Help a girl decide: buy new, used or lease!

I’m in a conundrum because my MINI Cooper that I bought on craigslist has had endless problems due to its (in my opinion) lemony 2007 engine. I’m getting it repaired for the 3rd time, and then I need to sell it FAST before I get stuck with more repairs. So I have to make a decision soon on what to do next. The problem is I don’t have much money to work with. Here’s some background:

–I still owe $8,000 on the MINI (which has 87,500 miles)
–Once it’s fixed, KBB says trade-in value is $6,200. I’m in Austin, TX though, so MINIs can go for more oftentimes.
–I have $1,000 available cash towards whatever I choose
–I can afford a $300 monthly payment
–I am looking at Fiat 500 Pop, Honda Fit, VW Golf, and Toyota Prius V (if you think I need to go cheaper…let me know…)
–I’m very reluctant to buy used from an owner again after this lemon experience

Should I lease, buy (certified or almost new) pre-owned, or buy brand new? I want a reliable car that I don’t have to worry about, and that doesn’t kill me $-wise.

Thank you so much for reading! I’m desperate for advice.

I would sell the Mini…so we are on the same page with that idea. I never buy new but I have experience in checking used vehicles. If you do buy used then have a good independent mechanic check it out before you ever consider buying it. If you are buying new then the choice is really up to you. I like both the Fiat 500 and Honda Fit. Forget the VW…(it’s probably more unreliable than the Mini) and I think the Prius is too expensive. BTW…leasing has never been on my radar. Good luck

If you’re having a lot of problems…then get rid of it…and buy either used or new. If you buy used then get it inspected from a trusted mechanic.


Sell what you have and buy safe. A used Corolla. At this stage, a used Corolla just off lease will give you more security. You can take them on trips, get 40 mpg highway and they last for twenty years with adaquate maintenance. That’s why they have sold so many over the years. If you think you might want something else, at the very least get a copy of CR’s automotive yearly reviews and read their suggestions on cars that fit your need and you can afford…or , buy a Corolla.

How long do you plan to keep the next after you sell Mini? If your answer is 2 or 3 years then a lease might make sense - IF you only drive 10,000 to 12,000 miles a year. Living in Texas usually means more miles per year.

I’m not sure you can buy a new car with $1,000 down and get a $300 a month payment. A used Corolla might be your best option.

I should point out that if your Mini were leased you wouldn’t have the option of selling it. You’d be screwed. You’d have to live with it lemony flavor that it has. And you’d have to keep it fully repaired and maintained. Even if you’ve come to hate it. And when you turned it in at the end of the lease you’d have zero equity in it. Nothing. Not one thin dime. They’d take it away from you and you’d have not a dollar left. No vehicle, no dollar.

Leases are a losing proposition for individuals. Never ever lease.

See what you can negotiate against a trade in value and then see what you can negotiate for a loan rate that’s well within your budget. Then you’ll know what total price you can look into and what’s available from there. A “loan amortization” book from the local bookstore might help. It’ll tell you in chart form exactly what you can get from your local banks, based upon their auto loan rates from their websites, that’ll fit the monthly payment.

Then take your time and choose carefully. As you’ve learned, the monthly payment is only part of the cost of ownership.

Sincere best.

Well, you aren’t going to get anywhere near the KBB on a trade so you are going to take maybe a $4000 hit on it. Better to take the hit and dig out of it though than to continue with a poor vehicle choice. I would not lease. In four years you’ll be back to zero and starting all over again. Plus it will be difficult to roll your payoff of the Mini into a lease.

My first choice would be new at zero to a couple percent interest with the buy out rolled into the deal. Then you’ll have 3-4 years to dig out of the deal with a good car and a good warranty. However, the choices you have mentioned are not the best and most reliable again. A new Honda, Toyota, Malibu even, Acura or something with a five year 50K warranty would serve you better right now.

I’m not sure used would be the answer for several reasons. Financing will be higher, the quality of the car might be in question, the warranty will be less or non-existant, used car prices are high right now, and you’ll have trouble rolling in your under-water Mini loan into the deal.

Hold your breath, take the hit, and dog paddle for a few years to get caught up.

I don’t trust anting that is only a couple years old and already on the market. I would much rather buy a much older car that is in really good shape that was owned by an elderly person who can no longer drive and none of their relatives want the old car. These deals, hard to find, but have always been the best used cars I’ve owned.

I don’t trust Fiat yet, they haven’t been here long enough. Let someone who has money to burn buy them and find out if they are any good.

The Toyota Corolla is a good conservative car, a good bet for reliability, as is the Honda Fit and the Honda Civic. I would see what kind of a deal either the Honda or Toyota dealers will give you to trade for a new car, but keep to the more basic models, they are much more reliable that the ones with all the bells and whistles, as attractive as those bells and whistles are.

Most important question to answer you is how many miles a year do you usually put on. If 10k or less in your current situation a lease could make sense.

The $1000 will go towards paying off your loan. That might still leave $1000 or more to pay off before you get a new car. This means that you are likely stuck with trading the Mini, and the trade-in value. Edmunds says you might get as much as $6000 in trade for a base Mini with manual and no options. Whatever you buy will Carr over $1000 to the new loan. You might consider a new Yaris hatchback, or a competing car. I wouldn’t buy a used Toyota or Honda. Great cars, but they command a much higher price than they are worth to me. If you buy used, look at small Chevy, Ford, Mazda cars. They are reliable and will cost a couple-athree thousand less than the same year Toyota or Honda.

I would look around a bit and see what is setting around for sale or repair shops waiting to be repaired and avoid those,seriously a new Versa or something like that would be better then a 2-3 year old economy car(because Caveat Emptor- used cars with a good rep are generally overpriced) and check out the volume dealers-Kevin

Of the cars you listed, I’d recommend the Honda Fit. Avoid the VW Golf as it will be more expensive to fix and probably less reliable.

Leasing is not a good idea and the best route is a new or good used car.

You have this focus on 300 dollars a month. If you’re going through a dealer on financing it is not a good idea to let the dealer know this. The majority of people do focus on the monthly total and while doing so become unaware they’re being dragged across the coals on the interest rate, years of payments, total cost, and so on.

You’re assuming that because the Mini has problems this means it’s a Lemon. More than likely any problems were inflicted by the previous owner who decided to dump the car on Craigslist and let some other unsuspecting person deal with it. Neglect or abuse does not mean Lemon status.

What’s also unclear is what you mean by a reliable car that you don’t have to worry about. This could mean one of several things. It could mean a car that is driven daily with little or no maintenance being done (maybe the Mini you currently own…) and that will become a problem in short order.

Avoid the Fiat, no track record. I like the Fit. Buy, don’t lease.

You are right about Toyota and Honda being more used. But they are more used for a reason and not just because buyers drink their “false reliability claim cool aid.” The important fact is, they are more in resale for OP as well with historically lower operating costs for their basic models like the Corolla, Camry , Civic and Accord.

Recently when CR composed a list of cars with the “best value rating” these cars did very well with an Awd Subaru Legacy on top. Yes you will pay more. But when it comes time to sell, you will get more for them in trade by every dealer and they have universal appeal when selling privately.

So even if you disagree about their actual reliability, at least their perceived reliability more then pays for itself. IMHO, staying away from them to buy something cheaper is not always best when frustration comes with that cheap car as a “mandatory option”.

You might consider a new Yaris hatchback

Why on earth would you recommend THAT thing? Did “Yaris lady” teach you nothing?

If you like the Honda Fit, look at the Mazda 2 or Ford Fiesta. If nothing else, you might have some room for haggling on price than you would with Honda. Or a Hyundai Accent would make a good choice as well.

the regular VW Golf (not tdi or gti) will be less reliable than the fit but not by as much as you might think, The Honda Fit is a great little car and has proven to be reliable. Used/Certified late model honda’s/Toyota’s can be close to what you should be able to get a brand new one for. Mazda2 is another option if you don’t mind the small size. If you are thinking of the Prius V you might be able to get a Mazda3 5 Door which will get you great mileage with a little more power.

Speaking of Mazda, what in the world is their “Skyactiv” engines and transmissions? Don’t they know that coming up with some of this new stuff like “eco whatever” “cvt” and the old “wankel” scares some of us off?

Buy, for sure. It’s almost always cheaper and you won’t be stuck with another car you don’t like. New or used is harder. With your limited means I’d say used, but not more than about three years, and it must have full maintenance records. If you plan on keeping the car forever, buy new. If you have the car for a decade or more, the difference in cost between new and used becomes insignificant, and with a new car you’ll know exactly what you’ve bought.

Of the cars you name, I’d stay away from the Fiat. It’s cute, but ultimate reliability is still unknown and it’s overpriced for a low-powered, modestly-equipped car. If you want small and cute you’re better off with a Mazda2. The Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio are also good bargain choices. They are all modestly equipped (like the Fiat), efficient, well made, roomy in the front seat, light and airy, and just nice. Hard to describe why, but they feel sensible, not cheap. The Yaris is also OK, but somehow doesn’t feel as nice to me as the others. More of a sensible shoes car. Also in that category is the related Scion xD, with a worse interior than the Yaris.

In the to-be-avoided group I’d put the Chevy Spark (tiny, tinny, slow), Chevy Sonic (reliability problems), Ford Fiesta (some reliability issues, overpriced, cramped, but cute), Scion IQ (unless you like clown cars or have no legs), Smart (slow, not as efficient as it should be, terrible at speed), Prius C (a Prius in name only, cramped, drives poorly, and not as economical as it should be), Nissan Versa (Consumer Reports and auto magazines agree on this - they hate it - and so do I), and Dodge Dart (questionable reliability, interior out of a 1990 Pontiac). I probably missed a few. Some of those are not terrible (and some are), but they all have some disadvantage I can’t overlook when there are better cars around.

The Fit is a hair pricier than those cars, but it’s also roomier (massively) and a little nicer. Everyone loves the Fit. Auto magazines think it’s fun to drive (if not quick), and Consumer Reports says its reliability is excellent. I might have bought one a year ago except most of our driving is long distances on freeways and the Fit isn’t the most comfortable car for that. We wanted something with a few more amenities. If you mostly commute or drive around the city, the Fit is ideal.

In the stylish, fun, but slightly more expensive category I like the Hyundai Veloster. It’s surprisingly roomy for something that looks so tiny, and it has loads of personality.

I like both the Prius and the Golf, too, but think they aren’t a good match for your circumstances, being quite a bit more expensive. You sound as if you should be budgeting for an economy car, and those are a big step up. The Golf has OK reliability, better than most German cars, but it will still likely cost more to maintain and repair over its life than one of the better economy cars. The Prius is a nice car and very reliable, but it costs more up front and you won’t get that repaid in improved economy for a few years. A much cheaper car like the Fit will cost you less overall unless you do massive amounts of start-and-stop driving, where nothing beats the Prius.

If you do not want repairs and want a compact car and not buy new, I would buy a low mileage corolla or Nissan versa. Both of them are problem free compact cars.