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Help Me Choose!



  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    One and only one thing matters here, and that's age. Almost any car built after 2000 will be decently reliable for a first car. So the trick is to see what you can get for that much money.

    1 - Put that $2500 down on something better and make payments. Unless you have garbage credit, that's at least a $5-$10K car. That gives you real options. $2500 will get you a bucket of problems and nothing good. In fact, if you have $2500 and that's it, you need to be looking at old semi-classic or classic cars, hopefully something that is pre-smog so that it's screwdriver and a wrench simple to fix. Modern cars since about 1990 are simply too full of electronics and sensors and other idiocy to be good past about 15 years. One throttle position sensor goes out and it's $250 to fix. Then there's tires, a possible transmission, things like water pumps, and so on. A 15-20 year old vehicle is penny wise and pound foolish as the adage goes.

    Classic cars are the only exception to this rule.

    2 - Your best bet will be cars that are over-built and have image or dealership problems. Anything by Pontiac comes to mind immediately because the brand is gone. There's nothing wrong with the Grand Prix, for instance. It just isn't new or exciting and all of that. So you can find them for almost nothing. Reliability is fine if you get one with the 3.8L engine, which was a mainstay of the GM fleet.

    Buick, Ford, and other domestics also are good bets. Don't be afraid of a rental car, either, if it's in good shape and is a big boat. You can't kill a Crown Vic, for instance, short of driving it 250K miles as a taxi or as a police car. Buick is also a good brand, btw.

    3 - Look at what you relatives have and consider possibly buying one of their old vehicles. You can skip smog and taxes with a family transfer. This can give you more money and a usable history as well, so IF you must drive a beater, at least it's not a total surprise.
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    ((( 2 - Your best bet will be cars that are over-built and have image or dealership problems. Anything by Pontiac comes to mind immediately because the brand is gone. There's nothing wrong with the Grand Prix, for instance. It just isn't new or exciting and all of that. So you can find them for almost nothing. Reliability is fine if you get one with the 3.8L engine, which was a mainstay of the GM fleet. )))

    Mitsubishi comes to mind if you don't like the American offerings; a Galant can be had for next-to-nothing due to the brand perception in the US.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    All true - but, if it matters, and it may not - resale will be similarly difficult and low.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,108
    Resale value -- for a car you bought for under $2500 -- Not a consideration. Any car that runs by then is a bargain. Main factor would be cheap parts because you will be replacing some. So old Buicks, Toyota Corollas, etc a good bet -- anything where the same parts have been used for ages and are widely available.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    True. Old Buicks and Cadillacs are a real bargain. Many are garage babies owned by older folks, low mileage, well maintained, and they depreciate like crazy. They are terrific bargains, if the person will drive such a beast.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 801
    People always overlook SATURN, even before they went out of business! The mid-size L-series can be a very good, safe, cheap car but only with the 4-cylinder- the V6 (shared with Caddy Catera) can be a hellish nightmare!

    The '07-'09 Saturn AURA was and is a great car- it's a twin to the Malibu, but better looking inside and out.

    The '05-'07 VUE compact SUV can also be a great used buy if you stick with FWD and the V6 (a Honda-supplied 3.5L).

    The '09-'13 Mazda6 is one of the best cars that nobody bought??? So they can be a steal used, but avoid ones that have been rental cars.

    The '06-'10 Hyundai Sonata and Hyundai Azera are both great deals and the '07-'10 KIA Optima is also a great car, but ABS was optional and I wouldn't buy a car without it.
    2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum, 2012 Mazda CX-9 GT
  • sandman_6472sandman_6472 Coral Springs, FLPosts: 4,215
    I drove a '12 Mazda6 last week and was very impressed with the way it drove...very smooth and the engine begs to be driven! Even my co-worker, who I whizzed by, commented about how fast I was going and I just told him the combo of the engine and the accelerator just begged to be floored...which I did! Just can't wait to get one of these puppies on an extended trip as I drove one up from Miami airport to Lauderdale airport which is only about 20 miles or so, not nearly long enough to enjoy such a vehicle. Personally, I enjoy the longer trips that we take because once I get comfortable in something, I'd rather drive for awhile but lately, many of our gigs have been local. Like last night, we got a last minute gig to take vehicles from Lauderdale up to West Palm at 7 p m. I lucked into a Sonata and it was sweet! I would've loved to take it out for a Key West or Orlando run to get some good seat time in it. But eventually I'll get my chance as I've heard things will be picking up after Labor Day.

    The Sandman

    2015 Audi A3 (wife) / 2015 Golf TSI (me) / 2009 Nissan Versa SL Hatch (daughter #1) / 2008 Hyundai Accent GLS (daughter #2)

  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    edited August 2013
    No problem - I have overlooked Saturn from the day they were born. I could go on and on about the reasons. Bob Lutz puts it best in his book - He threw up when he saw the design sketches for Saturns.

    But then, your point is, cheap car for 1st driver - a Saturn would fit that need, and they don't have any special problems that aren't pretty common in all GM junk.
  • greg128greg128 Posts: 418
    But then, your point is, cheap car for 1st driver - a Saturn would fit that need, and they don't have any special problems that aren't pretty common in all GM junk.

    I replaced my wife's Nissan Maxima with a a 2008 Saturn Aura XR and has outperfomed it in every category including reliability...except for handling.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,108
    What year Maxima did you have? I had an '01 and it was outstanding in reliability. I just sold it and the people who bought it love it too. The only thing not outstanding about it was premium fuel and fuel economy, so I just bought a new Accord. The old Saturns are probably better in that regard too. Are parts still easy to get for them?
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • greg128greg128 Posts: 418
    It was a 2000 Maxima. It had CEL problems with coils replaced early under warranty. Later on a couple of power window motors and a few rotors. But it was a reliable car that we had 8 years with only about 70K miles when we sold it privately. At that time the silver paint was getting dull (I waxed it often)

    The top of the line Saturn Aura XR with the 3.6 was $3000 cheaper than the Maxima was 8 years before. It is quicker than the Maxima on reg. gas and gets 31 mpg on the hwy, bettering the Maxima's best of 30. The ride is smoother, The cabin is quieter and it has more options. The steering shaft and a door lock actuater have been replaced under warranty. Both are common issues with these cars. It runs great, does not burn a drop of oil and overall we are happy with the purchase. Also after sitting outside 5 plus years the white paint and chrome (plastic?) look as good as the day we bought it. The interior leather is wearing very well too.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 801
    "No problem - I have overlooked Saturn from the day they were born. I could go on and on about the reasons. Bob Lutz puts it best in his book - He threw up when he saw the design sketches for Saturns.

    The original Saturn models were outdated before they even built the factory! They used the Civic and Corolla that were introduced in 1984 as the benchmark they were shooting for...but the cars didn't hit the market until 1990. When the 1992 Civic debuted, it made the 1992 Saturn SL seem closer to a Yugo or Ford Festiva than an actual competitor.

    The S-series Saturns were also downright homely looking. Yes, they looked unique, but not in a good way. They loved to talk about those polymer body panels and how durable and dent resistant they were, which was true. But they also had huge panel gaps (required due to the body panels expanding and contracting with temperature changes) but the huge gaps were rarely even. I remember test-driving a 1991 SL2 just to see what the fuss was about. The hood was so misaligned that I could fit a thumb in the gap on one side and barely fit a pinky in the gap on the other side. The trunk lid was just as bad. The interior was almost as bad with poor fit and finish anywhere you looked. And don't get me started on the quality of inteiror materials....I've used Solo cups that felt more substantial.

    Then there was that pinnacle of mechanical engineering under the hood! They design a brand new engine from scratch so it would be world class and highly competitive- an 8-valve head and Throttle Body Injection was definitely the way to go! It made 85hp and with the A/T it could hardly get out of its own way even at full throttle. But few owners ever floored the throttle because a potential crash and possible injury or death was preferable to the 'gravel in blender' sounds of the engine past 4000 rpm.

    Then there was the DOHC 16v version in the SL2 good for 124hp and actually pretty quick for the time. But the engine sounded even worse than the weakling version and caused so much vibration that interior parts started buzzing and it was almost impossible to refrain from taking your hands off the steering wheel as it vibrated in front of your eyes! Perhaps they felt balance shafts didn't fit in with their 'all-new' different kind of car company b.s.???

    Saturns reallly didn't become decent (some even rather good) cars until GM went back on their word and started badge-engineering and stealing cars from their European division to rebadge.

    Instead of creating a new division to attract import buyers, GM could have used the $5 billion to improve their existing models. I wonder if they ever questioned why import buyers didn't like the cars they were already building??? Or did the combination of ignorance and arrogance prevent rational and logical thought? Regardless, it's all history now. But I do find it amusing that almost 50% of Saturn buyers weren't import shoppers- they would have purchased another GM brand if they didn't get a Saturn. So half of their sales were stolen from themselves!
    2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum, 2012 Mazda CX-9 GT
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,909
    Saturns seem very popular in the Twin Cities, and I still see a lot of them rolling around, especially the SLs. I expect the polymer body panels were the attraction here in the Rust Belt. I liked the SCs, almost bought a used one a few years ago but decided to pass.
  • Hey everybody, I'm Chase and I’m an inexperienced car shopper on the hunt for a used Civic in Portland, Oregon. It is a purchase I’d like to make in the next 6 weeks (though I’ll wait longer if I have to) and I’m hoping that you all can share some of your wisdom with me so that I make a smart purchase.

    Here is the lowdown as far as budget and needs are concerned:

    Budget: $7,000 is the absolute ceiling and ideally it would be from a private seller.

    Wants: Most importantly I want to be able to drive it for up to 60,000 miles hassle free. These would be easy city miles and I’d expect them to come over the course of 5-7 years of driving. I would like it to be a 4 door sedan with good to great gas mileage (30+ on the hwy would be nice), and, as far as amenities are concerned, cruise control would be nice but A/C is essential.

    Primarily I am looking to know what model years to look at or to stay away froom; more specifically, with regards to my hope of getting 60,000 miles of hassle free driving out of the vehicle, I'm hoping to get some insight about what my cutoff point for mileage on a prospective purchase should be or how I might change my preferences to something more realistic.

    Another question that I have been wondering about in the past few days:

    Should I expect to pay more than edmunds appraisal values for a vehicle?

    Thanks in advance!
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,909
    For that kind of money and a private party sale you can most likely get something in the 2001-2005 Civic generation, LX 4-door (with cruise and AC), with 100k miles give-or-take some. If you keep it 5-7 years, it will be at minimum 13-15 years old when you're done with it, with 150k+ miles at least.

    Odds are something will break or wear out while you own it. That's the down side of driving a well-used car. The best years of such a car are behind it.

    Not long ago I checked out a 2003 Civic EX 4-door that looked great inside and out. Had 120k miles. The dealer selling it had done a lot of work on it before putting it on the market. But when I test drove it, the clutch made a popping sound. So I passed. They wanted $6800, which I thought was too much for a 10-year-old Civic with 120k miles and an unknown problem in the clutch/transmission.

    I wound up buying a 2005 Mazda6i Sport hatch with 160k miles for $4880. Great condition inside and out, everything worked... for a few weeks. Then the alternator started failing. Repair shop wanted $500 to replace it. (I bought the part on the Web and had a friend who's a good mechanic to put it in for me: total cost $160.)

    The Civic will be as reliable as any other $7k car you can buy, but don't expect to put $0 into it for 5-7 years of city driving.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,108
    A Civic is a good choice and they are generally reliable year after year. Are you limiting yourself to just that model? Consumer Reports annual auto issue has a section called "used vehicle best bets" that is worth looking at. They also have reliability stats on each model going back several years so you can find out if there have been problems with a particular year. They also list prices you can expect to pay so you can get idea of a good amount to offer.

    As others have said, you will have to do some repairs on even the best used car. A car 10 or more years old will have parts that wear out. It is imperative that you have a mechanic check out a car before you buy it to make sure it is in good working condition when you buy it.

    Good luck!
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • Thanks for the responses.

    I am not opposed to looking at other models; I just figured it would be easier for me to become an expert in 6 weeks on one model as opposed to looking at them all. I know Mazda makes a good vehicle and the Toyota Camary would probably fit the bill too. Thanks for the information on Consumer Report, though I was under the impression that you have to pay for a subscription? What is the best way to get that issue, is it readily available online?
  • acemanhattanacemanhattan Posts: 79
    edited August 2013
    Are the 02-06 Civic Hybrids a good vehicle to consider purchasing? Specifically I've been watching:

    03 with 85K

    04 with 93K
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    edited August 2013
    I agree with backy's thoughts here. A 10 year old car with nearly 100k is going to have some expensive repairs over the next 7 years.

    If you have $7000 now, how about this: get a brand-new 2013 Civic LX for c. $17,500. For only a little bit down you'll have payments of about $300 a month. A new Civic is likely to have at least 7 years of almost trouble-free driving, with only regular maintenance. And at the end of seven years it'll probably have a resale value of c. 7000 or so. With a 10-year old used car, you might have repairs of as much as 3000 or more over 7 years. In other words, the cost might actually be about the same in the long run, but rather than driving an old car that'll probably cause you considerable trouble you'll be driving a new car that's faster, safer, more reliable, and gets better mpg.

    You local Honda dealer (or Toyota or Hyundai etc ) wants your business and has low 1.9 factory financing available if you have good credit.

    My guess is that you're in your 20s. When I was in my 20s I bought used car after used car, another one every 5 years or so, and each one had significant repair and maintenance issues that cost $$$. Looking back on it, I think for the same money I could have been driving a new car and keeping it longer.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,108
    The Civic is a good choice if you want to look at just one model. The library sometimes carries Consumer Reports issues; the April issue is their annual auto issue. Edmunds also has good info on used cars as does Autotrader online. Toyotas are also good choices, especially the Corolla. One you may not have considered is the Pontiac Vibe, a hatchback which is actually a Toyota Matrix but cheaper because it doesn't have the Toyota nameplate. I have one and it is like the Earthshoe of cars; just keeps on going in its plain solid way year after year.

    If you look at a hybrid consider how old the battery is as they are very expensive to replace. You will probably be able to get a newer gas model cheaper and they get good gas mileage too.

    Tom and Ray, the car guys, say that as a rule of thumb you should expect to put $1000 per year into a used car. Maybe not every year but there will be some years when you do. So put some $ aside for the inevitable repairs. That's still less per year than a $300/month car payment. Insurance is less too. When I was in my 20's I couldn't afford a new car payment and we had used cars for years. My kids did too.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,041
    I rarely give absolute, black-and-white advice, but I'm going to this time:

    If you have to replace the hybrid battery during your period of ownership, which is almost a certainty, you are looking at thousands of dollars. The model years you would be looking at also had some issues, one of which caused degradation of MPG, so you would have a problem vehicle AND you wouldn't be reaping the benefits of fuel savings. Just enter "Civic Hybrid" into the search box on the left of this page and you can find a list of discussions about that vehicle, most of them with the word "problems" in the discussion title.


    Need help navigating? - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

    Share your vehicle reviews

  • gmanusmcgmanusmc SoCalPosts: 654
    Ace - agree with Kirstie - Honda Civic Hybrids have a very poor track record. I had an 09 - hybrid battery was replaced in first year I had it - vehicle was returned at the end of 2 year lease. If not under warranty, hybrid battery replacement would've been $3-4000.

    Bill G
    2016 ES350 Lux/Atomic Silver
    2017 Accord Sport CVT Mod Steel Metallic
  • gmanusmcgmanusmc SoCalPosts: 654
    Benjamin has a good point here. Even a lease might work. A 10 year old Honda civic will not be worth much in 5-6 years from now not to mention the repairs you might face. Bethpa over in the civic lease thread just leased a couple of LXs for a around 200 a month with zero due at signing. You could use your $7000 fund for the payments. Honda leases are very customer friendly - includes gap insurance, $1500 wear and tear waiver at end of lease and you have the option to extend the lease up to 24 months if you wish at the same payment (they adjust the residual accordingly). I only offer the lease option because you stated you won't be driving many miles.

    Bill G
    2016 ES350 Lux/Atomic Silver
    2017 Accord Sport CVT Mod Steel Metallic
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    edited August 2013
    suydam wrote: "...Tom and Ray, the car guys, say that as a rule of thumb you should expect to put $1000 per year into a used car...."

    Yes, I recall them saying something like that too, and I'm afraid to say that averaged out it more or less held true for me back when I was driving c. 10 year old cars. Some years might be $500, but other years might be $2000, and the average was probably around a thousand.

    But that might be another argument for new car. If you spend 7k on a used car and spend another 7k in maintenance and repair over the next 7 years, you're out 14,000, and at the end of it you have ancient car with almost no value.

    If you instead start buying a new car, at the end of 7 years you'll still have something that's worth a good deal, and you can either trade it in or keep driving it. For many new cars, all you'll basically just need to do are a lot of oil changes, and probably a set of tires, but maintenance and repair costs will almost certainly be very low and quite predictable.

    Your time and stress levels also are worth money. The stress and the hours at repair shops I used to spend with old cars was worth something to me in cold, hard cash, even if I was never paid for it. To be almost free from those annoying hours spent in that way with a new car is a positive dividend that's worth a good deal imho.

    Again, just my 2 cents.
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    gmanusmc has a good idea about looking into a lease.

    No matter what the brand, it's a good time to buy or lease because car dealers are clearing out the last of the 2013 models. You should be able to get a good deal. Try this site:

    There are other, similar sites that are probably just as good. You put in the model you want, and then dealers within a 50-100 mi radius compete for your biz and offer you a good price.
  • Thanks a lot everyone, I'm absorbing a lot of information here.

    I'm a pretty frugal money conscious kind of guy so my initial impulse when I hear "purchase new" is "OMG no, depreciation!!!!" but I do see that a used car can end up costing the same, if not more. Essentially, my goal, is to have the most reliable vehicle possible, while incurring the least overall cost (duh, who has any goal other than that), to that end, and thinking along the lines of the reason people are suggesting purchasing new, why hasn't anyone recommended purchasing something 3 or so years old from a dealership? Don't we get most of the same benefits (reliable) while not incurring the cost of depreciation?
  • gmanusmcgmanusmc SoCalPosts: 654
    I think you'll find that because Hondas keep their value pretty well, a three year old Honda costs not much less than buying new.
    2016 ES350 Lux/Atomic Silver
    2017 Accord Sport CVT Mod Steel Metallic
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    edited August 2013
    Agree with gm 100% here.

    If you're going to get a 3-4 year old Ford, GM or Chrysler, sure, go ahead and get used. Probably that's better than a 10 year old Honda. You also might be able to get a 3-4 year old Hyundai or Nissan at a good price.

    But if you're fixed on Honda, and as a big Honda fan myself I can see why, then getting a 3 year old Honda in tip-top shape ("Certified") doesn't get you much of a discount compared to new. And by 3 years your bumper to bumper warranty has expired.

    And yes there's depreciation, but the first three years in a car's life are almost always its best and most trouble-free years.
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    edited August 2013
    Maybe consider one of the last of the new 2013 Mazda3s? They have an all-new Mazda3 for 2014, and so the last of the old generation if you can find one are going for a big discount. Here's what I got from carsdirect, which is another good site to try:

    2013 Mazda Mazda3 i SV 4dr Sedan in 40201
    Target Price: $14,786

    Having owned both Mazdas and Hondas in my life, I think they are both good cars. Imho Hondas are better, but it looks right now like you can get a bare bones base 2013 Mazda3 for about 2500 less than a 2013 Honda Civic.
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 2,906
    edited August 2013

    In the long run buying is usually cheaper than leasing. But if you want a different car every 3 years or so, this is something to consider.

    Civic Sedan
    Per month for 36
    months $2,599 total due at signing.

    or finance at 0.9 for 5 years...

    Civic Sedans

    APR for 24-60 months
    2013 Civic Sedan Special APR
    0.9% APR for 24-60 months
    For well-qualified buyers and buyers that qualify for the Honda Graduate Program criteria
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