Existential car buying advice

One more I forgot about was the Mazda CX7. While it may be a bit bigger than what you’re looking for, it’s more fun to drive than any SUV should be. As long as you keep it under 2500 rpms, you’ll get decent mpg(for a vehicle the size of a Honda CR-V anyways), but at 2500 rpms, the turbo kicks in. :smiley:

OK. Look at a 2005 MB C-series coupe and a 2005 Infiniti G35. You can even find the 2005 AWD G35x for under $20,000.

Spend away…it’s only money! Seriously I appreciate everyone’s comments. It’s tough to balance frugality and practicality with a desire for fun and excitement, especially when the entire car market is designed to push you towards impracticality. I am thankful for the wide variety of lower-end, smaller vehicles that are out there. Cars like the Fit, Yaris, Matrix, SMART, Mini, etc all give me hope for the auto industry as a whole. Hopefully in the future there will be more low-cost hybrid vehicles available as well…I’d love to be looking at a Prius or Civic Hybrid, but there just out of my price range.

Consumer reports recently published a study. They compared people who trade in their cars with 100,000 miles to people who trade in their cars with 200,000 miles. What they found was today’s cars can easily last 200,000 miles with few problems and will save you approximately $30,000 over the life of the car based on interest, new car premium, and other related costs. Keep that in mind when you consider trading in the Corolla with less than 200,000 miles.

Good info. I’m just starting to look, and probably won’t actually buy for a few years…but would like to be prepared if something major goes wrong and/or I find a really good deal. I assume the CR study was looking solely at purchasing new, whereas I’m definitely open to purchasing a late model used vehicle. I also would almost certainly pay for it outright. So eliminating interest and the new car premium would definitely make that $30K smaller.

Here goes…I am intrigued by the Scion Xb…the new model. A lot for the money and in your range. Room for a Nat. Gas tank in back when the conversion kits become available. Seems to do everything well and lots-a-room.

Since you mentioned the Civic and Accord, consider stepping up to an Acura TSX or TL, one year older to keep the price comparable.

I know the dilemma as I have faced the same approximately one year ago. My trusty (and virtually trouble-free) Toyota started to age and I felt the need for something more fun, stylish and yet reliable and sensible.

I found the Consumer Reports website to be extremely helpful. They have a free used car section with areas such as:

In addition, for virtually every model they have its reliability history for years back (subscription needed, well worth it). Once you have zeroed in on a model you can do quite deliberate research as to what year or configuration is the least prone to defects.

I eventually zeroed in on a 2003 BMW 5-series. While I initially considered this to be a “dream car” with less than stellar reliability and sensibility, Consumer Reports showed me that if you stick to the 2002/2003 year and stay away from the big 4 liter engine or all-wheel-drive you get a car with Toyota-like reliability and world-class driving characteristics. And it’s the best car CR ever road tested in their 6 year history. And it cost me $18,000.

I am not saying that you should get a 5-series. My point is that looking for a fun car that is recommended by CR may be a good approach and lead to surprising results. After all, one does not associate CR with fun in the first place :wink:

I just checked the CR website and a couple of used car “best bets” of their seem to fit your bill:

  1. Mazda 3. And I shall add my personal favorite the Mazda 5 (a little-known, hip family version of the 3).
  2. All Scions (they are essentially “hip Toyotas”), especially the tC and xB
  3. You mentioned BMW. CR recommends the 2002 or 2003 5-series or the 2002/2003 3-series coupe
  4. Acura TSX (the “European Accord”). Some affordable, hip luxury

Please keep us posted!


Hope that helps.

Thanks for the continued advice. I’ll definitely keep you posted…but I’m still not sure on my time frame. My Corolla probably has a few more years in it, so it may be a bit before I take the plunge. I’d love a BMW, but have a couple of reasons why I may not want to go that route: I live in an area with plenty of ice and snow in the winter, and have concerns about how the RWD would handle. The AWD models seem to have more issues. Also, the maintenance costs will probably be higher, so I’d have to look carefully at that added expense as well.

Anyway, I really appreciate all the advice.

Ford Fusion, baby: great styling, good engine options, proven reliable with good build quality. It’ everything you’re looking for: unique, reliable, safe.

You are right about the maintenance expense, but I am not so sure I would worry about safety and RWD so much. BMWs are usually packed with safety features like ABS, stability control, and traction control. Add to that a good set of winter tires and you should be fine.

I was not really intending to point you in the BMW direction in the first place. My point was rather that if you do your research with the links I provided you’ll be as successful as I was in finding something that has CR’s stamp of approval (satisfying the safety and sensibility gene in us) AND is fun, hip, cool and/or refined at the same time.

The AWDs have more issues and AWD in general is more expensive to maintain. I also noticed the word “refinement” in your posts. It struck me because that is exactly what I was also looking for. That points me in the Acura direction for you. The TSX is a refined yet sporty sedan with FWD (sensible in snow) and Honda’s reliability. If you can find a reliable Audi in CR’s lists that’s also good.

But what does my mechanic always say: You’ll know it when you drive it. You can have academic discussions about what car you’ll like all day long but you have to narrow it down and get behind the wheel of a few for a test drive. I turned that into a fun weekend activity long before I actually purchased a car. That, for example, elimnated the Mazda (that appeared perfect on paper) from my list because of lack of refinement.

Look at a red Nissan Altima Coupe with the 4 Cylinder engine. It’s a great looking car, but not too expensive to buy or feed.

All great points. I completely agree with the need to actually test drive some of these cars we’ve been talking about. Yes, I would like something a bit more refined rather than solely utilitarian and practical. But of course “refinement” is subjective, so I’ll need to take a look first hand to come to some decisions of my own. All the advice that’s been offered on here has definitely pointed me in some interesting directions…we’ll see where I end up.

A yes, the red car. I’m not quite at that point yet.

A Ford?!?

They’re the best of the big 3 in terms of stability, and they’re building good cars. I bought one for my wife, and I have an ES300. We’re very happy with it.

Have you driven a Scion tC?

Toyota reliability, sporty appearance, good handling, sliding glass moon roof (front) with a rear seat fixed glass moon roof, and all for well under $20K!

I love mine. My son liked it so much he bought one. He’s just as happpy with his.