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View Poll Results: Which car would you pick?
New 2015 Sienna 9 23.08%
Used 2013 Town & Country 5 12.82%
New 2014 Prius C 8 20.51%
Other 17 43.59%
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Car or Minivan, New or Used?
Old 04-29-2015, 01:11 PM   #1
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Car or Minivan, New or Used?

My wife and I are mid-30s with a 2 year old. We need a new car and are not sure what to get. We originally sought a minivan, but the Prius C has unusually low prices in our area now, so that muddies the water. Primary uses of our cars are daily commute and weekend errands (grocery/local events/parks). In the running are:

New 2015 Sienna LE $29,500 OTD (all taxes & fees included)
Used 2013 Town & Country $18,500 List (before negotiation and taxes/fees) with 28,500 miles, similar lists for around $20k

New 2014 Prius C One $16,000 OTD

New vs Used
For the Sienna, I found that used low-mileage cars were comparable, and sometimes even exceeded (!), the price of new cars (after factoring in incentives). So if we were to get a Sienna, it would be a new one.

A new Prius C (2014 model year) for $16k OTD is well below used models.

The Chrysler T&C depreciated rapidly, so a used one would be preferable. New 2015 models were $31k OTD vs 2013 with 29k miles for $18.5k

Minivan vs Car
We only have one two year old and are not really planning another (plans change, I know), so I don't really see the need for a minivan. The space would be useful for longer trips, but I'm not sure if it's worth it since most of the time it would just be used for local errands.

Does it make sense to buy a large minivan vs a subcompact for almost twice the price? Especially if the only real advantage is in more space on longer trips? I feel I might be better financially if I just rent a minivan for vacations and buy the subcompact now.

For those who have been through this, is it worth it to buy a minivan with one kid? If so, I feel the used T&C might be a better deal since the depreciation is pretty severe. But I'm leery of Chrysler reliability, even with the new 2011 redesigned engine. If anyone have any experience with one, please chime in.

The confounding factor in all this is the exceedingly low price of the Prius C (half the cost of the minivan). Being the LBYM type, I find it hard to pass up a bargain. But if it ends up being too cramped lifestyle-wise, it won't be such a bargain.

Our other car is a 2007 Corolla with 40k miles. So perhaps we could buy the Prius C now and maybe sell the Corolla after a few years if we had another child or something and buy a minivan then. Maybe I'm just trying to talk myself into going for the "bargain."

Is there any other factor I should consider or miss? Which would you pick?

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Old 04-29-2015, 01:52 PM   #2
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I'd likely go with the Prius. The hatchback is great for errands and stuff. If you really want a mini-van for a trip, you can always rent one for the weekend. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but with the amount you're saving on the front end, it's probably not a big deal.

I have no kids, but our 2005 Prius seats two tall adults in the back very easily. I don't know what the mpg is on those vans, but I suspect you'll also save money there.

$16k seems like a really great deal, but I haven't been shopping for a car in a while, so I'll trust your judgment on that. If you got it and decided you hated it, you probably wouldn't lose that much in depreciation if you sold it in a few years.

Have you test driven any of them? That may eliminate one of them if you just hate the way it feels.

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Old 04-29-2015, 02:06 PM   #3
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I've driven the Sienna extensively (my sister owns one and I drove most of the way on a 300 mile trip), and have test driven the T&C. I haven't tried the Prius C yet though. We originally didn't even consider the Prius C, that's why we didn't test drive it. It came under consideration when I was researching incentives for the Sienna and found out how much they were discounting the Prius C. I'm expecting the Prius C to be similar to the Corolla, but you're right, we need to test drive it first.
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:30 PM   #4
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I voted for the used minivan, but with the caveat that I'd probably be looking at one a few more years old than that one (and for less than $15k). That's just me, though, because I wouldn't be considering a new car at all.

The van will be pretty convenient, I think, if you've already got a smaller car in the family.
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:42 PM   #5
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The Sienna's are a good mini-van - and they have a premium price to show for it.

That said - as the mom of two middle-schoolers - you do NOT need a minivan to raise kids until you have 3 or more kids. A family of 4 can get buy just fine with a 4 door sedan or hatchback.

The cost of ownership should also be factored in - the minivan, being larger and not a hybrid, is going to cost more to drive. It's also going to cost more to insure. It's going to have a bigger footprint for parking (perhaps only allowing 1 car in a 2 car garage for example).

When I was in a similar decision process 10 years ago - I ended up with a hybrid highlander... It's too big for most of what we do - I could very easily have gotten a prius and been fine. Good friends have a prius and when they go camping (so LOTS of sleeping bags, tents, stuff) they just put one of those roof carriers on - and load it up to the gills.

As a mom - I say go for the prius. Especially if you only have one child and no plans for more (at the moment.)
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:46 PM   #6
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:51 PM   #7
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I picked other. But out of the other choices, I'd pick Prius C as I like tiny cars with good gas mileage.

When got a used car a couple years ago, I considered the used Prius C but went with a Honda Fit. It came down mostly to what I needed more, cargo room or better MPG. Yet, each time I see a Prius C on the road, I check that out (grass is always greener on the other side).
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:57 PM   #8
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Not sure why you are only considering two very opposite ends of the size scale. The Prius C is smaller than your Corolla and has literally about HALF the total interior volume of the minivans. And it has far fewer features/comforts than either of the minivans. Of course, it will also be MUCH cheaper to operate.
DW & I have a '12 T&C that has been great. The volume with the seats flat is amazing for hauling stuff. Comfortable and plenty of room for EVERYTHING on long trips. But like any heavy (2-tons) vehicle (inc. Sienna), it uses lots of gas in urban stop-n-go driving. We much prefer driving my Nissan Altima around town.
FWIW- You have lots of other options in the market. Might want to check out mid-size sedans and smaller SUV's before committing to a vehicle that you may not be fully happy with.
Good luck with your car shopping!
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Old 04-29-2015, 03:11 PM   #9
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Get a Miata and have some fun. Use the Corolla for family stuff.
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Old 04-29-2015, 03:27 PM   #10
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I voted for the Prius. Your primary use is commuting and running errands. Your other car is eight years old and only has 40,000 miles. I assume you are driving short distances if you only put 5k miles on the Corolla every year - no marathon commute. Gas prices are going up. Hybrid batteries are quite reliable now.

The 2014 Prius C was a great deal here as well, but the 2014 is sold out and the dealers are firmer on the 2015 prices.

Rent a van or SUV if you need it and enjoy the 50 mpg of the Prius C when gas gets back over $4.00 a gallon.
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Old 04-29-2015, 03:49 PM   #11
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I would drop the Prius "C" from the possibilities list, and put something else in its place.

The "C" is built on the wonderful Yaris chassis, and it shows. Check Consumer Reports on what they've said about the Prius "C". There are some who say CU is always in love with Japanese cars... but the "C" was too poor rating for them. IIRC, they recommended some other specific cars to consider if one was thinking of a "C".

Prius, OK. Prius "V", the wagon version, OK. The "C" drops to an F.
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Old 04-29-2015, 04:13 PM   #12
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I voted for the Prius, but didn't know the differences (that Telly explained) between various Prius models. So, better look into that. But I agree with Rodi that you probably won't be needing a minivan with one, or even two kids.

I just adore the Prius, especially if you put a lot of mileage on your cars. I also would suggest checking on how safe it is or isn't in an accident, compared with the other vehicles you are considering.
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Old 04-29-2015, 04:47 PM   #13
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Please check into the safety aspect of the Prius C before purchasing. The price and potential gas mileage sound great, but not if the risk is great.

Consider a Subaru or a Honda on your list of possible purchases and look at what Consumer Reports says along with other rating entities.
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Old 04-29-2015, 04:54 PM   #14
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Take a look at the Honda Fit. The space is awesome and the gas consumption is low.
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Old 04-29-2015, 05:17 PM   #15
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I wasn't clear, are you replacing the Corolla, or getting an additional car? Unless it's been dunked in salt water for a week, that Corolla should be good for another 10-15 years, maybe it can be Jr's car when he gets his permit and is ready to wreck for his first car.

So, if you've got a small car, you might like/need something a tad bigger. The kid will have friends, there may be another one, a slightly bigger car is good for trips and it is safer than a small one (all other factors being the same). A minivan sounds like overkill (have you considered a CR-V or Mazda 5 ), but if you are both comfortable driving it--why not? You don't seem to drive many miles each year (so a few MPG difference won't add up to much), and renting for those occasional trips will still be a hassle.

Between the two minivans--it depends. You can tie up fewer dollars by getting the T&C, but if you are the type who drives a car for 10+ years (ultimately the lowest cost thing to do) then it is more likely the T&C is going to need major work (transmission, A/C compressor, etc) than the Sienna. As you've found, most Toyotas and Hondas don't depreciate much, it often makes no sense to buy a 2-3 year old one. But they really can be driven for a decade (or much more) with high reliability before things start to fail, and they will remain tight and squeak-free. If you'll be using the car for family trips, reliability is more important than it might be for an around-town car.

The Prius--if I'm reading this right, you guys just don't drive very much (so fuel costs aren't a significant factor), and a Prius gives you no functionality that you don't already have with the Corolla. And, if you're the type who keeps a car a long time, then that battery is not a trivial issue. It's not a bargain >for you<, it's just a bargain compared to the list price.
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Old 04-29-2015, 05:35 PM   #16
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I will echo the others suggestion to drop the Prius C from your choices....regular Prius would be a yes as the C version gets you NO additional mileage over the regular Prius.

Not sure if "ride" is any part of your consideration, but if so, buy the Sienna...hands down.

I actually own BOTH...bought my Prius III in 2011 and absolutely love the mileage and while I have no problems with its lack of comfort, DW ~ no so much I bought the current Sienna in 2013 (replacing a 2004 Sienna) so DW might accompany me some of the time

IMHO Toyota rules and if I HAD to choose between my Prius and Sienna...Sienna hands down. BTW, all kids grown and gone so it's just us older grownups here.

Bottom line ~ voted Sienna.
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Old 04-30-2015, 09:03 AM   #17
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Thanks for all the great responses and info.

To clarify, we will be keeping the Corolla and need to buy one other car. My work location recently changed, so my commute is now around 40 miles a day with sporadic traffic jams (10 miles before). My wife mostly telecommutes from home.

We originally only considered getting a minivan, but the relative cost (about twice that of an economy car) made us reconsider whether we really needed one.

We looked at older minivans, but they had much higher mileage (over 60k). We're also leery of possible repairs and unknown maintenance so we tend to lean toward newer models with less than ~30k miles. Prices for the Sienna and Odyssey in that condition rival those of new, so might as well buy new. The T&C was the only one that had significant depreciation. Unfortunately reliability rankings for the T&C isn't very high.

The Prius C is the smallest and cheapest of the Prius line. Crash test ratings are good except for the small overlap test. Being a smaller car, it would not offer the same level of safety that a minivan would. Consumer Reports does not like the Prius C at all and does not recommend it. However, it did top their most reliable rankings. They actually have an article defending their criticism of the C since they received a lot of criticism for it. Online reviews are conflicting, so we're planning to test drive it tomorrow to get a firsthand impression.

My takeaway so far is:
  • We don't really need a minivan right now, but it would definitely be a convenience to have a larger vehicle in the stable. Having two subcompacts would limit transport options.
  • Minivans cost more to purchase, insure, and maintain. Also might elbow out another car in the garage, though might be okay with a Corolla as a stable mate.
  • Consider other options: mid-size vehicles/SUVs.
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Old 04-30-2015, 09:39 AM   #18
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There is so much subjectivity in buying a car. Heck, gotta get the right color .

The best to do is go ahead with a test drive of the vehicles you are interested in to rule out or in. On that Prius C, when you do the test drive, I'd suggest that you ask the salesperson if you can take the car on the freeway (those around the block test drives don't allow a good opinion to buy or not). I say that as some of the criticisms of the car is there isn't enough giddyup . By going on the freeway, you'll know if that is acceptable for you or not.

I know for me, when I was considering the Fit or Prius C, had the Prius C had back seats that flip up like the Fit, I would have gone the Prius C route. But I really wanted the extra cargo space and configurations the Fit gives.

Once you rule out Minvan or not, if not, then hatchback or not, that helps. Otherwise there's a lot of apples to oranges comparing.
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Old 04-30-2015, 03:29 PM   #19
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I'd suggest you subscribe to consumer reports, one of the vehicles you are considering is not recommended new or used.

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Old 04-30-2015, 04:04 PM   #20
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Granted, I'm single with no children and drive a Prius, which I love, BUT I had to rent a car recently and got the Mazda 5. Looks like a station wagon but is essentially a van. I LOVED the space. Took the opportunity to get to Home Depot for plywood and sundry other items that would never fit in my Prius.

Seriously thinking of a bigger car when my Prius is tapped out. Just loved having all that hauling space.

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