Piston Slap: Car Purchase Advice? Pointless!


Jon writes:

Hey Sajeev,

My wife and I recently found out that we’re to add a third child to our family. As such, it’s time to trade in my wife’s 2016 Charger SXT and get something with a bit more room. We’ve decided on something used in the $15-23k range.

The obvious and sensible choice is a newer (2015-17) Grand Caravan/Pacifica/Town & Country. There are a plethora available and we could certainly get into something with the same 3.6-liter Pentastar that we have now with under 50k miles on it. I do like the engine and have driven it in minivan form. I would stick with the FCA offerings over the Honda/Toyota vans because I’m fully convinced that I’ll never make up the 25-30 percent price premium the Odyssey/Sienna command on the used market in repair cost savings.

On the other shoulder, the crazy part of me is considering getting the best Mercedes-benz E350 wagon that I can find in our price range.

I believe I can find something decent from 2011-13 range with 60-80k miles. My limited research suggests that the E350s in this range aren’t terrible in terms of reliability and I’ve always felt a flutter whenever I see a Mercedes wagon. The back seat is roomier for three kids and we can even have someone ride in the rear facing seats once in a while. (My kids are currently only one and three.)

We have several trustworthy mechanics in our area that work on German vehicles and I do know that I’ll be spending a bit more on maintenance with the Benz.

Am I crazy for even considering it?

Sajeev answers:

The “crazy part” of you doesn’t want a minivan, eh?

Stop the presses: now I’ve heard everything!

Every Piston Slapper deserves Friday morning fame, yet I’ve largely avoided car purchase advice because:

  • The original mission was to collect knowledge similar to that of make/model specific forums.
    • Unlike my TTAC inbox, such forums aren’t brimming with “our vehicle failed me somehow, what should I buy now?” questions.
  • We tried this shtick with Lang and, in editing, they were stereophonic financial rants stemming from incomplete information: pretty frickin’ unhealthy for both of us.
    • I don’t expect credit rating divulsions, but acknowledging the likelihood of securing top-tier financing would help. As I’m jaded by how many live in blissful ignorance of this metric, I expect the worst: when I open this door, it sometimes gets shut in my face.  HARD. Which depresses the hell outta me.
  • Questioners are secretly hoping for confirmation bias: no worries, we ALL crave it on the Internet. I want every forthcoming comment changing the subject to Medium Brown Metallic Crown Vics, but it ain’t happening. 

Perhaps my dilemma is clear … so on to the query!

With your growing family and $15k-23k budget, the notion of spending “a bit more on maintenance” is short sighted.  Consider the cost of repairs/component failures that’ll creep up on a 5-7 yr old Eurozone Wagon (vis-a-vis Chrysler minivan) and the tragic amount of bespoke bits that your kids shall break, stain, etc. only available at the dealer or junkyard.

Also, pleeeeease fit the stereotype of buying the first example you see: service history, quality of accident repairs, etc. be damned!

That said, you’re not crazy for considering an E 350 Wagon. I often encourage such lunacy!Ford E350 Wagon Passenger Van; Image: Ford

That’s right, Son! Here is your E-350 (Club) Wagon and your boy Sanjeev will even hook you up with a 75-shot and an SCT tune. Imagine all the fun scaring the crap outta your kids and their friends for years to come!

And now to give thanks: Best and Brightest, thanks for keeping my creative outlet slapping on all eight cylinders for 9+ years, I can’t imagine my autojourno career without you. And endless thanks to Anthony Bourdain: his candor, pragmatic button-pushing, bottomless compassion and gonzo journalistic influence shall never leave me. RIP.

[Image: Blake Z. Rong/TTAC, Ford]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.