Searching a little city car

Hi folks, I am in the market for a small car. I have a $5000 budget. My hope is to buy a used car for roughly that amount. I would love to get a smart car but I want to avoid monthly payments. I currently have a 1997 Geo Metro, which has been a great little car in spite her lack up get-up-and-go. I am soliciting ideas for SMALL cars. I’d like manual, four door but will do two doors if it keeps the car small and within my price range.


A smart car is so limited, 2 seats only, automatic only, premium gas only - ugh. How about a Yaris?

5,000 budget could get you a 4 year old Kia Rio or a Hyndai Elantra. A bit more roomier than a Smart Car. I personally can’t stand Smart Cars! Too small, not too safe, and driving one down the highway wouldn’t be fun if you have a huge 18-wheeler on your rear!

I agree with texases.
The so-called Smart car is actually anything but “smart”, except in one way.
The only real advantage of the Smart car is that it is supremely easy to park in tiny spaces.

However, for that one advantage, you get a vehicle that (as was already stated) requires premium octane gas, does not get the type of gas mileage that it should, and has what Consumer Reports described as the worst automatic transmission that they ever tested. The transmission, which is essentially a manual gearbox shifted by electric motors, has such long lags between gears that the driver and passengers are lurched forward when it shifts out of one gear, and then are pitched backward when it finally shifts into the next gear. Even cars in the early '50s (the infancy of automatic transmissions) had better shifting action than the new Smart design!

If I was looking for a small, economical car with a budget of $5k, I would look for a Hyundai Accent.
Since they are very low-priced to begin with, it may be possible to find a used Accent in that price range that is perhaps as new as the 2007 or 2008 model year. For around the same price, you could likely find a 2006 Hyundai Elantra, which is slightly bigger and more comfortable, and almost as economical. Both of these Hyundai models are “more reliable than average”, according to the owner surveys conducted by CR.

And to add, you get in an accident in a Smart Car…even if its a minor one, might as total it out. I saw one at my friend’s body shop and the owner of the Smart Car was rear ended. The car looked like a giant, crushed Coca Cola can.

About 3 years ago, I was a passenger in my friend’s Accord sedan when it was T-boned by a wacky woman in a Lexus SUV. We were actually on the property of a gas station at the time when the woman drove off the highway, entered the gas station property at a speed estimated to have been about 35 mph, and the impact spun the Accord around, and moved it about 20 feet.

We came out of the accident relatively unscathed, thanks to the design and the mass of the Accord.
However, given what happened to the Accord, I am convinced that if we had been hit under the same circumstances in a Smart car, the car would have become airborne and moved…perhaps 100 feet. The difference between where the Accord landed and where a Smart car would likely have landed was the difference between landing on a highway shoulder and landing in the left lane of a highway–where the 18-wheelers were zooming along.

I am fairly sure that, if we had been in a Smart car under the same circumstances, we would have been thrown into the path of those 18-wheelers.

The Toyota Echo is an ugly but good little car. Roomy for its size, very reliable, and fairly peppy with a manual. You could find one in your price range, but the miles might be a bit high. The Chevy Aveo is another tiny car with a tall & roomy seating position, and they will have lower miles for that price. The Hyundai Accent will similarly have lower miles for the price, but for $5K you’re looking mostly at the pre-2006 years, which look really cramped and were built right before Hyundai starting really improving its reputation.

Avoid the Smart ForTwo. Buy a 3-door Yaris with dented body panels instead if you have to.

Are cars like the Civic, Corolla, Sentra, and Focus too large for your tastes? More choices there.

In that price range I would look for a Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Accent, Mazda Protege, Yaris, or Echo .

You should also look at the Kia Rio. It is almost identical to the Hyundai Accent. Kia is owned by Hyundai. 2006 was the first year that the Accent and Rio share the same platform. You may not find a 2006 Accent for $5000, but you will surely find a 2006 and maybe 2007 Rio for $5000.

Some times it is wiser to spend a little more money, and get a lot more for it.
This is probably one of those times you want to spend a bit more money.

In this instance, if it were me, with 5k available, I would actually get a loan for ~$7k, and buy a Nissan Versa or a Hyundai Accent that’s just a couple years old, finance the bulk of it, and use the $5k to auto pay the car note. During that time, I would take the normal monthly payment (say $125) from my checking account, and feed it into the account that auto pays the car loan.

Once the amount of the loan and the amount in the payment account match, I would then pay off the loan.

That’s what I would do.


“The Chevy Aveo is another tiny car with a tall & roomy seating position…”

AVOID the Chevy Aveo, as it is one of the worst vehicles marketed over the past 20 years.

It is underpowered, and small, yet it gets only mediocre gas mileage. It also has handling that is…not good, and it is nowhere near as reliable as competing vehicles from other manufacturers.

The Chevy Aveo is frequently referred to as “the first disposable car”. Thank God that GM finally stopped selling these substandard vehicles.

“The first disposable car”. That may be a misnomer since the Yugo, Fiat 127, Renault Le Car, and the Hyundai Pony all deserved that definition. However, since all the above rusted quickly, we called them “biodegradable” cars.

You are correct about those cars, Doc.
To that list, I could add the Datsun SPL-310 and 311.
My brother owned one of those dogs, and they were…just plain badly engineered, badly built cars.

I should have said that the Chevy Aveo was the first (and possibly, only) disposable car of the past decade.


“AVOID the Chevy Aveo, as it is one of the worst vehicles marketed over the past 20 years.”

Absolutely, but keep in mind singer27 is coming from a Geo Metro and has a $5000 budget. As far as safety and amenities go, just about anything is a step up from a Metro. And $5000 leaves you with a high-mileage good car or a lower mileage 3rd rate car like the Aveo. But yeah, try to avoid the Aveo.

Good suggestions. Add for Focus to the list.

Go with a bigger car. There is an article in popular science why small cars get less mileage then cars that are longer. Like boats, a longer vehicle has a natural aerodynamic advantages. That plus more comfort, better handling at speeds on the highways in and around the city, make cars like bigger used Focus, Corrolla etc. much better choices. There are a gazillion around in your price range.

Smart for two is smart for the dealer and manufacturer, the only two I can think of…it’s dumb for everyone else. This ain’t Singapore.

“As far as safety and amenities go, just about anything is a step up from a Metro.”

Well, not in the opinion of a former member of this board!
A couple of years ago, a woman who used a screen name with the word “otter” in it (“Otterhere” perhaps??), told us on multiple occasions that the Geo Metro was the ne plus ultra of small cars. She was searching for a replacement for her Metro, wound up buying a Toyota Yaris, and then griped for a few weeks about how the Yaris was totally inferior to the Geo Metro.

Some members of the board told her that she was delusional. I, on the other hand, viewed her as someone who simply cannot adapt to change. Whatever the situation with her personality really was, the bottom line was that, after comparing her 10+ year old Geo Metro to 2010 model year small economy cars, she found them all inferior to her aged Metro.

Go figure!

VDC, we obviously made the point strongly enough for her to either change her handle or not return.

…I think she finally realized that she had shot herself in the foot with the way that she purchased that Yaris.
If you recall, she had test-driven a 4-door Yaris at night, and then agreed to buy the cheaper 2-door Yaris. However, the 2-door model has a much shorter wheelbase than the 4-door model, which apparently led to her impression that her new 2-door Yaris “rode like a hippity-hop”.

Also, the two models have different upholstery patterns, and she couldn’t abide by the upholstery pattern in the 2-door model. Additionally, she nit-picked things like the layout of the dashboard and the controls–both of which should have been obvious during a test drive.

The lesson, which I think she finally acknowledged, was to slow down the car purchase process, make sure that one test-drives the exact same model as you wish to purchase, and that all visual impressions be gleaned in daylight. For whatever reason, she was determined to save some paltry sum of money (less than $100 IIRC) by rushing into the purchase that night, and as a result she shot herself in the foot.

But, in any event, she was of the belief that no modern economy car was the equal of the old Geo Metro!

Hey guys! I have a separate question along the same lines.
I’ve been driving a 97 2-Door Geo Tracker since I can remember. I learned to drive in it, I was in my first (and thankfully only) accident in it, I powershifted through 3 foot snowdrifts in it, and while the heart is still there I’m afraid the rear end is not. About the time you have to hold your gas tank on with zip ties and expanding foam because the tank shield corroded off you should be looking at new cars, or at least that’s what my mechanic says.
I’m zipping around the New England all the time and 4 wheel drive is absolutely MANDATORY, but I’d still like something small and all the SUV’s the ‘professionals’ have to offer are huge. I’m not adverse to the idea of a car with 4 wheel drive, but there have been cases (the aforementioned three foot snow drifts) where the clearance of an SUV has made all the difference. Trucks are just … no.
What would you guys suggest for a ‘small ish’ SUV or 4 wheel car that’s good in snow and mud, pretty good in the MPG department, and is under or around the 10 grand mark?

Thank you for your time!