Contrary to popular belief, large families can get a huge break on a used car. It might sound nuts ⏤ considering a large family needs a large car ⏤ but it’s not. And it all has to do with one single change in car preferences over the past two decades: People’s infatuation with SUVs.
While over a million minivans were sold annually back in the mommy-van-loving days of 2000, only half that number are sold today. Instead, millions of consumers have flocked to full-size trucks or SUVs ⏤ which usually cost twice as much. As a result, these less-popular vehicles have been left moldering at the back of car dealerships everywhere. Minivans are not alone. Station wagons, full-size sedans such as the Toyota Avalon and Ford Taurus, and even conversion vans, which were once kinda groovy in the 1970s, all now have the automotive version of leprosy. For the large family that needs three rows and doesn’t mind driving an off-lease or used car under $25,000, there are significant deals to be had.
So what are the best bangs for the larger-family buck? A recent study on the reliability of used cars, the Long-Term Quality Index, took a deeper dive and released a five-year analysis of well over 1.7 million vehicles that have been professionally inspected by ASE certified mechanics. It revealed that a lot of unpopular models out there are surprisingly reliable. Which is why looked at the LTQI numbers to find the best used cars for large families in one of three price ranges, starting at $10,000. Here’s what turned up.
Best Used Family Car For $10,000 To $15,000: 2014/2015 Mitsubishi Outlander
Starting price: $10,995
- Available rear-view camera, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, ‘flap-fold’ tailgate that makes loading large and heavy items easy.
- Award-winning IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with across the board ‘Good’ crashworthiness ratings ⏤ includes side airbags, rear airbags, traction control, and electronic stability control (2014 and newer models).
- Available 3.0 Liter V6 with 230HP, Excellent fuel-economy with four-cylinder models (23 city/28 highway). Available four-wheel-drive that gets nearly the same MPGs as the front-wheel-drive models.
Why you should buy it: The less popular brands of yesteryear, like Mitsubishi, often see far steeper discounts in the used car market than the popular models of today ⏤ largely thanks to the big automakers spending tens of millions in advertising and online promotions. Case in point: The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander. This compact crossover which was redesigned the following year (and starts at $23,945 new) offers better long-term reliability than far more popular mid-size crossovers like the Nissan Rogue or Ford Edge at half the cost. In addition to above-average fuel economy and 3rd-row seating (although it’s reportedly a bit cramped), the 2015 model offers emergency braking assistance, keyless ignition, and a backup camera.
Best Used Family Car For $15,000 To $20,000: 2014 Ford Flex Limited
Starting price: $14,995
- Available all-wheel drive, panoramic sunroof, Sirius TravelLink, with real-time traffic, weather, sports, and movie listings.
- Outstanding safety: Advance Trac w/roll stability control, Dual front airbags w/Personal Safety System, 10-Airbags including all three rows, Top Safety Pick+ rating, 2nd/3rd-row safety canopy with rollover sensor.
- DVD entertainment system; 20-inch wheels; second-row refrigerator; a hidden keyless entry pad that responds to a swipe of a finger like the Apple iPhone; a power tailgate; xenon headlamps; and HD radio.
Why you should buy it: Since its introduction in 2008, the Ford Flex Limited is the only full-size crossover to receive an above-average long-term reliability rating and been a Top Safety Pick. Better still, unlike most of its competitors, you don’t have to step-up to reach the driver’s seat in this seven-passenger beauty. If you want a luxury vehicle equal to a Land Rover or a Lexus, the Flex is an easy choice. It offers virtually every luxury option available on the new car market of just five years ago for just about quarter of that new-car dollar.
Best Used Family Car For $20,000 to $25,000: 2016 Kia Sedona SX & SXL
Starting price: $23,998
- Excellent driving dynamics with the 3.3 Liter 260-HP V6 and a powertrain geared heavily towards fun driving at low-to-moderate speeds.
- Consistent Top Safety Pick+ Rating with available automatic braking technology, electronic stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution along with front and rear head/side airbags.
- Slide-N-Stow seating: The second row slides and folds upright to allow for on-the-go cargo hauling with a split-folding 60/40 third-row that retracts seamlessly into the rear cargo floor.
Why you should buy it: Minivans not made by Toyota or Honda experience a cliff-dive in depreciation once they’re two years old ⏤ the Kia Sedona is no exception. The 2016 Kia Sedona has been lauded by a wide variety of auto enthusiasts and publications including Motor Trend, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. If technology is your thing, the Technology Package available in SX and SXL models includes smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, a forward collision warning system, lane departure warning system, and even a panoramic surround view-monitor that makes parking this minivan as easy to use as any modern day midsize sedan.
The best part is the price difference. It costs nearly $5,000 to $7,000 less than the usual top players in today’s minivan market, according to the Manheim Market Report. So if your budget is far smaller than the big-gulp $40,000 to $50,000 needed for a new minivan, the 2016 Kia Sedona can give you almost all of the same features for less than half the price.