To Super Size Or Not

After taking a week long trip over Christmas in our WRX filled to maximum capacity, we've been wondering if we'll need a larger vehicle in the future. When it was just the two of us we were able to push our seats back to accommodate our long legs and use the back seats for additional cargo space. With Sophia and her car seat, things have been getting cramped with the front passenger seat pushed up and we've had to use some advanced Tetris techniques to fit our haul into the trunk. Now, with the potential that we could have another passenger in the future, we're trying to decide whether it's time to get a bigger vehicle.

One option is to cut back on what we take with us on trips. For example, we could stop bringing presents to Christmas and go naked. But we're a little stuck to traditions. another option is to get a cargo box to mount on the roof. Not a bad option for replacing the cargo space lost in the back seat. However, it still doesn't solve the legroom issue. We'd also like a vehicle that can transport the tri-bike in the trunk without having to remove both wheels (we've been told extensively to never mount the tri-bike on the roof because of the high potential for damaging the bike).

So, we've been eyeing the Honda Pilot as our top choice for a family vehicle. We think that it's the optimal configuration for what we need. It seats up to eight people and the 3rd row can be folded down to create a large cargo space. The Pilot also has exceptional fuel economy for it's class, great safety ratings, great resale value, good reliability, and has won several awards. We also think it looks sweet.

Honda Pilot

If we do decide to get another vehicle, we also need to decide if we want to go new or used. A new 2007 Pilot starts at $28,000 for the entry level model and a used 2004/2005 is in the range of $20,000 to $24,000 depending on condition and trim level. Is it worth it to save between $4,000 to $8,000 for a 2 to 3-year-old vehicle that has 40,000 miles on it? And do we need a new vehicle if we're going to be putting fewer than 10,000 miles per year on it?

So what do you think? We'd like to hear your suggestions.


Never, Never buy a new car unless you have absolutely no choice, it is a complete waste of time. Get a certified pre-owned car from Honda or Toyota. Certified pre-ownedes often include a similar warranty to a new car and don't include the crazy markup. take if from someone who messed up his financial picture for 4 years with a new car. it is a terrible idea.

even if you have to fix somthing on the used winthin the first 100000 miles, it will still be cheaper then paying interest on the 40% more a new car will cost you for 3 years.

You have almost answered your own question! Assuming you don't like the looks of the Toyota Highlander which has a slightly higher reliablilty rating than the Pilot and averages about 2 MPG more than Pilot and you don't think the Subaru Outback is large enough, and you don't care for a Minivan from Toyota (the Honda Odyssey has only average reliability), then the Pilot makes sense.

Cars coming off a 2 year lease usually only have 24,000 miles while 3 year leases allow 36,000 miles.
If some fantastic new design comes out in the next two years, investing less in a used Pilot (still a depreciating asset)gives you a chance to upgrade without feeling guilty about not getting 8 or 10 years use out of a brand new vehicle. YOu've had the agony and joy of two new vehicles and seen the reliability of a 10 year old Camry. I suggest saving the cash or lowering the payments for 8,000 miles per year of basic transportation. You will still be driving the Impreza to work anyway.
Love Gary

One more issue. You are accostomed to an above average trim level. You will feel that a 2007 basic model feels very spartan compared to the optional higher cost trim level "necessities". A 2 or 3 year old lease model almost always has a higher trim level so your savings by purchasing used is probably more that you estimate compared to the beyond basic priced new model you probably would really get.

Sorry for the poor grammar and spelling on that last post.Hope it made sense anyway. double proofreading helps.


I agree with chris. I spent a butt-load on my passat when I was there. after 4 years, even with only, *only* 20k miles on it, I still only got half price for it. I will never buy a new car again. Then again, I might never own a car win win.

I agree with Grampa Gary and everyone else- don't buy new, buy a lease car or something newer on the previously owned lot! You'll save money you would've otherwise wasted and *most* lease vehicles are turned back into the dealer in good shape.

Is it just long trips that you're feeling uncomfortably cramped for, or day-to-day usage as well?

Have you considered the option of renting a larger car for long trips, rather than buying a new one? This might make financial sense if your long trips aren't *too* long or too frequent. At the very least, you might consider doing this once or twice with a few different candidates for "new larger vehicle" to see which one really comes through in the field.

Thanks for all the feedback everyone.

Renting is an option we are considering, though we forgot to mention it in the post. I'm thinking we would need or want a vehicle of the Pilot's girth at least 10 times a year. To address the legroom problem we could use our 10 year old Camry for family drives, but it would be nice to use a newer and safer vehicle, especially in the winter. If the renting option proves to be convenient and cost effective enough though, we may consider doing that for a few years.

It's your call on the new/used debate. we have a 2004 pilot exl w/ navigation (curt has noooo sense of direction, so it's may way of helping hime get home)We love our Pilot and I would highly recommend one with 1-2 kids. You may want to find out when they are planning an upgraded style for two reasons. 1- great deals on the old style.2 great upgrades with the new style...We also have our 3rd Honda Odyssey. We bought our first one in 2001 new because i would have had to go to Atlanta or CA to find a used one. We traded it in in 2003 and got it one a lease for over 400/month less than what we were paying ourselves,a trim upgrade w/ DVD plus a nice chunk of cash. the flip side it was a 2 yr lease.they restyled it in 2005. sooo this year we chose to get a 2006 leather, DVD, etc....I did quite a bit of shopping this time. I tried the Toyota Seqouia (gas hog, but looks kool)Toyota Sienna ( i didn't like the interior style which is smaller than the odyssey and i hated how it drove).. really liked the Volkswagon Passat wagon but it wasn't big enough for our family of 5...I also tried the Nissan Van . It drove great but the space on the inside was worthless...
so i would strongly recommend either honda product... you may want to check out the honda crv as they just restyled it....
yes i love my cars !
I really never wanted to drive a mini-van, sheer vanity ... but i just couldn't justify the monster SUV that we needed for space... The pilot does work for short drives for our family but the kids get bigger by the hour and it wouldn't work for longer drives....
i know you guys will research all of this yourselves, i just thought you might like an owners final thought,everyone thinks/feels differently about their ride and even though money is certainly important in making the right decision, a car is also an emotional decision... and that counts as well...
on a side bar i am in India and you wouldn't dream of driving anything bigger than a scooter here! i have seen a family of 5 on one and it is a sight to behold!!
peace my friends and have fun with your search!

I am inclined to agree with Murph on the subject of renting a larger vehicle for long trips. We rent cars when we fly to distant locations for vacations and seminars. That's how we ended up deciding to buy a Subaru Outback. Someday we may rent a car for a cross country travel adventure. Why put all those miles on our car? The downside is if you want to rent a particular car for a real world test-drive, it's not always possible to guarantee that you'll get a particular model of car. What about getting a pre-owned car that's got enough interior space for your long-legged selves (plan on having long-legged kids too in the next 10 years)that can also tow and then get a fancy little trailer for the tri/gear or my Christmas present.

Hi - somehow found your blog and I see we're both doing the Steelhead this year. It would be cool to hear about your training for that race + IMWI. Drop me a line.
Tom T.
p.s. i join the crowd....don't buy a new car. ;)

When we three kids were looking for cars, my father asked the dealer about the cars that were used in Driver's Training. All the bugs were worked out by the end of the summer and the milage was low, too. And the dealers were ready to seel them. That may be an option to look into.

Mary's idea sounds good.
When we were shopping for our first mini-van in the '80's we took a weekend test drive to Traverse City in a new Dodge Caravan. Well, we fell in love with it but the dealer declined our low-ball offer... his plan was to rent the car for the summer to the High School Driver's training program. We never bothered to check back with that dealer at the end of the summer... maybe we could have gotten a better deal but we were too mad at them.



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