Existential car buying advice

By way of background, I’m 31 years old, married, no kids, and I have a 1997 Toyota Corolla CE with 150K miles on it. This is my first car; I bought it used in 2000 and it has served me well over the past 8 years. I primarily use it to commute to work (10 miles/day), run around town, and the occasional longer trip out of state.

I’ve realized that in the next few years it will probably be time for me to buy a new car. The logical, sensible purchase would be a new or slightly used Corolla/Civic or perhaps a Camry/Accord.

I just don’t know if I can bring myself to submit to suburban middle-aged conformity like that! My in-laws drive a Camry, my parents drive a Civic, and I know probably half a dozen other middle-aged or older moms, aunts, grandparents and co-workers that drive one of these.

Should I just dive right in and join the masses? Should a sensible boring car round out a sensible boring life? I am careful with my money and certainly don’t want to blow my savings on a mid-life crisis mobile, especially when I’m not having a mid-life crisis…but still, are there any other alternatives I might want to consider?

I’d be in the market from something in the 15K to 20K range, with a priority placed on reliability, fuel economy and price. Yep, sensible priorities that always lead me back to one of the aforementioned vehicles.

Any thoughts or advice?

I Would Look At Finding A Slightly Used Vincent Black Shadow. That Should Spice Things Up!

Take a look at the Mazda 3, they’re a step up in fun/refinement, but still economical and reliable. If you can wait, there’s a new model coming out next year, but if not, the current one is great.

Yes, the Mazda 3 Speed is a hot car that’s also COOL! My son has one in bright red, and it turns a lot of heads. No need to saddle yourself with an exotic and expensive to operate car.

Thanks…the Mazda 3 wasn’t even on my radar. Will definitely check it out!

Mazda 3 or 6, or the Ford clone of the 6, the Ford Fusion. All those are nice vehicles which should last a long time. You can get a no frills Fusion for about 17k brand new with a rare transmission choice for most sedans, a stick shift.
Just be sure to work out the out the door price before you agree to a trade in or anything like that

Are you having problems with your current car? With only 150,000 miles, it sounds like a keeper to me.

Aside from that, what floats your boat? Do you like driving the Corolla or do you secretly covet your neighbor’s car? Which do you covet more, your neighbor’s Corvette or your other neighbor’s BMW? What about the Honda Civic Si or a Corolla Type S? Both are the sporty versions of these economy cars.

Here is an idea you may not have considered. Learn to ride and buy a motorcycle. This will allow you to keep your car for times when it isn’t practical to ride and riding will give you all the thrills you can handle. You might be surprised at how inexpensive it is to buy and insure a motorcycle. It might cost less to do that and keep your old car than simply buy a new car. My motorcycle insurance only costs $107 per year. You can get a great used motorcycle for less than $4,000 and a great new motorcycle for less than $10,000.

I think a New Cooper Mini sounds like the perfect car for you! imho

You’re 20 years too young for a mid-life crisis. The Mazda 3 is a good suggestion. You might also consider a Toyota Camry Solara or an Accord Coupe. I’m partial to the convertible, but you might prefer a coupe. The coupe will better fit your cost range, too. You can certainly find an Acura RSX in your price range; even a 2006.

No big problems yet, but the wear and tear is gradually building up. This was my first “starter” car, and while it’s served me well, I know the time to move on is coming. Maybe not this year, and maybe not next, but definitely within the next 5. To be perfectly honest, yes, I do covet my neighbors BMW (if he had one). And I’d loath my neighbor’s Corvette.
Nice thought with the motorcycle, and I may look into that. The main downsides being safety and the inability to ride it (comfortably) in the winter.
Thanks for your thoughts…

I thought about a Mini, but I’ve started to see too many of them around lately…they seem to be making a bit too much of a statement. Plus I think they’re a bit overpriced. Not that I wouldn’t take one if you gave me one…

Yeah, not at mid-life crisis point here, but rather wanting to delay entering into mid-life as a whole. Mentally I’m still in my 20’s. A convertible, while fun, probably isn’t the best choice for winter driving…and if I were to go down that more impractical route, I might take the advice offered above and go with a motorcycle! I’ll take a look at the Solara and Accord Coupe, although they may be dependent on what kind of deal I can find. $15K is definitely more attractive than $20K. Thanks!

Thanks so much for all the advice…it’s great to hear everyone’s perspectives. Let me elaborate a little more on where I’m at. I’m not looking to compete in illegal drag races with the neighbor kids. I’m interested in classy more than sporty. But obviously classy tends to mean money. If money wasn’t an object, I’d be happy with a BMW 3 Series. But money IS an object so I’m stuck trying to come to terms with my limitations. My current favorite suggestion is the Mazda 3…reliable and fun without being stodgy. Perhaps not as sophisticated as I’d like, but maybe a good reflection of where I’m at in life.

Might as well go for the gold, I thought you were on the practical side maybe but I misjudged you!

I agree with common sence, by a boringmobile, take the MSF class just to see if the bike bug will bite you= a whole new addiction

Hah! While that does look nice, you’re right, I am more practical than that. But don’t tempt me!

Nice car Dan, but it will cost 'way more than the national average of $1200 per year in repairs & maintenance to keep this baby running reliably. Most people who own cars like that use them for casual weekend driving, not daily transportation.

How about a Mazda Miata? You can get one with a removable hard top. I know a couple people in your age range that use them as commuter cars and for weekend fun.

The Mazda 3 is also a good choice, if you just have to have a back seat. Or, maybe a Hyundai Tiburon? Fun little car with a great warranty and very good reliability, if not much resale value.

I applaud your frugality. If more consumers were willing to ask the questions you do, the auto industry would not be in as deep a trouble as it is. A “fickled” buying public must drive the marketing department at GM crazy…and into bankruptcy. Follow your own reasoning, you’re on the right track.

PS…we’re just spending your money.