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First Car Buyer and Need Advice

I’m a college student that is going to be graduating at the end of the spring with an engineering job lined up afterwards. Therefore, I need to get a daily driver this summer to commute to work. I would prefer that it is fun to drive as well as easy to work on. I’m currently learning manual and enjoy driving manual vehicles.

I’m currently looking at 2002-2003 Subaru Impreza WRX wagons as the AWD option is nice as it snows a decent amount in the winter where I am, enjoy the look of the car, and is priced around $3k-$8k based on what I have seen on the internet. I am willing to put $3k-$5k extra in any minor repairs or service things in the months following.

Is there any other cars that you would recommend I look into or if I should avoid the above mentioned Subaru? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Those WRXs get driven HARD, I’d want a pre-purchase inspection by a Subaru shop before buying, and you’ll need a set of winter tires/wheels. At that price I’d rather get a FWD car, something like a Mazda 3.


You are looking to buy a 16-17 year old econobox based, high performance car that just begged to be flogged and flogged they were.
I any car calls for a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic, this one does. And even then be prepared for high maintenance costs.


You are starting a new job just out of college the last thing you need is something that need a lot of work ( think any old all wheel drive vehicle ) . If you miss work or have to rely on someone getting you there you could actually lose that job. 8000 plus 5000 for needed repairs . that kind of money will put you in a nice used front wheel drive economy vehicle and you can get the fun to drive type thing after you have secured future employment.

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Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely refocus my search on more reliable options and save the project/fun car for a later date. Do you guys have any suggestions into any models and specific years that would be good?

Not really because we all have biased opinions and when dealing with used vehicles each one has to be evaluated on it’s own merit.

I will add this, you might consider staying with automatic transmissions because so few people can drive manual that if you need someone to drive for you they might not be able to do it. Plus the selection is greater.

Toyota/Lexus… Any model…do get an inspection though.

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I see, that makes sense. I did not think about that angle about needing other people to drive my car that heavily in my search. I’ll keep looking then following your guys’ advice. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of car reviews and maintenance stuff (like ChrisFix) in my free time but this is my first time on a forum. I appreciate your guys’ help and thanks again!

Use some of that free time to read articles on how to buy used vehicles and how to spot flood vehicles .

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In addition to the excellent advice given, I would suggest you consider a front wheel drive vehicle with a set of snow tires mounted on steel rims that you can swap at home instead of a used AWD system that may or may not have been properly cared for by previous owners (such as regular 5k mile tire rotations and making sure all of the tread depth stays within a millimeter or two, 30k transmission fluid changes, etc)


Overall, I agree with Pyrolord’s recommendation, but I want to clarify two of his points:

The tires that should be purchased for winter driving are now referred to as winter tires.
The term “snow tires” went out of use shortly after the Disco era.
ALL cars with automatic transmissions should have their fluid changed every 30k miles.
Pyrolord’s post implies that this applies only to AWD vehicles, and that is… wrong.


Both excellent points (particularly since I was born well after the end of disco!!). The reason I specified AWD is because the OP originally mentioned a Subaru product, but most definitely yes all automatic transmissions should get that 30k mile service. :smiley:

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Consumer Reports puts out an annual car issue every April, also car buying guide books, every year or so. It’s informative reading and has reliability reports based on their surveys of their readers.

Consumer Reports is often available at the public library, either on the shelf or on line. It doesn’t cost anything to use public library resources.

I bought a car for one of my children to use in 2012. It was a base 2010 Cobalt with very low mileage. While I was deciding, I discussed it with one of my other children. I was concerned about why anyone would sell a low mileage, 2-year old car. I figured there must be something wrong with it. My daughter said that a lot of people buy stripped new cars when they graduate so that they get low payments and reliable transportation. Then when they can afford something nicer, they trade up. You might consider buying on either end of this deal. Either way, you should end up with reliable transportation for a commuter. After a while, you could buy a fun car as a second ride if you want to, or just replace the first one.