Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Best used car for a teen on a budget

I am a high school senior looking to buy my first car. I’m looking for something small that is reliable and good on gas. i was thinking something like a Honda Civic or a VW Jetta I’m looking to spend between 2,500 and 4’000, any suggestions?

ed. April of Consumer Reports, 78

Reliable used cars for < $4,000

Acura Integra '00
Chevy Prizm '00-'02
Ford F-150 '00
Honda Civic '00
Hyundai Accent '04
Mitsubishi Galant '04
Subaru Impreza '00
Toyota Corolla '00-'01
" " Yaris '00-'02

I’ve been very pleased with my Hondas, BTW.

Between the 2, Civic and Jetta, I’d advise the Civic. Jetta’s don’t age well and while both cars will need repairs odds are the Jetta will need repairs more often and at greater expense. A Civic might cost more upfront but will be better in the long run.

In the price range you are considering any car will be getting pretty old and will have higher miles. How well the car is maintained over the years plays a more important role than the brand and model of car. An abused Honda Civic will be more trouble than a properly maintained Jetta.

Buying cars used is tricky since there is so much you don’t know about the car, any accidents? Oil change frequency? Transmission serviced regularly? etc. Don’t spend all your money on the car. You’ll need some money (like about $2,000) to deal with repairs and things like new tires and brakes in the 1st year or 2 you own the car. In both of these cars you’ve got to figure in a new timing belt and water pump job. Often these cars are traded or sold because the seller doesn’t want to pony up another $800 for this maintenance item.

Any stick shift, 4 cylinder P/U truck…Cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, cheap to insure and operate…If you take it to college, you will be THE MAN on campus, helping all the ladies move…

The Truth: Do your research on each car you look at for maintenance records and signs that it was well cared for. Then buy something with Honda in the name, like Civic or Accord.

The Opinion: Toyotas are good too, but don’t buy a Yaris. They are the most uncomfortable, poorly designed car I have ever driven.

I like these too. They are easy to repair and plenty useful. Ge a 2wd compact. About as good bang for the buck as you can get. Daughter drove my old hand me down Mazda PU in high school and it was a very popular gear mover with the crowd.

Find a segment that you are interested in, like compact cars or pickup trucks. Then find the ones that are in the best condition. It doesn’t matter so much what brand it is after 10 years. What matters is how well the previous owner(s) maintained it. If you can find a car owned by a senior citizen, you have a good chance that it will be well maintained. By now they have figured out that if you maintain the car and don’t abuse it, they can minimize repair expenses.

I second that opinion, but recommend a ford ranger newer than say about 1999, cause that is when ford finally got their quality thing together. try for about 100k miles, and with a two wheel drive expect to pay 2.5 grand. New tires, and buy 600 bucks worth of tools and a repair manual. Then, walk tall, and be manly (or womanly as the case may be).

be aware that some of the early 2000s Hondas have a lot of trouble with transmissions.

Toyota Camry
Ford Taurus

An older Camry or newer than that Taurus are good cars for younger drivers because they’re pretty safe. The Camry will be more reliable but cost more. The Taurus will have more repairs but is significantly cheaper to buy.

Personally I’d go Camry with a 4 cyl. engine. Bulletproof car that has decent room, economy, safety. It’s not glamorous but does the job really well. Plus they made a ton of the mid 90s ones so parts aren’t a problem.

Be careful of generalizations… My 1997 Taurus really hasn’t needed more repair than my 1998 Camry. A couple extra repairs, but a lower total bill…

The Camry is a bit easier to work on, IMO, though - at least for the suspension repairs that both cars seem to constantly need from the horrific roads around here.

Both are good options, though…

With that little money, let me throw in a Focus as it devalues enough to get something newer with fewer miles…and I believe they have always been at least average or better in frequency of repair.

I would scratch the Vdub off the list, because of the higher potential for expensive repair bills.

I bought a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LS manual with 22,000 miles for 5000 $ in 2009 October in Houston. I recommend the car.