ANOTHER poor college student in need of a car


So I live in MD and we got hit hard by the snow storms recently. As a semi-direct result, my 97 Camry le (115k) has been declared totaled by my insurance company. They’re giving me $2500 for it after my deductible.

So I need a new (used) car. I will be done school in 1.5 years and not in a liberal arts field! (Learned my lesson from my previous degree, which was in a liberal arts field - now going into healthcare).

So heres the dilemma. I was originally thinking of buying a car around the $5,000 mark like I did when I bought my Camry (it had 85k miles then). But at that time, I spent maybe another $1,000 soon after due to repairs, tires, etc. But since, it has been running like a champ.

So…should I try to find another car for $5,000 or get a newer used car for a bit more? What has been catching my eye recently is the 2006 +/- a year model Hyundai Sonatas! I’m finding them for around $8000-$10,000 with 30-50k miles on them. Now it will be a stretch for me, but maybe it will be worth it? I really can’t afford to be late for schools, being on call, etc.

Im also open to any other suggestions. I have looked at Foresters, but they sound a bit more expensive to maintain and i don’t like the head gasket issues they seem to have.

I’ve looked at the Toyota Matrix/Vibe but they’re expensive, higher miles, and hard to find.

I’ve looked at Crown Victorias - but I don’t want to constantly be stuck behind cars doing 55mph.

Thanks all!


If you are strapped and want the newest car for the least money, I would look at a used Ford Focus. You can get one with fewer miles and it should be fairly reliable for the next several years. You can then afford to put good snow tires on it. The last 5 years of reliability has been good and it was once top rated by CR as the design hasn’t changed much. I’m overall a Honda /Toyota fan but the Focus as a recommended car by CR is the best bang for the buck IMO. I would also include a Ford Taurus on your radar for the same reasons.


I think the Focus is a good idea - stay with domestics and you get better deals. When you’re looking at used in the lower price ranges the most important thing is how well a car was cared for. Stay away from dealers. Find a private party seller whom you can look in the face, and have a mechanic you trust to give you the scoop on the foreseeable $$ you might need for maintenance/repairs around the corner.

I can’t tell you whether its worth it or not but a friend of mine recently did a deal like you mention on a Sonata and has been really happy with it. This doesn’t say anything about cost of owning or reliability (she hasn’t had it that long), but it meets her needs well.

…and most fields need more people with liberal arts degrees. This notion that education is “career training” will be the death of us all. We end up with people who have some notion of how to operate the “machinery” (literal, physical machinery or the organizational machinery) but can’t think their way out of a paper bag and have no sense of where we are in the context of human life on this planet. Its actually a little odd that you put it that way since more and more “practical” fields are looking to hire more liberal arty types for exactly those kinds of reasons. Best of luck with it either way.


Have you DRIVEN a Crown Vic?? They will provide you with reliable, comfortable transportation at a VERY low cost per mile…The 4.6 OHC V8 can hold its place on the road. The Colorado State Patrol sells their cruisers through e-Bay auctions at around 100K miles and 3 years old. They go for $2500 -$3500. A P71 Crown Vic is one heck of a car for very little money. True, many of them are flogged-out junk, run hard and put away wet…But there are cream-puffs too.