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Help Me Choose!



  • My fiance and I need a second car. We have a 2001 Toyota Camry with about 110k miles right now. It has no major issues but we want a second car so we aren't sharing.

    It needs good gas mileage, so we're leaning toward another mid-size sedan. It will mostly be used by one of us to get to work 5 days a week, so we don't want to spend a ton on gas.

    We want something reliable. I've owned that Camry and a Honda Accord in the past, both purchased with high miles because I knew they would last long and be reliable. I'm open to any suggestions but my instincts say it should either have low miles or be a model that is well-known for reliability.

    We also want it to be able to handle driving to the mountains for snowboarding. We're from Michigan so we're used to driving in snow, but now we're living in Seattle so we'd be taking it to the mountains (we'll also need some tire chains). It would also be nice if the trunk was wide enough to fit a 156cm long snowboard, like my Toyota can now, but as long as there is some way to fit the boards in back seat or something that is fine. I thought AWD would be nice, but I'm thinking that the cost of reduced fuel efficiency isn't worth it for the weekend trips to the mountains. From what I've heard it isn't that important anyway.

    Our budget is $10k, but I'd like to keep it closer to $8k.

    Ideally this will last us about 5 years and hold up a decent portion of its value in that time with regular maintenance.

    Just looking for some ideas as to what to look out for in our search. Some make/model/year suggestions in that budget would be extremely helpful. Thanks!
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    At that price range, I'd suggest a Pontiac Vibe AWD or Toyota Matrix AWD. I'm not sure what you will find in a Subaru at that price range, but if you can, one of their hatches or wagons would also suite your driving and storage needs.
  • sebring95sebring95 Posts: 3,231
    Since you seem to like the Toyota/Honda offerings, there's no reason not to look at a newer model of either. Frankly, I think the Camry that would fit into your budget is a dud and would recommend the Accord from 2004-2006. These should fit into your budget with careful shopping and are a much nicer vehicle than similar years Camry. I also would not recommend awd for your location and how often you expect to need it. Snow tires would be a far better investment and would actually help out a lot in rainy Seattle at well. Not only does the AWD requirement narrow your choices down drastically, the mpg is not impressive nor the performance. I'd take a FWD with snow tires over an AWD car with all-seasons any day. You may still need to chain up in the mountains depending on the local laws, but that's not a big deal really.

    There are certainly other vehicles out there to pick from but you didn't give any other requirements beyond reliability and fuel mileage...and I thing Toyota and Honda have it wrapped up in this price range. There are more interesting or better performing or better looking vehicles...but Accord and Camry are just so plentiful and generally reliable I can't see much argument for anything better.
  • I second the vote for an Accord, but I'd further refine that choice by noting that not all of the models had side curtain airbags until 2005. That's a big safety advantage. There are many, many Accords out there, and you should be selective when shopping. Because of their durability, you would do well to look for a model with high miles and a careful owner who did the maintenance required. Don't be afraid to get one with 150,000 miles -- you might need to accept that level to get into the sub-$10,000 range.

    Avoid the V6 because of mileage concerns as well as the need to replace its timing belt every 100,000. Early Accords from that series (2003-2007) had auto transmission problems, so research that, too.

    Regarding the Matrix/Vibe, drive one after you've driven an Accord. I don't think you'll like it much. Rough ride, noisy, not a lot of fun. Reliable and practical in terms of their shape, sure, but when I had to drive one as a rental years ago I couldn't wait to give it back.
  • Thanks, I'll look into that! (still open to other suggestions too)

    Quick question, I've always just had all-season tires in Michigan. If I got winter tires in Seattle, would I have to change them in the summer? I'm not sure how much of a hassle this would end up being living in an apartment with limited storage space. Or would they work okay year-round because it doesn't get too hot? I'm guessing that even though the climate is pretty moderate, it would be warm enough in the summer that the winter tires would wear down faster.
  • sebring95sebring95 Posts: 3,231
    There are certain snow tires that you could run year round. You end up with an all-season with better than average snow traction...but obviously not as good as a true snow/ice tread. I used to run Nokian WR's on a VW Jetta diesel and they were great in the snow/ice/wet and even on warm days drove really quite nice. I was putting about 50k a year on that car and got two winters out of them plus drove them through a summer to burn them all the way down. They weren't as amazing as Blizzaks...but didn't handle as poorly or wear out as quick. So it's always somewhat of a compromise. The other option is to find a tire shop that will store your winter/summer tires for you.
  • Thanks, I'll look into that option of finding a place that will change/store them.

    I thought I found a good deal on a 2008 Accord (87k miles, $9900, clean carfax, too good to be true?), then I came across this:

    Looks like I should look at anything but the 2008 model. The 2006 model has few problems according to that site (or very few people report it to that site). How accurate is that website on car complaints? Is it true that the brakes issue is a problem on the 2008 Accord, or is it something that could be fixed for a couple $100?
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    I'm having good luck with Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires myself.
  • The 2008 model was the first year of what's known as the 8th generation of the Accord (2008-12). Given the complexity of designing and manufacturing a car, there are issues that often aren't discovered until the new design has been produced, sold and driven extensively enough for those issues to emerge. This was a known phenomenon among American manufacturers for decades, but the Japanese quality control systems seemed to have been sufficiently robust to avoid the issue in years past. The 2008 Accord was, from my understanding, proof that even Honda can suffer from the first-year-is-the-worst-year malady. It's probably best just to avoid 2008s and look for 2005-07s that meet your requirements. By 2007, Honda had four years of experience with that (7th-generation) design, which was new in 2003. Many Accord fans prefer the 7th generation to the 8th generation for other reasons as well.
  • sebring95sebring95 Posts: 3,231
    Exactly why I left the '08+ off my list. Bigger, heavier, less performance/economy and too much cost trimming (aka chintzy bits) for the 8th gen. The 7th gen had a nice feel to it and my experience is there really weren't any major problems on the 4cyl models. I have a friend that is a service manager for a Honda dealer. On the side, he buys these with 150k-200k miles, goes through them to make sure they're serviced and takes care of any needed repairs. He has a waiting list of buyers....
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 924
    Not sure the Accord would be a fit for your board. Did they even have split folding rear seats? -- The Vibe/Matrix may be boring but they definitely have a ton of room, get good fuel economy, do well in bad weather with all season tires. What I'm not sure of is if they have the oomph for mountain driving. I have one but I live in Ohio where it's fairly flat or just hilly. An older Subaru Impreza hatch or even the Legacy wagon might be good. Fuel economy isn't horrible and they are quite reliable and dependable. I saw a lot of them in Oregon. Of course another Camry would probably do just fine too.
  • The Accord has a back seat that folds down. If you're just carrying snowboards, a sedan with a folding seat is plenty sufficient. I don't think I'd go the AWD route if you're trying to save gas. I've lived in the Northwest and AWD isn't really necessary.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,150
    edited December 2012
    Protege5 or mazda3 hatch. I know you said mid-sized sedan, but you did say you are just "leaning" that way. A compact wagon will obviously fit your board.

    Used Camcords just aren't worth what people wind up paying for them, IMHO.

    '13 Stang GT; '86 Benz 300E; '98 Volvo S70; '12 Leaf; '14 Town&Country

  • Only problem with the Protege5 and Mazda3 is that they're not particularly safe. Check the results of the Highway Loss Data Institute/ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Accords and Camrys fare better. They're bigger, heavier cars than the Protege/3, which are in the same size category as the Civic and Corolla. And the 3 in particular is more of a gas hog than you would expect (at least until the SkyActiv system came along this year.)
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,150
    I'm aware of the fuel situation, but... for example... paying $10k for an Accord to get 30mpg vs $6k for a protege5 to get 28mpg doesn't make sense.

    I'll leave the safety issue up to the buyer. Its not something I concern myself with when purchasing.

    '13 Stang GT; '86 Benz 300E; '98 Volvo S70; '12 Leaf; '14 Town&Country

  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,733
    I'd give a 2005 Rav4 a serious look as well. It's basically a small car/hatchback that's been lifted and has 4WD added. It'll do very well in snow, though, as they can be had with a locking diff, which makes it good for actual bad roads and snow as opposed to something to get you out of your driveway in the morning (as most AWD systems tend to be, especially in older vehicles in your price range)

    It can also be had with 4 cylinder and manual, which gives it pretty good MPG. (19/25 - new EPA ratings) I had a co-worker who had one and he said he would consistently get closer to 30mpg highway if he kept a light foot on the gas.

    Most AWD vehicles are lucky if they can get 18mpg by comparison, as they are all saddled with a V6 and a huge amount more weight.
  • Indeed it wouldn't make sense if a used Mazda3 cost $4,000 less than an equivalent Honda Accord, but in fact it only cost about $400 less. I just ran the numbers on Edmunds' TMV calculator. Similarly equipped, 2005 models, identical mileage (85,000), condition, color and location: Mazda3 dealer price is $7,898. Honda Accord is $8,320.

    They're both good cars, and the market recognizes that fact and prices accordingly. With so much information available so readily these days, I don't think there are a lot of wildly overpriced or underpriced cars anymore. Years ago, in comparison, not that many people realized that a Geo Prizm and a Toyota Corolla were the same car with different badges. The Geo became a used-car bargain because of it. The same situation is in place today with the Pontiac Vibe and the Toyota Matrix. But people KNOW they're the same car and Edmunds' TMV numbers reflect it. Price them out and equivalent models are within about $100 of each other.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,150
    Well, I did say Protege5. I honestly think its a better car than the mazda3.

    At dealer auction, '03 P5s with under 100k miles trade for $3500-$4500 range. Similar Accord LXs seem to be made of gold and average more in the $6k range. So about a 50% difference.

    TMV isn't exactly reliable. A 2005 Accord LX sedan is right around $7k at the block. I doubt dealers would let those go for just $1300 over on average.

    I can't pull up '05 mazda3 hatch data for some reason, but the '06s are a tad under $7k.

    '13 Stang GT; '86 Benz 300E; '98 Volvo S70; '12 Leaf; '14 Town&Country

  • My wife has only use of her right eye. She drives, but carefully. Was thinking about which cars have blind spot cameras. The normal blinking light on the mirror itself is not much use to her since she can't see the mirror. What I am thinking about is a blind spot camera system like in the new Honda Accord, but that car only has the system for the right lane, not the left lane. She has an Infiniti M45 now. Thanks for any suggestions!
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,733
    You might consider one of those add-on backup camera systems. Mount it so that it's on the body near the mirror that she can't see. I know of people who use these for off-roading as well, as it allows them to see the wheels as they go over objects and rocks. But it should work fine for this as well.

    Yes, there will be a small screen on the dash, but it's about the size of a portable GPS.
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