Manual transmission used car recommendations


#1

We are looking for a good used car for our college-aged daughter. Does anybody know of a car that meets our three main criteria?

  1. Manual transmission
  2. Manual windows
  3. Hatchback or wagon

All this for under $10,000?


#2

You’ll have better luck finding a manual transmission than you will finding manual windows, but I don’t think staying below $10K will be difficult.

Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix are two that come immediately to mind. They are the same vehicle, mechanically, and both are very reliable. I’m guessing they all have power windows, however.

Other good choices would be a Subaru Impreza, Mazda Protege5, Scion xA or xB, or Ford Focus, which was, prior to 2007, available as a 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, or station wagon.

I’m sure others will have more suggestions. Manual windows are going to be a sticking point, however. You might want to check Consumer Reports magazine’s “Annual Auto Issue,” which is LOADED with helpful information for the used car buyer.

Just out of curiousity, what do you have against power windows?


#3

I’m also curious why the manual windows are such a major point (ahead of reliability, fuel economy, and other things that I expected to see in your list at first).

My guess is that if you do find a car with manual windows, it’ll be a super-stripped base model that might be missing other features that she might like to have.


#4

Adding Onto, “Just out of curiousity, what do you have against power windows?” . . .

. . . Just out of curiousity, what do you have against an automatic transmission ?
Is this to keep somebody else from driving the car ?

I’ve “been there, done that.” I helped supply my son with a car for college (50/50). He’s out now and my daughter will need a better car when she goes to college soon. I didn’t want a manual transmission.

I helped my son buy a $4000 Impala for his last 2 years of college. He finished the 2 years, went another year for an MBA, has been employed for the past year (using the MBA), and he’s still driving the Impala. It’s got power everything, automatic, etcetera. It gets 30 MPG hwy. Although it’s not a wagon or hatchback, it’s got lots of room and a rear seat back that folds flat.

It’s also got side-curtain airbags (in addition to front ones) and ABS brakes. It’s large and it scored well in crash tests. Safety was a very important feature for me in deciding what my kids would be driving, more so than windows and transmissions.

CSA


#5

My car meets most of those criteria. It’s a 1998 Honda Civic DX, although it’s a coupe, not a hatchback. I was shopping for a hatchback, but the coupe was a better deal. I got a new 1998 coupe for the same price as the 1999 hatchback. If you can find a 2000 Civic in good shape and about 100,000 on the odometer, that would be my choice, and if the one you find is a coupe instead of a hatchback, don’t let that stop you from buying it.

CSA, what makes you think the OP has something against automatic transmissions? Why assume it’s not just a preference? Perhaps sarastamey’s daughter simply prefers a manual transmission. Perhaps she wants lower costs for maintenance and repairs? Perhaps it’s the added safety of being able to push-start a car instead of depending on a stranger for a jump-start?


#6

We sent our kids through college with Chevy Prisms/Novas. There were three and two were manual. There may be some left from the early 2000’s. Never had a mechanical problem and mileage for each varied between 150 and 300 k miles. I highly recommend them or a Corrolla.


#7

" Perhaps she wants lower costs for maintenance and repairs? "
Are You Kidding Me ? This Is A Joke, Right ?

We run automatic cars hundreds of thousands of miles without transmission repairs and very little maintenace. I would purposely stay away from a used manual transmission car as clutches and internal repair costs are problematic.

“CSA, what makes you think the OP has something against automatic transmissions? Why assume it’s not just a preference?”

You’re the one doing the assuming. If the shopper didn’t list automatic, but did list manual then she/he must have something deemed not as desirable in an automatic. I wanted to find out if it was just preferecnce or what the perception was to see if there was a “work-around”. Who knows, they could be believing that manual transmissions in used cars have lower costs for maintenance and repairs.

:wink:
CSA


#8

No, I wasn’t joking. Between fluid changes/flushes and the cost of the fluid itself, I believe maintaining a manual transmission is a lot cheaper than maintaining an automatic transmission.

My manual transmission uses 10W-30 motor oil ($2.50-3.50/quart). How much does your ATF cost, $6/quart?

My manual transmission holds 1.9 quarts. What is the capacity of your automatic transmission, 5-6 quarts? How much fluid do you get out when you do a simple drain and refill, 2/3 of the capacity? How much does it cost to get all of the old fluid flushed out?

If we both change our own transmission oil, supplies will cost me less than 20% of what you spend, and I will have a complete fluid change. A complete fluid change for you would require a trip to the shop, at a cost of $80-120.

The cost of a clutch is pretty reasonable. However, my clutch is on its 207,000th mile, and it’s still the original, so I wouldn’t know from direct experience, but for the sake of argument, installing a NEW clutch is probably about 1/3 of the cost of installing a REBUILT transmission.


#9

I agree. Manuals if driven correctly in normal driving (whatever that is), need not have clutch work for the life of the car. That is if the car has that potential to begin with. If you tow or do a lot of in city driving, I would vote for an auto as more reliable. I feel it depends on what you use it for and why you can get two different opinions.


#10

“Between fluid changes/flushes and the cost of the fluid itself, I believe maintaining a manual transmission is a lot cheaper than maintaining an automatic transmission.”

Clutch replacement can be very expensive. Changing auto transmission fluid is about $60 each time someone else does it. If the clutch is replaced at 90,000 miles, that equates to $180 in fluid changes. Even if you go twice as long, AT fluid changes are still less than $400. Who’s going to replace a clutch for $400?


#11

Give me a transmission that will last 300K miles, I don’t care if it is automatic or manual. My preference for the manual is that you can baby the clutch for a long time which reduces the chance of being stranded or even late to work. With an automatic sometimes it just quits. I could shift a manual without the clutch, my wife would burn the clutch in 2 days, so she wins. Most of our cars have been automatic because she has to be able to drive them too. I like manual windows too, I know bare bone Corollas still have them. My kids were fascinated by the handle…


#12

With some luck, I think the OP can find a relatively new Nissan Versa Hatch with 6 speed, crank window, and hatch for $10,000. A lightly used Toyota Yaris would also fit the criteria. On the low end of the price spectrum, there’s the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. I don’t know how good they are, at least they should still have some powertrain warranty left on them. I agree with McParadise. Manual trans will be easier to find the manual windows.

"If the clutch is replaced at 90,000 miles, that equates to $180 in fluid changes"
I bought a brand new Scion xB without having a lot of experience driving a stick. I took it up San Francisco hills (and parallel parked on them), drove it in LA grid lock traffic, and sold the thing at 150,000 miles with its original clutch. Someone who knows how to drive a stick properly should be able to drive one well past 150,000 miles.


#13

jtsanders: “Changing auto transmission fluid is about $60 each time someone else does it.”

I’ve seen offers to do it at Iffy Lube for $39.99, but that’s just an ATF drain-and-refill using the drain plug, not the pan drop that Transman recommends, and it doesn’t even get all of the old fluid out. If you want to compare apples to apples, you should be comparing an ATF flush, which costs $80-120 to the manual transmission drain-and-refill, which costs $40.


#14

There’s More Than Just A Clutch Disc, Pressure Plate, And Flywheel. Don’t Forget To Compare The Cost For A Clutch Master & Slave Cylinder, Throw-Out Bearing Or Cross Shaft Bushings, Etcetera.
Oh Wait, Comparisons Require 2 Things To Compare. Never Mind.
:wink:

CSA


#15

“. . . Just out of curiousity, what do you have against an automatic transmission ?
Is this to keep somebody else from driving the car ?”

Yeah, maybe strangers?
Over the years I’ve owned 4 manuals and 2 automatics, which were both stolen.
We have a problem with teenage car thieves in my city.

When I was shopping for my 2006 Matrix I saw a lot of Vibes with manual windows.
06-08 are good years for the 5-speed Matrix/Vibe.


#16

CSA: “There’s More Than Just A Clutch Disc, Pressure Plate, And Flywheel. Don’t Forget To Compare The Cost For A Clutch Master & Slave Cylinder, Throw-Out Bearing Or Cross Shaft Bushings, Etcetera.”

I didn’t forget. I am thinking of a complete clutch replacement, which includes all of the items you mentioned.

If my clutch ever wears out, I plan to have a complete replacement, not have some components replaced, only to later discover I need another clutch job because someone tried to save a few bucks by replaceing the wrong component or not replacing everything that is worn out. The only thing I might leave out is the master cylinder. After all, when you get a brake job, does it involve replacement of the brake master cylinder? I thought not.


#17

Key Word: Used. “We are looking for a good used car for our college-aged daughter.”

You know how to drive a manual transmission car so that the clutch isn’t abused and so do I (I have owned several and I still own one). When it comes to choosing a used car, automatic or manual, who really can be sure how it was driven ? I’ll take my chances on the automatic. An inspection, test drive and code scan determine whether either car has obvious transmission issues, but I think it would very difficult to tell how much life is left on a clutch. Of course all of this is guessing and speculation.

Tell me how many miles is on each car and the make/model/year, and I’ll give a more accurate opinion. I just don’t think I’d rule out automatics as the shopper has done, but we still do not know why it’s the case.

CSA


#18

“I’ve seen offers to do it at Iffy Lube for $39.99…”

The regular price is about $60; I was using them as an example although I didn’t name them. They charge $100 for a flush.


#19

nissan versa, toyota yaris, mazda 2, mazda 3, ford focus, ford fusion.

Your best bet would be to cruise the internet(craigslist, cars.com, etc) for that stick shift model, you’re not gonna have much luck on dealer lots


#20

“you’re not gonna have much luck on dealer lots”

Right … at least not with used cars, but if you can find a new car on a lot with a stick shift, you might be able to find a good deal, especially if you can find one that’s been sitting on the lot for a long time.

That’s how I bought my car. I bought a 1998 model in late January 1999, and got a pretty good deal because I happened to be looking for a stick shift.