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Used Car Recommendation

My girlfriend has asked me for advice on what type of used car she should buy. I’m somewhat clueless so I’m looking for advice. She is a teacher in the Madison area so she doesn’t have a lot of money but needs something dependable, reliable and good in the winter. Also she has a shoulder problem so pulling out a heavy sachel of books from a trunk or a back seat doesn’t work so she will need some type of hatchback. The last couple of requirements are: 1. It needs to have good protection in case of an accident. 2. Good gas mileage.

The last comment is it doesn’t need to have a lot of fancy features.

Price range? Not “a lot of money” is $2500 to some people and $25,000 to others.

exactly as mleich said. give us a price range and we’ll be better able to help.

Go to the library and look in Consumer Reports Used Car issue.

Whatever she considers, don’t buy it without a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic.

Madison WI? I’ll suppose that’s true. It’s very flat there, and if the snow is too deep, the kids will have off. No one goes to school in a blizzard. Anything will do from a snow standpoint. If she wants to take advantage of the end-of-model-year sales, she should test drive a Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Elantra Touring, and Scion XD. All are about $15,000-$16,000 MSRP for base models. BTW, those are new car prices. A price will help us zero in.

Toyota Matrix awd or Corolla if fwd is enough. Typical teacher vehicles as the overall cost per mile, longevity and boring level are just what we teachers appreciate.

Point your GF to Consumer Reports and let her choose her own car.

I’ve learned the hard way not to steer people toward particular cars. When something goes wrong with a car you suggested, and it always does, it will be your fault. Forever.

Good point mcparadise. I totally avoided talking with my former boss about cars for this exact reason.

See If I’ve Got This Right.
Used car
Not a lot of money [?]
Dependable, reliable
Good in winter
Hatchback (low lift cargo)
Good protection in collision
Good gas mileage

That pretty much sums up what millions of people are looking for in a car.
I always jokingly say that, “If you find two of them, I’ll take the other one.”

Girlfriend may have to compromise on some of these things to keep the vehicle affordable and within budget. She would do well to prioritize these criteria as some oppose others and it would be almost impossible to meet all of them in one decent used car.

What’s most important ? Safety ? MPG ? Winter driving ? Cargo convenience ? Reliability ?

How many miles of driving per/day or week or month are we talking about ? Perhaps MPG’s not as important as one would think at first. In that case a FWD minivan could fit the bill.

We do need a price range, estimated driving distance per day/week/year, and a prioritized requirement list and also mention what items are a must and what items are only desirable.

Also, consider this. As most of us point out here in most used car buying decisions, the item on the top of the list should probably be one that specifies a used car that had the best maintenance and upkeep and some type of proof of that and one that passes a check-out by a competent mechanic. All other items seem insignificant if one buys a piece of junk.


I once recommended an Audi to a family member. The car had “inboard” disk brakes which turned out to be lousy. The inboard disks would get wet and the car wouldn’t stop in the rain. I never lived down that recommendation with the affected family members. My advice, don’t give any advice. Your gf is a able to do lots of research on this on her own, that’s what computers and smartphones are for.

Let’s say you recommend a Prius. Your gf could freak out when she learns it is several hundred dollars to fix a burned out headlight - and blame you for recommending such a lame car. See the thread on “Prius Headlights”. This is one of those innocent items in a relationship that can get you into big trouble.

Nissan Rogue, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav 4/Highlander…Honda Accord Crosstour, Hyundai Tuscon/Santa Fe, Mazda 3 hatch, that should get you started…

I would recommend that if you don’t want to ride in cheap cars, find a new girl friend in a field other than teaching.
In the old days, school teaches drove Plymouths. The principals drove Dodges, assistant superintendents drove DeSotos and the Superintendent of the school district drove a Chrysler. I can’t make a recommendation in this case because I have no idea what educators are supposed to drive.

Educators buy used, old and unatractive so not to tempt the parking lot “key” crowd. They also like to rotate their cars the day after they give a detention to keep the revenge factor “off balance”. So, having several Junkers in the family is always an advantage.

Well maintained but seldom washed so car sitters would soil their pants is a plus too. Car make is unimportant as long as you remove identifying decals. Also, since the day I caught one student jumping from one car hood to another, I never parked next to another car. I think you get the point of what can go on in a school parking lot.

College profs. are a different breed with different clientele. I would not attempt to recommend their cars either.

Wow ! Rough Neighborhood ! Unbelievable.

No ROUGH is my brother-in-law who teaches in upstate NY…

One student was suspended…so he threw a molotov cocktail into the teachers parking lot…Several cars were destroyed. And this incident added a total of a week suspension to the student…

Sounds a bit like my old HS, Mike…

We had one student arrested for planting pipe bombs…

And we had another with criminal convictions for sex offenses and a history of violence against women put in classes with female teachers who he had already made significant threats against…

Thankfully where my wife works is much better… but the kids are much younger there, so her major concern is simply not to drive our new car into the more sketchy neighborhoods - she takes our beater Camry so she can blend better…

Luckily my parents moved out of the city before I was in High-school…and moved to a small town…Otherwise I would have had to attend one of the city schools where your first priority is to stay alive or not get jumped…instead of learning. I don’t know how you can control a school with 6,000 students.

“Thankfully where my wife works is much better… but the kids are much younger there, so her major concern is simply not to drive our new car into the more sketchy neighborhoods…”

About 30 years ago my wife taught in a pre-school while attending college. One of the boys walked up to her, put his arm around her, and declared “I got my woman”. What’s that about the younger set again?