Looking for Good User Car

I have been driving a '99 Nissan Sentra for the last several years with good luck. I am now looking to buy another used car (automatic)that is reliable and that costs up to $10,000 or $11,000. I will mostly use the car to get to work and back and for an occasional longer trip (to give my husband’s Honda Civic a break).

My mother-in-law has a 2000 Toyota Echo which has sat around oustide for a year or two. Because the insurance ran out, I couldn’t really see how the pick-up in the car was. She would probably sell for $5,000 or less. The used Sentra’s that I have seen seem to be about $13,000 and I’m not sure how much dealers will come down. I have seen much mention on your site about the Hundayi Elantra. My only concern is longevity and cost for repairs. I haven’t had to put much money into my Sentra and I had a Corolla that was also excellent, but I don’t have the budget.

If the Echo has not been abused, I would take it. Echos are excellent cars, and will cost less to fuel and keep running than Sentras or Elantras. You may have to spend $1000 or so to bring it up to the condition of a reliable daily driver. The Echo, now Yaris, is a perfect second car.

The Echo is a very reliable vehicle, but one that has been sitting may need some work to get it back into good shape, and you didn’t tell us the mileage on it.

There are MANY good choices in used cars. Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Echo, Chevrolet Prizm (Corolla in disguise), Nissan Sentra, and any Scion model. This is not a complete list.

The newer Hyundai and Kia vehicles are vastly superior to the older models. I would not hesitate to recommend a used Hyundai or Kia from about 2005 onward.

As with any car, maintenance is the key to reliability and longevity. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for whatever car you buy and it will serve you well.

Your only real problem is that small, fuel-efficient cars, new or used, are in very high demand right now, and they are priced accordingly. Within the price range you specified, however, I think there should be a good selection from which to choose.

You can drive it around the block without insurance. I’ll bet the tags have expired, too. Still, I wouldn’t worry too much unless the MIL lives next to the police station. If it really has been sitting for a year or more without running, you need to be careful when you start the car. You might change the oil before you turn the engine over. I believe that some folks around here recommend putting a tablespoon of oil directly into the cylinders, too. You add the tablespoon through the spark plug ports. Let’s get some more responses before you fire it up. You probably need a couple gallons of fresh gas, too. Use your lawn mower can for that.

Uhhh, if you have no insurance, you assume all the risk if there is an accident. You can get coverage with a phone call. Not worth it without it, unless you are a rugged individualist. Then, go for it!

The Echo will be a serious downgrade in car(comfort/ride/room) from your Sentra. If you can put up with that have a mechanic take a look at it.

In the used market look for a car that is 3 year old or older. The balance of depreciation vs repair/maintenance is at the best point typically.

Thank you for your comments. My mother-in-law’s Echo has about 22,000 miles on it. I’m now curious about the Hundayis and will try one out to see what I think. I have heard of the Chevy Prism and didn’t realize that they still made them.

“I have heard of the Chevy Prism and didn’t realize that they still made them.”

They haven’t made these Corolla clones for about 6 years, but if you are lucky, you can find a Prizm on a used car lot. Depending on the model year, it could be branded as a Geo Prizm (1990-1997) or a Chevy Prizm (1998-2002).

Personally, I wouldn’t drive it an inch on public roads without liability insurance.