate the scooter. (Does that collapse at all?) Having driven both Toyotas and Subarus for a lot of years, I vouch for their dependability, and I might lean just slightly toward the Toyota overall, if the model suits you. Subaru's routine maintenance schedule seems much more demanding than Toyota's. My husband complains about getting in and out of the Subaru--he finds it a bit too low to the ground for his comfort. Fits me well, though.

Terri said...

Thanks gals -- useful info! Tui, we have Consumer Reports which I rely on for a lot of things. Also found a couple of helpful sites that compares and then some. LemonAid - love the name! I don't know if we get it here.

Linda, I think the Forester is bigger, at least taller. The scooter does collapse and come apart, but we're trying to avoid that. Want to make it super easy to load and go, and so I can do it myself. I'm just unable to lift much anymore because of balance. So rolling or riding it up a ramp would be super, and it looks like the Element would work for that.

My Saturn is very low to the ground and it's a bitch for me to get in and out of now.


Terri said...

What's your opinion on new vs used? I'm very conflicted.

dohlink said...

I vote for whatever will make life absolutely easiest for you now and in future possibilities that might be more demanding...it's nice to say hybrid, but if it's harder to get into and out of and requires more heft on the part of either of you, it's not worth it. You and your independence are the critical factor in the equation. Being in love w/ image shouldn't factor in either...oh, killjoy. Long-term dependability, Honda & Toyota are tops, but not sure about these particular models. Adam has had experience w/ PDX Toyota dealer(s). Are there any ways to muffle the noise in the Honda? Hey, I just put gas in my car & drive it. I don't know much.

dohlink said...

You can get certified Hondas that are pre-owned that are pretty new. On most cars, you save a boat load of money buying used, not sure on Hondas and Toyotas. I've always heard that new cars depreciate immediately after you drive it off the lot, but again different w/ H & T. Imagine you don't want to be in a position to get another too soon.

Linda Koons said...

Toyota does the "certified pre-owned" thing. My daughter is driving a 2001 Corolla that we bought for her through that program; it's still going great, and she's never had to have a thing done to it. My only complaint about it is that it has never smelled quite right inside to me. She says "it just smells like my car to me". I assumed that once she started occupying it, it would come to smell like "us", but it never has, to my nose.

Tiffin said...

We always buy used but Himself does a ton of research first to find out which years to steer clear of (LemonAid again). Toyotas and Hondas have excellent track records. If you can get one that's fairly new, you'll save yourself a lot and still have a good vehicle. Sometimes there is still a bit of warranty left on them too.

Nancy said...

I've traveled with friends in both Outback and Forester ~ The Forester has a much shorter storage area in back, even too short for my own considerations.

Maybe you want to get some growing room too, so any changes in your current equipment, or friends' can be accommodated.

Is there a way your OT can advise, maybe they know of some gotchas, and/or some great features in certain models. Or, perhaps they can recommend an insiders group of people who've bought for ~ you know ~ "mobility support!" (Of course, you may be the very person starting this group.)

It's important to drive, practice putting equipment in and out, hands-on. I wonder if there are car dealers willing to come and pick you up at home to give you the test drive. Call them, explain your needs, both for the vehicle and for the shopping. Always ask for accommodation :)

Yay for Consumer Reports, Laurie the Researcher, Terri the online pro, and online autofinders and photos and blogs and bidding.

Exciting times, have fun!

Love n

Terri said...

Ha ha ha too late! We just returned from buying our car! A 2008 Element. I put the walker in and out (at Laurie's suggestion). There's lots of room for equipment but not for equipment and passengers -- I think we'd have to go much bigger than a small/crossover SUV for that. Truth is, we rarely haul passengers. We're very happy with our decision and the price we paid.