I am getting my tax return. I am a 24 year old female (yes, female…) college student, and I have never owned or bought a vehicle. In fact, I’m a new driver. My dad has worked on cars his whole life and knows them inside and out, but he also tends to Gary-rig (Gary is his name) everything, and the cars he buys craps out within a few years. I don’t think I can trust him really, because he will see every odd car as something that can be sort of fixed as a project, rather than not good choices.
In any case, I was thinking of buying a car with my tax return. I will have a total of 4k to put towards it. I want to keep 1k in the bank for the inevitable tweaks the used vehicle will need.
My Funds: 3k-3.5k max
Weather: I live in a place with sometimes severe weather and little flat ground. It can hit -5 degrees in the winter ever so often, and get a few feet of snow. The next day, it can be 45 and sunny. During summer, it can be over 100 on extreme days. The city authorities are good about salting the roads and keeping them clear, but I still would like AWD or 4WD. I could also learn how to drive a front or real wheel drive car in the snow, but…I worry about that being less safe or less capable of handling, especially since nearly every road has a grade to it.
Use/Commute: My workplace is 4.6 miles away according to Google Maps. I would be going there 4-5 times a week. It has about a 10% grade the whole way. There are no flat places in this 110 square mile town, besides the freeway or the street going through the center of it. I would want a decent MPG considering the hilly-ness of this place and how the gas use will skyrocket just based on that.
Other than work, I would go to the grocery store once a month (5miles away) and possibly the mall once a month (7 miles away). Add another 15 miles of driving for random leisure, and a one-hour, yearly drive up a mountain, and that’s all I’d be using it for.
I KNOW there will be no end-all-be-all car to fulfill all of my needs, and at a budget of 3k-3.5k, I will DEFINITELY need to make some sacrifices. Still, I know there are some choices that are better than the rest out there. What model/make should I be looking for? What car issues should I keep an eye out for, considering that the used cars will likely have lived their whole lives in this hilly, weather-y place? What car would best balance all of my needs (snow driveable, good gas mileage, low repair costs, AKA holy grail-esque)? I dont care much about the car, except that it WORKS and will not screw me over one day on the way to work.
Thank you very much for your input! I am looking forward to it, and use it!