Most affordable family vehicle with AWD/4x4?

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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#1
I've posted a few threads about my aging Mazda 3. My check engine light came back on this week and it has >125k miles on it so I am preparing for the worst. I've been saving up for a new car for a little while and I know my next one will have to be family friendly; Must be able to fit 3 kids and possibly dog in the back and have room for luggage, etc.

I've been totally out of the "Car game" for years now, so I've got no idea what makes/models are considered good. Not really sure about budget; I'm not after a loaded Range Rover but I understand larger cars with AWD will probably cost >$25k, even slightly used. I've recently drove a loaded Ford Edge Titanium and it was very nice, but I'm weary of Ford reliability. I need a car that will last me well over 100k miles, preferably something I can drive for 10 years or more as I'm not really the type to need/want switch often. Cars to me are money pits even though I love admiring them. I've got other hobbies that soak up enough of my extra money. :p

What are the go to family AWD cars now? (no vans please... D: lol)
 
Aug 30, 2000
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#2
IMHO 125k on the Mazda isn't a big deal. I'd keep driving it unless you've neglected it or it's rusting apart.

Most cars are reasonable reliable if they're cared for.

Anyway, 3 kids and a dog....probably looking at something like a Highlander/Pilot/Explorer. Kid seats are huge and dogs want space.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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#3
IMHO 125k on the Mazda isn't a big deal. I'd keep driving it unless you've neglected it or it's rusting apart.

Most cars are reasonable reliable if they're cared for.

Anyway, 3 kids and a dog....probably looking at something like a Highlander/Pilot/Explorer. Kid seats are huge and dogs want space.
I'll fix if it's something not more than like... say $600. The car itself has been in an accident and still has minor dings & the stereo system no longer works properly. It's probably worth <$2000 so IMO spending much more than $600 on a car worth a few grand isn't super ideal. My goal has always been to drive it til it drops dead on me... I just don't want to dump a ton of money in it, if that money can just go toward a better vehicle that won't (hopefully) need repairs for a while.

How's the CX-9? Will it provide enough room?
 
Sep 12, 2001
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#4
If you don't care about MPG, GX470 / GX460.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
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#5
Mazda3 + CEL + 125K = Cheapo sensor. Probably O2. A 10 dollar scan tool, can end that mystery pretty quick. However, you probably don't want to hear that.

3 kids? If you plan on holding on to it for awhile, you want something that will accomodate 3 growing humans in the back.
Width and rear legroom will be your friend. You are looking to fit 5 passengers. Unless you plan on flipping it soon, plan for transporting 5 adult size people. Not kids.

Ford Edge with the 3.5 or the 3.7 should be tanks over the long haul.
Ecoboost? Not sure I'm confident on those motor once the hit 6 digits.

Safest bet is Highlander. 20K-25K buys you 3 rows, tons of space and you can get it with low miles. Great power too. Made our old Mazda6 wagon seem like a dog. I say this because went through this in 2018. Skip the 4 banger.

Pilots simply didn't measure up to the Highlander when we looked. However, we have friends with Pilots and they are happy with them.

Next up are camp Hyundai (Santa Fe) but check the maintenance schedule and assess your local dealership.

CX9 = These were notorious for water leaking in and trashing the body control module. I vaguelly recall 08-15 being years to avoid. Do a search on forums if you are considering a CX9. Hopefully, they sorted them out.
 
Aug 30, 2000
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#6
Previous gen CX-9 is the same platform as the Explorer I think.

The new CX-9 is really nice if you can swing it but it's not particularly spacious inside IMHO.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
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#7
If you don't care about MPG, GX470 / GX460.
Ehhhhh, Luxury vehicle sounds expensive. I suppose an ideal cost is about $25k for me right now. Assuming to get a lux SUV down to $25k I'd need to consider higher miles.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
6
91
#8
Mazda3 + CEL + 125K = Cheapo sensor. Probably O2. A 10 dollar scan tool, can end that mystery pretty quick. However, you probably don't want to hear that.

3 kids? If you plan on holding on to it for awhile, you want something that will accomodate 3 growing humans in the back.
Width and rear legroom will be your friend. You are looking to fit 5 passengers. Unless you plan on flipping it soon, plan for transporting 5 adult size people. Not kids.

Ford Edge with the 3.5 or the 3.7 should be tanks over the long haul.
Ecoboost? Not sure I'm confident on those motor once the hit 6 digits.

Safest bet is Highlander. 20K-25K buys you 3 rows, tons of space and you can get it with low miles. Great power too. Made our old Mazda6 wagon seem like a dog. I say this because went through this in 2018. Skip the 4 banger.

Pilots simply didn't measure up to the Highlander when we looked. However, we have friends with Pilots and they are happy with them.

Next up are camp Hyundai (Santa Fe) but check the maintenance schedule and assess your local dealership.

CX9 = These were notorious for water leaking in and trashing the body control module. I vaguelly recall 08-15 being years to avoid. Do a search on forums if you are considering a CX9. Hopefully, they sorted them out.
I will 100% repair the car if it's an easy sensor fix. My last CEL was a valve for my evap system (which I posted about here) and cost me $350. I'm just worried now something like... oil is leaking or something more serious or potentially scrap worthy is going on. The Mazda3 can fit my dog, my wife and 1 chillun in it just fine I think. It's not fitting more than that though... and her car can fit just a little more, but not much.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
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#9
Previous gen CX-9 is the same platform as the Explorer I think.

The new CX-9 is really nice if you can swing it but it's not particularly spacious inside IMHO.
Yeah I'm trying to plan for the "worst case" traveling scenario, which is something like driving a few hours up to the in law's house for the weekend. 8 or 9 years from now I'm looking at maybe the dog is still alive & 3 non child seat sized kids, plus all their crap. I think hatch/trunk space needs to be considered, too. I found that the Ford Edge wasn't massively bigger than my own Mazda3 hatch space. It was taller, but didn't provide too much more volume because it wasn't much deeper.
 
Aug 30, 2000
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#10
Exactly. The Edge is really still a 2-adult + dog car. For 8 or 9 years down the road I wouldn't worry about buying something "appropriate" now as lots of things will change between now and then.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
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#11
Exactly. The Edge is really still a 2-adult + dog car. For 8 or 9 years down the road I wouldn't worry about buying something "appropriate" now as lots of things will change between now and then.
I'm only looking 8-9 years down the road because if I had to buy this year, that's how long I'd ideally have the car until. If the Mazda is BER right now, I'd either throw down for a car that I hope gets me the 150k/10 yr thing I want, or buy used a slightly larger than a mazda3 beater that gets me another 3-4 yrs or something. My mazda is a 2011 so it's pretty likely my next car would be kept 8+ yrs.

Even though not affordable at all, I did drive a GMC Yukon this summer and it was really nice. Checked all the boxes except price for me.
 

repoman0

Platinum Member
Jun 17, 2010
2,523
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#12
Second the Highlander recommendation. Both of my parents drive them now and drove them when I and two brothers were growing up. The two row ones were plenty spacious for five people, maybe not with a dog.

Smartest decision is to stick with the 3 though if you can make it work. Fix everything wrong with it even if you spend $2000 on a car worth $2000 because that's still $23000 cheaper in the end. I'm about to spend ~$3k on a 2004 worth maybe $4k because I like it and want to keep it on the road until I buy an EV. Still less than buying and paying taxes on a newer replacement vehicle.
 

z1ggy

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May 17, 2008
9,800
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#13
This is true. I have no immediate need for the huge car, as I said, the 3 fits me, wife, dog, & kid fine. It's the additional ones which I know will be forth coming that makes me anxious for a lot more room. Damn dog takes up half the back seat... Might have to put her in the hatch area haha.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
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#14
I will 100% repair the car if it's an easy sensor fix. My last CEL was a valve for my evap system (which I posted about here) and cost me $350. I'm just worried now something like... oil is leaking or something more serious or potentially scrap worthy is going on. The Mazda3 can fit my dog, my wife and 1 chillun in it just fine I think. It's not fitting more than that though... and her car can fit just a little more, but not much.
At that mileage, O2 would be my first guess, if so this could be a cheap and easy fix. $60 sensor. $5-$10 socket attachment. Did my Camry 2 months ago and it took 2 minutes. Took longer to walk to the car in front of my house than it did to pop out the old sensor and put in the new (easy location for the on I replaced).

Scan tool would reveal whether you have a simple sensor or a good reason to chuck the car. Either way, you may end up fixing it just so you can sell it.

I don't want to hijack the thread
 
Feb 7, 2005
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#15
A Highlander is definitely worth looking at. A Kia Sorento as well since it has a 100,000 mile power train warrenty.
 
Sep 12, 2001
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#17
Ehhhhh, Luxury vehicle sounds expensive. I suppose an ideal cost is about $25k for me right now. Assuming to get a lux SUV down to $25k I'd need to consider higher miles.
Eh, not really. I recently found someone a 2005 GX470 Sport with 91k miles for $13k, and someone else a 2010 GX460 with ~110k for $19k.

Mine has 204k and I expect to get bored with it before it wears out. I'll just leave this here: http://www.dashboard-light.com/vehicles/Lexus_GX.html

Edit: Oh, the 470 has this engine.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
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#18
Eh, not really. I recently found someone a 2005 GX470 Sport with 91k miles for $13k, and someone else a 2010 GX460 with ~110k for $19k.

Mine has 204k and I expect to get bored with it before it wears out. I'll just leave this here: http://www.dashboard-light.com/vehicles/Lexus_GX.html

Edit: Oh, the 470 has this engine.
Wow that's really cool info thanks. I just don't see myself spending $19k on a 10 year old car. What about newer models? I know this says not enough data but I can't imagine they got significantly less reliable?
 
Sep 12, 2001
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#19
Wow that's really cool info thanks. I just don't see myself spending $19k on a 10 year old car. What about newer models? I know this says not enough data but I can't imagine they got significantly less reliable?
The only really common problem with the 460's is they are prone to secondary air injection pump failure relatively early, but Lexus extended the warranty to 10 years / 150k miles for that.

I spent $8150 on a 12yo vehicle (I bought mine in late 2016) and don't regret it at all.

If you want car-like handling though, it's probably best to stay away from body on frame SUVs. These do great for what they are (especially if equipped with the KDSS hydraulic sway bar system, optional on 470's and standard on 460's) but they're definitely big and heavy.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
5,722
135
126
#20
Wow that's really cool info thanks. I just don't see myself spending $19k on a 10 year old car. What about newer models? I know this says not enough data but I can't imagine they got significantly less reliable?
GX older than 2010 have a timing belt and are fairly ancient gas guzzlers at this point. fine for a limited use vehicle but as a family hauler....I'm not a fan.
2nd gen 2010+ switched to a chain and it did get smacked with a Consumer reports complaint -https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/04/don-t-buy-safety-risk-2010-lexus-gx-460/index.htm.

These do have some pricey maintenance items like the water prump and based on the average mileage you'll find at your cost point you are going to have some wear an tear items to worry about. O2 sensors. Maintenance\lube crap on the driveline.

If I were looking for something that could tow, GX would be a nice purchase. It will probably be one of those vehicles that you could keep for 20 years and be sad to get rid of it.

Personally, I'd hate to spend all that cash on an old SUV that sucks up gas just to haul kids and a dog around to school and the store. Its cold in the winter and that thing will have you at the gas station on a regular basis.
 
Aug 30, 2000
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#21
But when you drive one you'll see how different it actually is. If you liked the way a Yukon drove this is even better.

There are always trade-offs.
 

z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
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#22
The only really common problem with the 460's is they are prone to secondary air injection pump failure relatively early, but Lexus extended the warranty to 10 years / 150k miles for that.

I spent $8150 on a 12yo vehicle (I bought mine in late 2016) and don't regret it at all.

If you want car-like handling though, it's probably best to stay away from body on frame SUVs. These do great for what they are (especially if equipped with the KDSS hydraulic sway bar system, optional on 470's and standard on 460's) but they're definitely big and heavy.
In regards to handling - that's a solid point I forgot to bring up. I used to love acceleration but I quickly realized that at least here in NJ, I spend 50% of my commute going <45mph in traffic highway conditions. However, the "joy" I can get out of driving really comes more from a stable frame/suspension set up (which is why I loved my old impreza, and why I chose the mazda3 when I got that). Having a 3000lb giant clunky SUV doesn't sound super awesome to me. Always feel like I'm about to roll it or something. My dad's old explorer felt that way and i hated driving it. Something that handles a little better would be nice...


GX older than 2010 have a timing belt and are fairly ancient gas guzzlers at this point. fine for a limited use vehicle but as a family hauler....I'm not a fan.
2nd gen 2010+ switched to a chain and it did get smacked with a Consumer reports complaint -https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/04/don-t-buy-safety-risk-2010-lexus-gx-460/index.htm.

These do have some pricey maintenance items like the water prump and based on the average mileage you'll find at your cost point you are going to have some wear an tear items to worry about. O2 sensors. Maintenance\lube crap on the driveline.

If I were looking for something that could tow, GX would be a nice purchase. It will probably be one of those vehicles that you could keep for 20 years and be sad to get rid of it.

Personally, I'd hate to spend all that cash on an old SUV that sucks up gas just to haul kids and a dog around to school and the store. Its cold in the winter and that thing will have you at the gas station on a regular basis.
Shouldn't really need to tow. I mean who knows what the future brings but I don't see us buying a boat or anything like that.

MPG and engine are always a trade off. When I drove the Edge I think it had the V6 in it. Even that I was kind of like meh at times. Maybe it was more due to the computer & tranny and less the engine, but it did struggle a bit on the highway when I wanted to suddenly accelerate. Couldn't imagine living with an even less spirited engine just to save a few $$ a month on gas unless the difference was like 10 or more mpg. Then I guess that could add up over time.
 
Aug 30, 2000
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#23
Having a 3000lb giant clunky SUV doesn't sound super awesome to me. Always feel like I'm about to roll it or something.
Unfortunately you need a reality check on this. Any midsize SUV/crossover is in the 4000lb range. Even a loaded Outback tips the scales near 3900lbs if I remember correctly. Cars are getting heavier again due in large part to all the safety requirements and such. Heck, your 3 is right around the 3000lb range.
 
Sep 12, 2001
48,372
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#24
GX older than 2010 have a timing belt and are fairly ancient gas guzzlers at this point. fine for a limited use vehicle but as a family hauler....I'm not a fan.
2nd gen 2010+ switched to a chain and it did get smacked with a Consumer reports complaint -https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/04/don-t-buy-safety-risk-2010-lexus-gx-460/index.htm.

These do have some pricey maintenance items like the water prump and based on the average mileage you'll find at your cost point you are going to have some wear an tear items to worry about. O2 sensors. Maintenance\lube crap on the driveline.

If I were looking for something that could tow, GX would be a nice purchase. It will probably be one of those vehicles that you could keep for 20 years and be sad to get rid of it.

Personally, I'd hate to spend all that cash on an old SUV that sucks up gas just to haul kids and a dog around to school and the store. Its cold in the winter and that thing will have you at the gas station on a regular basis.
They fixed that stability control system a LONG time ago and put a stop sale on it in 2010 when they were sorting it out. That is a rather irrelevant complaint.

Unfortunately you need a reality check on this. Any midsize SUV/crossover is in the 4000lb range. Even a loaded Outback tips the scales near 3900lbs if I remember correctly. Cars are getting heavier again due in large part to all the safety requirements and such. Heck, your 3 is right around the 3000lb range.
A Ford Edge can be up to 4,477 lbs -- only 394 lbs lighter than an 8 passenger, body on frame, V8-carrying GX470.

https://www.ford.com/suvs-crossovers/edge/models/edge-st/
 
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z1ggy

Diamond Member
May 17, 2008
9,800
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#25
Unfortunately you need a reality check on this. Any midsize SUV/crossover is in the 4000lb range. Even a loaded Outback tips the scales near 3900lbs if I remember correctly. Cars are getting heavier again due in large part to all the safety requirements and such. Heck, your 3 is right around the 3000lb range.
Dang! Here I am thinking my mazda was like... 2400 or something. I don't mind the heft, it's just when the suspension makes it feel really heavy, if that makes sense.

When I drove the Yukon, I just remember being really surprised at how non-tank like it felt, relative to what I was expecting.

One other reason (and it's pathetic to admit it) I lean toward something a little newer, than say 10 years old already, is that living in NJ and going into the city (aka NYC) a bit with the car, parking is a biotcheee. Having a rear view cam would be so nice. The Edge had one and I was parking a lot in tight spaces while I had it, and I think it really saved me sometime and anxiety while doing this. The blindspot monitoring was nice as well. I assume almost all cars now come with these options on the upper models? I haven't looked at cars in years, so no idea on that.

It's sort of like the Chris Rock skit - Once your GF does something to you... all future GFs better be doing it, or else it just ain't going to work.
 

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