Shopping for a car

I am in the market for a new used car. I had my heart set on a Jaguar. I have done extensive research and I test drove 13 Jaguars. I’m fine with the “dive a little fix a little” jag. While I was driving to the Jags for sale I was using my fathers Volvo C30 to get to the Jag’s. Then Something happened. My resolve to buy a Jag has been chipped away by driving this Volvo. I love driving the Volvo. It’s so much fun! Now my budget is $5k with little wiggle room. I’m a single man in my 30’s, no kids, no girlfriend, little responsibility except work. I’ve had the mild manner hum drum cars and I’m ready to enjoy driving again. I did look to see if a Volvo C30 was for sale but none are in my area. Any ideas of what I should buy?

" I’m ready to enjoy driving again."

Remember Fahrvergnugen? You might want to look at a VW GTI VR6. A lot of fun to drive. Not terribly reliable, but neither is a Jag or a Volvo. For $5k you should be able to get a 2000-ish one with decent mileage. Look for one where the timing belt has been changed recently.

There’s also a 4 cylinder turbo version instead of the VR6.

Today, $5K will not buy much of a “Fun” car…All of the fun will have been run out of it…

Not necessarily so. The GTI in the link I posted above is a 2002 with only 103k miles, for $5k. Plenty of fun left in it.

On a $5000 budget you can buy a Hyundai Accent, Mazda Protege, Mazda3, Chevy Cobalt with low mileage, Nissan Sentra, older Toyota Corollas, older Honda Civics, and maybe a well kept Ford Focus.

Anything else will likley be unreliable and not suited for daily commuting to work.

If you enjoy repairing for the sake of it as a form of recreation, by all means get a $5000 Volvo or an old Jag.

A 2008 C30 (1st year) sells for over $15,000. A 2002 S40 would fit your price point, but do you really want a 13 year old car? Most small sedans or coupes are fun to drive. We have 2 Cobalts and both are fun little cars. With the ignition switch problems, they should be easy to find and inexpensive. If you are willing to wait a few months to get the ignition fixed, one of these could be a really good deal. Note that the ignition switch was replaced with an improved one in 2008. GM will replace all Cobalt ignition switches through 2011 model year because the replacement part number is identical to the faulty switch part number. If the seller can verify that the switch has been replaced, you are good to go. Or you could get the VIN and check with a Chevy dealer yourself to make sure. If you don’t mind a little work to save money, test drove a Cobalt and see if you like it. I prefer the LT, but the LS handles just as well. The difference is in the equipment.

Also shop for…
Neither of those brands would ever be an option in this town.

For a budget of 5 grand Id stay far away from any European brands.

Can you drive a manual? Manual transmissions can add fun to any car in my opinion.

Jags usually head the list of Consumer Reports’ least reliable cars. Volvos are not quite that bad, but they are still worse than average. There are plenty of reliable (relatively) used cars that are fun to drive. Most Mazdas qualify and have for many years. Hondas, too, though they have high resale values and aren’t such great bargains. Luxury brands are usually less reliable than ordinary brands, not because they don’t know how to make a good car, but because luxury cars have far more parts to fail, especially motors and sensors and other electro-mechanical parts. Those bits fail more often than many others.

I’m fine with old cars. I owned a 1964 caddy convertible when I was starting college. I have found a lot of cars in the $5k price range . I am leaning towards a European car. How are Alfaro Romeos from the early 80’s?

Is this a secondary car or one you need to depend on as a daily driver? If it’s a DD, and your whole budget is 5 grand, and you buy a jag or Alfa Romeo from the 80’s, you’re asking for trouble. Now, if it’s a second car, I’m all for it. Project cars are awesome. If it’s a daily driver, and has to be euro, of the listed ones the volvos should serve you best. It’s a gamble.

It is a daily driver car. What do you know about Audi’s? The ones I’ve seen in my price range have very high mileage. Now all the cars I’ve owned have had 80k+ miles! except for that one time I bought a new car. Usually they run fine, with a few exemptions. I’ve never bought a car with 150k+ miles before, except for the 1964 caddy convertible. Will a 150k+ car that has been well maintained have more issues than a 100k mile car? I know the transmission could go. What other major stuff?

$5k for a FUN car is a crap shoot at best. It may take you a couple years to come across a fun vehicle that is also reliable for $5k. Sorry but I don’t think your numbers are realistic. They might start to get realistic if you double your budget.

You are consistently naming the worst cars you could buy for your needs and price range. All of these cars are going to need specialty mechanics/special order parts and $$$. Research the reputation of any engine prior to buying the car. Know the maintenance schedule that was followed by the owner. Next you’re going to tell me you’re looking at MG’s and Triumphs. Sometimes interesting cool cars are cheap for a reason. The investment to get them safe and reliable is considerable. My advice? Go buy a mustang GT with a 5 speed. There is a huge aftermarket and forum support system of other mustang enthusiasts. Parts are easy to find if you need them. Rare, old (not really classic yet just old) European cars are the worst budget fun car you could set your sights on. This has to work every day, and you don’t have another car, or a large budget. Do not do this.

My brother asked his favorite VW/Audi shop for their opinion on a bunch of Audi Quattro’s in this price range and their response was basially “we’ll take too much of your money on repairs” and told him to buy a Subaru which he did after a loan from our parents (dad insisted after driving the “good car” 60 miles home from the airport) If you’re willing to get a service manual and spend lots of time working on the car then fine.

The current A4 has an OK reliability record, and the A3 is just a restyled Golf, so might be OK. But you can only afford older/high mileage cars and they will not be reliable, require a lot of scheduled maintenance, and parts are expensive. Though an Audi is still smarter than an Alfa or Maserati of 20+ years ago. Think of fun Japanese cars (but not those in demand for drifting) or American cars.

Unfortunately, everything you want has to be older to meet you initial cost requirement. You either need to put up with an unreliable car that is very expensive to repair or change your expectations. At $5000, even a “reliable” car will need repairs.

Fender1325 I think the Mustang is an excellent suggestion. A $100 repair on a domestic car can end up being 10 times that for a “cool/fun” foreign car.

$5000-Jags-Alfa’s-save a few bucks for a bus pass so at least you won’t be afoot…

An old Jaguar or Alfa Romeo would be the most beautiful cars on the side of the road.