Recession-proof cars: what to buy and own for the next 5 years?


What would you recommend given the following considerations:

1) a 4-door sedan with at least a decent crash rating

2) highway MPG of 30+ / oil at 100+/barrel

3) stick shift

4) mild climate (not too hot/ cold)



A new Toyota Corolla.


A Corolla gets 38 mpg highway and properly maintained will last for many, many trouble free years. So will a Civic.


Any good 2-4 year old used car, anything brand new will have a high initial deprecation and won’t be very “recession-proof” if you have to get rid of it in the first couple of years.


You want your car to appeal to a large buying audience, so have automatic (not stick shift), 4 cylinder, cruise, smallest engine for that model, and seating for 4 passengers. Buy these cars new, and they will have good resale value.

Agree that a Corolla will weather any economic storm, as well as $4/gallon gas. The lowest ownership cost, as Tom & Ray and others have pointed out, is to buy a top rated 3 year old, low mileage, well maintained car and keep it to 300,000 miles at least while maintaining it properly.

So, the Corolla, Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda 3 are prime contenders. The worst cars to buy are large engine premium SUVs and US luxury cars.


Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Used preferably. Both achieve 30MPG+ with great comfort on the highway. Not a tin can(Corolla/Civic/Elantra) that will likely leave you wanting to trade in after 5 years. So


Think imported, and I mean built overseas. If the dollar continues to devalue with respect to foreign currencies, cars built in those countries will be more expensive to buy in the USA. That will reduce their depreciation compared to the purchase price, even though they might be significantly less than a new version of the same car. The Corolla is built in Canada, and Canadian currency hasn’t been this low compared to US dollars in a very long time. Many Corolla parts are manufactured in the US, though. During the high inflation of the late 1970s and 1980s, it was possible to buy an exotic car and sell it in about 2 years for more than you paid for it. The theory was that if you could do that 3 or 4 times, you could buy that same exotic on the profit from all sales. Of course, the problem is whether the steep devaluation of the dollar can keep pace with the recent past. A pure play might be a VW Jetta, for instance.


No one is getting one of the best options:

A 2003-2004 Ford Focus with a manual transmission. You can get them for under $6000, easy, they’re very reliable, if something breaks, parts are cheap, and they get good gas mileage (owners reporting 32 mpg combined at…

The name of the game to recession proof yourself is to minimize expenses. A new Corolla at $15,000+ttl or a new Civic at $18,000+ttl is not the way to go. You want a car with good mpg and good reliability that has been pounded by depreciation. Used Corollas and used Civics (manual, the autos had 2nd gear clutch problems recently) fit the mpg and reliability mark, but they’re selling for too much. A 3 year old Corolla for $11,000 is simply too much of a premium compared to a Focus at the same age for $6000.


Corolla, Civic, Mazda Miada (for fun)


If you want a recession proof car to save money…how about keeping the car for 10 years instead of 5 years. You’ll save a LOT MORE money.


Agreed, buying cars used (late model/low miles) and keeping them until the repair cost exceeds their value will give you the lowest cost per mile (i.e., buy a 50K mile toyota/honda and drive it until it has 300K miles and something major fails, that 10 years at 25K miles/year). Most folks aren’t willing to do that because the simply get bored.


I add buy something like a Camry/Accord instead of Corolla/Civic. Civic/Corolla’s at high mileage have creaks/rattles and lose their together feeling between 150k-200k. The larger cars in general do not have that worn out feeling at really high mileage.

I stuck it out with a 225k/9 year old 95 Civic. However year 7/150k miles it went seriously downhill in that solid feeling. My friends with similar year Accord’s keep them to this day. They have started to hit that downhill now 100k(250k-300k) latter from my Civic. They really got their money’s worth out their vehicles.


“The larger cars in general do not have that worn out feeling at really high mileage.”

It is true that larger/more expensive cars are going to feel more solid longer. My '82 benz just turned over 430K miles and is very solid feeling (better than some new cars). It’s just one of those cost/comfort trade-offs. Some relatively inexpensive maintenance (shocks/struts, alignments, decent tires, etc.) also makes a big difference if you are going to keep a car for a while.


Shop your list of the first three items at car dealers. Don’t overlook US brands made in the US. You can do your bit to keep US citizens including engineering as well as assembly people employed and what better way is there for an individual to fight a recession in the US? This can be carried further by keeping the domestic content stated on the price sticker in mind. No. 4 on your list is not a problem for any brand as is a cold weather climate. If you will drive the car into the ground like I do, you can forget about resale value and skip the air conditioning for a lower purchase price. Stick shift is a good thing now as mfrs have clutch and shift lever action refined to make them a pleasure to use.


Recession proof cars are usually autos, if hi resale is a criteria.


Agree!!! I never look at “resale value,” because I know I’m going to nurse it along until it doesn’t run anymore (at least not economically), at which point I’ll trade it in during one of those “drive, tow, or push it in” deals. Ten years isn’t too much to expect from a well-cared for, well-built (foreign) car…


If you are going to finance all 5 of those years only to trade it off, you’re not going to get very far.


Whatever you can afford to pay for in full when you buy it.


I’ve been around this game a long time and I’ve found you should do exactly opposite what everyone else is doing especially if that is what you want. In a few years it all turns around again and people get rid of the little puddle jumpers and into more comfort. Just as now they are dumping the SUV’s for puddle jumpers. Following the crowd usually gets you trampled. I’m not saying to be stupid but buy what fits your needs regardless of the current conditions.


Best answer listed thus far. I don’t even think much about my car or its thirst for premium fuel since its paid for.