I sadly need a new car -- tips/advice, etc...?



So very sad… my '94 cavalier’s transmission is making sounds indicating that its seven years of service to me is about over. I won’t lie - I get mocked daily for this little car (esp. after the accident that knocked out the front light and was replaced with duct tape), but I’ll miss it. I’ve never had a car payment and I’m not looking forward to it. As I should technically be an “adult” now, any advice for buying a car? I just want a little car w/good gas mileage. I’ll probably have to get a car loan for this car and I’m ok with spending around $15k or so. I’m looking at a Toyota Corolla. Any thoughts? New? Used? It has to be an automatic (I know embarrassing…).


Corollas are hard to beat. My daughter recently sold a '91 Corolla with 180,000 miles on it, and it was still running well.

Honda Civics are very reliable and economical, too. Either of those cars would fit your requirements.


The car that replaced her Corolla is a 2005 Hyundai Accent, currently at 15K miles, which has been delivering 36-38 mpg tank after tank. No way to know yet whether it will last as long as the Corolla, but so far it’s been a good car.


Any Toyota or Honda product is hard to beat. Scions, which are 100% Toyota, can be bought for well under $15K and you get an awful lot for the money.


If you’re looking at used cars, a Chevrolet Prizm is mechanically identical to a Corolla, and sometimes sells for a bit less. The Toyota name commands a price premium, but the Prizm is every bit as reliable and economical as the Corolla. They still make new Corollas, but the don’t make Prizms any more.


A new Corolla should be a good choice. Around the Kansas City area, you can generally get a Corolla with minimum options for less than $15K. If you want a good car that is good transportation, the Corolla is a good choice. We have owned two and both performed well.


Thanks for the advice all – does anybody know if any year models work better than others? I once heard that they do redo the bodies every four years so it’s best to buy at the end of the four-year cycle? Any truth?




Personally, I would never borrow money to buy a car, and would not buy a new car due to the initial depreciation. My advice is to find a good solid used car in your price range and write a check for it, then start saving for your next car with your “car payment” money. If you absolutely have to borrow money, find the least expensive decent car they meets your needs and borrow as little as possible. Borrowing money is not a good way to build wealth.


Comsumer Reports or other books should help alot to find out which cars are best / years are best. This is how we determined which car to buy after our famous car case and then we looked around until we found one at the right price. Been a great car for 2 years too.


If you want a new car, I’d check out the Hyundai Elantra in comparison to the Corolla. The Accent is very small in the back seat, the Elantra can actually carry adult passengers back there. They have a 5 year bumper-to-bumper warranty, so if you keep you loan term shorter than that you should not have to worry about both car payments and repair bills at the same time.

As Craig58 says, it’s better not to borrow money to buy a car if you can manage it. I can find $2000 cars any day of the week that will give you a few years service with minimal investment. They won’t be desirable or great looking, but solid transport. That takes a bit of know-how in what to look for.


Buy a post 2000 Hyundai Accent or Elantra. You can get decent ones fairly cheap. I have an 02 Accent, and it has had no problems at all - I got it for $7500 in 2005 with 24,500km on it, I now have 92,000km on it. Again, no problems at all. Plus I do all my own maintenance, so it’s been very cheap to drive.

Actually, if you’re in or near Eastern Ontario, I might be interested in selling it.


Check out the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. They are smaller than the Corolla, but get better gas mileage. They can both be purchased new for under $15,000 on the road. You might put a Corolla on the road for $15,000 - barely. Test drive them and see if you like them.


Needing transmission work is not an indication of needing a new car. Find out how much a rebuilt one or a brand new one will cost and compare that to the price of a new or used car. If you trade it in as it is, you’d probably get lucky to get $500 for it


I don’t susbscribe to the end-of-the-design cycle theory. If you do that you end up paying a new car price for an old style body. Body style does affect resale value. However, some folks do this to wait until all the buggs are worked out of the design, and that theory has some validity.

  • Mountainbike


Nissan Versa is rated very good second only to the Honda Fit, and can actually be purchased near dealer invoice about $13,000 with automatic and air, but will cost another $1000 dollars to get ABS because I think it requires you to get the power window option to get ABS (I could be wrong) . The Fit All thou will be be equipped standard with power windows and ABS will most likely go for full MSRP $15,900 plus tax tags destination and your close to $17,000 for a subcompact, all be it a vary good one. Those are the two best new subcompacts. I would check out both


I second mcparadise’s suggestion of a used prizm. Prizm’s were made on the same assemply line in California as some of the corollas. i.e. They are the same car except for the Badges.

According to Edmunds.com, you can get a 2002 Prizm LSI (the higher trim line) with 75000 miles for about $6600 from a dealer - about $2000 less than a similar Corolla. Buying from a private party would cost about $5600, but pay to have it professionally inspected before you buy.

You should be able to get another 10 years or so out of such a vehicle.

Until your finances allow you to pay cash for a new car, I think a used car is financially prudent.


Your first step should be an assessment of the Cavalier’s overall condition. Given its age, everything else could be on the verge of failure, too.

Provided the rest of the car is in good condition, consider another transmission. Rebuilt may not be much cheaper than new. A used transmission from a junk yard might be the cheapest way to get another few years out of the car.

All of the replacements suggested here are good candidates. If you decide on a used one, have it inspected first by a trustworthy mechanic. No inspection, no sale!