Need help picking a car

I am in the market for a used car and am running into a few snags. I need something with under 50K miles, that’s under $13,000, that gets good gas mileage and is reliable. I’ve been told for years to steer clear of American cars if I wanted reliable however I wonder how true that is today. The cars I’m currently looking at are a 2013 Toyota Yaris, a 2012 Toyota Corolla, a 2013 Kia Rio, a 2012 Ford Focus, a 2013 Chevy Spark, or a 2011 Honda Civic. I’ve known many folks who have had great luck with Honda Civics however the ones in this price range have the most mileage on them. The Yaris seems to have some of the best gas mileage and its a Toyota but I don’t know anything about them. Any advice?

Sometimes with a one year longer loan on a new car you can get lower monthly payments than on a loan that high on a used car simply because the banks will give you a longer loan on a new car… and often at a lower interest rate, and the car itself might be more reliable for much more longer than that one year that you’ve added to the loan. Look carefully at the numbers before you decide.

To make the decision, I recommend that you get a “Consumer Reports New Car Preview” at the local bookstore, pick some that look good to you, and spend some weekends test driving. The CR book will give you w wealth of comparative data far beyond what this thread can. Buying a car is a highly personal decision. What might be perfect for me might be totally wrong for you.

For long term reliability, lower maintenance costs and ease of service I would drop the Rio and Spark from your list.

See here’s the problem I have. I am going to be starting on my bachlors degree in the fall of next year. I need to be able to have this car paid off or mostly paid off at least by then. Right now, I am working about 70 hours a week however there is no way on earth I’ll be able to keep that up next fall.

Will you really need a car?

There is no public transport in my city, my job is 25 miles away, and my school will be 15 miles.

The Focus has had some problems in recent years, especially with the automatic transmission. Kias used to be crummy cars, but since Hyundai bought them some years ago they have steadily improved. The Rio is similar to the Hyundai Accent. Maybe not at the top of my list, but not bad, either. The Yaris is very reliable, but that’s about it. It isn’t very nice, or fun to drive, or have an attractive interior, but it’s sturdy basic transportation. The Corolla and Civic are a good deal more expensive than the rest when new, and they hold their value. If your priority is transportation, buying something plainer, but newer and having fewer miles makes more sense than buying an older Civic or Corolla. The Mazda3 is a competitor of the Civic and Corolla, but you might find one cheaper. It’s a very good car. The Spark is an unimpressive little car that feels very cheaply made. It’s also slow, noisy and narrow.

Some other cars you might consider are the little Mazda2, also just basic transportation, but more fun to drive than most of the competition and well made. The Scion xD is closely related to the Yaris, though it always feels a bit roomier to me because it is squarish. It’s nothing special, but very reliable and Scions can be cheaper than Toyotas, even when they are almost the same car. The Honda Fit is a brilliant little car, reliable, fun to drive, and amazingly roomy. I don’t especially like the interior styling, but that is minor next to its many virtues. I prefer it to recent Civics.

Other cars to avoid are the Nissan Versa and Sentra, any Mitsubishi, the Fiat 500, the Ford Fiesta, and the Chevy Sonic. Also any Dodge or Chrysler. Fiat is improving them, but the ones from a few years ago are weak.

Good luck with your search. There are a lot more decent little economy cars than there used to be.

Also research…
Where and who will service this car ?
How feasable is every one of those to have serviced quickly, at a reasonable price, and by knowledgable techs ?
Here in MY small town , many of those brands get Xd instantly for that very reason.
Servicing…or lack therof.

If you already know your favorite shop…ask them what brands they prefer…and NOT to get rich off of , but to properly diag and service and keep you as a returning cutomer.

I think any of those cars would do you well. I’d add the Honda Fit to the list too. If you’re concerned about reliability and overall cost to own, consult the Consumer Reports book on used cars. You can check what other owners have reported for those makes and model years.

The most likely to meet the requirements on your list is the Yaris. A 2013 Yaris is on the list because it is basic transportation and not anything special. I had one as a rental for several months and it worked well enough. I found it to reasonably comfortable for rides of over an hour. It does everything an economy car should do, and that seems to be what you want. Drive one if you haven’t already. It should easily serve you throughout your 4 undergraduate years with only fluid and filter changes. And through graduate school if you chose that route. I commend you for your decision on an inexpensive car… That is a mature choice for this stage of your life.

In addition to Consumer Reports, offers a True Cost to Own feature that estimates the cost to own a car over the next 5 years by year. You should look at that too. CR tells you a ranking and if you read the fine print, you will see that the worst cars have 4% reported problems and worse. That is the much worse than average group, and of course avoid that. Any of the other groups might work for you. I expect the Yaris is in one of the top two groups.

The Yaris might not be that comfortable as far as the driving position (some reviewer’s weren’t happy including CR) but as basic transportation it should do well. The Mazda2 might be looking at as well.

I have to say that we own a Yaris sedan (new since 2007) and I’m consistently suprised by the amount of leg room. I’m just under 6’2". We’ve taken it all up and down the east coast. It’s plenty peppy and comfortable. Is it a town car? No, but it is plenty comfortable.

The Yaris is indeed a town car, but not a Town Car. ; )

See if you can find a Cruze in your price range…National car rental may have some for sale as they rent many of them…I rented one for 2 weeks and was impressed…

Kind of in the same vein as Caddyman above…when you get your choices narrowed down to a few, check around and see if any of the rental agencies in your area have the model you like for rent. A 20 minute test drive of a car is a poor measure of how the car will feel and perform to you in daily life. But renting one for 3 days and using it as you would your own car will give you a much better feel for how you’ll like the car. Could be money well spent.

That is an excellent observation. If you have trouble finding a comfortable car, renting for a day or the weekend could save a lot of aggregation and money if you sell it quickly. A few visitors have done that and one regular had trouble that led to quick turnover.

The car rental company sales lots often have arrangements where you can take a car home for a day. Thst makes it easy to have it checked by your mechanic and to drive it enough to sed if it agrees with you.