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I would appreciate any thoughts on how to choose which car to get. We've just started shopping for a used car (new to us) and we have it narrowed down to three types of cars:

- mid/large station wagons (Passat, etc)
- mid sized SUV's (Highlander, etc)
- mini-vans (Odyssey, etc)

There are some of each in my price range at CarMax and the local certified used lots of the various dealers around. I've spent some time on edunds and CR. I'm looking at late model used cars (under 50K miles & less than 4 or 5 years old). My target price range is in the high teens, and our max price is $22K.

We have a 3 year old, we have a new baby on the way for Feb., and our 4 door Camery is not big enough. My main factors are: reliability!!; comfort & conveniences; operating & maintenance costs; and obviously safety.

I think that the mini-van might be the most practical, but my wife doesn't see herself as a mini-van mom (yet) ..... (unless the right one drops in her lap). I've driven Toyotas for 10 years and really like them and all things being equal would lean towards them or another Japanese maker, but finding the right car is more important than brand loyalty (except for Ford, no Fords).

Thanks in advance. The last time I got a car, it was easy, I wasn't married with kids yet :-)


PS: being crunchy I would love the Highlander hybrid, but frankly the savings in buying any of these used cars just ridiculously offsets any gas savings I would seen in a hybrid (even taking a best case / worst case differences, a hybrid would result in about $700 / year of savings --- if I kept the car for 10 years, I could afford an equivalent hybrid of $25K - $27K, but I don't think I'd get best case milage out of a hybrid nor worst case out of a conventional engine).
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