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A good first car



  • mazdafunmazdafun 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I had a 6 year old Mustang Ghia, but dad helped pay for that heap.

    Later I got a Datsun 210 coupe, it was 8 years old or so when I bought it for $800. Drove it for a year and sold it for the same amount.

    I got lucky, though, it needed a new clutch right after I sold it.

  • boredbored Posts: 300
    I've been driving for over a year now, and I have yet to hit someone.

    By the way...

    A first car should be a beater, I agree, but a GOOD beater, if there is one. I say a car more in the 3k-4k range, that is reliable, and cheap to fix. More in the way of a 5 year old midsize american sedan. Or, fir the SUV crowd, a Jeep. FUN to drive, and if it breaks, it's easy and cheap to fix.

    Did you know that a Jeep Wrangler is on the top ten cheapest to insure list?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's surprising.

    Gas mileage is poor, though.

    Parts are cheap, and it should be easy to work on. That might offset the fuel costs.

  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    Does anyone here have some feedback to offer Snakerbill in our Best Hot Hatch (post 648) discussion? He's like some suggestions/ideas on what kind of car to buy. Thanks for your help.

    And now, back to the subject of the A good first car! ;-)

    Hatchbacks & Wagons Boards
  • Im also getting my first car soon. I'm gonna get a used car and was

    thinking of a 99 or 2000 Sentra GXE. Is that a good Choice&? any
    other recommendations?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Should be reliable wheels, just don't expect too much fun out of it. I read once those were near the bottom of JD Powers APEAL studies.

  • dudkadudka Posts: 451
    I got on MY OWN an 83 Cevy celebrity in 1994, for $675. Paid MY OWN insurance on it, after a year and ALMOST few accidents I was ready to graduate, but not to a new car. got an 85 Civic wagon DX on a trade and $500. A year later traded the civic for 89 Accord LXi (my first car with power everything). Later my sister inherited the accord and I bought a 91 Jetta GL. Jetta was the most expecncive car by far, it cost me $2000.
    5 years after I started driving I was ready to get a brand new car. By that time, I already had some knowledge of cars, what to look for, and how to drive them in most situations. That is when I got my brand new 99 Civic coupe EX.
    I still think there are great cars for under $1000 out there, you have to look for them. Insurance on it will be less than $1000/year, whereas a 2-4 year old car, if financed, will have to have full coverage, which will cost over $1500 for someone under 25 (depending where you live).
  • rivertownrivertown Posts: 928
    The 1st car I bought cost more to insure than to buy; so, I sold it within a week - deciding to risk life and limb on a motorcycle. Worked for me, though I walked away from wrecks that should have killed me.

    I'm not a good enough mechanic (my enduring take on me) to buy used; so, the first new car was at age 23, and the 1st two were base model strippers. Worked for me, too; kept the 1st one 15+ years. If it'd had AC, I'd still own it.
  • We are considering a Sentra 1.8S for a first car, too. It would be a 2004, maybe an '03, if they throw an excellent deal at us.

    We eliminated Hyundai (maybe it is true that they are no longer POS, but... recent APA mystery shopper report is pretty bad). There are more unadvertised costs tacked onto a Hyundai, according to the report (, than any other of the cars they mystery-shopped.

    We eliminated Honda, simply because the ground clearance is somewhere around 3 inches underground... we are not Honda fans, even though they make great cars that keep their value.

    Echo hatchback or otherwise: no A/C, good cheap car (maybe), but no appeal here, and Toyota dealers are starting to act like Volvo dealers.

    Corolla. We prefer the Sentra. No special reason (see Echo).

    We love our Nissan dealer and everything else about Nissan: pricing, disclosure, service, etc.

    Protege 5: I like it. The person who will drive the car would maybe like the Protege sedan. We may go check that out.

    Audi A4: too expensive.
  • I decided to get a used car and I'm trying to decide between a Sentra GXE, Protege, and Hyundai Elantra. Just wanted to get some opinions and suggestions on my choices.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You mentioned Echo and that reminds me of the Scion xB. It's based on the Echo, but it's well equipped (A/C, even stability control standard) and costs about $14k for starters.

    It draws lots of attention and it IS the box that it came in, but if you like it, that's cheap wheels for ya. They've had a great launch and they're popular so far.

    Alex: of those 3, I like the Protege best. The Sentra's rear suspension is not fully independent, sample the ride on a bumpy road to see. Hyundai's big negative is dismal resale value, and while they're improving, perception lags reality by several years, and that's your money.

    The Mazda is being replaced soon by the 3, so look for close-out deals.

  • csandstecsandste Posts: 1,866
    Two years ago I was given a last generation Sentra for a week while my newly purchased Elantra had slight hail repair. I found it to be quite crude and uncomfortable compared to the Elantra--certainly a lot smaller. I'm sure it's a durable piece of equipment, however. The last generation Elantra wagon I drove was quite a bit more comfortable than the Sentra-- although resale is improving four year old Elantras can be had quite cheaply. As I stated on the Elantra board, however, watch Elantra and Accent abuse carefully however. Lots of rich little girls were given these cars for their sixteenth birthday present never to change the oil again.
  • Yo, we are checking out the same exact type of cars. look at the 1st message
  • What about the 1994-1997 626. A friend of my family has one and it still runs like new.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They're OK, just avoid the 4 cylinder/automatic combination AT ALL COSTS. That Ford CD4E fails with amazing regularity.

    Get a manual tranny or the V6 if you must get an automatic, that was a Mazda unit.

  • What do you think about the 2000 mazda 626?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They kept saying the tranny was improved, yet they kept failing.

    I had a '95 V6 5 speed, but read the 626 threads regularly. I swear every 3 days someone would report a tranny failure, and it was always the CD4E. V6 autos were fine. All the 5 speeds were fine, even clutches would last.

    Seriously, you could not GIVE me one of those cars with a 4 cylinder automatic. At a minimum budget $2-3 grand for a tranny rebuild every couple of years. I'm totally serious.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    As another source, my wife has a cousin that runs a used car dealership in Texas. Last time I saw him we still had the 626, so I asked about it.

    He finances the car loans himself, and covers cars under warranty as long as owners are still making payments. He had to fix so many of those trannies that he just stopped selling 626s. He was losing money doing so many rebuilds.

    Finally, the nail in the coffin, if you will, is that Mazda switched to JATCO to supply the trannies for the new Mazda 6.


    PS I still own a Mazda, a Miata, and have nothing against Mazda.
  • I am the biggest mazda fan!!!!! The ford tranny does suck but mazdas have the best personality.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Just get a 5 speed manual tranny if you get the 626.

    My Miata has been excellent. I bought it when it was 8 years old. It's now 11 years old. Besides schedule maintenance, I've spent a whopping $10.74 on repairs.

    I'd sell it, but why? No good reason to get rid of it, it runs fine.

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