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Which car is better when it comes to reliability and fuel efficiency?

I want to purchase a new car after my insurance stated that my old car is a total loss due to flood waters. I wanted something within my budget(around 15,000)so I was thinking of a Mazda 3 (4 door sedan), Toyota Corolla LE, and the Ford Focus. I want to keep my car for a very long time even after my college years are over. So I was wondering which car should I consider when it comes to reliability, fuel efficiency, and I do not pay a lot for car parts even if something did happen to the vehicle.

All three are good cars now, but the Corolla will likely last the longest (very long). The Corolla with the smaller engine (1.8 liters) and a stick shift will be quite economical as well.

The Mazda 3 is the coolest looking and the most fun to drive, but the mileage will be less than the Toyota’s.

The Focus is much improved over previous models and is now a nice car and with the standard engine and stick shift failrly economical.

My own choice would be the Toyota Corolla, but in the overall scheme of things for the first 100,000 miles there would not be a lot of diffierence in ownership cost. At that time the Corolla will have significantly better trade-in value than the other 2.

Make surre you buy the standard engine and stick shift if you want maximum fuel economy.

We had a Mexican buyer for Chevrolet trucks that insisted (and paid for) changing over all the trucks he bought to automatics. His drivers just tore up the manual trans versions,inexperience or youthful recklessness, we never found out.

I would also add Consumer reports top pick for small cars, the Hyundai Elantra.

Drive all 4 of them & buy the one you like the best.

My wife drives an 02 Hyundai Sonata which has been an excellent car for it’s first 149,000 miles.

Only problems weve had are an alternator replaced at 142,000 miles & a steering hose replaced at 123,000 miles.

A new Elantra will be just as reliable as her Sonata has been.

All are good choices, and if you buy brand new, should last several years with proper maintenance. The Ford might edge out the other 2 in terms of part costs, but I doubt you’ll need to buy that many.
Test drive all 3, but check with your insurance company before you buy. If you like all of them, then the cheaper one to insure would help sway decisions.

I hate to say the Corolla may be best. Watch out for the two map light switches on the rear view mirror. You can forget that the lights are on or you can bump one of them and the light will drain the battery. I’m just too tall for a Corolla, unless it’s a 1983.

Your choices are all in the ballpark based on the criteria you’ve given. As another stated look at a Hyuundai, and I’d add the Honca Civic or Fit to the list. Honda cost the most up front but hold value the best over time. Parts may cost more but repairs are less frequent.

I bought an '03 Civic, 4 door, 5 spd manual trans new with the intention of keeping it for 20 years. So far, 90K miles and no repairs, 40 mpg on interstate trips, and 35 mpg overall. The Corolla has high maintenance costs if you take it to a Toyota dealer for service. Toyota dealers are the most aggressive at selling services over what the owner’s manual calls for. If you get a Toyota find a good independant mechanic for routine service.

The Corolla is a nice car, but will have high maintenance costs. Expect to pay about 75% more than the equivalent Focus or 25% more than the Mazda3. You may make a bit up in repairs, but Ford was recently rated as one of the top brands for reliability by CR.

Buy a $5000 Crown Vic and bank the ten grand. You may very well wish you had it…You have fifteen grand to blow and you are still in college??? Must be nice…

Drive all three and make sure you are happy with it beyond what anyone posts about reliability and fuel.

Driving a car you don’t like a long time is awful, I did it for 8yrs/225k in Honda Civic, hated that car.

I have to agree on everything in your post, pdv.

I have a Matrix (Practically the same as the Corolla) and did exactly what you said to watch out for…those map reading mirror light switches.

Ditto on the Corolla. I got a real shock when I sat (or should I say TRIED to sit) in a showroom Corolla. I couldn’t even get my butt into the seat!

Of the three, the Corolla should be the most reliable. (Disclosure: I own and drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla liftback with 547,000+ miles which I purchased new and have found to be about as reliable in the 2000s as in the 1990s and 1980s and far more reliable than my earlier GM vehicles which also were purchased new.)

However, if I were in the new car market, I would buy one of the following:

a Toyota Yaris 4-door hatchback,
a Scion xD, or
a Honda Fit,

as all three have a very sound reliability history and fuel efficiency.

However, as a Ford shareholder, I do not want to discourage you from buying a Ford Focus.