I’m a contractor, and I need a vehicle for hauling tools, but it has to do double-duty hauling my family, too. My wife and I have three young children and a labrador-mix dog. I’ve always driven a pickup, but now I’m thinking about either an SUV or even a minivan, to keep everything and everyone dry and secure. It will be a company vehicle, and I want to lease, but don’t want to spend more than $500 a month. What do you suggest? – Neil, Winnipeg
Richardson: I hate to sound suburban, but minivans are great. Three comfortable rows, and if you fold away the seats, they’re hugely spacious.
Gentile: Come on, Mark, minivans are out. Yes, they’re practical, but Neil is used to trucks in Winnipeg. If he wants to get something else, it should be an SUV – much cooler than a boring old minivan.
Richardson: Neil doesn’t need cool, he needs space, and minivans have way more interior cargo space than any SUV.
Gentile: Nobody needs cool, but it’s nice to have. There are plenty of full-size SUVs with three rows of seats and excellent cargo space for his gear, his growing family and four-legged friend.
Richardson: I can tell you from experience that many dogs and dog owners don’t like full-size SUVs. They’re too high off the ground for most to jump into easily or out of safely.
Gentile: Depends on the dog. Like Neil, my foster puppy is a black lab-retriever mix named Moon – she’s training to be a future dog guide. And she doesn’t have any issues jumping in and out of a full-size SUV.
Richardson: I need a pet ramp for Elvis, my Clumber Spaniel, to get into my RAV4. He just jumps into the low side door of any minivan, though, and then gets hair everywhere.
Gentile: Some manufacturers such as Volvo and Land Rover offer pet accessories. You can get everything from foldable pet carriers to spill-resistant water bowls to portable rinse systems for washing your pet after a muddy walk. But those are luxury vehicles – way out of Neil’s price range. I’m thinking an SUV with three rows like a Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander or Nissan Pathfinder.
Richardson: Well, the true advantage of an SUV over a minivan, other than just self-esteem, is that they’re better vehicles in bad conditions. Those three all have AWD, and that might be important for Neil in Winnipeg.
Gentile: I agree. The new Ford Explorer is one of my favorites. It doesn’t feel big and cumbersome to drive, and it feels so spacious inside. And the 2020 Highlander is all-new – it comes in gas or hybrid.
Richardson: I drove the new Highlander recently, and I thought it was a Lexus. In fact, it was better than a Lexus because it didn’t have that difficult-to-use mousepad controller for its display screen. The fuel consumption for me was an average of 10.1 L/100 km, which I thought was amazing.
Gentile: I recently drove the new Highlander, too. I was so impressed with it. It had such a quiet and spacious cabin with very modern touches inside. And even though it had three rows of seats, it didn’t feel like I was driving a big bus!
Richardson: But let’s be realistic now. The very cheapest new Highlander will come in around $500 a month to lease over five years, and that’s with front-wheel drive. I think Neil would be better following my neighbour’s example. He just replaced his 10-year-old Honda Pilot with a two-year-old Pilot, all the bells and whistles and new technology, for about $30,000. It offers the space and versatility of any large SUV for hauling his surveying equipment, and it’s comfortable for the family.
Gentile: A used vehicle might be the way to go, but he may be able to find a better deal for a used Highlander – something that’s two or three years old.
Richardson: That used Highlander would be the previous generation. The two-year-old Pilot is the current, up-to-date tech generation, and it’s night-and-day better than the previous version. My neighbour can’t believe the savings in gas he’s getting. An extra 150 km for the same tank of gas.
Gentile: Fair point. He is better off getting the latest technology. So we’ll scrap the used Highlander.
Richardson: The Explorer is up-to-date though, and like you said, it doesn’t feel cumbersome to drive.
Gentile: And there’s also the Nissan Pathfinder. But it feels like a bus – big and bulky when you’re behind the wheel. Both the Explorer and Highlander have more pleasant road manners than the Pathfinder.
Richardson: There you go, Neil. If you’re feeling flush, I’d recommend the new Highlander, Explorer and Pilot, and if you’re more tight, then think about a used-but-current-generation Explorer or Pilot. And take a look at the Chrysler Pacifica minivan while you’re at it.
Gentile: Forget about the minivan! I say stick with the Highlander or Explorer.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at email@example.com.
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