A good first car



  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    I won't even go there. When I worry about resale, I buy a Honda. (2003 CR-V EX to be exact.) Fun to drive first car that you can afford, is a whole different story. Who knows where resale values will go with all of the incentives right now. There is talk that 0% may never leave.

    That new car smell is awfully nice. Amazing how fumes from drying glue and hardening vinyl can elicit such enthusiasm.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I find it nauseating, it's funny. I usually can't wait for it to fade.

  • dudkadudka Member Posts: 451
    what happend to the notion that first car should be as cheap as possible. There are reasons for that too. A $1000 car only need liability coverage, so the kid does not have to pay $5000 a year in full coverage costs. Secondly, statistically new drivers are most likely end up in an accident due to lack of experience. Why ruin a $12K car when you can sharpen your skills in a $1000 clunker.
    Oh, i remeber my first car, a 1983 Chevy celbrity, bought it for $675, paid about $1200 for insurance, and another $700 over a course of a year to keep it running. This was the car i learnt that you can not stomp on your brakes in rain and expect it to go straight. I learnt that snow banks are really hard, I learnt that cars don't stop on a dime.
    Am I alone thinking that a first car should be something really cheap? there are plenty of safe cars out there in the under $2000 category.
  • juilinjuilin Member Posts: 11
    You're not alone, my first car was a 1984 prelude bought for somewhere around a thousand. No offense to anyone out there because these are some great cars you're mentioning but I cant imagine driving something that new as my first car.

    Like Dudka mentioned, this was the car I learned how to "drive" with. We're not talking driver's ed or DOL tests. Things like what a lot of understeer does (found myself in a ditch on the side of the road) how to handle heavy rain and fog, why having friends in the back seat and playing with the radio can really be dangerous (most kids dont listen to mom and dad). The car survived but I'm glad a new car didnt have to run the trials of a this new driver.

    To each their own, good luck.
  • rivertownrivertown Member Posts: 928
    First car for me was a VW bug shared with the family. It sure suffered at my hands before my year younger sib totaled it with some more new driver stupidity.
    The rest of my new driver years were on motorcycles. I am truly grateful that my kid doesn't want his own wheels badly enough to follow in my skid marks. I oughta be in a wheel chair.
  • sebberrysebberry Member Posts: 148
    also suggest that new drivers of nicer cars are more likely to try and be extra careful on the roads as to avoid an accident and wrecking their nice car.
  • dudkadudka Member Posts: 451
    "also suggest that new drivers of nicer cars are more likely to try and be extra careful on the roads as to avoid an accident and wrecking their nice car. "

    I think that only works if the new driver, most likely a teenager, is actually paying for the car themselves, and did not get it as sweet 16", or "graduation gift" from their parents and has no concept of where money is coming from.
    Also, this theory only works if the new driver is alone in the car, without his/her friends distracting them or encouraging them to do stupid things. :-)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    There's something to be said for driving a "beater", but this buyer seems to have already made up his mind, we're just trying to help him find a car that fits his wants.

    In a way, it may be safer if the car is new and the conqequences of a collision meant the driver took it easy. ABS and traction/stability control might keep them out of trouble, too. And modern cars are much safer when hit by others.

  • dsantiagodsantiago Member Posts: 13
    As a driver of 4 years that has driven a clunker or two and a nice new car or two I'd like to add my $.02

    While new cars have superior devices like abs and airbags, lets not forgot the exteriors are as fragile as cheap silverware...my clunker got hit on the driver side's well well/ passenger door by a 1998-2002 honda accord doing 30 mph, his front completely crumpled while I left with a dent in my door and a wheel misalignment...

    I would recommend a used car to partyboy...insurance is better, payments are better, the car is yours, and here are some great cars out there in your range:

    1993-1996 (i think) BMW 3's
    1996-2000 Integras (my choice)
    1996-2000 Celica's
    1993-1998 Preludes

    then protege's, corolla's, etc...

    I recently test drove an elantra gt, not too shabby, suspension was awesome (like protege) but auto tranny lacked something...precision...other than that it seems like a great buy...I'm considering a black hatch gt loaded to the gills for $15 (thats abs, sunroof, traction, etc)....you could opt for a 1 year old model that would easily be in your range.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Those exteriors are designed to crumple and absorb crash energy. If the Honda driver was not hurt, the vehicle served its purpose of protecting passengers. Besides, the Acura you recommend doesn't have thicker sheet metal than an Accord of the same vintage.

    I'll stop there and suggest any buyer check out the info available from NHTSA and IIHS, just FWIW.

  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    In 1986 I bought a 1974 Ford Maverick with 13,000 miles on it.

    Hit a fire hydrant (long story). It cost me $50 to buy and weld a new bumber on it. Oh yeah, I lived to tell about it too. If I had had ABS, I wouldn't have hit the hydrant. Hmmmmm...
  • kevin2010kevin2010 Member Posts: 1
    we are shopping for a new car.

    saw couple of 2003 leftovers but their prices seems out of whack.

    here is the spec:

    2003 Nissan Sentra GXE with pwr locks, rear defroster, auto, intermittent wipers, 1.8L engine, floor mats, air, and micro filter.

    he listed MSRP as $16,290 and invoice as $14,969.

    i think the invoice price is higher than it should be.

    do you think i can get the car for $14,500?
  • 2young2retire2young2retire Member Posts: 7
    I purchased a 2002 GXE with the Synergy package, lots of good stuff, look it up, with the 5 speed for $13,000. I love the car, super quiet and gets great mileage. If I had to do it over again I would do it over again.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Check out this dealer:


    They sell Nissans at no-haggle prices near DC, so you can get an idea what they cost. Those prices include freight.

    They have one for $12,110, probably a stripped one though. Most cost $14-15k or so.

  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    carsdirect.com is a good way to go too. They partner with dealers everywhere in the country.
  • partyboye1partyboye1 Member Posts: 16
    People at my school drive old cars like fieros, '85 accords, and '90 nissan sentras. What are some good cheap, reliable, and old cars to consider (if i were to buy the car myself)?
  • boggseboggse Member Posts: 1,048
    I would look for a used Miata. Not much out there is more fun for the money. They get good fuel economy, are reliable, and it is hard to really get in over your head in one. Also, there are unnumerable ways to customize it if you like that sort of thing.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    a Miata for $2000 now - are the cheapest ones down to that price, that aren't totally junked out?

    You could get an early 90s Subaru Legacy with the 2.2 for $2000 these days. They are pretty reliable and many have AWD.

    You could get a 90-91 Integra for that price too, or thereabouts. Very reliable cars (if you find one that wasn't modded or raced)

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Just get service records, in any car with 80k miles or more that is critical.

    I bought a '93 Miata 3 years ago for $7800. It's still worth $6000 or more, because it only has 42k miles (26k when I bought it).

    Cons? It's tiny. No good if you're over 6 foot. Insurance may be high for a teen male. Blind spots with the top up. Small gas tank, little cargo room.

    Pros? Very reliable. It's now 11 years old and I've spent exactly $10.72 in repairs (on a clutch clave cylinder rebuild kit). Fun as anything. Cheap to run, about 27mpg.

    So get an insurance quote, if it's good they are cheap to run and maintain. Miata.net has an excellent garage section if you like to do things yourself.

  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    Low payments? Good mileage? Safety? 0-60? Gs? All-around fun? Reliability? Insurance? Environment?

    You almost never get all of it. Make a list and number it. Post it, and we'll give you some great choices.

    It's pretty hard to go wrong with older Mustangs and Civics. There is are quite a few mods and quite a few of vehicles available. Personally, I'd avoid turbos for insurance and maintenance issues.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Caveat: I'd avoid Mustangs because car insurance costs a fortune for that age group.

    Stick with a fun, economical car, not too powerful.

  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    Yeah, I'd agree with the thought on Mustangs but, I personally don't really know how much more the insurance is.

    All I know is there were quite a few of them at my H.S..
  • partyboye1partyboye1 Member Posts: 16
    I saw this '89 sentra coupe and a '94 sentra sedan on Auto Trader.com. What do think about those two cars? I don't know about mileage.
  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    I've never owned or driven one. The following is what CR has to say about used Sentras:

    Overview: Among the humdrum 1991-to-1994 Sentras, the SE-R version was a standout: a particularly good-performing, inexpensive sporty two-door. The Sentra was redesigned for 1995, and the coupe version renamed the 200SX. The Sentra series of that vintage were underpowered and the interior was cheaply made: overall a notch below the best small cars of the era.
  • lmp180psulmp180psu Member Posts: 393
    I have owned one (94 XE 2-door), and it was a very reliable car. It had only 105 hp, but given that I consider myself as having a "lead foot", it had enough power to keep up with traffic. It sounded refined and the structure was very strong.

    The interior was a beige/brown color that while a bit spartan with harder plastics, was very well constructed with no obvious rattles. I changed out the cassette player with a Pioneer CD player, and even with the stock speakers, the music I listen to(dance/hip-hop) had strong bass even with the OEM speakers.

    The only repairs made was a starter at around 105K, and a axle replacement( busted CV boot) at around 115K.

    I had to sell it in 2000 because it had to have $$ for college living expenses, but I still wish I was driving it today. It had enough for 4 moderately sized friends, so room is not as much of a problem as one would think considering its' compact exterior.

    I bet a Sentra of this generation (91-94) with reasonable miles could be had for 2K or so, if not less at auctions.

    For new cars, in your price range, my recommendation would go to the Elantra. My friend was going to get a GT hatchback last year before buying a used 99 Maxima for a similar price. I was impressed with the ride, quietness, and features of the Elantra, especially the GT. A GTcan be had for around 13-14 K after rebate before taxes. Plus it has a 5/60K bumper to bumper and 10/100K powertrain warranty. The only obvious negatives are higher insurance costs and the IIHS offset crash test rating ( although NHTSA ratings are very good, 4 & 5 stars). Good luck in your search.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Those are likely good cars. Really, they were made before the late 90s cost cutting, which you can blame Carlos "le cost cutter" Ghosn for.

  • ghoragghorag Member Posts: 8
    I am looking at buying my first new car - and considering Honda Civic. Ideally I wouldnt want to spend too much over 15000. I would also like to have a car with a sunroof. The best offer on Civic EX I've got is 15.9 K (the car is the base ex model, nothing extra, 5 speed) - Is this a good price?

    Second, in this price bracket what would be some other cars, that would be comparable/better in terms of reliability, comfort & value for money?
  • mattpdxmattpdx Member Posts: 41
    i said in another thread that you can't get it for much below that price... i was quote 15880

    and believe me, i've TRIED lol
  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    You are getting a whole lot of car for $15,900. Think about it, the 2003 Civic has done very well in all the comparos I've read, it has excellent crash test scores, it gets fantastic mileage and it is one of the more reliable vehicles on the road. Especially now that this is the third year of production. Honda has a way of fixing early problems so later vehicles are very good.

    Off the lot, it won't be the car that's most fun to drive. But, if you're interested in fun-to-drive, there are a TON of aftermarket items (exhaust, suspension, wheels, tires, air intake) that can be had relatively inexpensively that'll make her fun.

    $15,900? Do it.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I agree, go for it. Gas mileage is best-in-class, and resale is excellent. If you like the car, and it sounds like you do, then overall operating costs will be the same (even lower) than other cars in that class. Compacts can hit $18-20k nowadays.

    Even if it does cost more, you like it, it's worth paying a little more to be happy.

  • dudkadudka Member Posts: 451
    Someone posted on the "other Si" board, that he offered $13.8K for a 2002 left over Si, and the dealer took it.
    If you don't mind a hatchback loaded to the gills (A/C, sunroof, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, am/fm/cd with 6 speakers, Recarro seats, rally style shifter, 160 hp i-VTEC, Alloy wheels, Electric power steering ala BMW 7 series, Electronic brake force distribution (the closest to traction control in a civic), 4 wheel disk ABS brakes, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, built-in roll cage, and versatility of a hatch) go for a left over 2002 Si, there are quite a few of them out there. They are usually tucked away in the back of dealer lots. They still offer 3 year/36000 mile warranty from the day of purchase. These left over ones are actually cheaper than used civic's with more miles. Honda also offers 1.9% financing on them as well.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That would be a good deal, look around. Hatchbacks are very versatile.

  • sozersozer Member Posts: 12
    If you are still considering buying the new 2003 Civic as your first car, i cannot say one bad thing about the car. The Civic has classic Honda reliablitly, and power. My family has owned Honda's since they introdued the accord in 1975. That car lasted till 1987, and we bought another one right away. After that we waited till 2000 bought another, and in 2001 another for a new family driver. We have been completly satisfied with all of our purchases. They all have been excellent cars to us and in the future we will stick with Honda. So personnaly i would stick with the Civic. But if you are disappointed with that, another optiion would be the 2003 Corolla S or LE!!!!! sorry if i ran off topic!
  • carpeoplecarpeople Member Posts: 36
    It all depends on your preferences. Since it seems you sort of are looking for a fun first car, maybe a little ricey even, a Sentra best preference.

    Don't go for Corolla if you want performance. It is just a box on wheels. There is nothing special about it to seperate it from the rest of the croud. All you will get with it is a comfy chair to sit on with absolutely no feedback from the car, its almost like its dead.

    The Civic might be praised, but anyone who has gotten near the new gen knows how much it rattles. It makes too much noise for the supposedly quiet Honda. Also, very small with a small engine, not sporty at all. Even the Si IMO is not good first car, it has high insurance, no torque and not quite comfy.

    BTW, I am impressed by how much $$$ you have saved, but why are you spending all on car? How old are you again? You should save for other things, too, for a car is not everything.

    All in all, it depends on what you are into, sportiness, comfort, luxury, or economy. make your choice based off of that.
  • kumitkumit Member Posts: 3
    I personally think a good car to buy would be an 2.5RS or the Spec V. But if you want a Turbocharged.. the Mazdaspeed is good and yeah there's always the SRT-4. All which are good under $20k. and has exceptional HP....

    RP Cali
  • partyboye1partyboye1 Member Posts: 16
    I didn't save any money. My mom is probably going to cough up the cash.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    In that case, go easy on her check book. ;-)

    But seriously, I think a beater is always a good idea as a first car. Pick something reliable, but not beautiful.

  • michaellnomichaellno Member Posts: 4,300
    ...here we go again. Every few months, someone pops up on one of these boards looking for a good first car. Everyone and their brother starts flinging opinions around like spitwads. Nobody agrees with what somebody else suggests. Arguments ensue; name calling commences; the host intervenes.

    The only thing I will agree with that's been posted is the comment about ranking what's important - utility, gas mileage, safety, fun-to-drive factor, cost of ownership, insurance. Only then will we get an idea of what's important to the buyer. We have an idea of the budget - $13.5K. Who's footing the insurance bill? Gas? Maintenance? Without this information, we can speculate, argue, suggest and cajole all we want without coming to a conclusion.

    So, how about it, partyboye1? What's *really* immporant to you?
  • partyboye1partyboye1 Member Posts: 16
    Reliability, Affordability, Fun to drive, easy enough to fit three people, and comfortable is important to me in a car. A good, neat interior is a major priority.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    If you had said 2 instead of 3, I would have recommended a motorcycle. ;-)

    Still, "fun" is subjective. A Miata is fun, but so is a Jeep, and they are polar opposites.

    Try a place like CarMax, which carries several brands. Even if you drive used samples, they'll give you a pretty good indication of who you like them (and how they hold up).

    Try the cars mentioned above, spend a day and narrow it down to your 2-3 favorites. Then drive new samples of those cars.

  • mazdafunmazdafun Member Posts: 2,329
    Reliability: Corolla, Echo, Protege, Civic, Lancer, Impreza, Sentra, Elantra. If reliability is #1, forget the Focus, Cavalier, Neon as they're all STILL pretty bad in the reliability department.

    Affordable: Echo, Elantra, Protege, Sentra, Lancer, Civic, Corolla, Impreza.

    Fun to drive: Protege, Civic, Impreza (really good front seats in this one), Sentra, Corolla, Lancer, Elantra, Echo (I haven't driven one, just going by what I read). YMMV on this one.

    Fits 3 in comfort: Lancer (more rear headroom than the next 3), Protege, Elantra, Civic (flat rear floor, but I find the seat bottoms too low for me...the previous gen's front seats were too low and very uncomfortable for me...a big surprise given the Accord's seats were so comfortable), Corolla (the rear seat is much bigger than before...still a little less legroom, but lots more headroom, but I find the steering wheel too far away, even with the tilt/telescope steering column), Echo (I have sat in a couple...padding seems a bit thin, but serviceable...outboard rear seats seem to cant your shoulders inwards a bit), Impreza, Sentra (these last two still have rather cramped rear seats IMO).

    Interior: The ones I mentioned above are all comparable. The Corolla's interior is very nice now (it used to feel very cheap...so did that in the previous Civic's). The Echo's is noticeably cheaper than the others. The Elantra GT's leather feels thin and the fake leather on its doors is easily torn.
  • michaellnomichaellno Member Posts: 4,300
    now, how about the $$$ part. You've said that the budget is around $13.5K. Is that out the door? If so, your purchase price might actually be lower, then add in tax, title, license, etc.

    Who's paying for gas? Insurance? Maintenance? You -- or the folks? Will this be your car to drive 100% of the time or will you have to share it with someone else in your household? Again, I ask so that we here can get the complete picture.

    Having been through this process just recently (my step son will be 17 next month), I've got my own thoughts and opinions, but will keep them to myself until we get a better idea of what's going on with you.
  • iamziamz Member Posts: 542
    A good first car for a fairly new driver would be a larger 4 door sedan under $1000 bucks. Let's face it, new drivers are more likely to get in an accident due to there inexperience. You may as well have a car that is disposable if (or more likely when) you get in an accident. Also, if you can swing it, buy it yourself and you'll be more likely to take care of it by driving cautiously.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That catch is that is unpredictable, and far from reliable. A beater can be great, if you have the tolerance for break downs and backup transportation, though.

  • kw_carmankw_carman Member Posts: 114
    aah! Less the $1k is really pushing it for any car...not just a first one. Most parents would much rather be paying more money to know that their child won't be sitting the side of the road than to be saving it.
  • mazdafunmazdafun Member Posts: 2,329
    I've seen and driven too many junkers that were just too dangerous to remain in use. I've almost gotten hit because of stalls in the middle of intersections (Olds Firenza...piece of trash...he bought it new...it didn't take long for it to become a junker on its own) etc. I also had an accident (my first of only two ever) because I couldn't get the transmission in my dad's cargo van to engage. When it finally did, it jerked (lots of torque...this is even with my foot on the brake pedal...it had lousy brakes too) into the front end of my friend's Honda Accord (when they had flip-up headlamps...that cost a bundle).
  • gotbgotb Member Posts: 39
    My first car was Oldsmobile Delta 88 (88') that I bought it for $2,000 in 1996. It was 8 years old that time and had 140,000 miles. I think I made a great decision to buy a used car. I never had an accident but I hit some wall twice while parking within a year. If my car was a new car I would have been pissed... I gave my car to my little brother and it still runs fine. I'm surprised 15 years old Oldsmobile still runs fine. I had to replace timing belts, starter motor, alternator, battery, break pads and break hoses so far but nothing major problems. Engine and transmissions are still smooth.
  • iamziamz Member Posts: 542
    If $1000 bucks might be pushing it, then spend 2K or 3K and you will still be better off than putting a new driver in an almost new car. For one thing, the driver will only have to buy liability insurance which will save a bundle right from the start. the car is still essentially disposable and even if the car lasts only a year before the first major repair comes up (engine or tranny goes) the car can be hauled off to the junk yard with no regrets. At that point, if the driver has shown some responsibility (ability to drive), he/she can consider spending a little more on the next car.
  • icvciicvci Member Posts: 1,031
    A 1974 Ford Maverick. Bought it for $400 in 1988 with 13,000 miles on it.

    What a rust bucket. It never knew what a garage was in it's 14 years prior to meeting me.

    I'm so glad I didn't have a nice car as my first car.
  • iamziamz Member Posts: 542
    My first ride was a 73 Charger by the way, purchased for $400 in 1983. Sold it after about 6 months for $200 (after having my first accident which wasn't my fault by the way). The engine promptly cracked and dumped it's contents (oil, radiator fluid) within a couple weeks for the new owner who didn't really care cause he just wanted the wheels for his "good" Charger. :)
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