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Help! What would the best car be for me?

You have helped out in the past when I had questions about mechanical stuff on my old car (totaled in an accident) so now I am turning to the forum members for further advice.

I am in the market for a used car. Here are my specs: I can spend $8500, I’d like something that isn’t more than 4-5 years old and is easy on the wallet maintenance and insurance wise. Bells and whistles, such as power doors and windows, are nice but I can live without them.

I have some choices, but I am interested in what the forum would suggest.

With so much money, you can start with a Consumer Reports subscription. Before you start, a bookstore may have a Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide and it could have recommendations in it.

Car buying is a highly personal decision. With $8500 and reasonably humble expectations, there are a lot of good solid choices. Just stay away from the small independent used car dealers.

Consumer reports used car buying guide is an excellent reference. Make note of how well the car holds its value. There is a reason why some cars loose 2/3 of their initial value after 4 years and others loose only 1/3.

Like they said, get the CR buying guide, then go to, say,, put in your price range, see what pops up. You’ve not told us enough to recommend any particular cars/trucks/suvs/cuvs/etc…

Honestly, without more to go on it’s hard to make a suggestion. Do you want/need 2 doors or 4? Large car, small car, lots of space for hauling stuff, high mileage important?

I could suggest anything from a Mazda Miata to a Ford Crown Vic. It’s a pretty wide field for that price range.

The information in the files at the URL are used by the auto insurance companies to determine what you pay for insurance. Find a catagory or two that you are interested in (e.g., small or midsize) and then find the cars with the lowest payouts for damage and injury. You have a short list of cars to choose from. You’ll need to confirm the actual cost with your insurer, but this relationship will hold: cars that cost them less will be insured for less.

Yes, more info is needed. How many miles will you be driving this car on an annual basis?

Okay, here are some further specs: I want to go economy again, # of doors doesn’t matter, average yearly miles about 12k, yes, good gas mileage (can’t believe I left these things out) is important, as is a/c, as I will be moving to New Orleans in two years. So I need something that will last me.

I will look into consumer reports and the insurance link above, that will definitely be a factor in my decision as well.

I am not going to answer your question, but I have other advice. Two years is a long time ahead to know you are moving, retirement?

After you arrive in NOLA, if Thomas Alexander is still running Kehoe Automotive at 5000 Freret St. Take your vehicle there. He runs a good shop.

I’d be looking at a Nissan Sentra or Altima, maybe a Ford Focus or Mazda 3. Those are all about the size of a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, but will have lower resale than Hondas or Toyotas, so you’ll find a newer model with less miles for the same cost. A Hyundai Elantra or Sonata might be had only a year or two old for the kind of money you want to spend. I’d put them higher on the list, except the new car bumper-to-bumper warranty doesn’t transfer to a second owner. The power train warranty does, though.

I am no where near retirement, but thanks for the recommendation. I just love the city and need to take a leap.

Hmm, an Elantra or Sonata. I hadn’t looked into those. Right now I have another Accent at the top of my list (bummer about the warranty- that would be a really good deal if it transferred) and close behind a Focus. In my haste at the library I picked up the CR new car buying guide rather than the used guide. I’ll have to get that and look up insurance info on the above mentioned cars. Anybody else have any other opinions?


I suggest a Toyota Camry. Most Toyota’s hold their value.

Which is why you’d be better off looking for the Chevy clone. The Chevy Prizm is a clone of the Corolla, much the same as the Vibe is a Matrix. But, because of the Chevy badge on the car, you’ll get a much newer car for a cheaper amount.

You can get a 2001/2002 Camry or a 2004 Malibu for $8500. Both are available with 4-cyl engines.

Since your purchase will be a used car, be sure to have it inspected first by a competent independent mechanic.

I definitely plan on getting it inspected.

A camry for that price? I would never have thought of that. I’ll have to look into that, as well as the Prizm and the Malibu. I did test drive a corolla today and it was nice, but that is just too expensive. It was an '03 I think.

Sio here’s what else I tested. Any opinions/advice on these would be appreciated, although I know it is mine that matters the most.

I tested an '04 dodge neon. It could be worked down into my price range. I think it was the se model. The engine was kinda noisy and it was basic (a/c, radio, no power features), the acceleration and handling seemed good.

I also tested an '06 ford focus zx4 sedan. I liked this one better. Engine was a bit noisy too, but seemed to have a bit more power than the neon. Crank handle windows (very low) was kind of odd, but a cd player was nice. Lots of cup holders, more than necessary, was also odd. It went up a decent hill pretty well. The seating (the one I sat in at least) was comfortable and a/c was nice. Braking was sufficient. Just don’t know about the price, but I got a business card.

I also tested an '07 chevy aveo. For $13000 (sale price) I would expect a cd player. Oh yeah, then there was the pushy salesman. I will not be going back there, so I’ll have to hit another mazda dealer, as i want to test the mazda 3.

I have rented Neons multiple times and think they are not good cars for the long term. The Caliber isn’t any better. I would also eliminate the Aveo until we see the reliability record get better. If you can find the Apr 08 Consumer Reports, you can check out their reviews of each car and how they stand, over time. My copy is misplaced, so I can’t really help you further.

I actually looked at that report this weekend and have a copy of the “best and worst used cars” article. The 04 Neon is listed as one of the best in the $8k-$10k range. An 04 Aveo is listed as one of the cars to avoid. Like I said in a previous posting, I am going to get the correct guide at the library. That should help with my research as well.

Oh, I don’t know if this will make any difference opinion wise, but the focus had about 30k miles and was previous rental. The neon had about 45-50k miles on it. Not sure if it was a rental or a trade in.

Can someone give me some clarity as to the “cooling off” period here in CA? I asked a dealer if I could get a price in writing that was good next week (as the consumer guide tips sheet suggested I do) and he responded by saying “there is no cooling off period in CA.”

Hi, Jamie.

The dealer’s response to you was a bit odd and off topic. “There is no cooling off period in CA” means that once you sign the contract to buy the car, there is no going back. In other words, if you sign the contract and start regretting it an hour (or even a minute) later, you can’t cancel it. It’s a done deal. So DON’T sign anything that makes you feel ambivalent.

Asking for a price that “was good next week” should not have elicited that response. Just negotiate a price and if you’re not comfortable with the ultimate price, just walk away. You can tell him you need to think about it. If he comes back with “that offer is only good for today”, screw it. There will always be other used cars.

Have you tried looking at private sales, like on craigslist? A private party seller may or may not be trying to take advantage of you. A car salesman WILL be trying to take advantage of you because it’s his job to do so.