Teenage Daily Driver - What to Buy with $3000


#1

Just found cartalk read around the forums a bit, everyone here is quite friendly. This is my first post, and it’s a question I’ve been mulling over for awhile-

What car should I buy for around three thousand dollars?

My criteria are few: it must be semi-reliable, it must be moderately fuel efficient, and it mustn’t be a generic econobox (civic, accord, corolla, focus, etc)



Thus far I’ve looked into: Infiniti J30, Infiniti M30, Saab 900 s, Mercedes 190 e, Lexus ES 250, VW Bug… you get the idea. Hope for some feedback, thanks!


#2

In the price category that you have named, you will be looking at cars that are over 10 years old. Unfortunately, any car over 10 years old is going to have a lot more repair ongoing issues than something newer.

That being said, the cost of repair issues on a Mercedes or a Saab could easily equal the original purchase price of the car within a fairly short period of time. On your list, the Japanese models will be more durable, and cheaper to repair than the European models. (But of course, that Lexus ES250 is merely a Toyota Camry in slightly fancier clothing!)

If you want the most “bang for the buck”, you should look around for senior citizens selling their Buick, Mercury Grand Marquis, or Ford Crown Victoria. Not cool you say? I agree, but these cars have the advantage of likely giving you a somewhat newer vehicle within your price category and of having lower-cost maintenance and fewer repairs than some more exotic European marques, and possibly even cheaper repairs than the Japanese models.

The most important rule when buying an older used car is to have it inspected by a mechanic of your choice prior to sale. If a seller balks at this request, walk away. Used cars are like city buses–another one will come along shortly. Also, try to focus on cars whose owners have maintenance records available. This will help to assure of adequate maintenance, and better maintenance means fewer repairs going forward.

And, when that old buggy inevitably needs repairs, take it to an independent mechanic, NOT to Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, AAMCO, or any other chain operation. You will wind up with more competent work at a lower price than if you go to a chain operation.


#3

You got some very good advice from VDCdriver.

Five years ago when our daughter was 16 and I was looking for a “$3000” car for her, I was surprised how much junk was out there being sold for $3000. Even though I would be doing all the repairs, they were typically more than I wanted to invest in a $3K vehicle.


#4

VDCdriver has given you some excellent advice. I would add the Buick LeSabre to that list for many of the same reasons. You can get a really nice car for that kind of money. I put my 32 year old son into one last year. This weekend was the first time he has spent any money on it.


#5

Beer Budget, Champagne Taste? Oh, Sorry, You’re A Teenager. Mcdonald’s Angus Burger Taste, Double Cheese Burger Budget?

Tyler, this is a very ambitious endeavor. You’re trying to do the nearly impossible. Who’s going to repair/maintain this car?

Do you have a vast automotive tool selection and do you know how to use them? Do you know how to diagnose and repair cars?

Will spending the 3K leave you with money in reserve? It’s quite likely you’ll need another 1/2 K - 1K for tires, brakes, front-end work, etcetera shortly after purchase to make the car safe to drive.

You will be making trips to the auto recycling yard for some parts as you get to driving this vehicle. Do you have one in your area that stocks all of these cars? Also, a take-it-off-yourself yard lets you practice half of a repair on another vehicle before trying it on your’s.

I suppose you could search and luck out, finding a person with a very high miles, well maintained car that they want to be rid of in order to make room in the garage for their new Maybach. Do you know how to purchase a car like that without getting stuck with junk?

Answer some of these questions and we’ll try and help steer you in the right direction. Many people are going to advise you to start a little lower on the automotive food chain, I’m sure " . . . generic econobox (civic, accord, corolla, focus, etc)"

If it was easy (possible) to do what you’re talking about, I’d be doing it, too.

CSA


#6

Get a corolla,civic accord and put rims or spoliers or wild paint job and you will come out ahead in the long run.


#7

Good advice so far. As for your list, I’d say:
Infiniti J30 - I’d see if you can find an I30 instead, lots more/cheaper parts available
Infiniti M30 - see above
Saab 900 s - no, expensive to repair, stay away
Mercedes 190 e - see Saab comments
Lexus ES 250 - No (v. old) but you might just find an ES300 (a better car) at $3000
VW Bug - air cooled? I wouldn’t, slooooow, New Beetle? I also wouldn’t, not so reliable
Others? How about Acura? Go to cars.com, put in your $$ limits, and see what pops up, then come back here withs some that look interesting. Also look at Craigslist. Good luck!


#8

For the things you want, you will need a larger budget. For $3,000, you will have to compromise and either get an “econobox” or something that isn’t so reliable and fuel efficient.


#9

Skip euro brand as they are expensive to repair.

Otherwise Japanese, Korean or Domestic just pay a mechanic for a check over. Hopefully your family has a trusted one. A $3000 car is an invitation for some serious problems but it may be fine too. Don’t trust the “word” of anyone unless they have a pile of receipts to back that up.

Last thing get an insurance quote for your prosepect liability only. The truth is luxury cars and teens may be well cheaper than the typical choices: “civic, accord, corolla, focus” as those get wrecked on a regular basis. Insurance is a fixed cost and really high for a young driver or parents if involved.

Happy hunting in the wild west of cars price range.


#10

Insurance is $$$$$. So maybe not ahead looking at big picture.

My 2004 Subaru WRX brand new was only $110 more/year to insure vs my 1995 Civic coupe with over 200k miles. Insurance will would be at top priority until this person hits about 25.

As a young person I seriously overpaid on insurance due to poor car choice and too new of car so full coverage was needed.


#11

Those Angus burgers are great (mushroom and swiss).


#12

FORGET “Coolness”, nobody other than YOU cares what you drive…Imaginary coolness can easily double you cost per mile to own and operate. I would look for a 4-cylinder stick shift P/U/ Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Ranger (same as Mazda). Trust me, on campus, you will be THE MAN!!


#13

Telling a teenager to forget “coolness” is like telling a fish not to swim. Don’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager? Even the ones who claim not to care what other people think care a lot about what other people think of them.

If you were telling a 21 year old to forget about coolness and grow up, I would agree, but you are asking the impossible from a teenager.


#14

I agree with what Whitey is saying in all cases except for this.

If the parents are buying a car for their kid and the kid doesn’t like it, then tell them: “This is your car. If you don’t like it, go out and earn some money and buy your own car.”


#15

If the kid is spending someone else’s money, I agree with you. For all we know, this kid might be spending his own money. It is possible his parents gave him $3,000 and told him to buy the car he wants. Maybe we should ask him.

tylerh, is this your money? Did you earn it? If it was given to you, were there any strings attached?


#16

Hi, Tyler here. Thank you for all your advice, it’s much better and friendlier feedback than I’ve received on other forums.

I’ll go ahead and answer some of the questions people posed…

Yes, I am a teenager… I’m invincible and all that… but I’m not quite as stupid as one might imagine :stuck_out_tongue:

commonsense: I will be maintaining this car, hopefully with help from a friend whose going into auto 101, as well as my father, who is a very capable mechanic (owned a TRV in his twenties). My Dad also has a massive number of tools in our garage, which I’ve been using since I was ten to build and repair bikes; I consider myself mechanically inclined. I have five thousand dollars in my car budget, two thousand of which will go to insurance and repairs. I live in Los Angeles, I’m fairly sure there are an adequate number of cars here to ensure plentiful parts.

But thank you for trying to help me realize the extent of what owning a car entails.

HD72mm: Are you being serious or deadpan? I can’t tell.

texases: Thanks for answering my question!

Whitey/ JoeMario: I earned my money by selling personal paintings in coffeshops and working 7 - 5 as a software tester.

Again, thanks for all the feedback… I can deal with a bit of condescension in order to get good answers.
I’m going to take people’s advice and stay away from European cars, but…

What are people’s thoughts on Volkswagons? Late nineties Jettas and Passats are in my price range, as well as late nineties Golfs. Thoughts?


#17

Well VW is European, unless you want to say since some are assembled in Mexico then they aren’t. IF you HAVE to buy a VW, get a stick with the least amount of electronics. You are still going to pay a high price for parts. At that age and mileage the previous maintenance is very important. Most of them would be driven hard by previous owners.


#18

Tyler:
Thanks for your update. My outlook on your question changed considerably.
Cherish the time working on your car with your father.

Several Volkswagon models had a string of unreliable years in the late 90s/early 2000s. I’m sure others can provide more info.


#19

Tyler, Now I Have A Much Better Picture Of The Situation With The Added Information.
commonsense: I will be maintaining this car, hopefully with help from a friend whose going into auto 101, as well as my father, who is a very capable mechanic (owned a TRV in his twenties). My Dad also has a massive number of tools in our garage, which I’ve been using since I was ten to build and repair bikes; I consider myself mechanically inclined. I have five thousand dollars in my car budget, two thousand of which will go to insurance and repairs. I live in Los Angeles, I’m fairly sure there are an adequate number of cars here to ensure plentiful parts.

You are wise beyond your teenage years, taking in advice and waiting for Whitey to ask you to weigh in before commenting and you’re ambitious to have worked and earned $5,000. I agree with Whitey, you need something cool.

I can’t help with the specific cars you’ve listed as we have none around here. I’ll do some more thinking. I think that with the tools, knowledge, Dad, and parts availability, you really can and deserve to consider almost anything in your price range that you think is cool.

[list]Are you leaning more toward a “luxury” car rather than a “sporty” or “muscle car” vehicle?[/list]

[list]Is MPG a consideration? How many MPG would like to see?[/list]

[list]What size? 2, 4, 6, passenger requirement?[/list]

[list]Is this going to serve as a “chick magnet” during its years of service?[/list]

CSA


#20

Unfortunately the reason you’ll find cheap VWs in those years is that VW reliability hit bottom at that time. I’d stay away from those VWs (and I owned and enjoyed 2 VWs for a total of 15 years…).