What type of car should my Mom get?

Whatever it is, it should be in the 4k range when bought second-hand. I understand this severely limits the options, and that the answer gets kind of dicey if it’s not new.

Anyway, the main thing is that it’s not going to suddenly break down and cost her a lot of additional money - or, if something does go wrong, it’s something relatively minor that can either be ignored or fixed cheaply.

She’ll mainly be using it to commute to work - about ten minutes there and back, on decent roads - and go to town for shopping. It would also be great if it could stand hour-long drives up and back to the city for everything else. Mileage comes into play here I suppose, though I doubt she’d be going to the city that often.

The other big thing will be its ability to hold up against this maritime weather - lots of salt on the roads for several months of the year, and lots of salty spray in the atmosphere most of the time anyway from the surf. She’ll certainly be getting it undercoated but still. Depending on some things, she may leave the continent to teach English in a year or so, and it would be great if it were less than 50% rust at that point.

She lives alone and has almost no need for a four-door.

Also, she works in a nice and respectable funeral home, formal dress and ivy, you know, so ideally it would be, like, a car she could park out front with everyone else’s.

You can probably tell how out of my depth I am, but I’ll be online tomorrow to help figure this out one way or another. Sorry I can’t pre-emptively answer relevant questions. Anyway I gotta go pass out, somehow it became morning.

Where are you,Greenland? You can find a terrific car for $4000.She could probably get a mint condition AMC Rambler for that price (bodies were dipped back then)which could withstand salt. Considering that’s a 1960s-70s car,you probably won’t find one.I suggest a Subaru for reliability and traction.

I’d look at private owners first. You should be able to find one in like new,everything works(even A/C,all windows,sunroof,rear window defroster, etc.) condition.

"the main thing is that it's not going to suddenly break down and cost her a lot of additional money"

With a used car, the way that it was maintained by the previous owner(s) is actually far more important than the specific make and model. While I would recommend a Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis (the same vehicle mechanically) or essentially any Buick model, even those preferable makes and models could be a disaster waiting to happen if they were poorly-maintained.

Obviously, when you have such a limited budget, you are also going to have limited choices, but at least the stated budget will make for a quicker search. I would suggest focusing on cars being sold by individuals, rather than by dealers. Then, ask for maintenance records that you can compare to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, which should be sitting in the glove box.
No records? No sale, in my opinion.

In any event, you need to have the finalist(s) inspected by a trusted mechanic prior to purchase, as this can potentially uncover really expensive problems that are impending. If the seller refuses to allow a pre-purchase inspection, just walk away.

Avoid any AWD cars like Subarus because of your limited budget.

Expecting a $4,000 car not to break down is unrealistic. However, following VDCdriver’s advice above will give you the best shot at a reliable car.

My opinion is that you shouldn’t waste your money on undercoating. You do want to keep a good coat of wax on the car, though.

The best bang for the buck in your price range is a low mileage Hyundai Accent. These cars sold for $10,000-$14,000 new and are reliable and cheap to fix.

I agree, avoid any used Subaru.

“you shouldn’t waste your money on undercoating”

Absolutely correct!
Undercoating an old car is only going to seal-in all of the…dirt…salt residue…contaminants…RUST…etc that have collected on the underside during the preceding decade or so.

Undercoating a new car is no longer necessary, but it is unlikely to do damage if it is done correctly.
However, undercoating an old car is counterproductive and can actually accelerate the process of rust damage.

Maybe one of the customers at the funeral home has a nice car they no longer need…Crown Vics, Grand Marquis, Buicks…Big old solid cars that run forever and anyone can fix…

Great point, she has a unique position to find a used car v

I dunno… It seems indelicate to ask about the dearly departed’s car. I’m not sure how to approach that.

No used car at that price can guarentee anything, but had good luck with the Saturn I got for my daughter.

$4k and only ten minute commute ? I would avoid European cars and look for anything else in the best shape you can find with no preconceived car type at all. My first thoughts are cheap but decent Hyundias and Kias as well as low end Fords. But really, anything that passes the muster of a trusted mechanic is better then limiting yourself to any particular make. The car world is your oyster. I second…no undercoating. Save the money for repairs or maintence or the best tires you can afford.

If you could get $4000 dollar cars that were reliable and never need expensive repairs, they wouldn’t be able to sell any new ones.

I say put the $4k as a down payment on a new 2015 Corvette Z06. Then use her retirement and your future inheritance to make the monthly payments. Go Mom!

If you live in a large urban area, there will be plenty of cars in that price range, but most kind of rough. As you’re in an area with salt, I’d be looking for newer with a lot of miles over older with fewer miles, especially since your mom isn’t going to put a whole lot of miles on it. Nothing is going to make your mom’s car unsafe and worthless as rust, so have any car very carefully inspected.

As for what to buy, condition matters more than specific brand or model. The most valued Japanese brands (Honda, Toyota, Subaru) go for a significant premium. You can probably get a Hyundai or Nissan or domestic car that’s just as good for less. The Consumer Reports guide has decent reliability info for the more common models, when comparing similar cars.

If something seems strange about a car, like evidence of a serious accident or apparent deferred maintenance, move along and let it be someone else’s problem. Ask questions about maintenance and condition before agreeing to go see a car. Again, if something doesn’t add up, thanks but no thanks. It’s a lot faster making phone calls than going out to see unsuitable cars.

Unless you buy lime green or purple, most cars will be dignified enough for parking by the funeral home. All the blah silver and gray cars on the road will look fine.

Subaru makes reliable tried and true AWD,they’ve switched to inline four cylinders.The horizontal fours were good engines,but the newer ones(horizontal) had valve cover leaks,the jury is still out on the in-line fours. Avoid Ford And Lincoln Mercury. Toyota is the most reliable these days.

Subaru has switched to inline fours ? Boy, that got by me .

Wow, that’s a “Dusie” of a comment. Old miled-up Subarus are a terrible option. Then AWD system could be damaged, and the head gaskets could be bad.

Subaru has switched to I-4 engines?
Could Dusenberg kindly post a link to a credible source for that information, as well as a list of the Subaru models that use I-4s?