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Ideas for used car around $4000

My sister is looking to replace her old volvo sedan, that I believe is from the early to mid 80’s. She is only willing to spend around 4000, despite my efforts to convince her she can and should get a new car. She isnt budging. So here is some info about her lifestyle. She lives about a 10 minute walk to the University where she works, and therefore day in and day out she uses the car just to run errands, etc. She has a boyfriend that will occasionally use the car, but he has his own truck for work purposes. She has no children and does no hobby that requires carrying equipment places. She does make aproximatley two road trips a year from Iowa to Massachusetts. Her boyfriend, who even more so does not like to spend money, wants her to get a wagon so that she can have a place TO SLEEP on these road trips, as he would prefer not to pay for a motel room. I barked that this is no reason to buy a wagon.

My sister prefers older things, regardless of price, do to their looks. She says she does not like modern bubbly round type cars and loves the “tank like shape” of her volvo. I have suggested a Subaru Ouback Sport from around 1998 that seems to be coming in around 5k on craigslist. This would somewhat appease the “wagon” idea - and I think is basic enough of a car that it doesnt turn my sister off aesthetically. Do any of you have any other ideas? The 4000 is somewhat flexible I think…but I doubt the boyfriend would go for anything over 6000. Thanks

She should get herself another Volvo sedan. She should get one that is as new as you can get for $4,000.

The best cars I can think of for $4,000 are the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Prizm, which are mechanically identical. Neither is a wagon, but they’re both reliable, economical cars.

But I think you should let your sister decide what to buy. It is, after all, her money.

Is a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis even possible?? They are the road-trip champions, the most car value for your money…

If she wants a wagon, the Matrix or Vibe would be best.

4,000 is a tough price range. It’s enough that it’s a serious chunk of change, but most of the cars that you can buy in that range are old enough that there is a good potential for mechanical problems. (although obviously even if she buys two or three, she’ll end up ahead versus buying a new car!)

This problem especially bad with cars like the Outback you were looking at or a similar age of Volvo, because these are both cars that are very picky about their maintenance and if they haven’t been well maintained, this is just about the right age for them to start having serious engine and transmission failures. In my opinion, you’re actually safer buying something even older because you know they’ve been well-maintained to get to that point, but that is not the established wisdom.

If I had 4,000 to spend, I’d probably look at somewhat older vehicles, like maybe in the 93-98 range or so, and try to only spend 2-3000 so you have some in reserve for repairs that are inevitable for cars this age.

The condition of the individual car will be more important than the specific model, but Corolla or Camry station wagons would be probably the best if you can find a good one, or else I think the Buick Century/Olds Cutlass Cruisers that they made until '96 were pretty nice. The Taurus/Sable wagons can be okay too, if they’ve been well maintained. There’s also Honda Accord station wagons from I think 94-97 that would be pretty good bets too, but they tend to be somewhat pricey. The Subarus are okay, but if they haven’t been maintained, their all-wheel drive systems have the potential for very expensive failures.

Whatever she goes for, make sure she has an independent mechanic go over it with a fine-toothed comb BEFORE she buys.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1994-Buick-Roadmaster-Dynaride-Estate-Wagon-NO-RESERVE_W0QQitemZ330337740542QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Cars_Trucks?hash=item4ce9a9e6fe&_trksid=p4506.c0.m245&_trkparms=65%3A7|39%3A1|240%3A1308

And they are too small to sleep in! That will make Fritzz22 happy.

Another possibility is the Subaru Impreza. It will be about $4000 for a 1998. The 1998 Legacy sedan is also about $4000.

[B]The best cars I can think of for $4,000 are the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Prizm, which are mechanically identical. [/B]
Easily the very best buy in inexpensive transportation…pre 2002 Prisms can’t be beat for bang for the buck. We went through four of them and were NEVER disappointed.

I’d discourage your sister from sleeping in the car: it’s too dangerous to do for anything other than emergency duty.

Think about it: anyone can look in and see you; you’re very vulnerable. Additionally, as it’s a car, you can’t really get too far from the road, so you’re exposed.

I was homeless recently for about a month and did this. Even though there were no incidents, I never really felt safe like that.

8 to 12 year old Nissan Maxima.

If she uses the car so rarely, why does she need a new one? It’s money down the drain.

I say find another Volvo wagon. If she liked that, go for that.