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The best cars for car dads

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Ugh, I know. The headline reads like one of those ads at the bottom of this site. But listen, I’m a dad (and I like cars), and it can be hard to start a family and maintain the driving flame. So here are some of the best cars for car dads, all things considered.

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Question

I love reading your blog! My wife and I just had a baby an I am about to order an x3. I love to drive but of course now need to balance our budget with future needs of the baby! My question is this, do you think the suspension of the m40i is extremely firm? Is it worth upgrading to that amazing b58 engine?

– Steve

Answer

Steve, having had both, I can tell you that the M40i version of any BMW is better than a basic model. But given our current economic situation for both cars and diapers, I wanted to help you out a bit more because even new M40i examples are pushing into the $70k territory. Actually, a nicely equipped 30i is past $60k now. Yeesh.

Let’s check the used lot. I’ll divide this by budget, and since I’m super responsible, do not look for cars like an Alfa Romeo on here because it will break, and trust me, you do not want a screaming child and a screaming car at the same time. Nothing too old either – we need multiple air bags and a chassis that doesn’t have the structural integrity of an egg shell.

Best cars for car dads: $30,000 max

We’ll start with cars that might not be as lux as the Missus (or Mister, this is 2023 after all) might want, but damn it, you’re a dad and you make the rules. That’s how it works, right?

Pretty much any Subaru WRX

WRX

No, it’s not a BMW. But check out this example. Under 80k miles, stick, wagon, untouched by the backwards-hat-wearing crowd.

Cars like these are stepping stones – use it for as long as you need, and then move on to something better. But while you have it, it’ll be easy to repair, practical, and fun. Plus, there’s plenty of room for Junior and his bag of life support.

Newer examples aren’t much more, though they lose the wagon factor.

F30 BMW 335i

BMW F30 335i

It’s hard for me to sit here and tell you that this car won’t need something. But this example is a stick, and others like it are around the same price.

I did enjoy mine while I had it, the N55 being so silky smooth and delicious. It needs suspension work to really make it a sports sedan, but even if you leave it be, it will still generate some smiles from the front seat (and the back).

Bonus: Lexus IS-F

lexus-isf

Did you forget about this guy? Me too. But I drove one recently, and I must tell you, it would be the perfect dad car.

Of course, it’s a bit tight in the back, and it’s all so 2008 inside, but the V-8 is a hoot and it’s a Lexus, so it’ll start every day and let you save the “Oh please, God…” for the morning diaper check.

Best of all? Very affordable right now.

Best cars for car dads: $40,000 max

You can start to enter E90 M3, or even F80 M3 territory here. But the last thing you need is something unexpected to pop up that will cost you your firstborn, and the examples you’ll find won’t be in the best shape.

Instead we focus on SUVs here, of which there are many nice (and fun) examples to be had.

X3 M40i

X3 M40i

“We need an SUV.”

Alright, fine. Steve’s instincts about the M40i are correct, but the depreciation is real, so consider a pre-LCI example.

The LCI is better. It is not $20,000 better. I’d much rather see you having fun in this than a 30i.

Porsche Macan

Porsche Macan

There are so many Macans available! For these prices, don’t go for a base model. You want a GTS, or hell, a Turbo!

The Macan is also a pretty reliable SUV, all things considered. About the only drawback is that it’s small in second class. Car seats, especially the rear-facing kind, tend to take up a lot of room, so try before you buy one.

But if the booty and back seat check out, well, I’d Macan my way over to a Porsche dealer tomorrow.

Look how far I made it into the article without a dad joke!

Best cars for car dads: $50,000 max

By now we start to enter into “fast car” territory. Some surprises here…

F10 M5

F10 M5

L-O-L. I know. But hear me out, because these cars are actually hovering around $35-40k, with a stick! What?!

So why is it here? Because you can save up that last 10 grand in case something does go boom (and I’m not talking about a diaper change).

Plus it’s a 5 Series, meaning luxury and bigger than a 3 Series, so plenty of room for life. Actually, I think I might want one…

BMW M340i

BMW M340i

Maybe you do want something close to new, a true all-around good car. Enter the M340i.

It’s fast. Faster than an F80 because it gets to 60 in 3.7 seconds. All-wheel drive means you can use it all year. Plenty of room inside because it’s pretty much a 5 Series at this point. It’s even reliable.

Are you not entertained?!

Maximus was a dad too. I wonder how fast his chariot was…

Bonus: Mercedes C63 S Sedan

Mercedes AMG C63

They aren’t exactly known for their handling prowess, but a Merc with a “63” badge on the back means that a wonderful V-8 is packed under the hood. Here, it’s Mercedes biggest V-8 with their smallest body. Sort of like a baby, it makes a lot of noise from a tiny package.

Softer than an M, but fun in it’s own right, the C63 isn’t always below $50k for a good example, but you can find a few depending on how old you want to go.

The New Balance effect

Madison
Bimmer girl in training.

Once you have a child, priorities change (duh). But if cars are something that truly matters to you, there’s no need to feel guilty about maintaining your hobby.

All the cars here represent a compromise between price, practicality, and enjoyment. And the best part is that they’ve already taken their initial depreciation hit, so when it’s time to wave bye-bye, you’re not going to lose your shirt.

So Steve, whatever you choose, remember that it’s ok to still have fun. My daughter loves car rides, and it’s because I’ve shared the passion.

Want your car reviewed?

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