CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Buying my last car

I’ll be retiring soon. I’ve had a company car for 30-some years, all various models of Fords. I want to purchase a new car that will last for the rest of my driving life. I can afford to buy a really good car but I don’t want one that is pretentious or will attract attention. I want an excellent, serviceable, comfortable, safe car. I do favor American brands and manufacture, and I live up a long driveway in New England so winter driving is an issue.

Any thoughts? I’d be grateful!

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid with a set of Michelin X-ice winter tires. Buy a set of aftermarket wheels and get the winter tires mounted on them for easy seasonal change over.

You will probably live for a long time, and need a car that can be serviced 20 years from now. You should select a car selling in sufficient voume in a popular price range to ensure that all routine parts are available years from now.

A Ford Fusion is a good car, and selling well enough to ensure future affordable service. I would not buy a Hybrid, however, since you will certainly have very expensive repairs when you can least afford them.The way things are going now, A Hyundai Elantra with direct injection is about as frugal and reliable as it gets. Other choices are a Honda Civic or Accord, Mazda3 Skyactive (direct injection), Toyota Corolla or Camry.

I would specifically not recommend any Chrysler product (quality, uncertian future), any Ford other than the Fusion, any European car (expensive upkeep later in life), or Suzuki which is soon to leave the USA.

I agree wholly with the 2 sets of wheels and the best winter tires you can find. When the going gets really tough, retirees usually stay in.

This is the one time where I would disregard anything Consumer Reports recommneds, since they do not look at 20 year ownwership and future parts availability. The only useful fact here from their recommendation is reliability.

One car for many years. That is tough as your needs over the years will change and not all those changes can be predicted. I’m going to suggest that you get a small economy car now and put the difference away for a future purchase.

As a retiree, I find some issues with the available crop of vehicles. Few cars have the seat at the right height above the ground to make getting in and out easy. Add to that that the roof line is ALWAYS too low. That does not seem apparent to most people when they see all those tall SUV’s and crossovers out there, but the problem is that as the roofline goes up, so does the seat so you always end up twisting your head in order to get into the vehicle, even when you need a stepladder to get up to the seat.

There are some taller cars like the Subaru Forester that have a seat that can be adjusted for height, but only in the top of the line model. This is the car I would recommend for your though for a number of reasons, reasonable reliability, economy and AWD. BTW, the Ford Escape I believe has this as well but only in the top of the line. You need both front seats with this feature, not just the drivers side, and to get this in the Escape, I think you also have to get the Eco-boost engine, you might not want that engine in your situation.

The only issue with this vehicle will come if you ever need to “ride everywhere”, meaning one of those scooter chairs or a wheel chair. At first, you will be able to get by with a hitch mounted carrier, but eventually you may need a van. It is possible that you never reach this stage and in many cases, when you do, you won’t be driving anymore. That is when the money put aside will be needed.

Car makers out there, ARE YOU LISTENING.

You might consider a Chevy Cruze LT2. It is well appointed and will get good gas mileage (22 city/ 35 highway). Expect to pay about $22,500 for it with the driver convenience package. If you want a luxury car, consider a Buick Regal GS. Gas mileage isn’t as good (19/27) but it is a larger car and uses the same engine.

I am 71 and I hope I haven’t purchased my last car. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am certain that my automotive needs will change in the next ten years. My suggestion is to buy the car that meets your needs now. It may serve you until you decide to no longer drive. If your needs change and you are still driving competently, then think about the next car. I knew a person who had driven Buicks for at least 40 years. At 92, he decided that no Buick model fit his needs, so he traded his LeSabre for a Toyota RAV-4 sport utility vehicle. He found it much easier to exit and enter. At 92, he was doing around town driving and no highway driving, so the RAV-4 fit his needs better than a Buick.

Some good advice there! I would buy a car with options you will most likely appreciate as you get older. Power windows are great; most of us get some form of arthritis. Parking and backing up get more difficult. Most new cars are now available with backup cameras and/or blind spot cameras. I would get both where available.Likewise, I would like radio and cruise conrols on the steering wheel, rather than having to treach over and take my eyes of the road to make adjustments.

If you need to carry bulky items and don’t relish lifting them onto a roof rack, get a hatchback. My daughter-in-law has a Toyota Yaris and recently bought freezer and carried it home in that small car with the backseat folded down. My brother is retired and has had heart problems. He has a Toyota Matrix, and it will carry almost anything. I used it to take home a tall book case from Sears and it fit in with the tail gate closed.

Cars are do for changes more rapidly then you think. Regarless of how you feel, you WILL be buying more car(s). Shop for what you want, not a car that will be an antique soon. Get the winter NE car…a Subaru. Some are made in Indiana. That makes them American made. All the salesmen, parts people and mechanics of the dealers that I know seem to be American citizens too. Fords are made throughout the world depending upon where they are sold as are GMs and many other major brands.

I think it is good you want to buy an American made car. Good for you! Nothing can help the US economymore – just my humble opinion here – than for those of us who live here to try to purchase American made products when possible. But you need to do a little research, because many cars sold might seem to be American made, but are really foreign made and imported under an American manufacture’s brand name. The car is made in Korea for example, and the only thing American about it is the emblem. Likewise, many cars would seem to be foreign made but are actually either totally or mostly American made, like many of those from Toyota and Honda for example.

@GeorgeSanJose I agree that you need to look under the hood or on the doorpost to see where the vehcle is made. We had a Nissan Sentra made in Smyrna, Tennessee. Hyundai has a huge plant in the USA where they make various models.

Small and medium Fords are made mostly in Mexico, your Fusion, Fiesta or Focus are now made there and Ford is planning to make more models there. Mexico, Canada and the US have a free trade agreement (NAFTA), so is is painless to shift production. The Ford Plant in Hermosillo is close to the California border, so shipping cars from there to the largest US market is cheaper than from Detroit. So a Hyundai Sonata is US made, while a Ford Fusion is not.

Personally I don’t care where the car is made, as long as parts are reasonably priced and will be available for a long time.

Appearances are deceiving regarding car makes and their country of origin.

One of the main reasons foreign cars took over so long our American companies almost went out of business, was the blind willingness to buy American, even when American was junk. There were many quotes from car company execs that they didn’t need to make the best car as long as it was American, If you can buy a really good American car that really meets your needs and has pretty good reliability, and want to, go for it.

I will not. I feel like a betrayed wife, and am not very forgiving of betrayal. But, if you are satisfied with a so-called American car, that is a very valid choice. Just don’t buy anything junky because of misguided nationalism.

There have been several US cars in recent years with good reliability. Go for one of them.

@irlandis You’re right; the quality levels of Japanese and US cars crossed in the mid to late 80s. From then it was basically game over, and while Japanese quality kept going up, US quality stagnated and the difference grew wider. Cadillac was once the “Standard of the World”. Nearly every luxury car now outsells Cadillac, and they are finally staging a serious comeback. Lincoln is going through the same process, and Mullally will likely shoot the brand in the head if this makeover does not succeed. In the mean time those humble Koreans are producing some very nice cars like the Hyundai Genesis with more exciting ones to come.

At this time, the only US (designed) car I would buy is a mid size Buick or a Ford Fusion. Friends who came into some money and always wanted a luxury car, bought a Cadillac, and after many problems and expensive repairs finally woke up, asked some knowledgeable friends and then bought a Lexus. They are literally in seventh heaven, since both are very busy and can’t tolerate cars with problems.

Like irlandis, I always bought US designed cars and not until the early 80s, after suffering the disintegration of my Ford Granada, I bought my first foreign car. Other than a 1988 Chevy Caprice which I bought from the company at very low “book price”, I’ve had Japanese (designed) cars ever since.

Drivers on the West Coast had at least a 10 year lead on the rest; they were the earliest adopters of the VW Bug and later Datsuns and Toyopets (Toyotas).

@GeaogeSanJose
Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Jeep etc. are synonomous with " made in America" for most people regardless of where they are made… Though it’s just a decal for some, local, state and ferderal govts play the game too and buy American brands because of perception. That’s the way it was when I was in the service, that’s the way it still is.

It is changing slightly.A yuppie community that I used to work in some years back would never buy a Japanese vehicle because they wanted the perception of buying American, so they told me. But, later they did try Volvos for their police cars for a while. Figure that one out. It seems that “buy American” for many just meant “don’t buy Oriental”. It’s not looked down upon by many to buy SAABs, Mercedes, BMW, Volvos and even Audi instead of American cars, as status symbols.

Funny, our own corporations are unbiased when it comes to making money. Ford or GM cares less about rebranding a foreign car then we the buyers do. If GM and Ford don’t care about building all American, why should we the buyer feel we have anything to prove by buying from them for that reason alone. Just buy the best car…period. Where does the hypocrisy end ? With French wine ?

Buy a late 1990s Jeep for $5000. At that price, you can get one that is mint condition with 60k miles.

My mother bought a new Buick LeSabre when she retired in 1987. She still had it when she died in 2009. Of course they don’t make LeSabres any more, but I’d think the LaCrosse would be comparable. Get the V-6. The Regal MIGHT be good too, but I question the looooong term durability of anything turbocharged.

I suggest you test drive some different models before deciding. Not only will this help you choose a car, but the process will help you realize what you like and can do without. I’m not knocking Fords, but there are a lot of fish to be had in the sea–it’s worth trying some different makes and models.

Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, I wouldn’t necessarily think this is the last car you will ever buy. As you get older, you will likely appreciate the hassle of car problems even less than now, and if you have a 15-20 year-old car at that point, no matter what it is, this is when it will start giving you the most problems. Maybe plan on this being the next-to-last car you will ever own.

@dagosa … my early 90’s Toyota Corolla was manufactured right here in the USA, in the San Jose, California area, not more than 9 miles from where I’m typing. Except for the engine/xmission unit, which I’m told was built in Japan but installed here. Being manufactured locally was one of the reasons I purchased it. To support the local economy. However, if the car didn’t have competitive value and good reliability ratings at least on par with other models available, I would have spent my dough elsewhere.

The factory where my car was built was closed a few years ago, and moved to a different part of the USA. USA built Toyota Corollas are still available I think.

You might want to hurry. If those Mayans were right you don’t have much time.

US quality stagnated and the difference grew wider. Cadillac was once the "Standard of the World". Nearly every luxury car now outsells Cadillac, and they are finally staging a serious comeback.

A lot of that had nothing to do with quality…but with the types of vehicles they were selling. They were only selling cars your grandfather wanted to buy. Cars like high-end Audi’s and BMW’s were drastically eating into Cadillac’s sales. When Ross Perot was on the Board of GM…he went to head of the Cadillac division and asked him what kind of person buys a luxury high-end vehicle. He didn’t know. so Ross had a commission done to find the type of buyer and what they were looking for. Cadillac finally decided to stop making Grandpa’s car and cater to what the people wanted. Sales started to climb. But their quality control (or lack there of) kept them from making much of a dent.

GM themselves made a statement earlier this year

“If a car was missing a screw or bolt or didn’t pass inspection…we’d still ship it because we didn’t want to miss a sale. Now we make sure ALL vehicles pass inspection before we ship.”

NOW they decide to inspect all vehicles before they ship. GEE…what a concept. The person who thought of that must be a genius.