Buying "New" Car


I’ve been on craigslist, gone to cartalk’s buying a car advice thingy, now I want your help. Me: female, mid-30’s, no kids, dog, hike often, travel occas, commute hwy/city driving to work. Looking for dependable, good mileage, room for passengers +dog(or 2), low theft rate, and I’m not Rockafeller. I’ve been thinking wagons in the Subaru, Volvo, maybe Saturn area and sometimes toying with just doing a Civic Hybrid for no other reason than mileage. All used unless I find a real good reason to buy new. I’m signed up with carfax and am learning how to do more in depth homework on individual vehicles. Need help on best type to go for. Ideas??? Thanks!!!


Such modest requirements! Geez lady, any late-model car that betters 25 mpg should suit you just fine.

I’ve never been a big fan of either craigslist or CarFax. Don’t expect much from them. In your case you need only decide on your budget and then go out to one of the many used car supermarkets and test drive a few. Bring along your EPA mileage lists printed from the EPA mpg site. Ask to take your favorite to your local mechanic for a checkup. Or check back here with more specific questions.


You really need to refine your requirements, and that’s something only you can do. Everyone has their favorites and these may or may not be what you really want. Go to the library and read through the Consumer Reports annual car issue (April each year, I think). Note the top few vehicles in the categories you think you’d be interested in, using their economy and reliability evaluations and their price ranges. Then take a couple Saturdays and visit dealerships all over your area, telling the salesman you’re not really sure what you want, but are thinking of (…) and will not buy one for a couple weeks. Test drive several sizes and categories. Do not let the salesman talk you into buying yet! At the end of 2 or 3 days, you’ll find you’re thinking of a certain size and style. Then come back here and ask more pointed questions.

Everyone has their own way of doing this that makes you comfortable. Just don’t let yourself get pressured. Over the past 15 years, after shopping around, we’ve felt that the price break for buying used just wasn’t worth it – we buy new and keep the cars for 10 - 15 years. We have one '96 with 151,000 miles and feel it’ll go at least another 100K. That’s where you get your economy.


A Toyota Prius would more closely suit you needs than a Civic Hybrid, since it’s a hatchback, whereas the Civic is a sedan. I’m thinking of the dog(s) in particular.

If you’re not Rockefeller, forget the Volvo. High initial cost will be followed by high maintenance/repair costs. Any Euro-brand will be the same.

I currently own a Honda Accord and a Subaru wagon. The Subaru is great as a wagon and its AWD system is terrific in the winter, but the car has required more repairs than I’m used to, and I’ve pretty much decided I won’t buy another one.

My experience over the past 35+ years of driving has taught me that vehicles built by Honda and Toyota are the most reliable and economical in the long run.

If you want good information on vehicle reliability check out the annual Auto Issue published by Consumer Reports. Carfax is useful but not infallible. I have no opinion of Craigslist.

Ask your family, friends, co-workers, etc., for advice and their experience with the vehicles they own.

I’m not a fan of the small SUV/Crossover fad currently sweeping America, but for a hiker/dog owner perhaps one of them would work very well.

I still prefer a station wagon, and I’ve had a few Great Danes in mine, so I’m pretty sure your dog will fit.


A car has to fit your lifestyle, as well as your wallet. Women are usually much more practical than men in picking the right fit. From what you describe, a compact car with lots of space and high reliability, long life and good mileage seems to be what you need. I would take a hard look at a Toyota Matrix; with the backseat down it has lots of room for your dogs, bulky packages, skis or whatever else you want to carry. There is a Pontiac version, the Vibe, which is built in the same plant, and sells for a lot less used. If you are on a tight budget, forget Volvo (the repair costs will kill you), any Volkwagen (unreliable, expensive to repair), and even Subaru, since 4 wheel drive vehicles consume more fuel and cost more to maintain. KEEP IT SIMPLE!!! Since fuel cost is only one of the major costs (depreciation, repairs & insurance are the others)forget hybrids, they cost more to purchase, and I would be afraid to spend in the wilds with them. Belonging to a Rocky Mountain hiking and skiing club, our members like hatchbacks, 4 have Subarus, only three have SUVs, and none have trucks. As the other poster said, do some more thinking and analyze your needs.


You’ve gotten some good advice so far. I will add that you should take a look at the Mazda 5. If you want to take the dogs and friends at the same time a hatchback with fold down seats may not be enough. There is also a Mazda 6 station wagon that might appeal to you. I hate to sound like a Mazda salesman, I’m just trying to suggest things others haven’t mentioned.


I recommend looking at a Mazda 3 5-door.


How much do you want to spend? And here’s the place to check out theft rate, as well as which cars have the lowest payout for accidents:

Click on the PDF entitled: “Injury, collision, and theft losses by make and model, 2003-05”. Earlier years are available below the accompanying paragraph. The data is normalized to 100. Less than 100 is better than average, more than 100 is worse than average. There is additional information on the same subjects in the next section, “Insurance loss fact sheets”.


This is a great source of information for insurance companies, but needs some interpret for other users. A Crown Victoria, Sable or LeSabre or Bonneville does not get stolen much when parked in the neighborhoods where people that normally buy them live and work. If, someone that owns one of these fine automobiles parks it in a neighborhood where you find a lot of Chrysler 300s, WRXs, SRT-4s, or Maximas they might get stolen a lot more often. Maybe not as often as the latter list, but maybe substantially more often. The same analysis holds for injury and collision damage because of the demographic group that tends to buy particular models.

The insurance industry has these data as well and it could be combined with the models to nullify these influences to yield a truer picture than this relatively raw data.


Thanks very much! I continue to narrow my requirements but have limited friends to ask for advice so you have all been quite helpful.


Buy a car with more than one dealer near where you live. If one dealer does not satisfy you, then you have an option. I completely dislike being captive to one dealer.