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What used car should I buy? I need ABS

We need to replace our dying '94 Corolla. We want anti-lock brakes, reliability and fuel efficiency. We need four doors and room for five people. We don’t want to spend more than $8000. I think that Camrys are more likely than Corollas to have ABS, but I am hesitant to buy another big, powerful car. (We have a '99 Avalon that’s in fine shape.)

Would a Yaris be the solution?

If you need to fit five people, I wouldn’t consider anything smaller than a Camry. The Yaris is a subcompact, so four people would probably fit in somewhat reasonable comfort, but five people would be miserable, if the Yaris even has a third seat belt in the back seat. The Camry is not what I would consider to be a powerful car. It is available with a four cylinder that provides very good fuel economy and enough power to move the car around at a reasonable pace. It is also available with the same V6 your Avalon has, which is more than the Camry needs, and is more difficult and expensive to service than the four cylinder.

If you are open to other makes outside of Toyota, other cars to look at include the Accord, Mazda6, Fusion, Impala, Malibu, and my personal favorite, the Buick LeSabre/Park Avenue. You can get a very nice Buick in your price range, and they are very solid, reliable cars. It sort of falls into the category of a big, powerful car like you are hesitant to buy, with comfortable seating for six, a 200 horsepower V6, and a trunk large enough to fit several bodies, but this plush luxobarge also will get you high 20s to low 30s in the MPG category. Being a granny cruiser, it also has low insurance premiums. Even the supercharged, super-luxurious Park Avenue Ultra, with it’s tire frying, rice burner smoking capabilities, falls well within your price range and qualifies for the aforementioned low insurance premiums.

Your Avalon has 200hp, that’s hardly powerful by today’s standards.

On a Yaris ABS is/was an optional extra as it’s the stripped down, no frills car. Look at a Mazda 3, that should give you some value for your money. If you could afford new, the 2012 Mazda 3 boasts 40 mpg highway

$8,000 buys a nice 2005+ Hyundai Sonata with <50,000 miles.

Go for another Corolla. You should be able to get abs after 2004 if you avoid the base model. Corollas are one of the standards by which all compacts are measured and have been for decades. Few cars if any have sold as much over the last 40 years. You should be able to find one with abs.

It might be harder to find a Corolla without ABS brakes, than with them. ABS brakes are very common and just about every car sold in the last 5 years has them.

Have you seen a Yaris? You say seating for 5 and then wonder about a Yaris, which if it could seat 5 they sure as heck won’t be very comfortable. What exactly is your criteria; prioritize your needs, and wants? I think you need to tighten down your criteria and then start shopping.

Thanks, everyone.

Clarifications: When I say seat five, I mean carpooling children to this and that. Being crowded in the back will do them no harm.

When I say I don’t need a powerful engine, I guess I mean I don’t need an engine that is more powerful than… a weak engine. I just need to get my husband a five-minute drive to work and back, and an occasional 10 or 15 minute carpool drive.

When I say I don’t want to spend more than $8000, I mean I don’t want to spend $18000, $12000 or even $9000. Wouldn’t that rule out a new car, or a very recent vintage?

I wish I could find some charts that show in what year each Asian compact (or sub-compact) model started to have ABS as a fixed feature. I’m getting tired of calling salesmen and private sellers and finding that they don’t know if the model they’ve advertised has ABS!

Very grateful for everyone’s comments.

Why is ABS so important?? That should be a minor consideration…You will have trouble finding a modern vehicle without them…

Used Honda Fit.

If you are looking for an inexpensive small car, take a look at the Nissan Versa. It is a bit heavier than the Yaris, and it is a heck of a lot easier to get in and out of if you are tall. The 1.6 base sedan has ABS as an option, and it is standard on all the other (Versa) models. I am 6’-1" with a tall upper body, and I am quite comfortable in my versa, even sitting in the back seat! I looked at a Yaris sedan, and I would need to be guillotined to get in and out of it easily.

A quick look at Toyota’s website seems to indicate that all of the Yari and Corollas have ABS as standard equipment.

I do have to ask, why is ABS so important? I find that with suitable tires, my Versa and my wife’s Odyssey are no problem in the snow. My Versa does not have ABS (it is a 2007). Our Odyssey has ABS, but I find that, in some situations, braking carefully gives me better results than depending on the ABS.

I agree that careful driving is always better then not.Having to depend upon abs to get you out of a jam is not always the best policy. The problem is, nearly everyone over estimates their ability to get themselves out of a jam “the other guy”'caused and abs does a great job evening out the odds.

Nothing is fool proof, but if you are going to cart kids around, you can’t always think that far ahead while chaperoning and I commend OP for recognizing this. Seat belts may be unnessesary for the ultra conservative
driver too, but I remember when they were not on the market for so long, and there were some who either
refused to wear them or preferred cars w/o. The grave yard has a lot of attendees who thought they could drive their way out of a need for them as well.

Why do I want ABS? Two reasons:

  1. My husband, a great scientist but not the greatest driver around
  2. My soon-to-be 16yo

I was encouraged by what Dagosa said, but I’m not finding what he described at the moment. Maybe in the next couple of days something will turn up. In the meantime I went to look at a very low mileage '07 Hyundai Elantra manual transmission with ABS for $11000 (more than I wanted to spend).

I have always found Corollas to be very dependable. How does the Elantra compare?

Thanks again to everyone.

Hyundai has come a long way since they first came here. Good value for the money.

When you limit your purchase price to $8k, you greatly reduce your chances of getting a reliable vehicle with these features. This may be why you have trouble finding Corollas with abs. ABS is great to have, but if you never encounter snow or ice conditions and drive mostly in town at low speeds, you may not utilize it’s benefits. If Hyundais were as reliable as Corollas over a span of ten to fifteen years, I would recommend them. Not there yet IMO. But they are definitely worth a hard look if $8k is your limit and I agree with " bscar".

Since some participants are not comfortable just taking my word for it that I want ABS (sigh), I will explain further. (By the way, we do encounter snow and ice conditions.)

  1. My husband has been known to drive too fast for the given driving conditions and skid going downhill on wet pavement, sliding and missing a stop sign, and arriving unceremoniously in a major road. He was just lucky there wasn’t a truck coming at that moment. The speed limit in that section of the major road is 45.

  2. When I googled “car talk” and ABS, I found a Tom and Ray discussion of ABS. They recommended it unequivocally for teen drivers.

I would be grateful for more comments about the Hyundai candidate I found. And what is the least you think I might have to spend on a Corolla with ABS?

Again, thanks to everyone.

I can see why you want ABS, but frankly, if your husband insists on driving too fast for conditions, ABS probably won’t help. I can understand sliding on snow, we all screw up once in a while, but sliding on wet pavement on a regular basis is inexcusable. ABS can’t defy the laws of physics, and if he insists on driving too fast for conditions, ABS will only help him to slide into a busy intersection nice and straight instead of sideways. I agree with dagosa in that ABS is a wonderful safety feature that everyone should have, but if you cannot afford a car that has it, you may have to do without. Either way, hubby should stop driving too fast for conditions, and I hope it doesn’t take a serious accident to teach him this!

The only times I actually used the ABS feature was when I actually tried to get it to engage. You can’t fight physics, though you’re welcome to try. your husband seems to like to try, from the way you describe his driving habits. Maybe give him a gift certificate for a winter driving course from a local driving school as a birthday or christmas present; he might get the hint.

Sigh. I said “has been known to”. I didn’t say “regularly”.

Also, you’re forgetting about the teen (who carries some of the husband’s genes).

Part of the problem is the particular configuration of the streets near my house. Three blocks from home, you come down a slight incline to a stop sign, where you turn a 45 degree angle right into a 45-mph zone road, which is a major artery into our small town. In this part of the country, such major arteries have only one lane in each direction. So a truck coming into town (also down a slight incline) would have a hard time not killing my husband if he comes careening into the major road. He won’t learn from his mistakes if he’s dead. He made three mistakes. He was going a little too fast for the road conditions to begin with (35 instead of 25 or 30), he started braking too close to the stop sign, and he didn’t pump when he started sliding.

Of course I’ve taken measures since this happened, and deciding to get ABS on the next car is one of them. Why is it so hard for people to just accept the premise, which is that I want a car with ABS? Just assume that the writer wants ABS as stated, for whatever reason, if only irrational.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…

How about an '06 Nissan Altima? I believe it’s slightly larger than a Corolla, but I guess I have to bend some constraint. How would that be for reliability, life span and resellability 5-10 years from now (as a Latin American taxi)?

An '06 Altima is a pretty nice car. It is a midsize car…probably more in the Accord/Camry category.

I don’t want to lecture anyone on driving habits. I’m just saying that if one is driving too fast for conditions, with ABS he will fly into the cross traffic with the brakes rapidly pulsing instead of with the wheels locked up. ABS will only shorten stopping distances to a point, and in less-than-ideal conditions, it is not the miracle worker that some think it to be. Your husband needs to learn better driving habits, or he, whoever is riding with him, and whoever is in the cross traffic that he slides into will not be safe, ABS or not. Stopping a 3,500 lb. object is not always easy to do!