Easiest/Cheapest Car to maintain?

I need a car that is easy to maintain (When I’m inclined to buy a Haynes Guide), cheap to maintain (parts arent expensive), and relatively cheap in general, Im looking in the 3500$ range. Thoughts? Mechanic input would be great, Thanks!

Buy a vehicle without complex mechanicals or electronics. A stick shift, stripped Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, Mazda Protege/323 would qualify. If you don’t need a backseat, I would pick a Ford Ranger pickup with stick shift. It has rear drive, is easy and cheap to service, and has a good reliability record. In all cases, only buy a vehicle that has been well maintained and has reasonably low mileage for its age. For $3500 avoid anything with automatic, power windows, sliding roof, or other items that can go wrong.

Good luck!

Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm, Mazda 323, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, or similar, preferably with a manual transmission. The fewer accessories the better.

Another vehicle that’s cheap to maintain is the Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis, but I prefer the smaller cars for their better fuel mileage.

I’m sorry…but $3500 and CHEAP TO MAINTAIN are mutually exclusive. A car that cheap is either 10+ years old or has lot of miles on it…or has several mechanical problems…or ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Toyota parts are not cheap. I imagine Honda is in the same category.

Buick for one. Commonality, reliable, easy to service, and parts on the average can be found much cheaper than on many Asian or European models.

Buicks are also generally owned by elderly people who have not beaten them into the pavement. Flashy, no. Good transportation, yes.

My truck is cheap and easy to maintain. It is a 99 Ranger I bought 3 years ago for $3200. 4cyl, 5speed, regular cab, rear wheel drive, no A/C, and had 45k on it when I bought it. They have been around and basically unchanged for ever so parts are cheap and easy to come by. The 4cyl isn’t shoehorned into the engine compartment so pretty much all of the maintenance that needs to be done is easy to get to.

But you?re right it is 10 years old now.

Buick Century has been one of Consumers Reports favorite American cars for many years. I rented one on my honeymoon 14 years ago. We cruised around the countryside outside of Las Vegas.

Sure you’ll find the 1 out of 10 million that’s in excellent shape and will last years without incident. The problem is finding that one. I guarantee you the VAST MAJORITY vehicles that can be bought for $3500 are no where near pristine condition…and will need work just to keep it running.

Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis are relatively easy to work on and parts are plentiful. tires are costly because they are big tires. Stay away from used police cars.

You’re right, Mike. Every now & then you DO run across a 10 year old vehicle that was well maintained, and has some life left in it. I once bought a Chevy Caprice for $3000 that was 8 years old with 70,000 miles on it and carefully driven and maintained by a female hospital employee who always parked it inside, at home or at work. The only problem I had with it was the rear end bearings; $450 solved that.

We put an additional 70,000 miles on it over a 10 year period and changed the starter, radiator, alternator, battery, exhaust system, belts, hoses, brakes and other wear items, but no engine, transmission or other major stuff.

If you buy a well maintained older car from a senior citizen who stops driving, you can also end up with a good deal.

I don’t know about that. You just have to look for vehicles that don’t have much to go wrong with them. If you are looking for a $3.5k vehicle that has every option, a high resale value, or is considered a cool car, then you are going to find a piece of junk. If you don?t mind manual everything, lack of creature comforts and driving around an unattractive car then there are plenty of options.

I can go in the local paper and pick out a dozen or so vehicles that are under $4k that are probably going to be perfectly serviceable.

The great thing about a cheap vehicle is that when you come up with a repair that is costly, you can scrap it and buy another cheap vehicle.

A huge question is whether you need an automatic transmission or not.

Buick vehicles with the 3.8L come to mind. They sell for cheap usually but all automatic and quite comfortable.

Other decent ones are Ford Escorts and Chevy Cavaliers.

If trucks are your thing Ford whether Ranger or F150 are great and available.

In your price tier I would avoid Toyota and Honda as they simply are expensive mainly due to brand name. They are decent cars but for $3500 are well worn and may not worth the effort. Honestly I think the name is adding at least $1000-$2000 to the actual car if it were another brand.

Good luck.

I can go in the local paper and pick out a dozen or so vehicles that are under $4k that are probably going to be perfectly serviceable.

I guess you have a different definition of reliable then I do.

Driving for 5 or 6 years with minimal repairs, and regular maintenance, is all I need. Out of the cars that my brother and I have owned only one was over the $4k mark and all have done very well.

Honda require the least amount of tools to work on,how this fits into Easiest/Cheapest is not so clear.

Well your driving style and conditions are a LOT different from mine. And I really don’t know what the OP’s driving conditions are.

In 5-6 years for me…that’s about 200k miles.

A car that’s 10+ years old is going to need work…Sorry…I don’t believe for one minute that it won’t…Things break no matter who makes it…The older the vehicle the more problems.

This may come down to semantics. The OP said cheap to maintain. For me cheap to maintain is buy a vehicle put 250k miles on it ans spend less then $1000 in repair costs. I can’t see buying a 10+ yo vehicle and accomplishing that.

Yeah, depending on the vehicle I would put 8-12k miles on it a year, you are putting 20k+. I would put more than $1000 into it in a 5-6 year period, but most of that is maintenance, not repairs.

Replacing wheel bearings, suspension components, blah, blah? when needed is still cheaper than having a car payment or paying the extra few G?s for a newer car. But all of those things I see as maintenance, just like keeping fresh fluids. If you play your cards right and don?t get into any accidents, your repair bills should be next to nothing.

For ease of maintenance I’d suggest a small 4-banger 2WD pickup. A longitudinally mounted 4-banger bolted to a longitudinally mounted tranny is far easier to do just about everything on than a transversely mounted engine with transaxle. And choose one that has shocks instead of struts…which should be easy to find on a pickup.

For reliability I’d suggest a Toyota pickup. I’ve had two, a '79 and an '89. I got 338,000 miles out of the '89 before it got hit and totalled. I got 295,000 out of the original clutch! The old Toyota 4-bangers, especially the 22R or RE, were virtually indestructable.

Something 1968 or prior.