Two used cars: which to travel across country with?

Thanks in advance for the help.

The question/problem is: I am driving cross country from east to west to bring a car to my semi-new home in San Francisco. My parents have two used cars that I can choose from to drive. I am having trouble deciding, they both have their pros and cons. I need a car that will 1. last the drive without too much trouble and 2. last a few years on the west coast.

Option 1:
2003 Honda Accord with 160,000 miles

Option 2:
2006 Ford Focus with 70,000 miles

I admit my car ignorance so any help/things I might not have thought about is appreciated.

Take the Focus…It has less than half mileage and will be more reliable…I bet it’s A/C works better too…

Either will be OK as long as all the recommended services have been kept up to date. I would assume that the Honda has had its timing belt done around 2010 and will be good until 2017. If the Focus uses a belt, it should have been changed in 2013, if not, it is overdue and you do not want to make this trip on an overdue belt.

My preference would be the Honda for the trip but the Focus for driving around in SF traffic.

Focus is also a smaller car an thus easier to parallel park in SF city. A no-brainer, for me.

According to the Gates book, 2004 were the last Focus models to use a belt. In 2005 the Third Generation Focus models were introduced and the engines apparently have chain-driven cams…

Do Mom & Dad have any thoughts about this? After all, they own the cars…I would not leave them holding the short end of the stick…

Thanks for comments!

I agree that the Focus would be much better for SF driving and have thought that as a pretty strong reason to go with it.

Will have to check with my parents about recommended services but they take pretty good care of their cars. As far as their opinion, they are currently pretty agnostic as the car left behind will be a third virtually unused car except when their children are back home visiting.

The Focus is a “no brainer” especially for a cross country trip.

The Focus gets my vote but seeing as how you state it will have to last a few years in CA are you certain that either one of them will pass emissions testing once you take up residence there?

It seems obvious you don’t need both cars. I would sell both and shoot for something bigger and newer then the Honda or the theFocus. A 2006 Honda Accord with 70k is a great compromise. If I’m going to drive cross country, my flabby buttesimo might like something better then a Focus.

The focus might not be such a bad road trip car, my dad rented a few of these and preferred the focus over the Taurus that he had another time. As long as the car is up to date on all services it should do just fine.

Take the Focus. Wishing you enjoy your new home in San Francisco. It’s summer, so remember to bring a warm sweater.

Don’t worry too much about emissions unless you have warning lights on. Have the one checked with a code reader if you want some assurance.

If the Focus is running OK, I would take it. The odds are it will be more reliable and have less chance of breakdowns.

Focus. But will there be problems registering a non left coast car out there? They do have different requirements. Maybe @georgeSanJose knows.

The newer cars (probably 96 and newer) all seem to conform to CA DMV emissions. The OP should make sure the car has been registered under his/her name for a while before moving. This way they charge you less in taxes and fees. Otherwise they think you are “importing” a used car from out of state.

Having driven in a Focus, I prefer a bigger car for road trips. When in SF then the smaller car is better :slight_smile: We just visited SF a month ago, while there decided to leave the car in the hotel and use public transportation or just walk. Finding a parking space costs you a lot of time and money.

There should be no problems registering an 06 Ford Focus in Calif. There may be some minor complications though. OP could phone up the California DMV and ask to make sure. The car will likely have to

  • be properly registered in the originating state.
  • retain all the original emissions equipment.

How much it will cost, you’ll have to ask the DMV. The answer can be complicated. As mentioned above, Calif wants to make sure you are not bringing in the car from another state in an attempt to avoid Calif sales tax on the purchase price. If it appears to the DMV that is what you are doing, then you’ll still be able to register it ok, but you’ll have to pay the equivalent of the Calif sales tax as part of the registration fee.

Ca. doesn’t charge the $300 fee for registering out of state cars any longer. I got my $600 rebate a few years ago for the two cars I got charged for. DMV there is fast and efficient.

But will there be problems registering a non left coast car out there? They do have different requirements.

My wifes 96 Accord, her 07 Lexus, my 98 Pathfinder, 05 4runner and now my 14 Highlander all met CA emission requirements. I’m pretty sure manufacturer aren’t making different vehicles for CA anymore.

I don’t know whether these days new cars made for Calif sale are differently equipped than cars intended for sale in other states. But I don’t think it is necessary that an out of state car meets the CA emissions equipment requirement in any event. It just has to have all the equipment that it had when and where it was sold as a new car.

It’s good to hear @pleasedodgevan2 that they’ve stopped assessing that $300 fee.

As a San Francisco resident for decades, a few comments. The Focus will be slightly easier to parallel park, but not that much. Most street spaces will fit either just fine. California gas prices are sky high and climbing and so are insurance costs, though for older cars insurance will be cheap (except liability). Resale prices for Hondas are far higher here than for Fords. Those older Focuses didn’t sell that well here, though sales of the current model are strong.

How many miles do you intend to put on it per year? A long commute argues strongly in favor of the
Focus. It will just last a lot longer as it so many fewer miles to start with. However, if you’re like many here who commute by public transit or have a short commute, I’d get the nicer Accord. You’ll be able to run either one for many more years and it might as well be the nicer one. We put on no more than 2000 miles unless we take a long road trip. The car just gets used for errands out of the neighborhood, Sunday drives, and one trip to Southetn CA to see my mother at Christmas. If this sounds similar to your car use, either one could last you for decades. They’re far mote likely to be totalled in a wreck thsn wear out. That’s what hsppened to our old car in the end. My partner was heartbroken.

I’d also get the Accord if you plan to make road trips around the state and the rest of the West. The Accord gas mileage will be worse, but you’ll appreciate its greater power in mountain driving and its spacious, comfortable seats if you have long days of driving. If you would like to bring a couple of friends on your trips, then the Accord will be much kinder to everyone. A Focus back seat is OK for kids and for adults on shorter trips, but not for a whole day. Of course, if you get to making really frequent trips the Focus makes sense as it likely has more life in it. We had them as rentals a few times and they did the job, but no more. I was bothered by the loud road noise compared to other cars. No big deal for city driving, but fatiguing out on the highway.