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Advice on used small hatchback, reliable, cheap to maintain

My 1998 Volvo, the only car I have ever owned, is starting to drain my $$$ as it gracefully ages. I’m looking for a used car that is small (squeeze into any opening during alternate side parking in Brooklyn), has a hatchback (I’m one person but need some room for my dog/cats/camping gear), cheap to maintain (public radio salary here folks!!) and reliable (I’m not really a car person so ‘always turning on’ and ‘going’ are two things I most admire in a car). I’m looking to spend less than 15 grand. Gas milage is reasonably important as is driving in the snow (if we ever get any) --I don’t have anywhere to store snow tires. I would love a recent model with less than 30,000 miles but I realize that is probably impossible at my price range. Thanks for all advice!

I have said it before, there are a lot of small hatchbacks out now for less than 20000 and finance charges for new are less than used. New gives you almost zero miles. full warranty ( good for people like me that can’t fix cars ). Every manufacture website has a build your own feature so you can see just what you can get.
I can guarantee just because I would buy something you might not even want to be near it. That said I really like the KIA SOUL and a nicely equipped version is about 18000.

I live in Brooklyn and park on the street, and for the past three years, I’ve had a 2009 Hyundai Accent hatchback. Bought it with 42,000 miles and now have 88,000, and it’s been stone-cold reliable. It’s no luxury car, but it’s very solidly built and cheap to maintain. You should be able to pick up a five- or six-year-old model with low miles for around $7,000 that will be dependable for many years to come. I see no reason to spend $15,000 on a car that is going to live its life on the street. Pretty much the only thing I don’t like about it is that it only has two doors, but if you can live with that, it’s a great NYC car. Gas mileage generally runs from 31 to 38 mpg. And it’s very good in the snow with all-season tires.

Late-model Kia Souls and Nissan Versas are also popular around here. The Soul is about the size of the Accent so it’s just as easy to park, but it’s much taller, so it’s almost like a little van (and has four doors). The Versa hatch is a little longer than the Accent so it’s a little more difficult to find street parking with it, but it’s got four doors and a comfortable back seat. If you think you’re going to be carrying people in your back seat more than a few times a year, the Versa is worth a look. A lot of people will probably recommend the Honda Fit, but used models generally sell for several thousand dollars more, and despite their very versatile interiors, they’re probably not worth the extra dough.

As with any used car, have it checked over thoroughly before buying and be aware of if it will need the timing belt changed; this is crucial maintenance on cars with timing belts and interference engines (like the Accent) and runs about $600. (The Versa, I believe, has a timing chain, which never needs to be replaced, which is a big plus.)

Definitely the Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe…the Pontiac is virtually the same as Toyota under the hood…I had a 2004 for 3 years and it was a great vehicle. Strongly recommended you look into one of these…you will not be disappointed

I test drove a Vibe and after a mile took it back. Not for me. Seemed very basic and not fun to drive at all. So just make sure you look before you leap.

Lots of small hatchbacks available. My choices would be a Mazda2, Hyundai Accent, Kia Soul, Kia Rio, Honda Fit.

Stay away from a Ford Fiesta, any Volkswagen or any of the small GM hatchbacks.

Any of those recommended will be very much cheaper to maintain and will be more easily serviced than your Volvo. And they’re not attractive to car thieves…

You can get a 2014 or 15 Mazda with 30K on it for under $13,000 from rental car sales. At least you know maintenance has been done on it.

So many great suggestions! I really like the looks of the accent and soul and the vibe! And wow, the idea of having a NEW CAR!!! Never even considered it… mmmmmm. Thank you!

The Pontiac Vibe is no longer in production. Look at the web for Chevrolet Spark , for large cities it is easy to maneuver .

Wellllllll… I started looking and I came across this used 2015 fiat 500 with 15,000 miles on it for just under $15,000! Am I getting back into Volvo country with maintaining and repairing the Fiat?

@sugarpond The Fiat is at the very bottom of the heap in terms of reliability. Just spend $12 at the news stand to get the Consumer Reports Used Car Guide, and start from there. What we are telling you here does not seem to sink in. Maybe the printed word will convince you!

Ok @Docnick ! I am looking at the new Hyundai and the new Fit, too! The Fiat is just the shortest (easiest to park?) so it caught my eye. Thank you!

The Scion has a new hatch (? iM?), looks nice, someone has to read the reviews.

My oldest son owns a 2011 Mazda 3 - Hatchback. Great car…very very reliable.

@sugarpond Both good choices. I have rented a Hyundai Accent several times and it was a pleasant and economical car and easy to park.

The Fiat 500 is among the least liked vehicles by their owners that subscribe to Consumers Reports. The small Hyundai and Kia are also on the same list.

IMHO the Asian brands are best for little cars.
The American brands could be too, if the companies took them seriously, but that’s how the Japanese got a foothold here: small cars with more quality.
The European makes don’t seem to take reliability and value seriously with small or otherwise.

“Public radio salary”? Soterios, is that you?

A question: Is this a car that you’re going to be driving to work every day? Or is this a car that you’re primarily going to use for weekend trips out of the city? My guess is the latter, since you mentioned alternate-side parking. If that’s the case, I’ll be blunt: You are absolutely nuts, especially given your public-radio salary, to drop $15,000 on a car that you are not driving to work every day, that is probably only going to move four or five times a month, and that is going to spend 90% of its life being parked and abused on New York City streets. There are plenty of reliable small used cars (many of which have been mentioned in previous posts) with relatively low mileage (probably not below 30,000, but cars are so much better now that 100,000 miles is the new 30,000) that will fit your needs at half that price. Also, don’t forget to figure in the price of insurance, which will undoubtedly be much higher now that it was with your old beater, especially if you don’t buy it outright; you will be required to carry comprehensive and collision on any car that isn’t fully paid off. And insurance in NYC isn’t cheap to begin with.

And if you MUST drop 15 grand on a car, for God’s sakes, the LAST car you should be dropping it on is a Fiat 500.