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Buying a new or used car and what kind in Denver

My daughter lives in Denver, has recently graduated from college and is working as an R.N. She needs a car, she will be driving in the mountains in the winter some. She has asked me for advice and I am asking the community!

As a recent college grad she can get a 3.9% APR interest rate on a 2009 Honda Civic. Or she can get a 7.75% APR rate on a 2006 H. Civic with 30,500 miles as examples. Is the Civic a good car for her? What advice do you have?

the Civic is a good, reliable car. Just have her shop for the best deal and then talk financing.

How does it compare with the Toyota RAV4? I’m thinking about driving in mountains and elsewhere in winter around Denver.

It is hard to compare these cars as they are very different. The Civic will get much better gas mileage. With snow tires the Civic will drive just fine in the mountains.

If you need the room and 4WD of the Rav4 it will cost you more to buy it, more to maintain it, more to fix it, and more to fuel it.

Both are great, well built, reliable vehicles. It is your call.

My father in law lives in Fort Collins and he doesn’t even use winter tires. We never have, either, and we have driven in Colorado in all the winter months. Denver TV is good at telling you weather conditions.

I have never driven a RAV4, but I would be inclined to get a Subaru if I wanted all wheel drive. Up in the mountains, it appears Subaru is the official state car, because there are so many…

Is she considered emergency personnel? If so, she will need to get to work every day, no matter what the roads are like. She should check to see what her employer’s policy is. Around here, emergency personnel can get to work in 4WD vehicles driven by volunteers. If she has to drive herself in, she might want something that can deal with snow under any conditions.

Is the financing through a dealer? She might get a better deal through a credit union or a bank. There is $1000 cash to the dealer that you could use to reduce the cost of the Honda, but it isn’t available with the 3.9% financing. BTW, the recent college grad financing is 5.99% for 60 months and you can use the $1000; there are other conditions for the 3.9% financing.

Civic with winter tires would work, but I would get a Subaru with winter tires. Best lower $$ AWD out there. Would I tell her to sell a Civic? No, but if she buying anyway, why not get the best (at reasonable price)?

Thanks to all of you for your great, helpful replies. My daughter has no car to sell, she is just buying. Could you say more about why the Suburu is best? Is it the AWD? The gas mileage isn’t as good as the Civic I don’t think…what all recommends it as best? thanks again!

I’ve lived in Colorado (Boulder, Denver and mountains) for 33 years and have always driven RWD BMWs with four real winter tires without problems. Yes, we get a three-foot snow storm once every five years, but that’s the exception not the rule. The sun comes out and the snow melts within a day or two. Mountains are different.

Colorado is the number one Subaru market in the world. Great cars if you feel she needs AWD. I’d also consider Audi A4 wagon, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, etc. Most people do not realize that tires are 90% of winter driving. I’d look for a 3 - 4 year-old car with average miles, original owner and all service records. Spend the savings on tires.

Hope this helps,

Thanks! I live in the midwest and we get plenty of snow which doesn’t melt because the sun doesn’t come out for days! What do you recommend for mountains?

You seem focused on “mountains” and that they make AWD or 4WD necessary. Just not true. Before AWD and 4WD cars became so common the Aspen, CO police were driving
Saab’s. They had FWD (same as the Civic) and powerful motors (turbo’s) and with snow tires went everywhere and were fast enough to pull over speeder’s etc.

If you must have AWD Subaru’s, CRV’s, and Rav4’s are fine. But they have more mechanical parts that can need repair in the AWD and 4WD systems compared to FWD.

If a Subaru has one flat tire you may have to replace all 4 tires because AWD cars are very sensitive to having all the tires have matching tread and wear.

Subaru’s, CRV’s, and Rav4’s do not get very good gas mileage, mid 20’s. Honda Civic’s get mid 30’s and that is a big difference.

For a young person without bunches of money a car that requires less gas, less money for maintenance, and is less complicated and costs less to repair makes sense. AWD and 4WD aren’t that much better on paved, snow plowed, and salted highways than FWD. I would take a FWD car with snow tires over an AWD or 4WD with all season tires (what they come with from the mfg) for a heavy snow. AWD and 4WD are better if she is planning to go off “off roading” in the back country. FWD with snows will get her to all the ski resorts, and to work, and whatever just fine.

I live in the mountains of PA (granted not the same as CO, but hills and snow we have). I have owned RWD,FWD, AWD, and 4WD cars and SUV’s. With snow tires and ABS brakes I do fine with FWD.

Yes, it’s full time AWD, as compared to the part time AWD in the RAV4 and CRV. And yes, you’ll take a mileage hit compared to a Civic. Still it’s not bad, and winter mountain driving is about as demanding as it comes for a car. I also like the very high crash ratings for the Subarus, hence our purchase of a used Forester for our son (in Dallas!).

What do you mean by “in the mountains”. If that means ski areas three or four times a year, then the same car she’d drive in Denver (or Los Angeles for that matter) will probably be fine. They plow the roads to ski areas. The parking lots do get icy however, so she may want snow tires. A set of chains for a once in a decade crisis might be a good idea. The Western mountains can get single storm snowfall totals that are rarely approached in the rest of the US snow belt. If she is into back country camping, hiking, and cross country skiing then she’ll possibly want something with good road clearance and 4WD/AWD.

We both like the handling of the Subaru and the AWD. I accept the risk on tires, with full understanding of the consequences of the costs involved. As a DIYer, fluid changes are fairly easy to do, and that is a plus for me. I have yet to have any repair issues with the more complicated AWD system, and have had few repairs on the two that we owned. Both cars go well into 100+K miles by following the owners manual guidelines. To be fair, the Civic would do as well, with the addition of snow tires and separate wheels.

We like the room provided in the Legacy/Outback line and can afford any gas mileage penalty. I also prefer to buy these cars new, vice used, because I do the breaking in, and have absolute perfect knowledge of past maintenance practices accordingly. I have always been leery of buying used Subarus, because you don’t really know if the owner actually followed all the AWD guidelines about tires, and if they didn’t, you may end up paying a big repair penalty in an issue that shows up much later down the line.

Overall, I think she could do well with most of the cars listed, so long as the interior room in her choice suits her needs.

Well that’s just it, I don’t know what about the mountains. I had thought the Civic was a good choice for her and was confused by all the people in the Denver area with Subarus wondering what it is that I don’t know about the area. There is a lot I don’t know having visited only when I helped her move out and not since-yet anyway. So thank you for the clarifications! There has been a lot of helpful information in all your responses and I appreciate it.

I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life (over 40 years) and can tell you that just about any car will work just fine. I don’t even bother with snow tires for my car. A good set of all-season tires works just fine.

Just make sure that the car isn’t underpowered for the high altitude (you loose about 3% of the avaliable engine torque for every 1,000 ft.). This is more of an issue in the mountains where there are still a lot of winding 2 lane highways. On the weekends you have a good chance of getting stuck behind slow moving motor-homes, and might want to pass them quickly.

Otherwise, just pick a car that she likes and live with it.

How much experience does your daughter have driving in snowy/icy conditions?

When you buy a Civic, you pay a big “coolness” surcharge…But if that perception lasts (young car buyers are very fickle) the “coolness” factor comes back when YOU sell it. Subaru’s account for 3% of the cars sold in the United States but they generate 20% of the posts on this board (seems like)…Timing belts, head gaskets, blown drivelines out the waaazoo…