What Vehicle Should I Buy for $40k?


Hi John, found your website very helpful. In the processes of looking for a new family car and more than likely entering the 'cookie cutter world' of SUV's. My wife is after boot space, I'm possibly more focused on economy (running cost and inititial outlay) plus solid performance.

We have an '09 Toyota Aurion that has been a great performer but kids and prams etc have it at capacity. Have notice on many of the long haul drives we take that a lot of SUV's really die on hills. Your preference for the Hyundai Sante Fe , and comments on the Kia Sorento has prompted our research further.

We will be looking at these soon and moving away from our previous preference of the Territory (concerns we developed were only confirmed by your reviews). Any other suggestions around this size? I'd love to go under $40k but being realistic this may not get us to the Elite/mid series. I have a buyers agent who has been highly recommended but also interested in knowing who you recommend for comparative purposes.



Thank you very much for your encouraging comments about the website. Taking your points in order:

“A lot of SUVs die on hills”: That’s not my experience driving them. There are a lot of crap drivers out there. I think that’s mostly it, but petrol definitely underperforms diesel in SUVs. Diesel SUVs, in particular, out-perform petrol vehicles including cars on hills.

Read my petrol -vs- diesel report >>

Santa Fe & Sorento: These are sensational in this class of vehicle. Five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres for the Hyundai, and seven years/unlimited for the Kia are significant inducements, as is the full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre on both - much more practical that the 80km/h-limited space saver spare that is becoming increasingly prevalent on SUVs and cars. 

Above: Hyundai Santa Fe (left); Kia Sorento (right)

Here are some useful links:

The Aurion: You’re coming out of a car with a V6 petrol engine and going into an SUV - you’re not going to get an Aurion-like experience with more boot space. Some trade-offs are inevitable. They’re bigger and heavier. They don’t go as well.

Your budget: $40k is not enough to by a decent Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento. The base models are a little more than that, drive-away - and, trust me, you don’t want a base model. A Hyundai Santa Fe/Kia Sorento with the features you’ll appreciate/want is going to be more like $50k.



Stepping down in size to a Hyundai ix35/Kia Sportage/Mazda CX-5 is going to give you more versatility around cargo volume than an Aurion, but most of the increase will be vertical - so not all that practical unless you fit a cargo barrier. The footprint (plan projection) of an ix35 isn’t significantly different to a Hyundai i30 - the difference is all vertical.

ABOVE: Hyundai ix35 (left); Kia Sportage (right)

ABOVE: Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5 is also an excellent SUV. Within millimetres it is the same size as a Hyundai ix35/Kia Sportage. However, the Mazda has a space-saver spare tyre and only a three-year/100,000km warranty. I have a comprehensive Mazda CX-5 review here >>


See what you think about something like a Hyundai i40 Elite diesel wagon. List price: $41.5k + on-road costs. I’d load up the Aurion with all the stuff you need, take it to the dealership and see if it fits. Go from there. (Get back to me after this test if you need additional assistance. My default view on this is: People buy SUVs, but they really need wagons. If they knew this, they would save $10k. You could also consider a Mazda6 diesel wagon.

ABOVE: Mazda6 wagon (left); Hyundai i40 wagon (right)

I know you said you have a recommended buyer’s agent, but as requested I'll also get my preferred brokerage to call you ASAP. They’re the independent experts who can get the best price on your new vehicle - whatever you ultimately decide.