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Selecting and Buying My First Car



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Those 2 are lower than for most other cars, at least.

  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    averaging around 27 MPG pure city driving and maintenance has gone no further than oil changes at Jiffy Lube, a new set of GoodYear Allegra economy tires, a new set of spark plugs at 60K miles, and CDs for the CD player.
  • One thing that consumers who are purchasing their first new vehicle should consider is gas mileage. This is especially true today when the average cost of a gallon of gasoline has topped $2.00. Those of you who are shopping for your first vehicle should definitely check out the following new article that is available here at Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Non-Hybrid Cars for 2004. Please feel free to use this discussion to post your thoughts on this article or to add to the list. Thanks.

    Smart Shoppers Message Board
  • i am starting to look for my 1st new car. my current car is a 1995 chevy beretta 3.1 liter-6 cylinder automatic. she'a my baby; but her time is alost up at 165,000 miles. i'd like to buy a similar car, but i don't know what to look at. suggestions would be great. thank-you :)
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Since you have had good luck with the Baretta, I would consider a new Chevy Impala. You get more car for the money than the new Malibu, pretty good gas mileage (we are getting 28 mpg), and you get a lot of interior space.

    I am seeing a lot of new Impalas in the $14-15k range.
  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    you might want to try the Pontiac G6. Or the Chevrolet Impala. Lots of room at a low price.
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJPosts: 3,516
    Well, if you're looking for a 2-door like your Beretta, your choices in that size class are very limited:

    Chevy Cobalt
    Dodge Stratus
    Chrysler Sebring
    Toyota Solara
    Honda Accord
    Pontiac G6

    Host - Wagons
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    I thought the G6 was only available with four doors. One could probably get a wonderful deal on a left over Grand Am, if there are any.
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJPosts: 3,516
    ahhh - correct, ghulet. Forgot the G6 was going to be sedan only.

    Host - Wagons
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Look at a Malibu Maxx.

    The 3.5l is a cousin of the 3.1l you liked, and plenty peppy. The hatch is versatile and it should perform similarly.

  • 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: 2,715
    "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: 2,715
    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.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    First post, by the creator of the thread:

    partyboye1 Oct 31, 2003 5:05pm

    So I guess there's more than one person shopping.

    I wasn't confused then nor am I now.

  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,715
    Let's take two run-of-the-mill vehicles; 2001 Explorer XLT (4045 lbs) and a 2001 Corolla LE (2445 lbs). Say they're both going the same speed (v) and collide head on, and say they will just crash into each other and fuse into one piece of mangled metal. It happens.

    The force on the people inside is determined by their acceleration, and the acceleration is different in the two vehicles... inasmuch as right after the impact, the whole mess will be moving in the Explorer's original direction, because the Explorer is heavier.

    If you work it out, you'll find that the force on the poor people inside the Corolla is 65% stronger than the force on the people in the Explorer.


    Warning: Math below.
    The total momentum before the impact is equal to the momentum after the impact. Explorer: P1= m1 * v; Corolla: P2= m2 * (-v). Therefore, the momentum of the whole mess is P=P1+P2=v*(m1-m2).
    Note that if the two cars have the same mass, their individual momenta are equal and opposite, and the total momentum before the crash is indeed zero.

    Immediately after the crash, the momentum is conserved, and the mess of mangled metal has momentum P=(m1+m2)*u, where "u" is the speed of the mess. It's in the original direction of travel of the Explorer.
    Since P is constant, u*(m1+m2) =v(m1-m2) or u = v* (m1-m2)/(m1+m2). Things will be more legible if we define e=(m1-m2)/(m1+m2). In our case, e = 0.2465.

    The Explorer people accelerate from v down to u... said another way, they experience a change in velocity that is v*(1-e). The Corolla people accelerate from v down to u -- in the opposite direction. That means their change in velocity is v*(1+e).

    Therefore, the people in the Corolla experience a change in velocity -- and therefore, accleration, and therefore, force -- that is (1+e)/(1-e) greater than the change experienced by the people in the Explorer. Using the numbers from the example, they get hit 65% harder.

    This is all very schematic and makes some very simple assumptions, but the basic physics behind it is sound. It's like the Corolla is crashing into a solid wall at v(1+e) and the Explorer crashes at v(1-e).
    Survivability is still very much a function of the design of each car and the design of the restraint systems.

    Exhaustively yours, -Mathias
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I have a major problem with that example - the cars are not comparable in cost or category.

    Basically the chances someone is cross-shopping those two vehicles is nil, so it's just not a useful example.

    If someone comes here and says they are cross-shopping a 2002 Corolla with a 2001 Accord, then I can see the Accord being recommended due to its larger crumple zones, greater mass, and perhaps even extra safety features.

    But a Corolla and an Explorer? Doubtful.

    Most people shop a certain class of vehicle within a certain price range. So if they're shopping for a Corolla, they might also consider a Protege and Civic. You might be able to talk them up to a Camry, perhaps a couple of years older, on the basis of having the extra mass to protect you.

    But I don't think you'll talk the same person into an Explorer or Grand Marquis.

    "You want a compact sedan? Sure, here's a large truck you'll just love".

    If you were a salesman they'd laugh in your face and drive off.

  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,077
    steine13, you CANNOT just include math and physics like that without a warning in the header! "Ye math-impaired, avert your eyes."

    It seems like we're veering kind of far off topic here. Some of you may recall a little-known discussion about liking & disliking SUVs over on the SUVs board. I think this subject was covered about as exhaustively as possible in that topic, but if you have a fresh idea, please talk to tidester & steve over in SUVs. This is getting more technical than the interest level merits in our first-time buyers discussion.


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  • manamalmanamal Posts: 434
    You are assuming an elastic collision. Any deformation of the cars will absorb some of the energy. With that said, I would rather be in the exploder than the corrolla in your example. However, I would rather be in a modern car with Airbags and cruple zones at 3000 lbs than a 1966 Chevy, which will transfer much of the energy to the occupents.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sorry, let's try to steer back on track.

    I think an SUV is probably not the best choice for a newbie driver. Combining inexperience with all that top-heavy mass and less agile handling makes everyone else on the road less safe. ;-)

    Truth is, the best vehicle for a 16 year old is probably a bicycle. Or the bus. LOL

  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,715
    "Basically the chances someone is cross-shopping those two vehicles is nil, so it's just not a useful example."
    I'm not talking about cross-shopping, I'm trying to flesh out the "marble/bowling ball" argument.

    "It seems like we're veering kind of far off topic here."
    No we're not. When someone is looking to buy a car with a fixed price in mind, there will be trade-offs in economy, safety, reliability, etc.
    Since the discussion very properly veered into the safety aspects of weight, I thought I'd put some numbers to it.
    In the example, it was a difference of two thirds, not something terrible like a factor of ten. I find that relevant.

    I picked an SUV simply because they are heavy, I was not trying to get into THAT argument. Have it your way: Crown Victoria it is.

    "You are assuming an elastic collision."
    No, a plastic collison -- it's ONE body afterwards.

    "Any deformation of the cars will absorb some of the energy."
    Actually, nearly ALL the energy goes into deformation of cars and occupants. The rest goes to heat the pavement, as wrecks screech to a stop.

  • Manamal:

    Momentum is conserved in a collision energy is not. Big difference ! So in spite of all the energy lost to metal deformation (etc) the jolt to the small car driver is still significantly greater and is described by the momentum equations.


    When I looked up the specs on a 2004 Exploder XLT it weighed just under 4500 pounds. Therefore your little calculation may just be somewhat low.


    I don't know why I am wasting my words on you. Nonetheless, nobody is comparing buying an Exploder to a Corolla. These are the vehicles you are literally and figuratively likely to run into driving around. If you are driving a Corolla you better watch out for the Explorers.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I still don't see a Corolla cross-shopped with a Crown Vic. ;-)

    But I do get what you're saying.

    Still, I'd pick the agile car to escape the collision completely. Quicker acceleration, better braking, and higher handling limits can help get you out of trouble.

    Noone keeps statistics on "close calls" and accidents that don't happen.

    I just can't accept the thought that you are a sitting duck and cannot avoid most collisions. Drive defensively, always leave yourself an "out", and practice good situational awareness.

    The Miata is a puny car, just 2300 pounds, yet death rates are average. It's not a death trap like you might assume.

    Why? It's agile and can avoid accidents, plus drivers are mature and experienced (median age in the 40s).

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    you better watch out for the Explorers


    More mass can do more harm to other cars, particularly small ones, but telling everyone to go out and get large cars does not make the roads safer for the general public.

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