Ask John Paul: AAA’s Car Doctor

I am thinking of replacing my ever so dependable 2001 Toyota Avalon with a car that would have similarly generous legroom as comfortable seats and ride.  My wife’s car, a 2010 Honda Accord an otherwise great car, but rides a bit too firm and legroom feels tighter, so it is not great for us on a road trip.   I was pleasantly surprised when I test drove a 2015 Subaru Outback recently.  It was quite comfortable and roomy with good visibility, and it offers some impressive active safety features like lane change warning and blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision automatic braking.  I am seriously considering the Outback, but something just doesn’t feel “right”. On paper the car looks great but I’m not sure I would be happy with it. I am 50 and I think this latest safety technology could help me. In my search, all-wheel drive is not necessary, although based on last winter I would prefer it. I would like to keep the cost it under $45,000 and would appreciate your suggestions.

jpaulAAAmarkerThe Toyota Avalon in 2001 had about 41 inches of legroom. Three cars that can be ordered in all-wheel-drive that also meet or exceed the legroom of your Avalon are the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Genesis and Buick LaCrosse. Depending on what features you are looking for in addition to legroom, any one of these cars are easy to recommend.  The Fusion is small on the outside but has plenty of head and legroom. The Buick and the Hyundai are good solid cars with their own specific personalities. As you found out from looking at the Subaru you really need to find the car that best matches your budget, needs, desires and not just get a car because other people like them.

I own a 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid that I use rarely. I have this SUV because I don’t really need a car every day but do need a car/SUV from time to time. I ride a bike often and this Toyota seems pretty kind to the planet. Here is the problem, in the last couple of years it has developed an annoying condition that the battery goes dead. The original battery was replaced last year and I drive as little as possible to reduce pollution. At a recent trip to the repair shop they could find nothing wrong with the battery or charging system. They did recharge the battery and only suggested the problem was me not driving enough, any ideas?

The problem could be simply a result of your hybrid sitting idle for too long. Toyota recommends to their dealers if a hybrid car or SUV is going to be in storage that the accessory battery is disconnected. Short of disconnecting the battery; consider installing a battery charger such as the Battery Tender. These battery maintainer/chargers will keep the battery charged without over charging and are designed to be left connected when the car is parked. In addition many 2006-2010 Highlander hybrids have been recalled for an issue with Intelligent Power Module (IPM) inside the vehicle’s electrical inverter module, although it may not be the cause of your vehicles problem if your vehicle is part of the recall it should be taken care of.

 I’m looking for a car to get me to the train, about seven miles a day, but would like to spend as little as possible. I am okay with something over 100,000 miles, but do need a car with some size. I do see that 2000-03 Buicks, Lincolns, and Cadillacs can be had for about $5000 with around 150,000 miles on them. What are your thoughts about buying a car with high miles?

Any one of these cars can be good or bad choices, it really depends on how the car was maintained and driven. Recently I saw at a great looking 2000 Toyota Camry that sold for $3500. This Camry was very clean, had the original paint (no prior body work) and appeared well maintained. To my surprise the car had 230,000 miles, but it sounded like it would last another 100,000 miles. All in all I thought the car was well bought.

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