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Help Me Choose!



  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,911
    edited January 2012
    Would YOU trust a private seller who says, "Don't worry about the check engine light, it's only because of the gas cap"?

    I was trying to be helpful in recommending an expert mechanical opinion of any of these cars. But if I am forced to choose one to recommend, I'd go with the Saturn that appears to have been taken care of the best... and then I'd take it to a mechanic for a look-see, with the sale contingent on what they find.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    You absolutely need to get her a car with a manual transmission. Even if she complains.

    Besides the vastly lower cost to fix, and get better gas mileage, the skills she will learn will be incredibly useful. Most of all, though, she'll have to spend time and attention on DRIVING. Both hands occupied, listening to the machine, and knowing how to really and truly operate it.

    Now, you seem to like GM. That's fine, but the problem is that GM cars of that era are plainly only a tiny bit better than a Chrysler as the electrical and accessory parts start to cause big bills as they approach 15 years. What you need is solid, reliable, and inexpensive. Manual, of course, is preferred, as is an under $2K price(apparently).

    You need to go old. Really older. You need a bulletproof tank that is cheap and was overbuilt. ie - a "classic", or one that will be in a decade or so, but that isn't right now.

    A perfect example is a late 80s to early 90s 4Runner with manual and a 4 cylinder engine. It's dead simple to run, big and safe, and hauls stuff. Cheap as dirt to fix, as well. Literally half the cost or less of those Saturns. My old one that I had made it to nearly 400K before I sold it.
    This is a typical example. Any money you put into it to keep it running will be minor or amounts that she can afford.

    Also consider small/midsize trucks:
    Gets 18/23. Not bad, considering.

    Another good example is a 1990-1993 (last year made) Volvo 240. These are bulletproof, safe, and amazingly fun to drive with stick. Good MPG, and superb seating and driving position and feedback. Airbags were standard starting in 1990, so it's a real hidden low-cost gem. Repairs are dirt cheap as well since they re-used components for roughly 25 years in the 100/200 series. The Volvo 940 is essentially the exact same vehicle with a fancier interior.

    Of course, I'd spend more money and just get something like this:

    $3500 will get you a decent and pretty new vehicle. Yes, it's a dealer posing as a private party, but dealers can be good as they HAVE to make sure it passes basic safety and smog before selling it.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,302
    You absolutely don't have to get a manual transmission. WTF??? You should get what she is comfortable with. I would not get a car from the 80's as they do not have the safety elements of later cars, especially air bags. Manual transmission cars are very hard to sell if you want to get rid of it later. Any of these cars might be good possibilities but with their mileage I would get them all checked out by a mechanic you trust. "Doesn't appear" is not a good gauge as many problems aren't apparent on sight or even drive. Won't the Saturns be better on fuel economy than the Lumina? I'm not sure I'd trust any Chevy of that age. Are these your only options? If she's small, an older Corolla will be very reliable, easy to drive and great on gas mileage. Will cost a bit more than these though because they are better cars to begin with. One Chevy that might work is the Chevy Prism -- essentially a Corolla and would be more in that price range but they are harder to find.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • I am currently in the market for a new car but need help finding a sedan to suite me. I am 6'6, and I was looking at midsize SUV's, but I am not impressed with the choice out there, and am looking for gas mileage. I can fit comfortably in most sedans listed here, mainly the sonata. I was looking at getting either the Sonata or Altima based on price and what you get for it, but the main features I am looking for are sunroof, technology (hands free calling, ipod connectivity, address book integration), remote start,gas mileage, and drive. I love the new Passat, but feel it is out of my price range for all the additional features I want in a car. So im assuming I've slimmed it down to a Sonata Ltd., and an Altima 2.5s with all the features added on (speed isnt a necessity, so 6cyl/turbo arent needed.)

    Can anybody recommend which car is better for the money? Altima or Sonata? Also, if they have heard of Passat's being sold in that price range? Thank you very much in advance!
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,042
    My comment wasn't meant to knock on your advise - sorry if it seemed that way. I agree with the 'check engine light' comment too. My comment was meant to encourage anyone who wished to do so to offer up other vehicle ideas in addition to commenting on those selected.

    I strongly disagree with the suggestion of purchasing an SUV or truck for a new driver. Handling can be tricky. Insurance can be higher. The goal is to be safe and save money.


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  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 22,830
    edited January 2012
    I think an SL2 CAN be a good buy, but I certainly wouldn't get either of those without knowing exactly what is wrong. Reading the code for that CEL is as easy as taking it to a local chain shop like Autozone or Pep Boys.

    Run away from anything that exhibits transmission problems of any sort. I can't tell you why that shifter is sticking (possibly just a worn interlock, but you never know), but it could leave her stranded.

    my alternative suggestion is one I have given a number of times ... find a Protege. There are many out there for $2500 or less.

    '17 F150 Crew 2.7; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '09 LR2 HSE. 44-car history and counting!

  • mr_gonemr_gone Posts: 50
    I would get her the safest possible vehicle you could for the money and see if there's any way you can help out with the extra cost for the gas if need be. Those Saturns are not going to be nearly as safe as your minivan, just from a weight and size perspective.

    My daughter is 17 and 5-3, so I know what you're facing. See if you can locate a Taurus or other relatively sizeable American vehicle with plenty of airbag protection and perhaps high miles to keep the cost down, but have a mechanic look it over. (An American vehicle won't carry the price premium of an equivalent Japanese version.)

    Eventually, the used car market will be saturated with cars that have a good level of safety equipment. But for now, there are a lot of cars that are reliable, economical and potential death traps. When somebody loses control of his SUV or pickup, you want to make sure your daughter has as much protection around her as possible if he's heading her way.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,302
    I think the answers you will get will depend on whether the poster is a Sonata or an Altima fan (or passionately hates both). They both have strengths and weaknesses. I have driven the Altima 4 cyl and really liked it, and I have several friends who have them and love them. But I'm sure Sonata folks would say the same. Your best bet is to drive each and see what you like, and read professional reviews such as Consumer Reports and the ones at Edmunds. Both should be very reliable long-term and both have lots of features and good fuel economy.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • I beleave both cars are about the same as far as ride & room. Altima is said to get better mpg. I try to buy the car with better trade in value when am looking at more then 1 car. If you are going to drive this car tell it dies. I would go with Sonata. 100000 mile warranty for free. :) Price is cheaper with Sonata but no trade in value! :surprise: Altima better trade in. But cost more up front.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,911
    Altima better trade in. But cost more up front.

    From what I've seen, that is outdated. Sonata prices, and resale values, have shot up in the past couple of years. What I see in my area is Altima prices undercutting Sonata prices, for new cars.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Agree--big mistake buying a manual transmission if the girl's not used to it. I also agree on the $2000 Saturn.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    From what I've seen, that is outdated.

    In a way, yes. Nissan has too much inventory right now. Nissan was bragging about how many cars they had in inventory, now it's a problem.

    I have a good relationship with one of the largest Nissan dealers in CT and he has had a terrible month and is giving away new Nissan Altima's starting at $17,995.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,911
    Exactly. Try getting a Sonata GLS AT for $18k these days.
  • lavrishevolavrishevo Posts: 312
    edited January 2012
    Have any of you actually owned a Korean car? I have and will not for a long while. There is a reason why they need a 100k powertrain warranty. You will be taking it in often and Kia / Hyundai dealers are nowhere near as nice as a Honda or Toyota dealers. You won't get a courtesy car and realistic resell value is much lower, especially with high mileage. Just wait till new Sonata's start hitting the market with high mileage. The 100k warranty does not transfer to the 2nd owner for a reason...., and the reality is Korean cars sell for much less then Honda's. You don't hear about Korean cars going 200,000 miles and their is a reason why. Also, repairs are often lengthy as they do not stock parts very well and in general they start falling apart after 100,000 miles. My last Korean vehicle visited the dealer 12 times in 48,000 miles before I got rid of it at a 70% loss. It was not a lemon either, just another example of the common problems that arise from cheap and poorly designed parts.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Think of this from simple economics. Imagine you are the parents and you are about to purchase a car for only $2000 that's almost 15 years old with an automatic in it. What are the chances that it will die in the next year or so and cause a massive bill? The idea of a manual is to keep the car as frugal and easy to fix as possible. Reselling the car isn't a factor, either, at this level of money. You put an add on it after a year of driving it for $1500 and it's gone in 48 hours. Done. Spending $2000 an a vehicle that sees such light use and may end up costing you $2500 to fix the transmission at any time seems a bit odd to me.

    Add in aging AC, a radiator that's almost certainly on its last legs (DexCool - you have been warned), a worn starter, crumbling electrical components and relays... That Saturn is going to be a money pit. As are most GM cars at this age. The only exception that I can think of is one of the Toyota clones that GM re-badged. A Vibe (Matrix), for instance, is a fine choice, and as far as cheap goes, a base model Prism (Corolla).

    But only because you can get one that's literally got nothing on it to fail. For $2000 you need to be thinking stone-age simple and cheap as dirt to run and insure.

    Note - the Volvo 240 I recommended has airbags and ABS standard in 1993. It's famous for being nearly indestructible. And a lot of elderly people owned them, so finding one that's in good shape would be easy enough. Repairs are cheap and any mechanic can fix one. The Wagons are nice because she can haul stuff as well when she needs to. I owned one a few years ago and it had over 300K miles on it and still ran very well.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,911
    Over the past 11-1/2 years I've owned 3 Korean cars--all Hyundais. I still own 2 of them (2004 and 2007), and my sister still has the other one. My experience has been:

    * I've never needed to use the powertrain warranty--but I'm glad to have it.
    * All cars were very reliable. There were a few little things that needed to be taken care of, under warranty, e.g. squeaky clutch pedal on my first Hyundai, hatch struts needing replacement on my 2nd Hyundai, and a faulty power recliner on my 3rd Hyundai. But nothing major on any of them. The oldest car has over 100k on it, the 2004 has about 70k on it and still drives like new, as does the 2007 with about 55k on it. I haven't had trouble with length of repairs, my dealer has given me what I consider to be professional and courteous service (and they give me free oil changes every 3750 miles plus free shuttle service), and they have possibly the nicest dealership in the area as far as physical plant (maybe not as nice as the MB dealer next to it, but then I didn't pay MB prices for the cars).

    Based on KBB figures, my 2004 car is worth about 50% of what I paid for it... and it's 8 years old! And my 2007, purchased used in 2009, has dropped in value only about $1000 in over 2 years.

    I have heard of Korean cars going 200k+ miles. Too bad you had such a bad experience with your Korean car.
  • Ok buy a Korean car Hyundai or Kia. Drive it for 2,3 or even 4 years. No mader how many miles on car. You will never get what u owe on trade in. We owned a 2002 & 2003 KIA. Bought new.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 3,302
    I have been the parent of three young adults (now in 20's and 30's). In high school two of them got automatics and were fairly old. No transmission failed. I was able to sell both cars for a decent price a couple of years later. Oldest son wanted a manual transmission. Also sold it a couple of years later -- but it took twice as long -- it's not as simple as "slapping an ad on it", believe me. And the two who had the automatics? Each also replaced them with auto transmission cars -- one a '99 Toyota and one a '98 Buick LeSabre. Both cars still going strong, over 140,000 miles, and no transmission trouble. As long as you get them checked out and buy a car known for reliability, auto transmissions are not a guaranteed future problem. Frugal and easy to fix were characteristics of all of these cars. The next priority should be a car she feels comfortable driving and can maneuver safely. That will vary depending upon the person.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,911
    Kias in 2002 and 2003 were pretty crappy cars. They deserved their low resale value. But this is 10 years later. A lot has happened to the quality and resale values of Korean cars in the past decade.

    But please, please folks, do NOT buy Korean cars... especially Hyundais! That will help keep the prices down for folks like me who think they are pretty darn good cars here in 2012. ;)
  • lavrishevolavrishevo Posts: 312
    edited January 2012
    Just wait till you try to trade in your Korean car. KBB and NADA are not realistic. Dealers use the Black Book and most of them don't want Korean vehicles. They won't give you anywhere close to what you think it is worth. You pay for what you get. Are Korean vehicles better then they were 5 - 10 years ago? Yes. Are they at the quality and reliability of Honda and Toyota? Absolutely not.

    The Korean dealerships here in PR are so full repairing cars that the wait time to schedule your car to get fixed averages 10 days. I can tell you also that their suspensions do not hold up like Japanese cars. In PR we have a lot of rough roads, pot holes, etc., and you you can ask any Kia or Hyundai owner how many times they have had bushings and struts go out.

    Check out this list of best used cars by consumer reports. A Korean car appears on there once... - used-cars/overview/best-and-worst-used-cars.htm
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