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Buying a used fuel effiecent car

I define cheap. A new car to me has a 100,000 miles. Usually i buy cars like a buick witht the 3800 engine. Are smaller cars built to take high miles? Which ones would be the best. Ford Focus, Chevy Prizm, Toyota etc. or are they about the same.

Well, the Chevy Prizm and the Toyota Corolla are exactly the same mechanically, so they are more than “about the same”.

Later models of the Focus are very decent cars, unlike the earlier ones. However, it would be difficult to do better in terms of reliability than the Corolla/Prizm twins.

And, no, the size of a car does not have any relationship to its ultimate durability.
What does matter is how a vehicle has been maintained. If you buy one of those 100k cars without benefit of full maintenance records plus being vetted by your mechanic, you are taking a major chance regarding that purchase.

An ALH code engine VW TDI (pre-2004) is very effecient, 50mpg w/manual trans., don’t get one w/an automatic. We have 1.3 millon miles between 3 of them currently in the family.

My daughter had a Prizm with 175K miles on it. She sold it to a friend who was still driving it at 250K miles when it was wrecked.

As VDC driver said, the Corolla and Prizm are mechanically identical and equally reliable. With proper maintenance they can go quite a long way.

As with any used car, the care, or lack thereof, it received from its former owner(s) means more than anything else.

If you can find one in good shape, a 1988-91 Honda CRX HF would do well, and should be very cheap. 50mpg is not uncommon in those cars, and I’ve seen them go to half a million miles.

4 cylinder motors in Honda Civics and Accords hold up very well, and are very fuel efficient. The downside of used Hondas is the automatic transmissions aren’t very robust. A civic with a 5 spd stick will go for a long, long time.

be prepared to pay a premium, no matter the car. high mpgs are in demand right now. if you won’t pay $2000 over KBB/TMV, then someone else will

Another vote for Prism/Corolla twins. We had three of them and sold or turned them over to siblings with 175K miles plus. They continued to run years later for subsequent owners to well over 200K with NO major problems. They were driven by teens and college age drivers who did little to treat them with respect. They were all well maintained which is the secret to longevity with any car. They are worth a hard look.
My other vote is for Accords which my kids ran till they rusted out, each with just less than 300K miles. 100k miles on a well cared for Accord, is just “break in time”.
Spray motor oil in the body cavities and keep them forever.

well i am new to this and just realized how much of a novice i am. what is a ALH code engine and what does VW (volkswagon?) TDI mean. If this goes out to the entire blog thank you for the responses. I am a gear head wantabe but at 51 i am way behind.

If you like the Buicks, stick with the Buicks. Any of the cars you mentioned above ride like a WalMart shopping cart with a broken wheel in comparison to the Buick.

There is no better used car than a Century. Browsing the ads on Craigslist, it is like you pay $2000 and get a car that is newer with lower mileage than a Honda or Toyota that the owners want $7500 for.

Plus, I am willing to bet that the fuel efficiency advantage is less than 5 mpg.

TDI is a diesel engine. Diesels are very durable in general.
However, the reliability of the rest of a VW, especially the electrical parts, isn’t so impressive.

Honda only that auto tranny problems for a couple of years…

We had two Accord automatics that went well past 300k miles without so much as a hiccup.

Yeah, I replaced one relay and one door lock switch over 1.3 million miles, VERY unimpressive. I gotta say the electrical rap on VW’s is way overblown, partly due to incompetent know enought to be dangerous “mechanics” out there. The other day I brought my mother’s Honda into the dealer for (electrical) recall work, there were 5 cars in the bays, 3 were having recall work done, all electrical (SRS) work and another was non recall (but should have been - one pi$$ed off customer) electrical problem.

Older lady service manager who has been there forever said that over a third of their work anymore is recall or recall/TSB related work when I remarked on what they were fixing that day. So I say Honda rep for reliability is way overblown and BTW the CR reliability “surveys” are a joke, worse than meaningless, they are often downright wrong and at the least misleading.

ALH code TDI (Turbo Direct Injected) diesel engines (in the USA) were in the 98-03 Bug, 99.5-03 Jetta (and Jetta wagon) and Golf.

Some more info. for the gearhead wannabe in you. The ALH (and AHU before it) are distributor pump engines. The next TDI is a unit injector engine commonly called a PD (Pumpe Duse) engine. The current TDI is a CR or common rail engine. All use a variable vane turbocharger, something you will find on no new gasoline burning engine car currently for sale in the USA.

Extra credit to anyone out there who can name a USA manufacurer car that did use a VNT (variable vane) turbocharger on a gasoline engine.

In my opinion the best bets are the ones with the best reliability track record. Consumer Reports from the local bookstore can give you that data. Those models that hav shown up as the most reliable over the past 6 years will probably be the most reliable beyond that age also.

The caveat is care, maintenance, and (if you can get it) history. The best car new will be a nightmare 5 years later if it’s abused or neglected. The best way to find this out is by bringing the car to a reputable shop for a good going-over. It’ll be the best $100 you ever spent.

Stop at the bookstore, start shopping, and good luck.

All use a variable vane turbocharger, something you will find on no new gasoline burning engine car currently for sale in the USA.

The 911 Turbo says “hi”

Extra credit to anyone out there who can name a USA manufacurer car that did use a VNT (variable vane) turbocharger on a gasoline engine

The Shelby version of the Dodge Shadow, the Shelby CSX with the Chrysler Turbo IV 2.2L

What do I win?

Dohhh, forgot the 911, man I just don’t keep up on $150k + cars like I should. I should have said USA manufacturer cars. BTW that wikipedia post you consulted failed to mention that a few Shelby GLH’s came through w/VNT turbo. engines.

Win, win? Hmmmm… a 911 turbo? All I promised was extra credit :wink:

Buy a 1992-1995 Civic VX hatchback. It’s one of the few gas powered cars that beat the Prius. Gets around 45mpg in the city and 55mpg on the highway. They’re not exactly powerful like the Si trim and don’t really have the cult following, so you won’t have to worry too much about thieves.

An added advantage if the Prizm is that it is less expensive to buy than the Corolla. The base tranmission is a 3-speed auto in the Prizm; 4-speed auto in the Corolla. 4-speed auto Prizms were available as an option, though. The 4-speed will give better gas mileage if you drive a lot of highway miles.

Beware; when I bought my last Prism used, I had to accept the 5 speed manual as the 4speed auto in the Prism used was near impossible to find. The 3 speed auto was absolutely terrible making the car a poor choice for anything but town driving. The manual ultimately was a good choice as the manual shifts smooth as butter and I seldom got less than 38 mpg with very good acceleration. The down side of the manual; no cruise control. Otherwise a GREAT car with acceptable handling, but a much smoother than Civic and other compact’s ride. In over 45 years of driving, it is the only car I miss to this day. I was that impressed over all with the car. Too many other toys and finances forced an early exit.