Kevin helps his wife’s grandmother replace her old Saturn. The family is looking for a car that is suitable for an older driver, something reliable but at the same time very simple. There are no screens or technology to frustrate an 80-year-old driver. With a budget of $15,000, which car should they buy?
(Welcome to Which car should you buy?? Where we give real people real car buying advice. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story in our form.)
Here is the script:
My wife’s grandmother needs her 2001 Saturn SL replaced. I don’t think she believes it, but her 1 mechanic, 7 children, 32 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren agree that Saturn should no longer orbit the city. I am looking for your help in finding a suitable replacement 4 door sedan for the family to give her.
The key here is to find a light vehicle with obvious functional components. For example, a pronounced automaton and large radio buttons – absolutely no screens!
While it may not be the most lively of searches, I think it’s a noble endeavor to try to find a more modern car with vintage simplicity. We don’t want to spend more than $15,000
budget: up to $15,000
Location: New England
Daily driver: So
wants: Simple, reliable, not big
Does not want: Something too heavy for the technique
Expert 1: Tom McParland – Soul Simple
Convincing someone who’s held on to their car for so long that it’s time to upgrade isn’t easy, especially since they’re used to the routine of their current drive. The tricky part of this scenario is finding something modern enough to have some life left in the car, but not too recent. As in many cases when someone is looking for an affordable and practical car, the answer is the Kia Soul. Examples abound, and unlike most Japanese cars that have much higher mileage at this price point, you can pick up a Kia with less than 100,000 miles on the clock.
The Soul isn’t the traditional sedan body she’s used to, but the slightly higher ride height makes getting in/out easier for the elderly. If you’re aiming for the 2015/2016 models, you’ll find a nice big gear lever in the middle and easy-to-use controls for the A/C, A/C, and radio. An added benefit of the Soul is its upright body style, which provides good visibility for navigating local traffic. Here’s an example with just under 70,000 for about $14,000.
Expert 2: Andy Kalmowitz is a smart choice
No one in the Jalopnik office would ever describe me as a smart person, but that’s about to change. Here is the best option for your dear old grandma. I should know. My grandmother is 87 years old and really wants to buy a new car because her 2004 Chrysler Town & Country is a bit worn out. I myself am trying to attract her to one of them.
The 10th-generation Corolla checks every box your grandma is looking for. This is the right price. It’s just. It is reliable and not big at all. In fact, it’s practically the same size as her Saturb. There are literally zero screens inside (apart from the radio and odometer displays) and if she’s anything like my grandma, the radio will never turn on. It also has as big a shifter as possible for a compact car. In a word, perfect.
This particular example it is a 2013 model located in Massachusetts with less than 34,000 miles on the clock. This is almost entirely new for Toyota. Additionally, it has a clean Carfax report and comes in a rather nice baby blue color. What else can you wish for? Kevin, my friend, make the right choice. Buy a Corolla for grandma. She will thank you later.
Expert 3: Adam Ismail is the best option
These are the kind of WCSYB prompts that really make you think. At first glance, it is not so much: a cheap, efficient, reliable, simple transport that will work for many more years. But asking for “no screens” kind of throws a wrench into it, because most cars built in the last decade won’t meet that criteria. Besides, Andy already said Corolla, so what the hell are the rest of us supposed to do?
Indeed, it’s probably the best choice — but so would the Civic or Fit. The Civic got some… corner Around this time with a semi-folding dash and I could see it scaring the older driver a bit. So, here is a 2012 Fit Sport, automatic transmission, no accidents and 85,000 miles on the odometer. I know it’s not a small amount, but they will last forever. The center panel controls are very simple and overall this example is pretty clean despite its history. And while your wife’s grandma might not care, this generation of Fit was definitely the best looking. She deserves something joyful.
Expert 4: Jose Rodriguez Jr. – Simple, clean layouts FTW
Kevin, your wife’s grandmother’s 20+ years with her Saturn SL is great. After two decades in a small sedan, I can see why she’d prefer to keep the same form factor, but something like Tom’s Kia Soul or, say, Honda Element could be a nice upgrade to Saturn. The Element has easy-to-understand controls, with the gear lever located on the dashboard.
If the size of this element not perfect, then maybe it is 2009 Toyota Matrix might fit better, no pun intended. The Matrix combines the form factor of the Toyota Corolla and Honda Fit mentioned above, but most importantly, it has a simple and clear instrument panel with easy access to the gear selector. The air conditioning controls are three simple dials, and the radio screen is essentially a dash piece. It’s incredibly simple. Add to that the reliability that Toyota is known for and the Matrix could be it!
The one I linked is expensive, but with less than 45,000 miles on the odometer, it’s poised to last another 20 years like the beloved Saturn. There always is Pontiac Vibe, also a cousin of Matryka. Previous Vibe models had the signature Pontiac buttons, but under the badge they look like the Matrix.