Buying Guides

The 7 Best Used Station Wagons

There's more to this segment than meets the eye

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Wagons are definitely not what they used to be. No more Buick Roadmasters or Oldsmobile Vista Cruisers that drove like cargo ships on wheels and seemed like they were 50 feet long. Nope. Now station wagons are more like extended sports sedans with their sloping rooflines and clean designs. And even though crossovers have taken over the automotive landscape, a good wagon can easily deliver comfort, cargo space, good looks and better driving dynamics thanks to a low center of gravity. You can still find a great used station wagon out there to suit your needs, and since it's not a high demand type of car, you'll likely be able to negotiate for a very attractive price.

2014 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

  • PROS: Styling that looks like no other wagon on the road, refined interior still looks good today, big cargo room makes hauling gear a breeze, sporty handling.
  • CONS: Big C-pillars make rearward visibility tough, sporty suspension can be too firm for some.

The CTS Sport Wagon should've lasted longer than it did, in our opinion. Not only did it look great, it separated itself from the Europeans with that Stealth Fighter boxiness that still turns heads today. The interior room is also worth noting, and it beats out its competitors from the same era in terms of cargo space. The CTS Wagon also happens to drive well and provides thrills that even some sedans can't match. You even get the option of all-wheel drive, a boon for families. V6 power is more than respectable, and if you upgrade to the potent CTS-V Wagon, you'll be the one person on the block who makes sports cars nervous.

The Luxury (base) trim level comes standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a power liftgate, a sunroof, heated mirrors, keyless entry, remote ignition, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats (with adjustable lumbar), driver memory functions for the driver seat and outside mirrors, a split-folding rear seat, leather upholstery, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, OnStar emergency communications and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio, a rearview camera, a heavy-duty cargo net, and a cargo cover.

2014 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

  • PROS: Unique styling that looks good coming and going, great handling in the twisties, good list of standard equipment, Acura build quality and reliability.
  • CONS: Could use more power, only front-wheel drive available, mediocre fuel economy.

Here's another wagon that didn't last very long. The TSX Sport Wagon only lasted a few years, but we were pretty excited when it hit the market, hoping it would give a boost to the wagon segment. The TSX Wagon not only looks great, the interior is handsome and well-made. Get behind the wheel, and you'll easily notice that the car is fun to drive, more so than a wagon has the right to be. The cargo section is capacious, offering a whopping 66 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row folded flat, bigger than most crossovers.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, a sunroof, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, driver memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a seven-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio input jack, and a USB port.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

  • PROS: Smooth and attractive body design, comfortable seats, great driving dynamics, well-made interior, ample cargo space, great fuel economy, available with a manual transmission.
  • CONS: Base gas engine is a bit on the slow side, styling can be a bit vanilla for some, TDI model is part of the VW recall.

If you're a bit hesitant about getting a crossover, and you want to keep both costs and size on the lower side, then look no further than the Jetta SportWagen. It's the only truly affordable European station wagon in America since the rest of them come from the premium German brands. Sit inside, and you'll find yourself awash in high quality materials, and the roominess of the cargo section is almost shocking. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four nails 42 mpg highway, way better than every small crossover out there.

The entry-level S model comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, heated windshield-washer nozzles, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, heated front seats with a power-adjustable backrest, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, an adjustable front armrest, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with center pass-through, a trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

2015 Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon

  • PROS: Better looking than the already handsome sedan, potent engine choices, supple and luxurious ride, strong set of safety features, optional all-wheel drive.
  • CONS: Can get expensive when fully outfitted, steering lacks feel.

We're in love with virtually every version of the beloved Merc wagon, and we love the fact that Mercedes-Benz is still bringing it to the States even though the sales figures aren't great. It's luxurious, sporty, beautiful and practical all at once. It does a fine job of toeing the line between fun to drive and supremely comfortable.

Standard equipment includes LED headlights, LED taillight accents, adaptive suspension dampers, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a center-mounted analog clock, 14-way power front seats with memory functions, MB-Tex simulated leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, the COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, an iPod/USB audio interface, a power liftgate, a rearview camera and a rear-facing third-row seat.

2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sport Wagon

  • PROS: A fantastic wagon to drive, beautiful exterior design, very comfortable, excellent controls, potent thrust, roomy seating.
  • CONS: Steering could use more feel, automatic stop-start system is too noticeable.

We wonder why more folks don't go for the 3-Series wagon, especially in diesel form. It melds the best of fuel economy, elegance, sportiness, and practicality. Step in side, and you'll find a truly handsome interior that bests premium crossovers. Mash the pedal, and feel the torque move you with authority, but the fuel efficiency is also quite remarkable with 32 city and 45 highway.

The 328d xDrive comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, remote entry, push-button start, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way manually adjustable front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, BMW Assist, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface, a 6.5-inch display and a premium nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB audio interface, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, heated side mirrors, wood trim, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, driver memory functions, split-folding rear seats, and a panoramic sunroof.

2015 Subaru Outback

  • PROS: Good ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, big interior with comfortable seats in both rows, fuel efficient, great riding position, top notch safety marks.
  • CONS: Sluggish with the base engine, lacks steering feel, noticeable body roll.

We don't have to extol the virtues of the Outback since it has such a huge following. Of course, it can be pricey when you get it new and load it up with features. But if you buy it used, it's a real value that has good reliability. There's more space than many small crossovers, and it has standard all-wheel drive for four seasons traction. 2015 marks improved fuel economy, a nicer interior, and equipment upgrades.

The base 2.5i Outback comes with standard rearview camera, 17-inch steel wheels, roof rack rails with fold-out crossbars, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.2-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera and a four-speaker sound system with smartphone integration, HD radio, a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface.

2014 Volvo XC70

  • PROS: One of the most comfortable interiors available in a vehicle, high safety ratings, attractive exterior design, powerful engine, spacious interior, improved off-road ruggedness with its lower body protection and 8.3 inches of ground clearance.
  • CONS: Infotainment and climate controls can be confusing, too many console buttons, long braking distances, mediocre fuel economy.

Though the XC70 is no longer for sale as a new model, it's a worthy contender in the used wagon game. The 2014 Volvo XC70 is the stilted all-wheel drive version of the V70 wagon that stopped selling back in 2010. As usual with most Volvos, the seats are some of the best in the business, and the level of comfort and roominess are top notch. The engine choices give you ample selection, and even in base 3.2 gets 240 horses and 236 lb-ft of torque. Upgrade to the T6, and you get an even 300 horses and plenty of grunt.

Standard equipment on the 3.2 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear skid plates, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with memory settings, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronic features include a low-speed frontal collision mitigation system (City Safety), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch display screen, an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

Why buy a station wagon?

  • They generally drive better than crossovers and oftentimes have more space.
  • Wagon designs have become much sportier.
  • Many come with standard or optional all-wheel drive.
  • Since demand is low, you can get a great price.