Ask TFL: My Mom Needs A New Car For Around $25,000 — What Should She Buy?

The Hyundai Kona is currently a front-runner

My mom wants a crossover and kicked the conversation off with the Hyundai Kona, but is there a better option? (Photo: TFLcar)

I could use your help: What new car should my mom buy?

Today’s Ask TFL is a bit different from most. Instead of airing a question we received from our readers — much respect to those of you who send those in to, by the way — this question is actually coming from yours truly. Even before I joined the TFL team, I was sort of a de facto car guru my friends and family would call whenever they wanted advice. That’s especially the case now that I’m here. The thing is, though, I’m not always right (shocker, I know) and you guys bring a tremendous amount of knowledge to the table when you comment on our videos, leave your two cents on our websites or send us e-mails.

To that end, this time around I’m kicking the question over to you. My mom is currently looking to trade up from her 2011 Kia Sorento LX after about 120,000 miles. It’s been a great car over the past decade, but after quite a few moves covering roads from coast to coast and even a stint on the island paradise that is Hawaii, it’s starting to get a bit tired. It’s now officially out of Kia’s excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so if something does come up she could be staring down some major repair bills.

Circumstances have changed over those past few years as well. My parents currently have two dogs, but neither is terribly large and she’s looking to downsize while sticking with a crossover. Car payments need to be reasonable, so she’s looking to spend around $25,000 (ideally less). It does need to be all-wheel drive as they may move back to Colorado (the Sorento is front-wheel drive), and ideally come with heated seats.

The Subaru Forester is probably the most “Colorado” car in this price bracket, so she’d fit right in here. (Photo: TFLcar)

What are the best options for the low to mid-$20,000 range?

The new car hunt can be a daunting challenge if you’re shopping crossovers. My mom has a ton of choice in this area, since pretty much every mainstream automaker targets the exact segment and price point in which she’s shopping. I agreed that the Hyundai Kona is a solid choice (she’d be looking at an SE with the 2.0-liter, 147 horsepower engine), but it is a bit small when you’re downsizing from a Sorento.

Call it a cop out if you want, but I’ve been steering her toward the Subaru Forester as a good right-now option to hit all her requirements. It’s all-wheel drive, has a decently high driving position and 8.7 inches of ground clearance for snow. If you buy the Premium (one step up from the base model), you do get heated seats, and the Forester is roomy while being physically smaller than a Sorento. The only trouble is that I’m aware the Forester is on the higher end of the $20,000 range, so this would mean stretching the budget past something like a Kona.

Here are some other options I’ve floated:

  • Kia Sportage
    • She likes the Sportage, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth
  • Mazda CX-30
    • Good value against a CX-5, but tight on space
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
    • Hits all the marks, but can get pricey; AWD versions are hard to find where she lives
  • Toyota RAV4
    • Like the Subaru, would require stretching the budget a bit
  • Honda CR-V
    • A good all-around choice, and it does have a good CVT (if there is such a thing)

We discussed a few other cars as well, but let us know what you think in the comments below! Based on our recent experience, maybe she should get a used Toyota FJ Cruiser: