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Retiring in 4 years. Want a car that is reliable and will last long time into retirement. Want it paid off by retirement(4yrs.) 25-30K. Want comfort and reliability. Any suggestions?

I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide, which is available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and some news stands. This comprehensive publication lists extensive details on every vehicle sold in the US marketplace (including pros and cons), and it gives historical reliability statistics for them also. Since we don’t know all of your other priorities in a car, you will get suggestions that are–literally–all over the map in terms of size and fuel economy.

By spending a few hours with the aforementioned publication, followed by extensive test-driving of the models that seem promising, you can likely find the car that is right for you. Extended test-drives are very important because what feels like a comfortable seat in the short term may seem more like torture after sitting in it for more than an hour. Don’t settle for the usual 10-15 minute test drive.

I will only add that true economy means paying cash for a car in order to avoid finance charges and leasing fees. If you start saving your money now, you can probably have enough saved to buy your car for cash in 4 years. Can you keep your current car running for a few more years?

In 2003 I bought a new Honda Civic as my retirement “high mpg” car. Happy with the decision 85K miles later. I plan to keep it going, and going, and going.

You have lots of good choices. As cars get older the repair costs go up. Toyota, and Honda seem to hold up best over time. Civics, Accords, Camrys, and Corollas are the best of these models in longevity with minimal problems.

Stay away from exotics; Volvo, BMW, VW, M Benz, Audi etc. even if you can afford them. As these cars age the repairs are very expensive and more frequent than Toyota and Honda.

In American cars I like the Ford Fusion, either Hybrid or conventional. We don’t have a lot of history but they have started off well with few repair issues. That is a good sign for how they’ll do in the long run. I’m not as sold on how well current GM and Chrysler cars will last beyond 10 years old.

Comfort And Reliability Are Your Priorities In The $25K-$30K Range. Is This Correct?

Do you have any preference when it comes to number of passengers, 2, at least 4, better with 6?

Is MPG (fuel economy) a concern? It may not be, depending on how many miles per year you intend to drive.

2 door, 4 door, SUV, small, large, etcetera . . . any preference in body style?

Performance? Do you just putt around or do yo like get-up-and-go?

We have to narrow this search a bit. There are many, many possibilities even when we narrow the preferences.

Maybe you can tell us how the car will be used. How many passengers, how far will you drive per year? Will you take long trips, etcetera?

If none of these things matter, let us know that, too.

CSA

Go to new car dealers and test drive whatever vehicles get your attention. Cars are like shoes – what fits me may not fit you. I can tell you which I like, but it will have no relevance to what will work for you. “Comfort” and “reliability” are very subjective – a Mercedes S Class is comfortable, a Toyota Corolla is reliable.

Then, find the best 2 - 3 year old car, low miles, original owner, all service records. Have it checked out by a competent mechanic. Buy it for 1/2 - 1/3 MSRP. Most well driven, well maintained cars will last well over 150,000 miles. Gently used cars will deliver 1/2 of the per-mile cost of a new one. How many miles per year will you drive during your retirement?

Just my suggestions.

Twotone

Do you have any joint or back problems, or do any of your older close relatives have joint or back problems? If not, you can probably be happy with a small to medium size sedan. I prefer a midsize sedan. These include the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima, an Hyundai Sonata. The Accord is now a full size car, and that’s a bit too big for me. Consider a small SUV like the Toyota RAV-4 or Honda CRV if bone problems may be an issue. You won’t have to stoop to get in and out of the car.

Thank you very much for your comments, they were very helpful. You had some very good ideas.

Thanks for your advice. I have been looking at Honda and Toyota like you said. Thanks

Sorry I wasn’t very clear. It will be mostly my car. I would like a medium sedan with a lot of bells and whistles. 4 or 6 either. I just want to not spend a lot of $$$on repairs when retired. Thanks a lot

I haven’t thought of a used car, but that may be a good idea. Thanks for the tip. It would cost a lot less and if checked out would have little problems.

I am leaning toward a mid sized sedan. I just have no idea which one will last a long time and little problemw. Thanks for your ideas. A lot of help.

If anyone one list suggestions and it does not include a Camry or Accord, they are missing the boat. A lot of other good cars out there, but for your price range, I would make a recommendation that agrees more consistently with most reviewers . I feel safe in always recommending you consider these cars first, not Civics or Corollas because over the years the bigger intermediates seem to get consistent satisfaction ratings. The companies are solvent,the name plates bring among the highest return at trade in and their reliability is always among the best.

Judybug; when you retire, you will drive less, but keep the car a very long time. As you say, reliability is very important and low repair costs as well.

In view of these needs, be careful with “all the bells and whistles”! Those things often are troublesome, hard to repair and as the car ages, parts may not be available.

My sister recently retired and settled for a 4 cylinder Toyota Camry with all the normal options, such as air, power windows, door locks, cruise control, etc. Since Camry has been a best selling car,and Toyota will be in business for many years to come, she will have easy and low cost repairs over the long life of the car.

Based on what you are planning, a Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata or Ford Fusion would all be excellent cars. Cars I would not recommend are Volkswagen Passat (expensive maintenance), Saab (very uncertain future), Volvo (expensive upkeep, uncertain future), BMW (very expensive upkeep), any Chrysler or Dodge product (poor quality, uncertain future) and any slow selling vehicle which will become difficult to service 15 years from now.

General Motors is recovering, and a Chevrolet Malibu might be a resonably good choice, but there are better cars out there. If you live in a snowy area, and are meticulous about maintenance, a Subaru Legacy might be a good choice, but it will be more expensive to maintain than the 4 recommended ones.

There are some excellent luxury cars such as Lexus, Acura and Infiniti, but they will be more expensive to keep running.

Finally, I would avoid any car with a turbocharger.

Hope this gives you some help in deciding. Good luck!

P.S. I would also add the Mazda 6, although Madza may change hands during the time you own the car, I’m sure it will end up in good hands.

I’m very happy with my Honda Accord. It’s comfortable for all day drives, gets decent fuel economy for a 6 cylinder, and there is a 4 cylinder version.

I looked at the Camry when I bought my car, but didn’t like the style/looks as well as the Accord. That was in 2006, they’ve changed the Accord’s styling a bit since then and I don’t like the newer ones, but style and looks are personal decisions and you have to make up your own mind there.

So, Accord and Camry should be on your list to at least look at, and I’d check out Ford’s also. They have gotten into the reliability and durability category of Honda and Toyota. If nothing really strikes your fancy with those 3 manufacturers, I’d check out Nissan, Mazda and Hyundai as next best. Avoid European brands.

Most, if not all, will last a long time. Toyota and Honda showed the other manufacturers that reliable, decent handling cars could attract a strong following. They don’t handle like a BMW, but their drivers don’t care. Everyone wants to emulate their success. It’s the cost of doing business today. If you can find a Fusion or Malibu with a rebate, the savings will probably more than make up the difference in reliability for at least 5 years. In 1998 I paid $2000 less for a Buick Regal than a similarly equipped Honda Accord and I’ve haven’t spent that $2000 yet. Look at MSN Autos, JD Power, edmunds.com ‘true cost to own’, and Consumer Reports for information on owner satisfaction and reliability. Test drive the cars, and pick the one that appeals to you most. BTW, I also own a 2005 Honda Accord and have had exactly no problems with it. Oh, except for a dead battery 4 years after manufacture; it’s a maintenance item and is not at all related to reliability. I’ve had a 1 repair on the Buick in 11 years. All the rest is maintenance.

For people in good health, retirement cars will need to be replaced. I retired at age 55 in 1997, and tried to get by with the old beaters I’ve always driven. In 2001, after a bad experience with a 1989 Dodge Caravan, which proved it is not always cheaper to fix what you have than buy another, we bought a 2002 Sienna a few weeks after 9/11 when I was almost 60. I expected it to last as long as I was able and willing to drive.

It now has 157,000 miles on it. I thought 300,000 miles would be about the end of my driving.

Then, last year I met a neighbor who lives down the street in our retirement park in McAllen when I am there. He is 86 and had just driven in from Minnesota.

I told my wife, “Oops! Maybe we should plan on saving for our next Sienna.”

Lots of good suggestions, just make sure you take your ‘short list’ cars on an EXTENDED test drive. Lots of things (seat comfort, road noise, visibility, ride, etc.) don’t show up in a 10 minute test drive.