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First Car

I’m a first time car buyer right out college. I have been researching all types of cars and don’t have a huge wish list. I’ve been to the auto show, done test drives, but I am not sure which car brand or model will give me the least amount of maintenance and great fuel efficiency (if not a hybrid). I have a budget of around 20,000 and want to purchase a reliable sedan (and of possible has a push start). Please help! I’m drowning in all my car research.

Take a look at the Consumer Reports car issue, Apr 2011. It contains good advice as well as good info on all cars available in the US. It should help you narrow down your choices.

Happy hunting!

If I were you, I would not agonize over this. If you want the capability of doing a push start I suggest a manual shift compact car that gets good gas mileage with the price of gas rising as it is these days. You should not do too badly with such a car. Consumer Reports needs to amplify contrasts to have something to write about in order to sell magazines but in reality, reliability of almost all brands is very good these days. I have been reading all kinds of car magazines for many years and have found that someone else’s perceptions almost always do not match mine. You must drive a car yourself but that is only a beginning as first impressions can be unfair.

Count then on your first car to be a learning experience that will help you formulate your car wants and needs for a lifetime.

I’d get a Civic with a manual. It starts at $15k and you can add whatever options you want.

Alternately, add 3 grand to your budget and the the much more fun Civic Si.

By ‘push start’ do you mean ‘push button start’, like on an Altima? That’s be my recommendation.

Honda Civic with a manual is good for 26/34 mpg. Chevrolet Cruze ECO with a manual is 28/42 mpg.

Many Hyundais have a push button start (assuming that’s what you mean, alternatively, being able to push start a car means rolling it, popping the clutch in gear and starting the engine using the rolling momentum rather than the starter motor). Hyundai is getting pretty competitive in the marketplace, offering lots of standard equipment for less money than the other major players, with an excellent warranty and lower price for a comparable car from someone else. For your $20k budget, you may also look at used cars that are 1-3 years old. They will still have lots of life left in them, have lost a tremendous amount of value to depreciation, and will further broaden your potential make and model choices, even to include some very nice upscale models from Lexus or Acura (Toyota and Honda, respectively).

What do you mean “(and of possible has a push start)”? Do you want a button that says - Push to Start? If yes, and that’s your criteria then just consider cars with a start button. Pretty thin criteria IMO, but its your money.

Read CR. If you have a budget of around 20K and great fuel efficiency is important, look at a Prius. The satisfaction rating is very good by it’s owners. Add to the list a Civic. I wouldn’t get hung up on push button start as you may have to eliminate too many good cars.

Here is the list in order of what I would buy

Honda Civic or Ford Focus. In the end it comes down to what you want and your feelings on certain cars. What is saving 2 or 3 grand worth to you? How much do you want fancy things like bluetooth and push start? Are you willing to take some risk on newer cars that should be good quality (kia and hundai).

You are budgeting for tax, title, license, so on so forth right?

I actually did not know to budget for car title, license, just tax. And as far as my wish list goes, I’m fairly new in what to look for. I started out with just wanting a car that looked nice and that’s where my research stopped. I have my budget, which I will now have to include money for other fees. I really want push button start. As far as everything else I dont believe I’ll ‘need’. I don’t need leather seats, heated steering wheel or a Bluetooth, fancy FX radio, or things like that. I just want a quality first car that is fuel efficient. I’ll use this car as a stepping stone for what I want as my first serious luxury car.

It is really thin. I first starte with just wanting a car that looks pretty. I know I should have paid more attention and asked more questions at the auto show, but I was so overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. That’s why I’m asking for help. Any suggestions of cars or questions to ask would be great.

And yes I meant a Push to Start button.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by data.

Start with the Consumer Reports, available at the local bookstore, narrow the field of candidates to those with the best reliability indicators and that fit your budget, and spend some time test driving those you like. There are quite a few good choices in the sub-$20K category.

Ford Focus with a remote start should run under 20k

You said push start. Ok, push button. Do you mean remote start? That option is available on many cars. I will tell you that we had that on our last car; never used it, not even once to see that it worked. We live in the north where it could, I suppose, be useful in winter.

Cars used to have a pushbutton on the dashboard that was used to operate the starter motor. The key was used to operate the ignition switch but not the starter; that came later. We need to speak the same language.