Used Car Recommendations for 12K


I drive 600 miles per week, all highway miles. I need a 4 door used car recommendation for 12K. Help!

You didn’t say what size car you need Sam. You also didn’t say whether you’ll drive the car into the ground or sell it in a couple of years. Either way I’m going to make two recommendations. If you don’t mind a small 4 door go for a Honda Civic Ex-it’ll get 37 mpg on the highway easy and you’ll need that given how much you drive. If you need a bigger car a Honda Accord Ex is the way to go-it also gets excellent mileage for its size. Both have strong resale value and both can go 300,000 miles with proper maintenance.

I would recommend a Hyundai Elantra, which has almost as much inside room as and intermediate, rides well and your can get one really loaded for $12000. Another good choice woulfd be a Mazda 3, a very tough car. Both are good on gas and will last a long time. If you drive that much a really small car will be tiring because of the noise and the choppy ride. Civics and Corallas are way too expensive now that US buyers have tipped into small crs. Under no circumstances would I recommend any Volkswagen, or any US compact such as Cobalt, Saturn or Focus.

I agree with most of what you said Doc, but I still have trouble getting behind Hyundai. It’s really just two main points with me: The first is the awful resale, which is almost to the point of being ridiculous. The other is the long-term durabaility of Hyundais, which so far based on the data available to us, hasn’t been so rosy. I mean they are improving by leaps and bounds, but I still don’t have the same comfort level with them as I do Honda and Toyota.

Honda Accord or Toyota Camry come to mind. The Corolla or Civic may do it but a signficant compromise in comfort which I would long for 600 miles/week. I would also recommend recent Buick midsize sedans.

Based on my brother’s 40+ mpg he’s gotten with 3 different Civics, I’d recommend a Civic, too.

And what reason could you possibly give for avoiding the Focus? They’re reliable, affordable, have excellent driving dynamics, and the Focus with an automatic transmission gets HIGHER combined MPG than a Honda Civic with an automatic transmission, according to owner reports at

Hyundai’s have overcome their bad reputation and for the last 5 years they have been excellent cars. The low resale value makes the Elantra an excellent buy; I’m assumimg anyone who buys a used $12,000 car basically wants to use it up, so to speak. In that case resale value is a non-issue.

A colleague of mine is a shrewed shopper and owns a 5 year old Elantra which has been totally bullet-proof, as good as any Toyota or Honda. Any minor repairs have been in expensive. Across the board, Hyundai’s now have better reliability than Mercedes.

When we get to 300,000+ miles, a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla might hold up better than a Hyundai. Time will tell.

My hangups with cheap Ford products is the support that Ford traditionally lacks. Although the Focus is now rated acceptable in terms of reliability, Ford always lets it be known that pickup truck and SUV owners rated higher in their service & support programs.

The Azera would make a good choice if one needs a larger car. The only bad thing about a used Hyundai is that you can’t transfer that warranty to a different person.

I would go for an Accord (I4) or a Camary (I4), maybe a low mileage Grand Prix /w 3.8L , or a Taurus with the duratec engine. If you spend alot of time in the car you may want more room than the smaller models

Unless you feel the need for power, I’d go with a Taurus with the base V6 (and preferably AX4N tranny) instead of the duratec. The Vulcan was one of the most reliable engines made, as it should have been, with oh-so many years of practice.

It was weak by modern standards, though.

That said, I don’t feel I lack for power with it, and my last highway run on my 11 year old Taurus produced 32 mpg into a light wind (~10 mph) with the A/C on…

Shortyoh- I’ve noticed a trend of you recommending American cars, or more specifically Fords, whenever the opportunity arises. Now, you’re welcome to your opinion of what you like to drive, but when people ask for an opinion they’re looking for something objective. Suggesting a Taurus over a Camry or Accord when someone drives 600 miles a week and needs both mileage and reliability is not helpful to the poster. The cars are just not in the same league.

Speaking of the poster - hello? Some comments would help, Sam H…another drive-by posting, maybe…

Sam, you really don’t give many specs. Don’t overlook the Chevrolet Impala, a real value. Shopping carefully, you possibly could find an 05 or 06 and maybe a little warranty left on it. They are safe, roomy, and the 3.8L (bullet proof) and 3.9L deliver decent performance and over 30 mpg hwy! There are tons of these on the road with happy owners. The bodies hold up well and so do the drivetrains. Compare the 05 and 06 and the options. Find one that’s nicely equipped and take it for a ride. Hope this is in your ballpark.

I would recommend that you rent a car before you make a purchase since you drive 600 miles a week. This way you can tell if the Civic or other vehicle is comfortable for you for this distance. The institution where both my wife and I are employed has Chevrolet Impalas, Ford Tauruses and Honda Civic Hybrids in its fleet. My wife does have to go on the road to recruit graduate students, and she didn’t care for the ride or noise level of the Honda Civic Hybrid when she has been assigned to one of these vehicles. She prefers the Ford Taurus. On the other hand, my research partner would rather we have a Honda when we go to conventions to present our work. That is why I suggest renting a vehicle for at least a day’s drive to see what you think.

Not helpful? How about constantly recommending the same small set of cars that are no more reliable or fuel efficient than the competition.

Have you not noticed the reliability record of the Taurus post-95?

Not bad considering the Accord and Camry:

Look, I have both a Camry and a Taurus, both of the same approximate vintage and mileage. The Camry gets 31-32 mpg on the freeway. The Taurus gets 30-32. The Camry gets 20-25 mpg city, the Taurus 20-24 mpg. Repair and maintenance costs are VERY similar over 10+ years.

But that’s just anecdotal evidence. Look at Consumer Reports (93% of all Ford models rated average or better, a higher % than for Toyota). Or There’s PLENTY of evidence out that objectively shows that ignoring domestic alternatives (particularly Ford) is silly. By all means buy what you want, but you aren’t being the LEAST bit objective when you come on and provide a knee jerk response that a Toyota or Honda are your only options.

Ok Shorty, I admire that you took the time to try and pull some data and make a good argument, so I’m going to repond in a similar fashion.

I am not going to discuss anything made prior to the year 2000, since a person with $12,000 to spend is not shopping for 12 year old cars. You cited Consumer Reports and I am going to as well since their data pool is the largest in the industry and has an excellent accuracy rate among popular cars. I also am a long-time subscriber and have access to all their past test data. I am looking at the charts for for post-2000 Taurus models and it looks awful-the car receives the lowest possible marks in a variety of categories including brakes, suspension and electrical problems. The fuel system components and minor engine componenets get and average score at best. The tested mileage was 14mpg city and 30mpg highway for the V6 Taurus.

Now I look at the data for the Accord of the same vintage. I am showing excellent scores for every category possible except one-the transmission on 2000-2002 models which was plagued by a component failure that has since been remedied. Tested gas mile was 15mpg city and 34mpg highway with the 4 cylinder and 16mpg city and 32mpg for the V6.

In the categories of resale value the Accord is significantly stronger. In tested performance and driving dynamics the Accord is much stronger. In the category of fit and finish the Accord is much stronger. I can’t find a single area where the Taurus is superior except for the fact it’s a cheaper car used.

So we have all that against the Taurus. Then I have my own personal experience as someone involved with car dealers for years and having driven hundreds of used cars, as well as having worked on countless cars personally. On top of that Edmunds, Car & Driver, etc tend to come to the same conclusions when it comes to testing these cars.

Can someone please tell me now why I should direct someone towards a Taurus other than American pride or not having enough money to buy a good Japanese car?

That is a good idea. And I could see wanting atleast a mid sized car for that kind of travel.
Edmunds lists dealer prices for an 05 Taurus for roughly $9000, the same year Accord will be roughly $3k more or higher, the Impala will go for about $11k. So, if you bought an 05 Taurus, put the price difference in the bank, and don’t need to touch that extra 3k for repair work, you came out ahead pretty good.

In fact, I think it is wise to budget an additional $2-3000 when making a used car purchase and put the money in an interest bearing account. I’ve done this with my used car purchases figuring that I’ll need tires, possibly a battery, brake pads and other repairs sooner than if I bought a new car. I’ve always come out ahead.

I admire your persistence, but I’ll have to dig out my copies to check your claims - I don’t recall the Taurus having marks anywhere near as bad as you claim - overall it was solidly average (which, btw, is darned good, and the average - much better than average difference is within their error in measurement)…

So what dealer do you work for? You’re degrading a solidly reliable used car that is considerably cheaper and every bit as fuel efficient (look at for real world owner numbers)…

I willingly conceed that the Accord had better driving dynamics and was a faster car. So what? Is it a cheaper car to own? There is far more to a car than just speed and skid pad numbers. Trying to shoehorn every buyer that comes along into an Accord or Camry is doing them a disservice.

And with current models, it really is silly beyond belief. Have you driven a Fusion? You want dynamics and performance…