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Buying a new car

Dear all,

After driving the 96 Honda Civic for the past 8 years, I am finally going to upgrade to a new/newer car. I am in love with hatchbacks lately, spacious but not too big for a young female to drive. I’ve been looking at Subaru Impreza 2.5i, outback sport, VW Rabbit and Audi A3, what do you guys think? My budget is around $20k, living in CA, fuel efficiency is somewhat important, reliability is important, good sound system would be a plus! :slight_smile: Thanks!

This is a great list to start! I would add the Mazda 3 to the list and possibly the Honda Civic Hatchback. I also live in CA and have driven all the cars on that list and I must say that you’ll certainly find the most refinement in the A3 and the most reliability in the Subaru and the Mazda. The Rabbit is somewhere in between. Looking at the Consumer Reports reliability history none of these are really bad, though. The worst you can do is “average reliability” with the A3. It uses premium gasoline but also gets better fuel economy than some other son your list. Fuel economy is pretty similar for all of these (around 25 MPG) with the Subaru being the worst). I did a side-by-side comparison at

With no really bad choice on that list, what it really comes down to is which one you like best when driving and touching it. Some of them are more refined, some of them are harsher in ride. Some of them have premium interiors, some are more basic. With that short of a list that’s a nice Saturday afternoon exercise. Go to the local auto mall and pay a visit to the Subaru, Audi, VW & Mazda dealerships, drive them all and pick the one that “speaks to you” most.

I’d suggest getting a Consumer Reports New Car Buyer’s Guide at the local bookstore as your first step. That’ll give you all the different vehicles as well as empirical reliability data and reviews. With data you can make a better decision.

I would add the Mazda3 hatchback and the new Hyundai Elantra Touring, which is a 5-door hatchback. The Hyundai is loaded with features, has a fantastic warranty, and is within your price range.

I also like the Honda Fit, the Kia Spectra5, and the Toyota Yaris hatchbacks.

Have fun shopping.

As Mountainbike suggested, check Consumer Reports for vehicle reliability ratings.

Do you have $20K CASH?? Spending money you don’t have has become MUCH more difficult. Don’t waste your time shopping unless your financing is in place first…

Thank you guys so much for all the helpful suggestions, I will definitely keep them in mind and be a sensible shopper. I wasn’t sure how much feedback I would get posting here for the first time, but you guys are awesome :slight_smile: Happy holidays!

Same to you, cheerylife. Let us know what you decide to buy. Best of luck to you.

I have to agree with previous posters about adding the Honda Fit and the Hyundais & Kias to the list. The Nissan Versa hatchback now also comes to mind. It then depends a bit how image-conscious, stylish, sensible, etc. you are.

If you are into the boxy look I also recommend the Scion xB which has California street cred and Toyota reliability/pricing.

By the way: Consumer Reports is - like other posters mentioned - a very valuable source. You don’t have to buy it at the newsstand. You can go to Lots of info is available for free (e.g. the top used cars under 20K list). And if you purchase an annual subscription you get access to year-by-year reliability ratings, road tests and more for virtually any model out there. Saves a lot of guesswork.

Mazda 3 or Pontiac Vibe make for good ideas. I prefer the Vibe since you’re getting Toyota reliability with a GM badge. Used they’ll be a little bit cheaper than the Matrix, but still just as good. If you can drive stick, you can get a brand new base version Vibe for around 16k

Test drive a Vibe or Matrix. CR recommended them as among the most likely to hit 200,000 miles recently.

I just heard on the radio that Dec 26th is the best day to purchase car because many dealer are trying to make sales quotas and there are crazy rebate deals floating around one needs to research before hand. I will be gone on vacation for a week, but as soon as I get back before Christmas, I will start test drive all the cars you guys have recommended and report back! This is really exciting!

I think anytime the week after Christmas would be fine - good luck!

I thionk on www.cnsumerreports.or, on and possibly also on they have lists of the best deals and incentives around.

Hi guys,

Don’t know if any of you are/will still follow this thread. I have 90% decided to buy the Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (automatic transmission) and now in the process of negotiating price. I think I made the mistake of telling the dealer my budget and the wrong budget, it’s $18000 instead of $19000. But I later called my sales rep and told him about my mistake. He said if I am really committed to make the purchase, we will talk about it. So do you guys think if I am able to get the $18000 out-the-door deal (including all tax stuff), I should just make the purchase right away? I think that’s well below kbb price.

yeah I know I am behind my original schedule of car purchase, something came up at home and didn’t have time to shop around Christmas.

I think if they really can’t give me that deal, I’d have to turn to Nissan Altima. :frowning:

slaps forehead You generally don’t want to give the dealership that infomation, because now you’ve presented them with a scenerio in which you would buy the car. Your negotiations are going to be much harder now. The best you can do is remain firm on your intial offering. What they are going to to is quote you a price about 2k-3k higher than the $19k you said you’d be willing to pay. They know that you will balk at the new $22k figure. They will say something along the lines of “okay, we’ll meet you half way.” And offer the car for about $20.5k or so. And if you balk at that they will again maybe knock another $500 off and say that that’s the best they can do, (which it is not.) Stick to your guns and above all don’t be afraid to walk away.

You can make any offer you want to make and you can be sure that the dealer will make a profit. They can sell you the car at your price. Remember; your grandfather has an 07 Corolla that he will let you have for $11,000.

We know very little about the Subaru you like, so we can’t comment about whether it’s a good deal or not. If you want a realistic opinion, we need to know the options; I assume it is new. The options list isn’t very appealing. There are no useful options, just gingerbread. This is not to say you shouldn’t buy the car, just that there is no real improvement with options.

The suggested cost of a 2009 Impreza 2.5i is $18,500 with auto transmission and without options. Look at to see what a new one costs with the options you want. BTW, a 2008 Impreza 2.5i costs $17,300 plus a $1000 rebate.

If already mentioned I apologize. Try out the Scion Tc. Not as roomy as some but is a hatchback with good room for size…and one of best bang for buck out there. Exc. reliability, sound system, and basic bells and whistles all standard for less than $18K. Exc. power with Camry 4 cyl.

Hi guys,

Letting you know the final result as promised.
This car shopping experience has been quite a roller-coaster ride. A lot of drama, but long story short, the Subaru dealership played game with me for a good two days, after much negotiation, I agreed to pay up to $20k yet the sales manager said the lowest they can do was $21.7k. Heartbroken, nearly cried (became unexplainablly emotional, had little trouble controlling tear duct) but I had to walk away knowing my limit. By the time I got to Nissan dealer, already emotionally drained, didn’t try too hard to negotiate, walked away since they wouldn’t meet me between $18 and $19k. Started browsing Craigslist after I got home and actually ended up getting a 2009 Camry LE (~2000 miles on it) for $18k this morning. The previous owner needs to relocate for job. The car looked and felt brand new, not in love but content for now. Then received phone car from Subaru this afternoon “great news, we can now offer you the outback sport at your budge price, $18k”, absolutely stunned, “$18k? 09 outback sport? why didn’t you agree to $20k yesterday and why didn’t you call me earlier?” Talked about the possibility of trade-in, he agreed on the phone for a additional $1000 for the outback sport, deal. I really wanted the outback sport. Guess what… once I got there… he changed again… said he quoted me the sticker price over the phone. MAD, I’ve never cussed in my life, but if that was THE moment I wanted to do so… of course I didn’t… just stood up and told him I wouldn’t want to do business with someone who’s not sincere and left…

now my urge to get a Subaru Outback Sport has died down somewhat due to the last experience…

Wow, that’s pretty sad. Please let us know the name of that STEALERship and where they’re at so everyone else can avoid them.