For nearly 25 years, station wagons have maintained the best value in the used car market. Popularity, or lack thereof, is the reason why. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a station wagon advertised on the Internet? In a parking lot? At a car dealership? It’s a rare sighting when you do, and the reason is simple: profit margin. While a new extra-large ‘family vehicle’ can yield a dealer upwards of $10,000 in profit, a station wagon is lucky to net a tenth of that amount. Long story short, Americans pay big to be big. And that’s good news for anybody who has an affinity for Woodies or just wants to get the most bang for their buck when buying a car.
Even better, most station wagons are built for European markets to be safety superstars, as they have to conform to some of the most thorough safety testing in the world. Many of those safety standards apply to the same models automakers end up marketing in the United. States. So parents can sleep easier knowing their vehicle is designed to keep the kids safe, even if it’s not a 2018 model loaded with newest bells and whistles.
Throw in the fact that used station wagons are much cheaper in the United States and offer better fuel economy to boot, it’s any wonder that people aren’t driving them in droves. Especially, since they can be had with all the options of a more popular overpriced and oversized SUV for a mere pittance.
That being the case, which used station wagons should you seek out if your pittance is $20,000 or less? While there are plenty of choices out there, if you’re looking for outstanding value, third-row seating, and, best of all, luxury car amenities like heated leather seats, these three wagons should be at the top of your target list.
2013 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Average price: $18,250
Key features: 201-HP four-cylinder, sunroof, navigation, Bluetooth, five-star safety rating, outstanding long-term reliability according to the Long-Term Quality Index.
Why you should buy it: The TSX is not only ranked #1 out of 20 compact luxury vehicles for long-term reliability, but it also won the Euro NCAP Advanced Award for vehicle safety. The 2013 model of the TSX Sport Wagon provides a higher level of sportiness and athleticism than other years, with a technology package that includes a premium surround-sound audio system, rearview camera, power liftgate, and heated leather seats.
2015 Toyota Prius V
Average Price: $19,250
Key features: Over 40 miles per gallon, Entune multimedia audio system including Bluetooth & navigation, stain-resistant synthetic leather seats, exceptional second-row space for three child seats.
Why you should buy it: Think of the Toyota Prius V as the car you buy when you start a family and then pass along to one of your kids as they head off to college. It features the same powertrain as the regular Prius, which is the top-ranked non-luxury car in America for long-term reliability. It’s also wider and taller than the original which allows it to accommodate a family of five at all stages and ages. Both the base 2015 model, or a loaded up 2014, offer exceptional reliability at a low cost.
2007 Volvo XC70 Wagon
Average Price: $7,275
Key features: All-wheel-drive, 208-HP five-cylinder turbo, 5-star Euro NCAP Rating, optional third-row seats, keyless entry, leather seats, and above-average long-term reliability.
Why you should buy it: A lot of used car shoppers who live in the snow belt find themselves relegated to Subarus with poor long-term reliability or overpriced SUVs and minivans. The 2007 and later models of the Volvo XC70 are an excellent alternative. Beyond their reliability, Volvos are renowned for their focus on safety. The XC70 ups the ante by throwing in an interior that rivals any $50,000 luxury car. It offers a winter mode with manual shift capability and front and rear fog lights. The 2007 model is especially nice since it features a third-row seat (Stock #3037A) that can be used by two children up to 80 pounds each.
Steven Lang is a freelance car writer and auto auctioneer, car dealer, and former part-owner of an auto auction near Atlanta, Georgia.