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Selecting and Buying My First Car



  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    try a left over Pontiac Grand Am.
  • I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to post a new message instead of a reply, so....

    I'm a 17 year old girl buying my first car, with a budget that probably can't exceed about $6500. I'm looking for a coupe or sedan with a manual transmission - no slushboxes for me, thanks.

    The trouble is that I learned to drive in a hard-to-shift old Nissan with no power steering and fairly unresponsive pedals, and in a '67 Beetle. Most of the newer cars I've driven just don't feel right. The pedals don't present enough resistance, and the steering is floaty, with absolutely no feedback. I don't like indistinct gearshifts that can be shifted with great ease. I prefer to put a little effort into my driving, and I'd rather not have a car that drifts into the other lane if I put an extra finger on the steering wheel. I really don't like these cars for the same reason I hate automatics- because they're too easy to drive. It's easier to make careless mistakes.

    Anyone have any suggestions for cars that require a little more muscle?
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,077
    Have you tried anything from the Mazda line? They're known for being fun to drive manuals, and a used one should be economical to purchase and to maintain.


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  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    I think a used Mazda would be an excellent place to start.

    However, buying a used car is not easy because it is very hard to determine a good price (the lowest price the dealer will accept). Be sure and do your research on pricing before making an offer.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,077
    If you're looking for something a bit more "stiff," VW vehicles might be a good place to look. However, in your price range you might run into some serious reliability issues. I had a 2000 Jetta, which was supposed to have horrific electrical & other reliability problems, and I spent only one day in the shop over two years, so it's a grab bag.


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  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    What I'd suggest is that you hit a place like CarMax and then sample several cars. Pick what you want, and then you can really start shopping.

    Avoid Honda/Acura, they have light controls and overboosted steering. I realize many people like that, but you'll hate them.

    Try a Protege or Jetta, something like that.

  • I know what you mean about two much power steering !
    Hondas and Acuras are the worst - There is absolutely so much power boost that you don't get any road feel.

    My advice to you is to look only at sports/sporty cars and skip the econoboxes.

    The car that may do the trick for you is a 93-03 Chevy Camaro (or Pontiac firebird). The clutch on that car is like lifting weights. Also the power steering is only slightly boosted so there is lots of road feel.

    Those cars are a blast to drive and handle well and also have great crash test scores.

    If you are interested in that car then my only concern is that insurance costs will be higher for a 17 year old, especially on the Z28 V8 model.
  • One thing to keep in mind about coupes... the insurance rates will be higher than for a sedan. Sometimes much higher. You may want to look at a four door Golf. VW's clutch pedal definitely requires more effort than some of the other ones out there.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The last 911 I drove had a stiff clutch. :-)

    My roommates old Dodge turbo also had stiff clutch.

    Look for cars with quicker steering ratios.

  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,714
    "I'm a 17 year old girl buying my first car..."
    How cute. I've been fond of 17-year-old girls since I was a 16-year-old boy.
    Ya know, this is about he ONLY place on the 'net where I'd believe a poster who said this...

    Manual? Out-Standing! The target price is good, it's somewhat of a sweet spot, I believe; significantly above $5k. For some thoughts on driving inexpensively, follow the link in my profile. Here is something else every used-car shopper should know:

    As far as a "nice" stick shift car for this price: The Chevy Prizm is a good choice, but it doesn't do much in the fun-to-drive category.... solid little car, but fairly boring understeerers. The Protege is a good suggestion by all accounts; I haven't actually driven one. For a little more jingle, the Vibe/Matrix might be a good choice... the shifter is pretty clunky, but the rest of the car is very tossable; I sure like mine.

    Most young drivers, boys or girls, just never have the chance to learn how to drive a stick. My 83-year-old Grandma, may she rest in peace, never drove anything else.

    The automatic transmission is yet another part of the Wussification of America.

    Regarding your take on pwr steering etc: "It's easier to make careless mistakes." I disagree. Careless comes from the driver, not the vehicle.

    "Anyone have any suggestions for cars that require a little more muscle?"

    If you want a REALLY nice car that isn't too sporting but has good handling and no pwr steering, look at the 96-00 Civic Hatch CX stick -- the only car of its vintage, afaik, to have manual steering. Drove one and loved it.

    Welcome to the brotherhood,
  • Mathias:

    Nothing personal but me thinks you must have stock options in the Prism car company or something :)

    Granted they are reliable and when bought used are a great value. However they are NOT comfortable, safe, or fun to drive. Also, believe it or not virtually nobody aspires to one. That's why they are so cheap to buy used.

    Just maybe a more fun car would fit the bill here.

    When I think back to my high school days about the cars that my friends had that I thought were cool, economy cars never made the list.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,077
    I used to have a manual Protege - one of the most enjoyable cars to drive in the lower price range.


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  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,714
    Sir, you wound me.
    First up, it's Prizm. With a 'z'.
    Secondly "virtually nobody aspires to them" is only true about the Prizm. Many people aspire to the Corolla... and noone ever aspired to the Aspire, but I digress.

    Secondly, the clutch/shifter combo is great, I'm on my second one. It all depends what you're in it for, but I personally derive great satisfaction from really good engineering; stuff that works "just so". Anybody with $6 to spend ought to look at these to see if they *might* fit the bill.

    The things you point out led me to suggest the two other cars. I did not even mention 'cool' little cars like the Eclipse, cuz the insurance is going to be absolutely outrageous for a 17-year-old.

    Think about it this way: 99% of private US buyers would be perfectly well served if they could only choose among the Civic, the Taurus, the F150 pickup, and the Gd Caravan.

    And yet there are over a hundred models to choose from... a lot of it comes down to personal preference, which means trying stuff out.

  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    >>And yet there are over a hundred models to choose from... a lot of it comes down to personal preference, which means trying stuff out. <<

    And that means putting the fanny in the seat and rolling around the town a few times before signing your name on the dotted line rather than listening to what everybody else says is the best car.

    It seems like a great deal on a Chevy Nova/Prizm has always missed me by a month or two. My brother found a great deal on one right after I just bought a car.

    Right now, $6k will buy a heck of a lot in a real nice USED car.
  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    Granted they are reliable and when bought used are a great value. However they are NOT comfortable, safe, or fun to drive.

    And these are based on?

    Comfort: subjective, but good for a small car. Certainly as comfortable as contemporary Corollas.

    Safety: 4 star in frontal collisions as tested by NHTSA in 2001 ( ml)

    Fun to drive: perhaps not as much as a RWD sport sedan or even a Protege, but I'd take a 5-speed Prizm over base Camry, Taurus, or Grandam (had all those as rentals on multiple occasions.)
  • like my 1998 Nissan Altima SE. Solid car, w/150hp it's not a racer, but the stick is good feeling and the clutch is pretty easy to deal with, even in traffic. i think it's pretty fun to drive and has been remarkably reliable, requiring only routine maintenance and getting 30mpg highway. plus, find one with leather and moonroof and it makes a decent little sports sedan.

    The 5speed might be hard to find, but if you look back in "real world trade in values" for terry's appraisal of my car, I think it was $5,5ish for private sale, which is right in your budget. Good luck!
  • Asafonov:

    When the rubber hits the road ( or the Navigator hits the Prizm) The Prism and it's twin the Corolla just aren't safe.

    Take a look at some real world statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    Notice in this real-world analysis that the Corolla (the Prizm twin) gets a "substantially worse than average" rating for injuries

    Those single-car crash test results that you refer to are fine. The problem is, is that not many accidents (14 percent) occur crashing into a wall. What you need to worry about are large cars/trucks hitting you broadside. In that case the Prism fairs very poorly (Can you say DEATHCAR)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Loss results for 2001-03 models

    Sorry but your Doomsday scenario isn't even relevant. In the price range we're talking about model years much earlier than that.

    That chart would almost talk you out of any car. In fact the Corolla scores in the middle, near the average for this class of car.


  • There is quite a bit of confusion out there as your post is a great example.

    From the chart the trend is very obvious, Large cars are dramatically safer and small cars are dramatically less safe regardless of barrier crashtest scores. I don't have data on privous years models but the trend is the same. If anything earlier cars without the latest safty equipiment were even worse.

    The overiding factor for vehicle safty is vehicle mass. I can't find the link to it but survivavbility is nearly linear with weight regardless of vehicle age.

    For the price that the original poster had in mind a 4-5 year old domestic fullsize or larger car would be affordable and safer (by far)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I went back to the original post and size was not specified. But he did say her preferred imports and that reliability was important.

    You suggest a domestic but that falls completely outside of what this thread asks for. Perhaps you were confused? ;-)

    Avalon or Maxima, perhaps? But can you find one for $8000?

    The price limit is what might have forced this thread into compact cars.

    The chart's data is not regularized, by that I mean it does not account for the fact that the least experienced buyers tend to drive small cars, because that's all they can afford at 16-18.

    If the chart showed the safest cars for her age group then I think it might carry more significance.

    Grand Marquis are driven by a much older demographic, that explains why it's at the top of the chart. I don't think it even has the latest safety equipment, so the driver explains the results, not the car.

  • Most people can't go a week without sex or a rationalization !

    There is some truth to what you have posted.

    But really are you trying to say that a Corolla is as safe as say a Bonneville even though the Corolla has more than a 3X factor for injuries ?

    Which car would you like to be in as that F150 does a T-bone on you in an intersection ?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Dunno if the Bonny has side curtain air bags or not, but if you allow the Mazda3 as an option I'd pick that smaller car because it does offer them.

    Bigger cars cost more and therefore tend to have more safety features as well. That would account for at least a portion of the difference observed in the chart.

    But when you shop used you might have to get an older car, and then you tend to get fewer safety features because fewer of those features were standard as you go back in time.

    I'd want a car with good crumple zones and all the latest safety features if I knew I were going to be hit. So gimme a Volvo S80 over that Grand Marquis, any day.

    Give me ABS, stability control, side and side curtain air bags, the works. AWD even if I can get that.

    Beyond that, give me a car with good accident avoidance capabilities, i.e. active safety, to be able to swerve out of the way and not get hit in the first place.

    In fact to me active safety is even more important than passive safety. That Navigator couldn't hit me if he tried. ;-)

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'll allow that mass is a factor, of course, and the size of a crumple zone surely helps, too.

    But that's just one of many factors:

    * accident avoidance (#1 by a wide margin)
    * ABS availability
    * # of air bags
    * stability control availability
    * crumple zones
    * mass

    Not to mention driver skill and experience.

  • air bags and stability control and crumple zones Oh my!

    It seems that you guys have made up your mind that small cars are so safe! So I'll just make one more post on this matter and then leave you to your bliss.

    Air bags and stab control aside,just remember basic physics. Consider the bowling ball and the marble collision. When they collide the marble gets thrown out of the way of the bowling ball at twice the bowling balls velocity. The bowling ball doesn't change direction or slow down at all.

    So the guy riding the marble gets a tremendous severe jolt in the colision. The guy riding the bowling ball say's - "what was that noise ?". Lets just hope those airbags are in the right places for you marble guys.

    So I'll keep my bowling ball and you guys can keep your traction control marbles and when we meet we'll see who cries first.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    you can't really ignore the mass bulk of America's larger cars and trucks.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Compact cars nowadays weight 2600-3100 lbs, they're not marbles by any stretch of the imagination.

    Even most SUVs are in the 3500-4000 lbs range. The difference just isn't nearly that large.

    The marble and bowling ball example is just completely absurd. Unless the marble is a bicycle and the bowling ball is a Semi, and then it's hopeless anyway.

  • The bowling ball and marble analogy was just to get past all of the fluff that you were throwing up to attempt to enlighten you about physics and momentum considerations. Aparently you have made up your mind.

    You probably won't suffer a horrible disfiguring accident. But you are statistically much more likely to.

    The guy who sits in the office next to me just visited his wife this morning (she was driving a Saturn) who was broadsided by a truck. He now wishes his wife had been driving a tank. She'll be OK though after some physical therapy.

    A medium size SUV like an Explorer weighs 2000 pounds more than a Corolla.

    Go stand on the curb and we'll hit you with a 2000 pound sled moving at 30 miles per hour. Let us know if you feel anything.

    Real world injury statistics, mass and momentum considerations, What will it take for you to stop the rationalizations and realize that size matters - alot.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I understand perfectly now, so I'm underestimating the roll that size and mass play in safety matters.

    And you're not overestimating (bowling ball to a marble)? LOL

    I'm not going to let a 2000 lb sled hit me, I'm going to move out of the way! As a former athlete I hope my quick reflexes and physical ability will help me do so.

    In fact I'd argue that I have a far, far better chance than a sumo wrestler would.

    Am I right?

    The best way to survive an accident is to avoid one in the first place!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Saturns have plastic panels and no side curtain air bags. Poor example, really.

    And once again, domestic, this thread asks for suggestions among imports.

  • I believe that you are confused (again) about the import criteria. To my knowledge this discussion grew out of post #66 in which a 17 year old female asked about cars with a firm clutch and not so much power steering boost.

    This post had no reference to imports.

    With respect to the Saturn incident it wasn't an example for your poorly thought out logic, it was another avoidable tragedy that struck close to me.
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