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Another Used Car: Mini Cooper-esque for $4000?

I offered to help my sister find a used car. Budget is $3500 - $4000. She loves the Mini Cooper (of course), but they go for about $7500 used. In order of importance, she wants: (1) environmentally friendly (good gas mileage), (2) small size (for NYC parking), (3) reliability, and (4) cute/cool. #3 was my idea, actually. ANY SUGGESTIONS?!?! Please help!! Thanks, Dan.

Does your sister want a car, or a lifestyle appliance?

Get her a Toyota Corolla, and let that be the end of it.
When she can afford a Min Cooper later in life, she can get it herself.

NYC is really, really expensive for car insurance, so getting her something that isn’t going to break the bank should actually be #1 on the list.

I know, I grew up in NYC.


Scion xA could be bought for that price with high miles. Why does she even need a car in NYC? Subway pass and a bike should get you anywhere you need to go.

Thanks, good info. Yes, it’s a tricky one. She does want something nice looking… I’m going to suggest she dress up a Corolla or something like it. She’s an artist (little income, so your point about insurance is particularly appreciated).

Anything else she can dress up???

Needs a car: Lives in Brooklyn, works in the Bronx, weekends in Westchester. Dogs not allowed on subways, and hers needs to go with her everywhere. I’ll check out the Scion. Cheers. Dan.

Go to, do an ‘advanced search’ under used cars, specify the location, price range and body type, see what catches her/your eye. I found a number of Acura coupes (with lots of miles) for between $4000 and $5000.

I think reason #4 is actually reason #1…This means your cost per mile to own and operate doubles…

Help your sister find a husband. Dogs are a pathetic substitute for a family…

I would look at small cars however watch very closely and foremost on insurance. It is going to be a large percentage of your purchase price and happen every year.

Help your sister find a husband. Dogs are a pathetic substitute for a family…

My dog is a member of our family–just ask him!

Does she care how old it is? You can still find pretty nice examples of early 90’s Civics and CRX’s. The CRX especially might make her happy from a “kinda like a mini” (but with better handling, reliability, and gas mileage) perspective.

I agree, if you’re footing most of the bill for this, cuteness/cool shouldn’t be a factor. Reliability and low operating costs should be paramount. The Corolla is a good choice, the Focus can be had at low-than-you-might-think prices, there’s also the Yaris, Scion, Civic, and Cobalt.

Dogs are a GREAT addition to a family, but they are a POOR substitute for one…

Model Year 1996-2000 Honda Civic HatchBack:
-Easy on Gas
-Rather inexpensive to insure.
-Plenty of space in the back for dog(s), when the backseats are down.

How about a New Beetle? I would suggest the TDI, but that adds a degree or two in difficulty to own if she’s not used to one(gotta remember which pump to pull up to, and if there’s even many diesel stations around)

“My dog is a member of our family–just ask him!”

Does His Majesty rule the roost? Her Majesty rules ours; at least she thinks she does. And most of the gang lets her get away with it.

Check this brochure for theft losses and then consult her insurer to see what the cost will be. Theft loss should be more of an issue in NYC than medical or collision losses. Most of the driving should be on surface streets and not the expressways. Note that the New Beetle has very low theft losses nationwide.

Thanks for all of the advice. The Corollas aren’t gonna happen. Reason #4… The CRX is a good plan, will look more at that. The Acura coupes are not only a little long (think parking), but also great targets. Also like the new Beetle. Of course craigslist had a Prius on there cheap (too cheap to be real) and she’s alllll over that… Keep em coming!

vw golf

In the mid-late 90s BMW made a little 3 door hatchback called the 318ti. Typical BMW handling, construction, safety – a great little driver’s car, and it’s better looking than a Civic/Corolla/. They are around 4 grand. To me that’s about as close you’re gonna get to MINI for that price range – especially considering both cars are made by BMW.

CRX would be fun, but has pretty poor crash protection - I noticed ‘safety’ didn’t make your list, might want to add it. If it is a concern, then stick to more modern cars, much better safety equipment.