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Looking for a new, used car and working with dealership

It’s been awhile since I purchased a car and I’m looking for some advice. I’m a single mom looking to buy a used car. I want good - high safety ratings, good gas mileage, low maintenance vehicle. Something around $8 - $9000. Would like 2005 - 2012. I was thinking of a Subaru Forester, Pontiac Vibe or something similar to this but I’m open to others as well. Anyone have any good recommendations?

Also any advice on negotiating with a dealer and what is reasonable to offer below advertised sale price?

Read this thread about Subaru head gasket problems:

Many 4-cylinder Subarus are plagued with this expensive problem. The consensus from that thread was the 6 cylinder engines don’t have that problem, or 4 cylinders built after 2011.

I personally would stay away from most GM products, though they are improving in quality.

You might also look at a Honda CRV, Mazda CX7, or Toyota RAV 4.

For that money, in my area, you can get something like this:

Agree, stay away from any Subaru sellling for $8000-$9000. At that price, a Mazda3, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, CRV (2 wheel drive), Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Matrix would be good choices. Stay away from anything with 4 wheel drive; repairs will be very costly.

I believe a Civic or Corolla is a better choice than a Mazda3

The Mazda3 has kind of a rough ride

Definitely read the Consumer Reports Used Car Guide before deciding. Available in bookstores and most public libraries. One of the few sources of objective reliability ratings of used cars. It has some safety and economy info too I believe.

When negotiating, everything is negotiable. Reasonableness has nothing to do with it. The dealership certainly isn’t going to let reasonableness guide them. What you have in your favor is completion between vendors. So let your feet do the negotiating. Get price info from several vendors. Offering 10%-20% below the asking price wouldn’t even raise a dealership’s eyebrow. But they may not be willing to sell the car to you at that price. It’s not that they dislike you or want to take advantage of you per se, it is just that they are in the business of selling cars, know all the tricks, and know how much they’ll likely be able to get, if not from you, from someone else.

Edit: Once you decide on the car you want, having the check already written out can be effective btw. Fill in everything, the amount you want to pay, the dealership name, reference to the car you want, just leave the signature blank. Show the dealership this check, since all you need to do for them to cash-out on the deal is for you to sign the check, their greed might work for you to close the deal.

I would look at the Mazda3,Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe(same car) Honda CRV or Toyota Rav4

there might be others but most importantly find one in the best shape for your budget.

Look here for fuel economy:

Here for prices and repair ratings:,

Here for safety:

Start anywhere you want. These sites will provide information to educate you. Narrow the list down and then drive a few to see what you like. After that, start shopping.

I would avoid the Vibe/Toyota Matrix which are the same car from the same plant, because the plant closed and they are no longer made. Parts will likely become a problem. I have had no problem with my Pontiac G6 though in 100,000 miles, but that’s me. For that price range, in addition to Doc’s list, you might have to settle for an Impala or Malibu. There are lots of them around from rentals and lower in price, while reasonably reliable.

The big issue to me is that you’re a single mom and I’m assuming that you’re not mechanically inclined. Any used car can have problems and sometimes those problems are not detectable by even a well-qualified mechanic.

Any car you decide on should really be looked at by a competent mechanic or at least given a lengthy test drive before purchase; paying careful attention to how it runs, any noises that may exist, how it handles, function of the A/C, eyeing the operating temperature, and so on.
This should be done in silence with no radio on and any gabby salesman keeping his mouth shut for the most part.

As to price negotiations that will vary based on things such as the desireability of the car, how long the dealer has had that car sitting on the lot, etc, etc.
My rule of thumb has always been to try and get them down by at least 10% off the asking price.
It doesn’t always work but that’s the end game anyway.

The Matrix and Vibe may no longer be made, but models are discontinued and plants closed all the time. Both GM and Toyota are still around to provide support for these cars. They share much of their platform with the ubiquitous Corolla, so many parts will be readily available and cheap. The other parts will be no scarcer than those of any other discontinued model.from the two biggest car makers on the planet. Anyhow, these are decent cars in a handy size, part wagon, part hatch, part crossover. The Kia Soul and Honda Element are two more boxy vehicles of similar size, as is the current Ford C-Max, only sold as a hybrid.

Other compact hatches I like are the Mazda3, Honda Fit (smaller), Hyundai Elantra GT and the older Elantra Touring small wagon, Kia Forthe hatch, VW Golf. I also like the Ford Focus and Chevy Sonic, bit both have had reliability issues. The Toyota Yaris is reliable, but not very nice, noisy and rough. The Nissan Versa is dismal, strictly bargain transport. For similar money I’d get either a Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, or Mazda2.

Unfortunately it’s hard to make hard and fast used suggestions because cars get redesigned every few years. The current Yaris is maybe barely tolerable, but better than the one from a few years ago. A Ford Focus from a few years back is not so bad. It was simpler and more reliable than the current model, which is generally nicer.

“I would avoid the Vibe/Toyota Matrix which are the same car from the same plant, because the plant closed and they are no longer made.”

The NUMMI factory closed in 2010, but Toyota continued building the Matrix through the 2013 model year in Canada at their Corolla plant. Parts will be available for quite a while.


The Matrix/Vibe used many Corolla parts

In fact, the engine and transmission were used in many other Toyota vehicles

Plus, Toyota’s not going belly up anytime soon

The only problem might be sheetmetal parts

But that’ll happen to any old car, given enough time

In regards to the Ford Focus, it handles reasonably well, but I think it’s put together rather shoddily. Cheap plastic interior, as far as the eye can see . . . I might accept that in a small pickup truck, but not in a point a-b car

My 1995 Corolla had a higher quality interior, when I got rid of it in 2012

Let’s consider most people spend more time sitting inside the car than underneath, like me . . .

That said, I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend with some manufacturers (Toyota too, unfortunately) to use ever more of the cheap plastic for the interior

Seems to be an industry trend

And under the hood. Properly used, the ones in the interior don’t bother me. But in applications subject to mechanical stresses and to heat, vibration, and impact, plastic is often not the best choice… only the cheapest.

My daughter has a 2005 Mustang. It’s been a great car, easy to service, and fun to drive but the one turnoff on that car is the amount of plastic used on the interior.

Everything in it from stem to stern and port to starboard is hard, black plastic. The seats are vinyl but even that vinyl has kind of a hard plastic feel to it.

When I wonder did all the naugas become extinct?
And what exactly is alcantra?

Just think; 1.5 billion years from now when the suns goes cold, the earth will be dark, cold, and littered with plastics for all eternity.

Someone else remembers the Nauga… :slight_smile:

Naugahyde seats . . . that was a high quality material, I believe

I seem to recall that it’s actually a pretty thick material

And I also seem to recall that some guys restoring car upholstery choose naugahyde over leather

I assume it’s because of the price . . .

Both BMW and Mercedes put high quality vinyl in their cars with the base interiors, lasts about forever.

Believe it or not, due to the establishment of the Nauga Defense Fund, (NDF), the nauga was not hunted to extinction. Many now live comfortably in retirement in a refuge near Del Boca Vista.