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Help Me Choose!



  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    I'd recommend a 2008 Pontiac G8. It's a far better car than the Impala or Malibu, but doesn't carry the price premium of the CTS. Same suspension and engine as a CTS, though, and virtually the same performance (though is a bit larger and heavier).

    If you can wait until the new year/models in September, you can get one for about 15-16K.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    The new Pontiac models ?? :confuse:
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    edited June 2011
    No, obviously until GM has the 2012 models out in about 2-3 months (brand doesn't matter at all). This will make the used and CPO values of ALL GM 2008 cars drop by another 10-15%. And it'll be right in his price range by then.

    It's unwise to ever buy a car in the middle of summer. You always wait until the end of the model year.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    With all the folks going after 2008 GTOs, based on your frequent recommendations, I could see their prices going UP. ;) There aren't that many of them out there.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Well, 4 years old IS the sweet spot where off-lease cars start to come in.

    And it is a great car. I especially love the premium radio in it (not the nav model, mind you). By far the best factory radio I've ever used.
  • mr_gonemr_gone Posts: 50
    The "many moons ago" phrase in your post is telling: Studded snow tires have been illegal in most states for decades.
  • tenpin288tenpin288 Posts: 804
    not here in PA, although they are restricted to winter months only.
  • dad222to0dad222to0 Posts: 1
    Whatever Dad wants will be the best :)
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    edited June 2011
    For a college student's first car, you want cheap, reliable, can carry a lot of stuff, and gets good gas mileage.

    The optimal "car" is actually a small pickup truck or similar. Well, at least in theory. That is to say, you want something that is dead simple to fix, cheap to operate, and costs maybe 8K, at most. Expect it to get dinged, bashed, and in several accidents as well. Bonus points if it's tough enough to survive all of this and still keep running.

    The last thing that you want to do is to get a 15K sedan. A small SUV is probably your best bet. I'd recommend something like a RAV-4 or similar. Small, and works. Most of these SUVs also have part-time 4wd, which is a bonus in bad weather. They can haul stuff and most of them are powered by 4 cylinder Japanese engines which are bulletproof.

    If you can get one with manual, do it. Why? It's a good skill to learn, but it also lowers the repair bills. It also requires far more concentration, so they are less likely to get into trouble or accidents. ie - you can't really shift gears and text at the same time. Or eat a burger. And it gets better gas mileage.

    I'd recommend a 2001-2005 Rav4 with manual and 4WD. The 2004 model has a better engine and features, though, but at $12-15K, it's still too expensive. A 2001 would be best, as it's 4K less, and that buys a lot of repairs. - gId=68920699
    Don't worry about the mileage. The engine is good for 200-250K before needing major work.

    Expect to put about $1300 or so into repairs and upkeep and so on when you buy it, but it should be fine for several years. For 8K, you can save a lot of money, and it's a win-win for your child. It can handle snow and bad weather, hauls everything they need, and gets over 30mpg highway.
  • tallman1tallman1 Posts: 1,874
    Even though I disagree with your college student car recommendation, the OP was asking for help between an Altima and Camry and had some hybrid questions.

    He/she didn't ask about a truck or SUV.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Both the Altima and Camry are terrible choices. The Altima has reliability issues and the CVT is a PITA to repair if it breaks. The Camry is good, but the big deal with both is that they are too expensive, can't haul anything, and are large. This means they are harder to drive and get worse MPG, especially since the student will probably spend most of their time in city driving around the campus.
  • tallman1tallman1 Posts: 1,874
    A Camry or Altima would be harder to drive than a truck or SUV?? And get worse mileage?

    For students going a few hundred miles away to college, they may spend more time on the highway than driving around town... unless they live way off campus and have to drive every day. If living in a dorm or Greek house, they may not be driving much at all.

    Of course, that still doesn't mean the OP is making a "terrible choice".
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    I did recommend a very small SUV with a manual transmission and a 2.0L engine. It can easily get over 30mpg as a result. And it's better than a typical car for a student.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    Altimas (and Camrys) are available with manual transmissions also... so no CVT issue there. And you'd be surprised how much college "stuff" a mid-sized sedan can hold. I have some experience with that with two sons I have helped get to/from college over the years. Didn't need an SUV to haul all their gear.

    A 2004 Camry I4, for example, is EPA rated 11% better on the highway than a 2004 RAV-4 2WD (both with sticks). With gas prices as they are, that can be significant for a college student. But if there were an RAV-4 available for a lot less money than a Camry of the same year, that might be a good bet.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    I guess they could get a manual Camry, but then you have to wonder if it's the best use of your money, since cars with high resale value are the worst ones to buy used. You want something reliable that depreciates quickly.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    That wouldn't be a Toyota, then. Something like a 2006 Sonata I4 would be a better bet--and roomier than a Camry or Altima. Mid-30s mpg on the highway (real world) and full-sized interior volume, yet mid-sized outside.
  • Thanks for all the advice! I am choosing between those two because I don't actually have that much stuff to haul. I will be making a lot of money soon with a Co-Op that I have. So I figured that I would buy a car that would last me a while so that I could use my future finances to invest in other things right out of college. Thus, I would have a solid salary when I would need to buy a new car.

    According to Consumer Reports the safest/most reliable are Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans. My dad has an Accord and for some reason I can't stand the car. That's why that's not included. Thus the Altima and Camry are two cars that last.

    I was wondering if there is any government aid for a student buying a car? I would love to cut down my expenses on the front end because I'm making about 70k less than I would when I start my job.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    edited July 2011
    I was wondering if there is any government aid for a student buying a car?

    Yes, I think the program is called Obamacar.

    Or maybe I'm confusing it with something else...
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Consumer Reports is actually a terrible place to go for advice on almost anything as their target audience is Midwestern retired people and middle-class worker drone families.

    They love cars like the Camry because they are the best Vanilla you can get. But the thing is, both the Camry and the Altima are less than perfect lately and there are better options that cost far less money. Remember, that the years you are looking at for the Camry are exactly when the whole acceleration issue was affecting them. Also, the Altima is.. Well, I've never seen one that's 5 years old that isn't squeaking or rattling from a half dozen places. It feels like a giant version of a Sentra. I'd rate the Altima overall to be nearly identical in driving and interior quality to the Hyundai Sonata. Not bad, mind you, but a far cry from a better car.

    If you want cheap to fix and reliable, and good value for your money, that means you need something like a Civic with a manual gearbox. I'd say the Fit, but it's too small, really. The optimal choice, then, is the Toyota Matrix. But, you don't want one as it's too expensive. The smart person saves 2K and gets the same vehicle with the Pontiac badge on it.(same assembly line, different badges and exterior trim)

    You can get a used Pontiac Vibe for very little money, and it'll be a better choice by far than either of those two. Because you WILL need to haul furniture you find or some friend's amp to a gig or a keg or whatever and you'll fall in love with a usable cargo area really quickly. I also like that the Vibe/Matrix also have a perfectly flat cargo floor that's a lot larger and more usable than the Fit. It also can be had with AWD if that matters.

    Also, the Matrix/Vibe appears to be unaffected by the Toyota issues as well, since it was a joint GM/Toyota venture and a lot of parts are U.S. sourced.
    Here's a perfect example. It'll make it to 200K miles, no problem. And, yes, you want manual as it's at least 2 seconds faster than the automatic in normal driving.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    The only problem with a Matrix/Vibe lasting for 200k miles is, you'd need to drive it for 200k miles. :P
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 51,300
    A reporter seeks to interview someone on how parents factor carpooling into their car choices. Does the parent with the big car unfairly do the most of the driving? Are the five-passenger car parents left out of carpools? Do you ever wish you had something bigger than/smaller than what you have? Does the price of gas or environmental concerns compete with the need for space? Please email no later than Tuesday, July 12, 2011 with your daytime contact information if you care to share your story.

    Moderator - Buying questions? Please include city or zip code and trim you are shopping, FWD or AWD, etc.

  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Heh. My original advice was to get a small SUV or pickup with a 4 cylinder engine in it. Basically a previous generation Tacoma with 4x4 and stick is all you'll need in a truck, and we already went over small SUVs.

    If you've never had a vehicle with real cargo space before, you'll quickly realize how fast you get addicted to it. :)

    Shoot, not having to bring a U-Haul is worth it. All of my stuff in college would have fit into my old 4Runner.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    Does a Grand Caravan or Town & Country have enough "real cargo space" for you? They did for me. So did my MPV. But I don't need that much cargo space any more.

    It's just that the current Matrix/Vibe are POS cars, perfect examples of how Toyota's quality is declining. I wouldn't recommend them to anyone, unless I dislike them intensely. I'd take an early-2000s RAV-4 over one of those any day.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    My initial recommendation based upon the various factors *was* actually an early 2000s RAV4 :)
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    edited July 2011
    As I have some experience with first cars for kids, I got my kids a truck-based SUV for their first car. This lasted them a while. Now they are driving a Ford and Subaru.

    If I had to do it again, I would have gotten them a Corolla, with gas at almost $4 gallon I would go for the economy. Cheap, reliable and sips gas. I don't care if it's not cool, if I'm paying for it it's my choice. :)
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    Even though this is an old post, isn't being safe on the road in winter not getting stuck in a snow drift in the middle of an intersection?

    For someone living in LA you clearly have a very good theoretical view of 4wd/awd systems. It's the practical aspect that has be uh, strengthened.
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    I agree the Altima is a bad choice, however I would recommend the Camry in a heartbeat. Overall reliable, cheap to maintain, frugal with gas, inexpensive to insure. Overall it's a good bet.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    Why do you think I specifically said "early 2000s RAV-4"? But a Matrix/Vibe... no way. Lots of other good hatches out there if a hatch is what someone wants. Just had the (dis)pleasure of driving a 2011 Corolla rental (cousin of the Matrix/Vibe) for the past day... ouch.
  • I think the perfect car (not SUV/Truck/CUV) is a hatchback. Usually plenty of room to move belongings isn usually a small car for good gas milage. My solution to this for my daughter was a 2005 Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback. Inexpensive to purchase, own and operate.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,879
    edited July 2011
    I love that design. Had two of that generation, a 2001 sedan that my sister still owns, and a 2004 GT hatch that one son drives to college. A crude car mechanically by today's standards, but mid-sized interior room, lots of cargo room (with fold-flat rear seat bottom), great driver's seat with 8-way adjustment, lots of padded surfaces vs. hard plastic, perforated leather seating, smooth controls, ABS with traction control, very reliable, and that retro fastback styling that is reminiscent of the Saab 900. They used to be a good buy as a used car, but prices have skyrocketed like for other used cars. I can't believe the KBB private party value on that car is 60% of what I paid nearly 7-1/2 years ago.
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