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Selecting and Buying My First Car

Hi, car fanatics!!!! I am looking for your exprtise in picking fine automobiles. My price range is about eight thousand dollars. I like cars that look good, that are spacious, have excellent interiors, and are reliable. Please help me come up with choices. I prefer imports over American cars. Help me choose between old cars from the seventies or eighties or newer cars from the nineties.


  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    suggest a '93 BMW 5 series, should fit the bill
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,715
    "I like cars that look good, that are spacious, have excellent interiors...."
    Whoo-Hoo! 1993 Audi 100 quattro

    "...and are reliable."
    Dang. So close.

    Dude, if it really is your "first car", maybe you should look for a pair of sensible shoes first... "excellent interiors" pretty much narrows it down to some nasties like anything German above VW and things like Jaguars. The Germans have longevity, but reliability is a different story... maybe something special and Japanese, such as a Supra or ....

    I've got it! Howze about a nice early-to-mid nineties Acura? Dunno which one, I'm not really up on these, but they tend to be a lot cheaper than Lexus, they are reliable, and I think they're don up nicely.

    Good luck,
    [for the more frugal-minded: ]
  • rroyce10rroyce10 Posts: 9,359
    ..... Let me just delete 3 off your long list, I will let the others fill in the blanks ..

    No Kias

    No Daewoo's

    No Hyundai's

                   Other than these three, the world is your Oyster .....

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I think he said "reliable"

    A ten year old BMW ?
  • Lexus, Acura, Mercedes. Shoot for the lowest mileage you can find, mostly high-way miles, if possible (I'd stay well under 120,000). Only buy if it has a complete service record. Make sure timing belt and water pump have been replaced when called for. Battery, tires, shocks, springs, bushings, control arms, oil leaks? Leave ~$3000 in your bank account for repairs over the next 18 months or so.

    - D.
  • themanxthemanx Posts: 110
    Terry, why no Hyundai's?

    Since they lose resale fast, wouldn't that mean
    you could get them at better than reasonable prices?


  • rroyce10rroyce10 Posts: 9,359
    ....... Of course the horrible resale value comes into play .. but add that with the reliability of a plastic chainsaw and you have two losers ...

                         Terry ;-)
  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    I think a Nissan Altima would be a good choice. Our 1994 Altima has been a great car, and our son still loves to drive it. I think Nissans depreciate faster than Toyotas and Hondas, so you may be able to get a good Altima for $8K.

    Keep it for several years and save up enough money so you can pay cash for your next car.
  • Hi partyboye1. It's always exciting to purchase one's first vehicle. I remember when I bought my first ride many moons ago. In your post you mentioned that you are in the market for a used vehicle with a price tag of less than $8,000. Here is a small list of vehicles that I would personally consider if I was in the market for a a used car below $8K: a Chevrolet Prizm, a late-90's Honda Civic, a late-90's Acura Integra, a late-90's Nissan Altima, and a late-90's Nissan Sentra to name a few. These all should be less than $8,000 and prove to be very reliable. I personally would rather buy a vehicle that was originally less expensive and has lower mileage than an older more expensive vehicle with high mileage. has a couple of articles that I believe you will find very helpful in your search for a new vehicle. Definitely make sure to check out these: 10 Steps to Buying a Used Car and How to Get a Used Car Bargain - Part One: Identifying Your Target Cars & Arranging Financing, How to Get a Used Car Bargain Part Two - Part Two: Locating and Test-Driving Your Target Cars, and How to Get a Used Car Bargain - Part Three: Negotiating and Closing the Deal.

    Smart Shoppers / FWI Message Boards
  • Hmmm...I'd go with a mid 90's acura Vigor. Legend to, but you should find some bargains on the Vigor.
  • mn_patmn_pat Posts: 67
    As a replacement for my recently crashed Legacy, I'm looking at the Chevy Prizm. The Prizm is a rebadged Toyota Corolla. Is cheap buy, cheap to run, cheap maintain.

    I've see several examples for with 35-45k priced from $6k to $7K
  • I think a Corolla / Prizm as well as a Civic or Impreza would be good suggestions for a first, used car except they certainly don't satify the OP's cars that look good, that are spacious, have excellent interiors by a long shot.

    I wouldn't count an Altima in there either. Perhaps a 626.

    - D.
  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    Yes, the ubiqitous Prizm is probably still the best used-car bargain (had a 96, now drive a 02 manual). Mathias mentions it in his excellent car buying guide - I'll let him repost the URL if he wishes. But make sure you like it before you buy since you may be stuck with it for a long time. My 02, while bought inexpensively, reasonably peppy, ok on wet roads, and very economical fuelwise, has very cheap looking and feeling interior with annoying squeaks, and a substandard stereo (the latter can be replaced, of course). Its that interior of the 98-02 generation that's bugging me more than I expected it would. To be fair, the Corollas of that vintage are no better. Also, the insurance on the Prizm turned out to be unexpectedly high - more than on a 03 Accord!

    In retrospect, after driving in friends' cars, I realized I should have shelled an extra X thousand and bought a new or almost-new Protege . Also high insurance, parts and repair costs are greater than on a Prizm/Corolla, lower fuel economy, but a nicer car to drive, and hopefully (almost) as reliable as the Primrolla.

    Watched a private seller eBay auction recently for a 02 Pro5 with 25k that sold for 8.5k; I was very tempted to bid on it and try to sell the Prizm, but was able to restrain myself, as car trading is usually a very expensive hobby for an individual.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    A lot of compacts are being mentioned, but you did ask for spacious so I'd stay with mid-sizers.

    Altima, Maxima, Accord, Camry, Legacy/Outback, and 626. Half of those even came as wagons, if you want more space and a roof rack.

    Caveat on that last one, avoid 4 cylinder automatics, that CD4E tranny is awful.

    You could look at Acura and Lexus, but to be honest they'd have to be older and/or higher miles.

  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    Late 90's seem to be better made than the more recent ones, 4 cyl in 140 and 160 hp available. Can be had (much) cheaper than all of the midsizes on the list with a possible exception of a 626.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    One things I hated about cars from the early 90s was the motorized mice seat belts that came on some cars with no air bags. They were so incredibly annoying, you could not give me a car with those (if I had to drive it).

    I think the 626 got air bags in 1993. Not sure about the rest, but for $8k you should be able to find a newer model that isn't burdened with those silly belts.

    I passed on a Galant VR-4 for that reason.

  • Daewoo Leganza
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They were giving those away, used. I was worried about parts, but they were so cheap you could basically buy a spare car and scavenge the parts! LOL

    They've updated it and renamed it a Suzuki, BTW.

  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    I was actually thinking of a 97-99 Galant, those did not have motorized belts AFAIK, and definitely had both airbags.

    Back to subcompacts/Prizms: two ads in a local newspaper car classified section, one right under the other: 1999 Prizm, $4500, 50k miles, bla bla, and then 1992 Geo Prizm, $3500. If only some cars depreciated by only 1k$ over 7 years...
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Oh, gotcha. Yeah, I guess they started getting air bags some time in the early 90s.

  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    It's not that the car 'depreciated' only $1k in seven years; I mean, that joker can advertise a '92 Prizm for $100k if he wants to, that doesn't mean anyone is going to pay it. $3500 is ridiculous for a first-generation Prizm, unless there's a kilo of gold in the trunk. These tend to retail for more like $1500-2000. The '99 for $4500 sounds like a good deal, though.
  • Hi all. My brother told me about this site some time ago, and luckily I remembered it, because now my husband needs another car. Oh joy! Oh rapture! Car shopping! I can think of other things I'd rather go through, like walking on hot coals, eating a bug, getting dental work w/out anesthesia, getting run over by a train, fun stuff like that. Anyway I don't want to walk into a dealership and have them see a big lollipop where my husband's and my heads belong. I've already learned that it's best to have financing in hand before looking, and I'm figuring out the TMV thing. Still I cannot help but think, 'there but for the grace of God go Dawn and Mark.'
  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    is to buy a car that you truly love to drive.

    First decide exactly what kind of car you want. Price is secondary.
  • dbgindydbgindy Posts: 351
    Figure out what you want to buy first. Once you know that then get advice from several of the pros who are on these boards ( Terry aka rroyce10, audia8, driftracer,isell,mackabee,afk_x to name just a few). They will be able to with the detailed info ( read that as options:-) you give them tell you what a fair price for that car might be. Also check out the prices paid boards for whatever model you decide on.
     The process doesn't have to be painful unless you make it that way.
    Find a car you like in your budget and after doing some research get it at a fair market price. It really can be that simple....

  • hest88hest88 Posts: 31
    We first figured out what we wanted and figured out our price range, and got financing. Then we hit upon what price we wanted to pay using Edmund's TMV and other sources. Then we made initial contact with dealer via phone and email. We found that phone worked best and was the fastest. When a particular dealer had exactly the car we wanted, we told him how much we wanted to pay. He called us back with his counter price. When we reached a mutual agreement we asked him to email or fax us with the out of door price. Then we just went into the dealer armed with the paper, test drove and checked out the car, wrote our check, and that was that.

    Since we ended up with a used car, I asked for VIN numbers so I could look up the car on CARFAX. Also, we ended up with only one dealer who had exactly what we wanted, but if that hadn't been the case we probably would have just asked our favorite dealer to match the lowest offered price.
  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    We bought a car a month ago, and I wrote about it under the topic, "Hey guys, Bobst actually buys a car". Look down the list of topics and you should find it easily.

    Reading my posting and the comments from others might help you a little.
  • Here it is, the definitive list of what you should do to keep from getting ripped off. ordinarily you would have had to hang out on the edmunds smart shopper board for 2.3 years to get the level of knowledge I am about to impart to you in one post. The following strategies will guarantee the lowest price and the best possible experience.

    1. Do not research the vehicle at all, it's best to unfetter your powers of intuition by keeping the clutter of "facts" and "figures" to a minimum. When you’re asked by the salesman how you arrived at your figures, just say “I cannot reveal my sources, nor will I upon pain of death”.

    2. Understand that the car salesman is there to rip you off, take you for a ride, lead you down the primrose path, and then drop you like a bad habbit. Little known fact, Most car salesman are directly descended from south sea island cannibals. If you see shrunken heads dangling from the rear view mirrors of the service loaners, RUN! How do you best combat these godless fiends? Regardless of what ever spell they try to cast when they open their mouth, shout repeatedly "I'm only paying 4K under invoice!!!"

    3. Pack a lunch, and while negotiating repeatedly offer bites to the salesman, while making wet smacking noises with your lips.

    4. Remember, the Car Salesman will lie to you worse than Ann Coulter on peppermint schnapps, so the only way to combat this is to lie about everything. If your name is Rob, tell them it's Steve. If you want a sports car, tell them you want an SUV, and if you're married, single. You get the idea. If you're a payment buyer, tell them you'll be paying in cash.

    5. Don't bathe for a week prior to shopping.

    6. To ensure best service, Walk into the middle of showroom floor, spread your arms wide to the heavens, and bellow at the top of your lungs: "WHO WANTS TO SELL A CAR TODAY?!?!?" This will result in all salesmen who want to sell a car today to converge on you like hobos on a meat sandwich. Of course, you may see older members of the dealership heading in the opposite direction. This merely means that they probably want to sell a car tomorrow, not today.

    7. Start giggling like a giddy school girl every time the salesman says the words "Trade Allowance", "Parsippany" or "the".

    8. Present your offer in the form of a quadratic equation.

    9 One of the standard tactics of the car dealer is to make you sit and stew while they “present” your offer to the sales manager. Don’t let this throw you. To counteract this insidious approach, bring some novelty glasses with pictures of naked people on the lenses. When the salesman gets up to take your offer, whip them out and announce “Take your time, I’ll just be using my X-Ray vision goggles while your gone.” Put them on and begin leering at other patrons and dealer employees, while whistling appreciatively.

    10: Ignore the previous 9 tips. hang out and listen to the good people here, read the voluminous guides on this site, and then go and make the best deal you can.

    Well, there you have it, your 10 steps to success. Knock yourself out
  • mn_patmn_pat Posts: 67
    I went in a different direction. I looked at and drove a Prizm, it was nice enough and I thought it would be ok. Then I found a 98 Jetta gl with 40k miles at VW dealer 3 miles from my house. Well, I drove the Jetta, it is hands down a nicer car, seats are great, handles great, fun to drive with the 5sp, low miles, super clean. Yeah, it may not be as reliable as the Prizm, but I like it alot more. I paid $7500, I think its a decent price. The first tank of gas I got 28.18 mpg.
  • That was very good advice, Prodigalsun. Maybe I should take my two Dobermans with me? My husband has selected a used car from a dealer just up the street. He's selected a 2000 Mitsubishi Galant w/ 70,000 on it. He's checked it out, and likes what he sees. Trust me, when my husband checks out a car, he doesn't just kick the tires. He opens the hood, checks the hoses, fluid levels, etc. He was on that car like a big dog. He plans to test drive it today. We stopped by the dealership last night and got some interest rate/monthly payment figures, which we then compared to our own bank's interest and the calculator on this site. The Dealership is offering a 7.9% interest compared to our bank's 8% and Capital One's 4.6%. Seems like Cap One's rate is the best bet, but we did have the dealership calculate our monthly payment and it's something we can live with. The salesman we talked to told us there in car loans there was not a huge difference between 8% and 7.9%. True or false?
  • dbgindydbgindy Posts: 351
    Are you asking if there would be much of a monthly payment difference on the Galant between 8.0% and 7.9%? If that is the question the difference ( depending on how long it's financed for) will be small. Less than a dollar a month. If that's not your question please rephrase.:-)
    BTW if you can get the Cap one rate go for it.

  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,715
    If you're going to go used, you might want to check out a web site I posted; address is in my profile.

    You should wander over to Real-World Trade-In Values and ask what this sled is worth; Galants are ok cars, but have the resale value of beer, to quote Bill of blessed memory.

    "[...] have the dealership calculate our monthly payment and it's something we can live with"

    Oooh, a Payment Buyer. Why is the hair on the back of my neck standing up?

    Don't buy based on payment. It's a 4-year-old car with a ton of miles, do you want to owe money on it when it's seven years old? Nine years old? "Low Down Low Payment" my foot.

    You'll own this one for a while -- they're sale-proof -- so make sure you can get it serviced by someone competent. Indies are the way to go, the dealer HAS to use Mitsu parts, that can get expensive.

    Talk to your mechanic first, and have the car inspected. I'm pretty good at this myself, but I can't test compression with my thumb and forefinger... I can tell if it's a junker, but I can't tell for sure if it's good. Neither can your husband.

    You were doing so well, coming here and asking advice... now you're sitting down and talking PAYMENT? Oh dear.
    FWIW, $1k over 3 years at 7% is roughly $30/month; over 5 years its just under $20/month. You can use the Edmunds calculators for precise numbers. But negotiate PRICE not payment.

    FWIW, No Way would I pay over $6, for a 2000 Galant with those miles. $7 would be all of it if it's really nice. I think. I'm not a pro.

    East Lansing, MI
  • dbgindydbgindy Posts: 351
    Mathias is not a pro but he is a very gifted amateur. He just gave you some great advice. My advice is to heed his. :-)

  • you've already got some great information here, so i'm going to but in and try and give you some good info(at least i think it's good)... =oP

    It seems as though you folks buy cars and drive them until they poop out on you. If this is the case, I would probably be looking at 1 or 2 year old cars with 20-40k or so on it. Of course, if your husband is in love with the Galant, then so be it, but I would probably consider looking at the '01 or '02s since they should be the same design, may have less miles, and are roughly the same price range...
  • hest88hest88 Posts: 31
    Sounds like your husband loves that car? Make sure you get the TMV and see if you can get the price as close as possible to that. Also, have you run a Carfax on it yet? And checked it for any recalls?

    Personally, I'd rather aim for the lowest interest rate as possible. If you just look at monthly payments instead of overall costs you'll be losing money in the end. We used Capital One and it was very easy. They even called us to confirm on a Sunday! If you apply immediately and pay an extra $15 you'll get the check early next week. (No I'm not affliated with Cap One, but I was impressed at how simple it was.) If you aim for the lowest rate on your credit card, why wouldn't you with other financing?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No matter the outcome, you made the right choice. What price can you put on happiness?

  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 26,205
    geez... i'm thinkin' about $20mill.... oh yeah. i'm smilin' already. :)

    '10 Equinox LS; '08 Charger R/T Daytona; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 49-car history and counting!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You live pretty close to me, so try A no-haggle dealer is a good place for someone like you, uncomfortable with the haggling process. My family has bought several cars there and they offer up something very special - no surprises.

  • Hello all Sentra owners. My friend is shopping for the Spec V. Anyone knows the recent price from the dealer? Thank you for your input.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Try, they sell Nissans at no-haggle prices in the DC area. You can get an idea where prices are, at least in this region.

  • New or used?

    These things depreciate like crazy, '02s are going in the 12-13 range.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    I'd recommend looking for a certified used Celica on a dealer lot and then bargaining from there if you really want one.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    the certified Celicas will be inspected, cleaned almost to new car levels at a lower price.
  • She wants a Sentra. What're the odds?
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    I saw the Celica thing in the subject heading and assumed someone was shopping for a Celica. Don't Sentras depreciate fast, making a year old used Sentra a better buy than a new one??
  • thelthel Posts: 767
    depreciate fast. Some (Neon, Cavalier, Focus) just depreciate ridiculously fast.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    I bought a Value Package for $9,000 after a trade and negotiating in 1999. It's worth about $5,000 in a private party transaction, making 5 years of driving and 75,000 miles costing me $4,000 out of pocket for 5 years and 75,000 miles. Cost per mile is 5.3 cents per mile if I sell the car and don't run it into the ground.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    I didn't really come out bad on the car if I sell now and buy a newer car.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    You left the 'plus trade' part out of your math, jchan2. The car didn't actually cost only $9000 'real money', it cost whatever the dealer put on the first line of the contract.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    so the sticker price I don't remember exactly, but was close to $11,000, which comes out to 8 cents a mile if I sell right now.
  • factoring in maintenance, and gas?
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