Car Purchasing Advice


My wife spent most of her adult life in Manhattan and Hong Kong and hasn’t driven a car since the Reagan administration. Moreover, she has never driven a stick shift car before.

We now live in another large East Coast city and are expecting our first child. My car is a BMW 330 convertible with a five-speed – my wife can’t drive it and we can’t fit a car seat in it. At least not easily. We need to get another car – one that she can drive, one that is small enough to be practical in an urban environment yet large enough to hold a baby and all the baby crap that new parents seem to tote around. The city we live in has lousy public transportation and we generally walk everywhere (including to work); currently we only use my car on the weekends to run errands or make trips to the suburbs.

We have no car payment right now and I’d like to keep it that way, so I am not averse to a used car – but it has to be dependable and safe.


Congratulations. We had a 91 Ford Taurus wagon when we had our first child. The four doors and a rear hatch were a godsend when we had to pack all the baby stuff; stroller, porta-crib, diaper bag, formula, ad infinitum. Plus, it being a Taurus wagon, nobody was going to steal it. A station wagon might not be your thing, but a four door hatchback (Mazda 3 or 6, Toyota Matrix, Scion XB, etc) might be worth checking out.

Ed B.


The time has come to make a MATURE decision and get rid of the BMW and buy a sensible, economical car with automatic. The choice is very large; if yoy liked your BMW, a Mazda 3 with AUTOMATIC will be economical, fun to drive and have room for car seats, luggage, etc. Your car payments will be small for the difference between what you get for the BMW and have to pay for a Mazda 3. Other choices are Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla. Don’t be tempted to buy any Volkswagen; it will screw up your familiy budget with expensive maintenance and repairs.


Do you think it really matters? Any 4-door sedan will do, as long as you verify it will accept the child seat. All recent cars these days are relatively safe; they are no longer making unsafe cars. As for dependability, each used car is a case unto itself.

It is clear you only need one car. It’s time to say good-bye to the beloved BMW. Then use its proceeds for a real car. Yeah, automatic transmission. You have already gotten some suggestions. They are all good choices. If you want a small station wagon, consider the midsize Mazda6 as well.


You could look for a post-2000 Hyundai Elantra or Sonata. They are cheap enough that you can afford to keep your BMW, and they are certainly reliable enough, as well has having enough room. They are also cheap to maintain, operate and insure. However, I’d avoid the Accent - it’s just too small to be of use.


I used to drive a Honda Accord LX for almost 12 yrs. I was very fund of my car… my car was very thirsty, every 3 days it needed a full tank of gas. Back in 12/11/07 My car was stolen. I took good care of my Honda, everything worked well. I now know that thieves prefer Japanese cars…

I was forced to purchase another car. A 2008 Jeep, Sport liberty 4x4 trail rated is what I chose. The insurance gave 30% discount for the safety items that came equipped with. Everything fits well, and I love the visibility.

I am sure you will be able to purchase one used from the dealership + you will get their factory warranty. I drive a lot, all over the city and this Jeep is better than my Honda as far as gas millage goes… in my opinion, because I put gas every 6 days. The 2008 Jeep is safer than my 1996 Honda.

With any car, if you maintain it accordingly, you will have no problems.

The 2008 Jeep, Sport liberty 4x4 trail rated is considered a compact SUV. I am very happy with my investment. I love
My Jeep and I fill very safe. Good Luck!


If your Liberty gets better mileage than your Honda did, your Honda was not in good working order.


I suggest that you get a 4-door sedan. Crawling in and out of a back seat in a coupe will wear thin quickly. Are you going to sell or keep the BMW? How much do you want to spend? What sort of neighborhood do you live in? Do you have private parking? I ask the last two questions so that you can determine whether theft will be an issue. If you park on the street in a downtown area, you would not want a Benz or BMW sedan.


Ditto! That Honda could not have been very well maintained if a Jeep gets better mileage than the Honda. Additionally, Jeeps have a record of fairly poor reliability.

And, if this vehicle is to be driven on paved roads in an urban environment, why would someone want a “trail-rated” vehicle? A “trail-rated” Jeep makes very little sense for someone who lives in a city–unless they desire something with a very stiff ride and poor fuel economy.


Thanks for the good advice. I was contemplating a used Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix. They’re not particularly attractive, but they seem to meet my basic needs: easy to drive on city streets, easy parallel parking in tiny spaces – important for someone who will be, for all intents and purposes, a first-time driver. While it’s big enough on the inside to hold a car seat and a stroller, it’s small enough to get decent gas mileage and won’t roll over. It would rarely be used for long highway drives, so I don’t need a big engine.

But I don’t know if a small wagon or hatchback is necessary; will any four-door sedan do just as well?

My neighborhood is a safe one, but it is definitely a downtown urban environment and you don’t have to go too far to see where they filmed most of “The Wire.” There is only street parking.

I would like to keep the BMW for two reasons: one, if one person is out with the car, the other person shouldn’t be stranded home alone with the baby. Again, public transportation here is a pathetic joke. Two, I really love driving that 330 with the top down. Besides, it’s paid for.

A 1991 Ford Taurus, as one person suggested, certainly would be theft-proof; I could park it and leave the keys in the ignition. But it would not be easy to squeeze into small parking spots on the street.

A Jeep Liberty, as another suggested, really doesn’t seem practical. While the gas mileage isn’t as appalling as most SUVs, it’s still not good, and I certainly don’t plan on taking it “off-road.” I really think SUVs are dangerous, wasteful, and unnecessary for 99% of the people who drive them.


You will love the Matrix or Vibe, a tall version of the Corolla with a hatchback. It will hold that 60" HD tv you’ve been wanting, and other bulky items. The rear door opens wide to load strollers, etc. in and it is easy to drive around town and park.
High reliability and good fuel economy are other plusses.


The matrix is probably a good chioce. If you want a little more zip, look at a Mazda 3 5-door.


What part of Charm City are you in? If you haven’t had your Bimmer stolen, there is hope that your next car in your fleet will be safe, too. If you are anywhere near UM or JHU hospitals, I’d be careful what I bought. I’m not a hatchback or wagon fan because the cargo area is open. Create a list of possible cars and contact your insurer. They can tell you approximately what it will cost to insure and where it ranks in the theft parade.

But as Docnick said, there are pluses for the hatch, too.


The open hatch is a concern. I just moved from Federal Hill to Bolton Hill. Fewer bars, more yuppies, but closer to the free-fire zones.


The Mazda 3 hatchback is called the Mazda 3 Speed, and it only comes with a manual transmission, as far as I know. Otherwise, it would be an excellent choice.


Bolton Hill is a nice area; don’t wander too far west, though. Pennsylvania Ave. and west can be tough areas after dark. You might need to empty the back of the Vibe at night if there is no cargo cover in the car. Even if you only have stuff for the child in the back, bags might attract curious people.


Docnick: the regular Mazda3 comes in both a sedan and hatchback with either a manual or automatic transmission. You are correct about the Speed3 though - it is only manual. I believe you can purchase aftermarket cargo area covers if you want to keep your stuff hidden. Personally I love the Mazda3 and I think it should be on your list if you and your wife want another sporty car.


Thanks for the correction hoffmair; I’ll call the car editor of my local newspaper. He stated last week in an article about the Mazda 3 (very positive) that the Hatchback only came as a high performance model, with a stickshift.

My son has a regular Mazda 3 and afer 50,000 miles of vigorous driving, it is still as bullet-proof as the day he bought it. His wife gives demonstrations in Flamenco dancing and carries her portable, fold-up dance floor in the car to these events.


You can check the Mazda3 out at If you use their “build it” feature, you can see the transmission options for each body style and trim level.

I’m very familiar with the 3 because I’m trying to decide on a car for later this year (which you may know because I talk about it whenever I can, lol). My top three are the Mazda3 sedan, the Mazda3 hatchback, and the Toyota Matrix. I love the styling of the Mazda3 sedan, but because I plan on keeping the car for a long time, a hatchback might be more practical. I see babies in my future sometime in the next decade. :slight_smile: I think I need to go drive them all again before I make up my mind.