Looking for suggestions on what car to buy


I’m in the market for a new used car, but I don’t have a clear idea of what models I should be looking for.

Intended use is very low mileage, just here and there in suburban Boston. (Probably < 5k miles per year.) It should be good for hauling stuff like thrift store finds. Might very rarely need to accommodate up to three people. Appearance of the car isn’t important. And given the low number of miles to be driven the mi/gal isn’t particularly important.

The primary driver is very short (5’), and wants as small a car as possible, but doesn’t like low cars - wants something more upright. A 4-Runner comes to mind, but the 4WD isn’t needed and would simply add cost and maintenance. Another thought is a Honda Element. I’m sure there must be many things that would fill the bill.

I’m looking to spend as little as possible, both initially and in maintenance.


Aren’t we all looking to do that. Seriously, with a short driver looking in person is the only way to find something suitable. Or even look at a low cost lease.


You consider a 4-runner to be a small vehicle!?

In your situation I’d be looking for a used Civic because it’s cheap and reliable, but as you want an SUV, look at the Hyundai Tucson.


Given your criteria, a used Nissan Leaf is your least expensive option. Figure about $10K for a three-year-old car still under its original drivetrain warranty with low miles. It’s a hatch with a wide opening and a nearly flat floor with the rear seats folded. Owners brag about the low maintenance endlessly online. Not ready to go electric? Consider a used Scion iM or new Toyota Corolla iM (renamed). Under $19K new and it comes with 2 years of included maintenance and active safety standard. Given your very low miles per year, a leased car would also keep your initial costs down. The ride height of these hatchabacks is not as low as a sedan, but if you need a higher ride, any of the top-selling compact crossovers is your ticket. The Honda Element is gone but not forgotten. Owners loved them, but the used market is tight.


The Kia Soul is certainly worth a look (especially if appearance doesn’t matter).


Oops - I meant RAV4, not 4-Runner.


A Rav-4 is still large compared to a hatchback. What sort of thrift store finds do you have in mind? If it’s furniture, even a midsize SUV might be too small. If you have guaranteed off street parking in Boston, a small or midsize SUV might work. If furniture is the thrift store stuff, consider a minivan. We haul furniture in ours. Tonight we are going to pick up a six place kitchen table and four chairs with our minivan.


For reference, this will be a replacement for a 2003 Focus SVT hatchback that is in the process of dying. I think that probably has enough room in back (though more would be better) But it has a lower driver position than desired.

Another car that comes to mind is the Scion xB. (Wasn’t this called the “bread truck”?) But I never got a good look at one. The Nissan Cube looks cute in pictures, but I’m never seen one of them up close either.

I’m not really looking for anything new, or even recent.


the scion xb would be worth a look, the later generation has more power but might not have the same height to the seats.

I have several co-workers with Kia Soul’s and one in particular likes the seating position compared to her 2002 Focus that she previously owned.

The Honda Element could very well fit the bill, the Nissan Cube looks cute but either the XB or the Soul are better to drive.


Maybe also give us a budget.


RE budge: I don’t know how much I should need to pay to meet these needs. I would like to stay under $10k, preferably considerably under that. But I’m prepared to adjust that after understand what the tradeoffs are.


Honda Fit '07-‘09 is in Consumer Reports’ “Reliable Used Cars for Every Budget” list in the under $10,000 category. Newer Fits are also recommended, at higher prices. Electronic Stability Control started as an option in '09, has been standard since '11.

Most reviews I’ve read of the Fit comment on how spacious and versatile its interior is.


Isn’t the Honda Fit close to the same form factor as the Focus hatchback? I’m hoping for something with a higher seating position than that.


I’ve never been in either. Subaru Forester is somewhat higher seating than Focus and Fit. Very popular here in MN. Often called a small SUV, to my mind it’s a tall station wagon with AWD.


My sister in-law is five-foot-nuthin and she had no problem driving her Chrysler Town and Country. That will carry just about anything you find at a thrift store. If the T&C can accommodate a short person without phone books or pedal extensions, I imagine most other minivans will do the same.


[quote=“phk, post:13, topic:108508, full:true”]
Isn’t the Honda Fit close to the same form factor as the Focus hatchback?

I’m hoping for something with a higher seating position than that


Go look at one then you will have your answer
Again a personal inspection will let you know if seating is acceptable or not.


Honda CRV are very reliable, and sit upright. In my 2011 the gas mileage is not so good for its size, but
in your case as mine that is not very important. I recommend the car.


PS. There are a few Honda CRV which are FWD only.


My son went to Berklee College of Music in Boston and lived there for a few years after school.
Parking costs a fortune there, if you can even find or purchase a space. I’m talking four figures a month. Have you made parking arrangements?


I bet if you compare the cost of driving a vehicle large-enough to accommodate ‘thrift store finds’ all the time to the cost of driving the cheapest car suitable for all other purposes (Consumer Reports points to Honda Fit) and renting a pickup (or hiring an Uber) for the occasional thrift-store-find (or giving up on them and buying new), the Fit would be cheaper.

I see Home Depot pickups that advertise that you can rent them for $19/day - do you have to make a purchase at Home Depot to get that rate? Could you buy a $1 brush then drive the pickup to the thrift store to take your ‘find’ home?