My truck died and we had two days to make a decision and $5000 that we could scrape together as cash for a down payment. And here is what happened:

1. We went to Ford Dealership A to look at their used cars and this was a terrible experience. Their vehicles were in such phenomenally poor condition we couldn’t believe they were selling them. The salesman was not interested in selling us a vehicle. He kept wandering off to do other things. We left after an hour but this was after we sat in a 2005 Ford Freestyle and we talked about how much we wanted a Subaru Outback but couldn’t find one used (they are impossible to find used in any condition) but we started seriously thinking about an SUV wagon.

2. We went to Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Annapolis where they were having a liquidation sale. Turns out the car dealerships are backed up with leased vehicles with leases that came up and now they cannot move. This is the dealership my super picky parents use for local service so we figured they might not be too sleazy. We drove a 2009 Mercury Mariner and a 2007 Ford Freestyle, but the Mariner was sadly out of our price range. The Freestyle drove pretty well and we went home to research it.

3. I found out that Ford doesn’t make the Freestyle any more but it won Truck of the Year 2007, had positive reviews, a decent review from Edmunds, a “Recommended” review from Consumer Guide Auto, and some other positive reviews. The 2005 model clearly had mechanical/design issues but I found far fewer issues with the 2007. Does it mean that simply no one owns one? I have no idea.

Of course for crossover vehicle of the same year there was the Saturn we cannot buy from Saturn being discontinued, the Chrysler we cannot buy from Chrysler going tit’s up, Pontiac and Buick are GM vehicles and who KNOWS about GM, the Toyota we cannot buy because Toyotas are deathtraps, the Subarus that are not for sale anywhere…. We sat in a 2007 Nissan Murano and hated it. We cannot afford Lexus or Mercedes. We could have looked at a Honda Pilot had we had more time and could find one used (you can’t). And as a Detroiter I would have to go through some convincing to buy a Honda despite the stellar reviews. Thus pickings are a little slim.

4. We went to Carmax this morning and Carmax is a miserable experience for anyone who has any knowledge or care or interest in their vehicles. At first they would only talk to Eric. Then they talked to me like I was Katie except with a very small brain. Then they were… it’s like the stupid Walmart of used cars. I drove a 2007 Escape and, to be honest, it was identical to my dead truck in every conceivable way. But I hated Carmax with a flinching vengeance. If the vehicle has flaws, they would be sure to mask them. Or not care. Look, just don’t go to Carmax.

5. We went back to the Lincoln-Mercury dealership and bought the Freestyle. It had a super high carfax score so someone took exquisite care of it. It didn’t seem to have any issues except a busted fob. We got ridiculous financing with a below the national rate.

In the end, we ended up with a 2007 Ford Freestyle, a vehicle no one has ever heard about and has been folded into the new Ford Edge line. It’s a Volvo XC90 chassis and engine with the Ford name slapped on it. It’s not really an SUV but it’s not a station wagon. It’s a crossover vehicle. Research shows complaints about some issues with the vehicle’s design so we’ll see what comes of it. We might have made a terrible decision but, hey, we also got an extra $4K knocked off the price so if we made a terrible decision we did it as cheaply as conceivably possible. It also feels like driving a tank.

If I had more time I would have saved money for the Mariner. Or had enough to put down on a Subaru. But a new Outback was out of my range so we did the best we could.