CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Picked out 5-6 cars need help deciding what will be best

Yes cars are a gamble , any option could be worst of best, but just want an “educated” guess on what option is best for me.

Car will be in winter, near Canada. Usually 10-20 degrees average, but as low as -10F some days. Will be delivery all the time, 8 hours a day, will have winter tires FWD isn’t needed. Gas mileage kinda important. Easy repairs kinda important. Decent with cars expect with, transmission work, tie rods, but spark plugs, seph belt, alternator those kinds of things easy, and not worried about check in a junk yard for spare replacements. Want cheaper but something I can beat a lot of miles into every year, that I know can start in cold conditions.

Here are my options

1.2005 Mazda 3i - 100k Miles $3100 v4
2.2004 Hyundai tibruon - 97k Miles v6 manual (coupe tho :grimacing:)$2150
3.2010 Ford Focus - 70k miles v4 $3,700 (texted and denied a full inspection and said it only has 70k miles on it)
4.2004 oldsmobile alero - $2700 96k miles v6 + remote start (says they have service recites)
5.2007 Ford Focus SES - 55k miles v4 $3500

Should I get a used vehicle inspection before buying , or should I print off a check sheet, maybe ask a friend for a OB2 and make sure no weird sounds or play in steering, or creaks from tierods/control arms and smooth tranmission shifts and call her a day?

Thank you for your opinion <3

Definitely get an inspection. This is a car used in business and you need something that will be on the road as much as possible. That means no to #3. No to #2 because it’s a coupe. These are all old enough that condition is more important that brand. Look them over well yourself, maybe borrow the OBDII scanner, and then take the one in best condition that you can drive every day to a mechanic you trust for an inspection. Better to spend $100 now that $1000 or more soon for hidden problems you need to fix.

1 ,3, 5. 3&5 contingent on being manual transmission. If 3 & 5 are both automatics, then 1 is the best option.

When you say “FWD not needed”, are you referring to four wheel drive? Or front wheel drive?

Ops yes meant 4 wheel/ AWD , my mistake.

Yes everything but option 2 is automatic, is there a reason for Ford fusions or focuses aren’t a good option, I see a lot just curious about reasoning not challenging the answer what so ever. Open to opinions.

A lot of auto services just do a used car inspection due to the used car not being mine, but there’s one I went too 4 days ago for $60 they inspected a good 30/40 things with the car. I know there’s 300 point checks as well out there.

Is that good enough to buy again.

There seem to be more than the expected amount of complaints here about the Ford dual-clutch automatic transmission. Not sure if those cars use that technology, but if they do it would be a negative from my perspective if they are automatics. Other than that I don’t sense there’s much complaining about those two Ford models here. Seldom see any posts about the Ford manual transmission.

Both the Focus that @Blakensnake found are the 1st gen of the Focus with the 4spd automatic. A year or two after the 2010 Ford went to a dual clutch transmission that has neen problematic to say the least. The 4spd as far as I’m aware has been reliable, the same transmission would be in the Mazda3 as well.

1 Like

None of the cars on your list are V4s, they are I-4s with the cylinders all in one row.

1 Like

For me, #1 and #5 seem like the best choices

But an inspection may prove to be interesting

we have a few Focuses of that vintage in our fleet, and they’re not bad to work on

Whatever you get, assume it has NEVER been maintained. That means when it’s yours, you change all the fluids and filters, for starters

The Mazda would be the first one I will look at. The Focuses are the older version and do not have the problem prone dual clutch transmission, so worth a look.
Before paying for an inspection, get your list and give the car a good look over/test drive and if you find ANY red flags, walk. This way you save the inspection fee for the “last” car you want to buy.

Either # 1 , #3 or #5 because with having the very rare V4 option they will be collector items someday.

2 Likes

Both the Mazda and Fords are bound to be collectors items on account of the one-off engines they apparently have.

But seriously, Of those The Mazda or 2007 Focus gets my nod. Hyundai was still building cheap crap in the early 2000’s. The 2010 Focus owner is hiding something. and the Oldsmobile went out of the production that year. The 2007 Focus might worth looking into, as it has suspiciously low mileage. If it belonged to an older driver you might have something there.

Also all those cars you listed have Front Wheel Drive (FWD). In automotive parlance FWD= Front wheel drive, RWD= Rear Wheel Drive, AWD = All Wheel Drive, and 4WD = Four Wheel Drive. It’s worth mentioning that AWD and 4WD are not the same thing.

Pay a professional mechanic $100 to do a pre-purchase inspection of any car you’re seriously considering. They will know what to look for and will probably have a good idea as to what parts tend to fail on a given model and when they tend to fail.

I would lean toward #2, keeping in mind that this type of car is more expensive to insure, and may have been driven hard by previous owner(s). Also, this is an interference engine with a rubber timing belt, and if it was never changed, it will probably fail within a few thousand miles, so if you buy this, have it changed immediately. None of these other cars are reliable enough to want, even for free.

That being said, I’d keep looking, and find a used Toyota Corolla, if you can afford one.

Go with 5. I have an 09 Focus (not a V4 btw, they don’t exist) and it’s been very reliable for us with good gas mileage. No transmission problems and we’re at 198k on the odometer now. As @galant mentions, these are NOT focuses that had the problem transmissions.

1 Like

3’s were good cars. 100k miles shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Check its maintenance history and make sure the maintenance schedule was followed.

These were good little cars, but they’re from an era a little before the time when Hyundais were as good as 90’s Hondas. I’d want to really check it over carefully before I pulled the trigger on this.

If I understand you correctly, you asked to get the car inspected, and the owner told you no? Tell him to screw off. Something’s wrong with that car and he doesn’t want you to find it.

I am not a GM fan. The car will probably run fine as long as it was taken care of, but interior parts, etc, will age before other makes. That said, if you don’t care about such things, this is one to consider. I would want to make sure that remote starter was installed properly - aftermarket equipment like that can cause a lot of problems if it’s not done right.

This one might be decent, though with such low mileage it’s likely the car did a lot of sitting, so you’ll want to be sure seals haven’t dried out.

Obviously, get whatever you decide on inspected by a good, local, independent mechanic. And do not trust anything the seller says. If he says a timing belt was replaced, he either shows you receipts or he’s lying.

I’m the original owner of a 2004 Tiburon V6 BUT it’s a small sports car and with the V6 probably get’s the worst gas mileage of the group.

Still enjoy driving it but 8 hours a day/5 days a week would probably have me in traction.

FWIW, a company I used to work for had a pair of Focuses, '06s IIRC, as company cars and the general consensus was that they were deathtraps in anything remotely resembling bad weather. I know they were pretty bad compared to my 2000 Chevy Cavalier.

That said, my pick would be the Mazda. If the Olds does indeed have service records that would be a point in its favor but you’ll burn more gas.