Cheap Cheap Car

Hello everyone,
I am 16 years old and am in need of a vehicle to get to school work and sports practices. While I do have quite a bit more money than the average 16 year old, I don’t want to spend very much and so am looking for something around 2 thousand. Looking for suggestions for used cars that can be had for this price. Some options that I have found on Craigslist are 1970’s Fiat Spiders and Triumphs but I have heard a lot of different opinions on their reliability. As far as my mechanical savvy goes I have virtually none up to this point but I am learning currently and have friends that could help me and work at a shop so i could get free or reduced labor and help. I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

Some options that I have found on Craigslist are 1970's Fiat Spiders and Triumphs but I have heard a lot of different opinions on their reliability.

The reason nobody can give you a straight answer about the reliability of a 40 y.o. Fiat is that we’re generally discouraged from use of most powerful expletives 'round here! That said…a 70’s Fiat (or Triumph) as a FIRST car for somebody with NO mechanical abilities…is an UNIMAGINIBLY POOR vehicle choice! I almost have to think this is a spam post; nobody left their own devices could dream up such a poor choice without conscious deliberation.

Seroiusly, get a 10-15 y.o. domestic mid-size. If you live somewhere with little road salt, consider cars as old as 20. Buy a good set of hand tools, a repair manual for your make/model, and expect to become MUCH more mechanically inclined as you progress with your hoopty!

With the used car market as it is now, $2,000 is a crapshoot. You might get a gem, and you might get a rolling pile of junk that needs a repair more often than it needs gas. You can reduce your exposure to the risk of the latter by getting whatever you’re looking at inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. $100 today might save you $1,000 and more tomorrow.

Do not expect to get anything cool or sporty or fun. Those things add to the price, so if you find a cool, sporty, fun car for $2,000 you’re either incredibly lucky, or it has a lot of problems that are bringing the value down.

old jeep Cherokees can be had for 1500 all day long…

I think that they are cool, but I m a moron

…also, if you go to a used car lot, and are paying cash, they will drop at least 7 or 800 of the sticker price. if they won t come down, walk away and wait for them to say… “hold on, don t leave yet. let me talk to the manager”

If you buy a ,70s era Fiat or Triumph, your mechanical skills will improve dramatically, because you’re going to be working on them all the time.

For your price range, I’d suggest buying something like a Buick Regal, or Chevy Impala from about 2000, on. They were good cars and the 3.8 L V6 ingines are dead solid reliable, plus parts for them are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.

3 ideas.

  1. Visit your family’s auto mechanic, and ask if they are aware of any cars in the $2,000 range available. Quite often an owner will bring in a car to have it fixed, find out the cost of the repair is too much, and just sign the car over to the mechanic as payment for the time already invested. So mechanics have a source of these kinds of cars, and can phone up other mechanics in the area to tap into their sources.

  2. Visit you local high school or jr. college auto shop instructor. They may know of something available in this price range.

  3. Likewise, visit your family’s car insurance agent. They have access to cars on the borderlilne of being declared “totaled”. In a lot of cases if you are willing to live with some cosmetic blemishes, the remaining problems can be fixed and the car returned to the road without incurring a huge expense.

Now about which car to choose … this is a tough one …

One thing I’ve learned over the years, life is one big compromise. A old classic Fiat or Triumph would indeed be a cool drive. But neither of these cars will prove a reliable drive. If you have a date on a Friday night and your car won’t start, that’s not going to do you any good right? A car sitting in the driveway that won’t start isn’t going to get you anywhere with the ladies. So maybe think this reliability issue over carefully.

I’m assuming you are in Europe, probably England. I’d recommend as first choices Corolla’s or Civics. For $2000 I expect you could get a 1990’s model so it would have electronic fuel injection and basic computer diagnostics. That would make your repair and maintenance task easier. And most repair parts for these are easy and inexpensive to source. If you’d like something a little different, a classic air cooled VW Beetle could be a compromise. You’re going to have to accept one that is pretty beat up at that price, but air cooled Beetles are pretty reliable and economical. Safety is a concern with these cars, but like I say, life is a compromise.

older cougars are good cars too. the ones with the 3.8 v6 are anyway.

dr rocket, I assume that the ford 3.8 is different from the GM 3.8 , correct?

Thanks all. By the way I am in California in an area with zero road salt

I don’t think air cooled Beetles have gone up in price so much in Calif compared to Europe. Plus rust isn’t so much of a problem. So that may well be something to consider if you prefer something with a different look.

Best bets are simple cars, such as a Hyundai Accent with reasonably low mileage. Other choices, would be a Mazda Protégé, older Honda Civic, or Chevy Cobalt.

Remember, the simpler the better. Upkeep costs are important. If you can shift gears, a stick shift would be better; the failure of the automatic in an older car is very probable and that would mean scrapping it since $2000 won’t buy a transmission.

A while back a student at Rice University in Houston asked us the same question, and he was able to locate an older, low mileage Chevy Cobalt owned by a senior citizen. It worked out well for him.

I would look for an older Hyundai or Kia. They have had decent reliability over all and do not hold their value well. Regardless, spending $2000 for a car means you will have to repeat the purchase more often then buying something more expensive. Get yourself a Consumer reports buyer’s guide and start becoming more familiar with the more reliable brands. If you are looking at old Triumphs and Fiats, you have some prep work to consider doing to prepare yourself for good car buying decisions in your future.

I would avoid anything that is not OBDII compliant, so that means 96 or newer.

Now you sound like a sensible kid to me, 16 year olds don’t usually ask for advice as they already know everything that needs to be known. I can almost remember when I was that smart, but that was 50 years ago.

Anyway, I’m sure you feel that you will be a safe driver, but the only way to really know what the limits of a car are is to exceed those limits, and you will do that even though you won’t be trying. It just happens, there is no way to describe it.

For that reason, I recommend a large rear wheel drive vehicle. That could be a pick up truck, a RWD SUV like the Jeep Cherokee, or a car like a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis. Once you have experienced that out of control feeling a couple of time, you will get the hang of it. Because they are RWD, they will lose control at a lower speed, so that will be safer for both you and those around you. And you will have some room for your friends, if they chip in for gas.

If you go with a big Ford, look for one being sold by the descendants of an elderly person. The kids have newer cars and don’t want gramps old car, but the car will have been taken care of and driven gently. I have always had the best luck with these vehicles.

Regardless of there being no salt on California roads the cars you mentioned, or for that matter any pre-2000 car, especially an imported sports car, would be a poor choice for daily transportation. Such cars make great weekend hobbies for gear heads. A hot pink Pontiac Bonneville with 100,000 well maintained miles might be a great bargain. Or how about a Pontia Aztec.

"dr rocket, I assume that the ford 3.8 is different from the GM 3.8 , correct? "

Yes, the GM 3.8 is based on an engine that was first introduced by Buick in 1962, sold to American motors in 1967, then bought back when the first energy crises hit. As I mentioned, they are extremely tough and reliable. Many automotive experts consider it one of the ten best engines ever produced. I sold my 2001 Regal with 285,000 miles on the clock. Last I checked, it had moved past 310,000. Still starts and runs great, with no excessive oil consumption. The OP might want to make note of that. IT’s not unusual for these engines.

Man, I dont care how desperate I was, I still wouln’t be caught dead in an Aztec.

The OP says they want to spend 2000 on car. Insurance in California could also be 2000 for a 16 year old male.

Thank you everyone this is really helpful. I definitely should have come to a place like this earlier. Could you guys give me an overview on miles? I’ve always thought that like 100k was a ton but I’ve come across quite a few cars with upwards of 200. So does it just depend on the car and how it is treated? Is there a number that is generally assumed to be safe for a used car? Thanks

Lower mileage is always better. When the total miles gets to about 150,000, even well maintained cars need repairs. Actually, with high mileage, these repairs are really maintenance. If you have the time, look for a low mileage car that is 10 to 15 years old. Low mileage would be around 100,000. Cars owned by senior citizens are often good bets. When you find a car that you are ready to buy, pay about $100 for a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic you trust. If your parents have a shop they use, that is a good place for the inspection.