Looking for a new car

The transmission on my '92 Volvo is shot and I am opting to purchase another car rather than spend a couple thousand replacing the transmission on my car which has almost 220,000 miles on it. I am a college student and I don’t have an open budget, $2,000 is the maximum I can spend (preferably less!). I commute to school and work so I drive about 60-70 miles daily. I have been looking around at used Volvos but I would like to get some suggestions for other vehicles to look at.

Does anyone have suggestions for sturdy, reliable cars I should look for in my price range? Much appreciated :slight_smile:


In the $2000 price range, you can’t be choosy about the make of automobile. Go for the car that is in the best condition mechanically. You are driving a lot of miles a day, which makes it even more difficult to find a suitable car.
If your 1992 Volvo isn’t rusted and the engine runs well and the steering is o.k., it might be better to repair the transmission in your present car. You may spend more than that making a $2000 car roadworthy.

Old Volvos are money pits. I’d never consider buying one in that price range.

It’s unreasonable to expect a reliable car for $2,000 (although anyone can get lucky). Try to find a car being sold by a private party with a documented maintenance history. Bring it to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. Good luck!

Beer Budget - " . . . $2,000 is the maximum I can spend (preferably less!)."
Champagne Taste - " . . . I drive about 60-70 miles daily . . . suggestions for sturdy, reliable cars . . . "

You are attempting the impossible.
I know a lot about cars and would be hard pressed to find a suitable vehicle for double your budget and then a used car in that price range is always a bit of a crap shoot. Even then you’d have to have several hundred dollars in reserve for tires, brakes, timing belt, or other things the car would need immediately or in the not too distant future to make it half way reliable.

Do you have any friends or relatives that have a decent car who would give you a great deal just because of the relationship ? If not then you’ll have to find a source for more money or a different means of travel.

Stay away from used Volvos !


$2,000 AND Reliable for a 60-70 mile a day commute. Pick one…Not both.

Thank you for the comments! I understand fully that I cannot expect a car in perfect condition for my price range which is why I am asking for guidance towards the better makes. My stepdad is good with Volvos which is why they are something I am leaning towards because he can handle the labor of most fixes a Volvo might need and my father is good friends with a mechanic who will help me out if my car needs work for a lower cost so I have that aspect pretty much covered. In future semesters I will not be driving as much daily as I am now so the mileage will not be AS much of a concern.
Again- thanks for your input.

You’re very far away from “perfect condition”. For $2,000, expect a car that will break down and strand you on your commute from time to time.

Unfortunately, the OP is about 20 years too late for a used car in the $2,000 category to be anywhere near reliable. A car with that low a price nowadays will inevitably have a HUGE amount of mileage on the odometer and an unpredictable but inevitable series of problems that will lead to frequent trips to a mechanic.

Yes, you can buy a used car for that price, but you will need to budget at least $1,000 additional money each year for routine repairs. Additionally, the OP has to realize that there will be many days when the car will simply NOT (pick one or more):
Run properly
Steer properly

You might try hitting the garage sales on saturday morning. Check you local paper for locations. Sometimes someone will have a car they no longer use and did not advertise, but will sell. I know people who have gotten some real bargains this way. Avoid vehicles with ANY body damage, however minor and torn up interiors. They might be dirty, paint faded etc, but no dents, no worn out seats, no matter how good it seems to run at that time.

Keith, the avoid stuff is good advice, but I’m not sure she’ll be able to pull it off with only 2 grand.

Keith- thank you! I will definitely do that.

I know a used car for such money will need repairs along the way- that I can handle and have covered. My first car I paid $1,000 including the immediate repairs it needed and it was incredibly reliable for over four years and 50,000 miles (on top of the 172,000 at purchase). It never left me stranded and only needed minor repairs. So I know I am not attempting the impossible, just the very difficult. Hopefully I’ll find something that will get me through the next couple years of school until I can afford something better.
Thanks for all the input.

Its sheer luck on older vehicles for $2000. It is prudent to do a mechanic check upfront before final purchase.

Since you attend a college, check bulletin boards. Near the end of a semester, there may be a faculty member going on leave, a student going abroad, etc. and needs to sell car in a hurry.

You simply CANNOT go wrong with a Honda Accord…Accord Wagon…or the Civic. The 94’-97’ Accords and the 5th and 6th Gen Civics (5th = 92’-95’ and 6th 96-00’) are some of the most robust and reliable vehicles on the planet…and since there have been so many revisions/new models of the same car since, the 94’-97’ models (Accords) have dropped into your price range. I have owned several Accords and Civics…drove them many years and sold them at a profit in the end.

Other vehicles are the 240 series VUVU’s…Toyota Corolla/Camry/Celica…Nissan… Whatever you can Afford from … Honda…Toyota…Nissan…Volvo (240 Series)…

Thanks! I did some research and found the same info on Toyota, Nissan, and Honda so I’m heading in that direction.

I sold a 96 Honda Civic with close to 200k to someone for $2200. I let them know it needed a timing belt, last major service at 100k, oil change, struts and failing AC. They were happy to buy it still as they only needed for 6 months.

Honda’s are overpriced used cars. I think you are paying for the badge more than the car.

Find a 4 cylinder stick-shift pick-up truck…Look hard and ferret out the best one you can for the money…

Whatever car you decide to buy, it might be worth it to check up on the maintenance schedule to see whether its due for major maintenance (such as the timing belt = several hundred dollars). I just had the timing belt done yesterday and felt “lucky” to get away with $415. Since you’ll likely spend your entire budget on the car, you might not want to buy one at say 100ish K miles which immediately needs expensive maintenance. If your step dad can do that maintenance for you that’s great, but if not then please be sure it’s been maintained for you. Because if you are like I was in college, you might neglect the maintenance due to low funds and wind up destroying the whole car. Not accusing just speaking from experience :slight_smile:

Also, I would suggest getting a car that doesn’t do a lot of things by itself. For example, manual EVERYTHING. Manual trans, manual locks, manual windows, manual seat moving, no power steering. No AC. My theory is, it’ll lower the price of the car and be less likely to break (and therefore need repair$). Plus you can complain the car doesn’t have anything and haggle them down.

I’d suggest trying to find an older car with low mileage. ('80’s - '90’s) If you can find one that has been previously owned by an older person or older couple that no longer drives there’s a good chance you might find a good car that doesn’t need much if any work at a decent price. About 3 years ago I bought an '88 Ford Escort GL for $800. that had been previously owned by an older lady that was no longer able to drive. The car had 78,000 original miles on it, a new set of tires and the body and interior were near perfect. In the 3 years I’ve owned the car all I’ve done to it is change the oil/filter and repair the a/c which I knew wasn’t working when I bought it. So regardless of what others say there are some good dependable low cost cars out there, it’s just a matter of finding them. In '93 I bought another '88 Escort with 146,000 miles on it for $500., all it needed was 2 tires and a good cleaning. I still own it, it’s got 518,400 miles and still running. Many times these types of cars are not on a car lot, but sitting in someone’s yard or driveway with a for sale sign, listed in a local newspaper or wheel’s and deals type publications. I personally own a '97 model that’s just like a new car, it has 32,000 miles on it and sits in the garage 95% of the time.

If your current car is in good condition other than the transmission problem you might be better off to have the transmission repaired and keep the car you know the condition of. 200,000 miles isn’t that many miles for a car that’s been well maintained. We have 7 cars in the family, one has over 500,000 miles, 2 of them are near 200,000 miles, and 2 of them are between 100,000-150,000 miles. Good luck.

That is really helpful advice, thanks so much!