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First car

Hey guys, I am looking for my first car and I wanted to get some opinions on what it should be. My budget is going to be around 4000$ or less. I want something that won’t kill me on gas as well, and maybe a car that is fun to drive and/or good to look at.


For $4 k, I recommend you look for reliable transportation that needs as few repairs as possible. If all you can afford is $4k, you can’t afford too many repairs. Get CR buying guide for this year and look for the suggestions in the price range. I would not set my sights on any one of them, but be open to all so you have a better chance of getting the best bang for the buck. Fun to drive ? That might happen by accident. If you make it a priority, something like an older Corolla might not be included which it should be. Best of luck in your search.

lets see, from what I remember when I lived near boston, I d go up to new Hampshire and buy a 1500 buck beater. that traffic will be murder on your first car, so get something that you won t mind getting smashed

$4k pretty much insures that. :wink:

I “second” dagosa’s recommendation.

And whatever you find that looks like a good choice, spend the $100+/- to get it checked over by a reputable shop. If it fails to pass muster, keep looking or use the shop’s repair estimate to negotiate that amount off of the purchase price. Since Mass requires emissions testing have that tested too.

Sincere best. Let us know what you find. We do care.

Gee, I think it’s folly that $4k consigns you to rusted-out hulks that you could care less about getting smashed up. I’ve only paid more than $4k, once, for a car in 22 years…and that was one I bought brand new!

My advice is to forget about car dealers. New car dealers are way overpriced for used cars, and used car dealers are slightly overpriced and usually beat. You can do much better from a FSBO…check C-list or kick it old-school and check the classifieds. The only benefit to a dealer over a FSBO is even the shadiest dealer won’t risk his license by selling you a hot car, or holding you up–private-party just might!

If you prefer, you can try a government surplus vehicle auction that’s open to the public. (Do not go to a private-vehicle public auction…those consist of the cars that everyone with a dealer’s license had a shot at, and passed on.)

Buy a car that’s “unloved in the marketplace,” and $4k can go pretty far. Insist upon a cool, trendy, highly-desired car, and it won’t. Bring along somebody with a good nose for cars, in the event you don’t.

The Ford Escort ZX2 might work, a buddy bought one for his college age son as a replacement vehicle after the previous Nissan Senta was wrecked. Looks sporty but since it’s an escort it should be economical as well. But as with my buddy’s search it all comes down to the condition of the car you’re looking at. Lots of Ford Focus’s in this price range were rejected for being too needy (oil leaks and other red flags). At least the ones on used car lots around here a couple years ago.

me too mean joe, I have regularly bought trucks , for under 1000, and cars for under 2000, that have lasted for 5-7 years with no serious problems.

I will disagree about the public auction tho. my first 75 fordpickup came from there for under a 1000 and it lasted 7 yrs with one major repair.

I went for cars that were older, but were quality cars when new. specifically ford trucks and mercury cougars. the key to my choices were that there were a lot of them still on the road at time of purchase. that is a good sign.

now those cars have mostly disappeared and I m going for jeep Cherokees, as they seem to fit my description

Mustang…? No GTs; those 2 letters can dramatically affect insurance costs depending upon age.

of course the first car, one that I bought without having it inspected by a mechanic, was condemned upon inspection…

mustang is a good suggestion to fit your wish list

I’d be looking for a car that does well in the Consumer Reports ratings, though it also has to have no obvious big problems that you or your mechanic of choice uncover. A good CR rating just makes it more likely you won’t get a dog. It can still happen, but anything you can do to minimize the cgances is worthwhile. If you can find a car with full service records, great, but older cars often don’t. That’s why the mechanic’s inspection is even more important for older cars.

What would I look for? Probably not the Civics and Corollas because they are exactly what most used car buyers want, something small, thrifty, and sturdy. Just what you want to. From what I’ve seen, mid-sized cars are not much more expensive, and they are often nicer to drive and better equipped. They get somewhat worse gas milage, but if you buy the versions with the smallest engines, the difference isn’t that great. For example, a 2004 Nissan Altima, in base trim, but with an automatic, in very good condition, had a Kelley Blue Book value of about $3500 in a private sale. A Civic of the same year, in the late west trim with an automatic, goes for $4500. The Altima of that era is a nice car, but it sold well and plenty still exist. They just are in less demand from used car buyers. A 2004 Mazda3 i sedan, a very nice compact, goes for $4200 and the bigger Mazda6, even nicer, is $50 less.

Kelley is just one source, but I’‘e seen this pattern before. Used car buyers are often young and they prefer a thrifty little car. The mid-sized cars are too much like their parents’ cars. But you can benefit. The gas milage difference is not that great, especially at highway speeds, and the mid-sized cars are just nicer, better equipped even in base trim. They are also nice if you want to take three adult friends with you. For longer trips the roomier back seats are a pleasure.

Other mid-sized cars made at that time that I like are the obvious Accord and Camry, which won’t be great bargains, the Mitsubishi Galant (may soon be an orphan). The Ford Fusion, a very good car, isn’t introduced for a couple of years more, and any you find for $4000 are likely high-milage or in poor condition. The Malibu of the era is not very inspiring.

The Plain Jane Malibu from the early/mid 2000s is reliable but ugly. The ugly factor will be reflected in the price.

Ugly is good. A car with cosmetic problems will sell at a discount. But get it inspected before you commit.

Thanks guys! Your all leaving great input and I will definitely apply it to my search, I appreciate it will let you know what I end up getting.