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Which (Chrysler group) car?

Time for me to finally pick out my own car. It’ll be one from the Chrysler group, as my dad worked there for 25 years and I’d be disowned if I didn’t get at least one (plus I’ll get his discount). I’m a grad student, so price is my biggest factor and of course the mpg’s. My goal is just to do a 3 year lease and move up to something nicer when I have a job. I grew up with Chrysler and Dodge cars (and parents of the mindset, “If it gets from A to be, it’s good enough”), so I know just how bulky and cheap on the inside they’ve gotten. I was hoping the Dart would come out sooner, but I need a car before the summer.

Looking at all three brands, it looks like my narrowed (cheapest) choices are:
Dodge Avenger (Driven these before. Nothing really outstanding)
Chrysler 200 (Haven’t tried this out yet, but from reviews it seems to be the leader)
Jeep Patriot (Cheapest…I don’t have a need for a SUV, but this seems to be more of a car)

Please give me helpful input and not “Don’t buy Chrysler brands.”

“My goal is just to do a 3 year lease and move up to something nicer when I have a job.”

I would advise against buying a new car at this time. A lease is a big of a commitment as purchase.

Look on Craigs list for a Neon, all non turbo Neons are less than $5,000. When you are employed and have a down payment of at least $5,000 a new car purchase may be reasonable.

BTW, the Chrysler 200 is a Sebring with a face lift, the Avenger, 200 and Sebring share the same platform (JS body).

The Avengers are really no worse than any other car in their class, but they don’t really shine, as you mentioned. I’ve driven the 200. It’s nothing spectacular performance-wise, but does have a pretty nice interior and a great nav and sound system. The Patriot is decent enough, but will likely give you the worst mileage. If you don’t need the utility and 4WD, there’s not much point of you getting it. IMHO, a used Neon would be the worst possible choice. It might be cheap, but these cars usually bought by people that consider them disposable transportation and maintained accordingly. You’d be buying someone else’s problems.

I like the new 300s and Grand Cherokees, but they may be out of your price range. Maybe a Fiat 500 if you’re not looking for performance? It’s cute and gets good mileage. Not sure of your gender, but it would likely also be a magnet for people of the opposite sex. I don’t know what the lease situation is for one.

Personally I’ve always had good luck with Chrysler vehicles.

If leasing is your thing and can wait.

The Dart seems like a decent car on paper. It also a real asset FIAT design in the underpinnings. Lets face it Chrysler never produced a top tier small vehicle. GM and Ford finally have competitive smaller car designs (Sonic, Cruze, Focus, Fiesta) due to their importing of design. Hopefully the FIAT design who are experts in small cars shines.

Sounds like you’re leasing because of finances…

Well - Financially leasing is the WORSE thing you can do.

Buy used…keep for 3 years…then sell.

Since you are a grad student and the biggest factor in your decision is finances, your decision ought to be clear. Buy used.

Which one? It hardly matters. Any Chrysler product in your price range will serve you well until you feel you can afford to be burdened with new-car payments. I understand that by buying used you will not be able to take advantage of the corporate discount, but you would be paying a heavy penalty for insisting on using it.

Incidentally, I’ve also favored Chrysler products. Family tradition. Except for a 1984 Plymouth Horizon they have all served me very well. Go for it!

Saw a Fiat dealer with a lot of inventory, so I’d see if there is a deal out there on a Fiat 500.

Instead of a car, I’ll recommend a book, “The Millionaire Teacher”, written by a teacher who managed to create quite a nest egg through careful investment from an early age, and, more important, careful spending. You’re about to make the first spending mistake that cripples finances - spending too much on a car. Leasing a new car at a young age with no real income is a BAD idea. You should be minimizing unnecessary spending. Buy a cheap used Chrysler product and invest the difference, however small. Starting early pays HUGE dividends later in life.

Although leasing lets you get into a nicer car for the short term, it costs more than buying over the long term. It’s your call, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of that before deciding to lease.

Leaseing can cost more depending on the type of owner you are… Again, most guys on the forum are the run it into the ground type of guy… THAT is NOT the norm, most people trade in every 3-4 years. IF that is your plan, then leaseing makes all of the sence in the world, but only if you can do it with little to no money down. The nice thing about leaseing is you that have no negitive equitty in three years, you can just walk away… You are at the time of your life when things are going to change VERY quickly, new jobs, new loves, wife, kids, etc are all in your future. As such your needs in a car will change just as rapidly and having a set out in 3 years is a good thing. I can not tell you how many people I see EVERY day who got a Civic sized car, or a coupe when they got our of school, and now have at least one kid and want out. In some cases it is not pritty.

I used to be against Leaseing but I now see how it makes sence for some people, and you maybe one of them.

@gsragtop - you’re absolutely right, folks are asking for trouble with long loans and being ‘upside down’. But the solution isn’t leasing, it’s shorter (or no) loans, 3 years max, with enough down payment to never be upside down. If that means buying a cheaper new, or used, car, then that’s the best choice. Then they can sell at any time. A 3 year lease is an obligation that can’t easily be dropped in a year or two.

When I looked in Consumer Reports, the Caliber had an average or above average repair record, but didn’t score high in CR road tests, so it was never one of its recommended models. I think that the Caliber has been discontinued, so the price should be reasonable. Since it wasn’t an exciting car, this should work in your favor as far as price is concerned.
I had old cars that were paid for in both my rounds of graduate school. If your situation was like mine, the car will sit outside exposed to the elements. If you lease a car, you get dinged for scratches and all kinds of other things when you turn the car in.
I went off to graduate school the first time in a 15 year old 1947 Pontiac that cost me $75. It made the 350 mile trip and got me around town. The second time around, I went in a 5 year old 1965 Rambler. It saw me through my graduate work and I was in a job more than 2 years before I replaced the car. The money I saved by driving old cars was enough for a 20% down payment on a house.
The monthly payments on a lease will probably be more than your monthly rent for a place to live. Go for the used Caliber or Neon and you will be money ahead.

My feeling is that you’ve chosen three totally different vehicles, each a totally different driving experience and designed for a totally different lifestyle.

My suggestion is to carefully consider your lifestyle and choose the one that suits you best. There’s nothing worse than trying to live with a vehicle that simply doesn;t work for you, like perhaps a Chrysler 200 when the things you enjoy most in life are hunting and fishing, or a Jeep Patriot when your best times will be spent cruising on the highway to visit new places.

Sorry, but that’s the best I can do.

@texases while you are 100% right I can tell you that does not happen much if at all in todays world. I sell cars for a living and most people struggle to put together $1000-$2000 as a down payment. Now on a Honda with its re-sale value that may be OK… But on a chrysler its death, as a for example I had a customer with a 2010 Patriott wanted out of it, and she was $5000 FLIPPED. It was a little money down 72 month loan. This is what I see most often… If she had leased she would be out in a year free and clear, now she is stuck for a long time.

As a student with the usual money issues buying new would not be a good idea. The minute you hit the street after exiting the dealer lot you’ve already lost on depreciation.

The Caliber is not a bad suggestion and the discontinuance (which means little) along with depreciation has driven the prices down.
Calibers are not really my cup of tea but my oldest son bought a new one back in 2007 and it’s been bullet-proof up to this point.

The only thing the car has had is routine maitenance such as oil changes, filters, plugs, etc. and it still runs/drives/looks as new without ever suffering even one squeak or rattle.
His is the AWD RT model with the CVT tranmission and it gets about 27 to 30 MPG on the open road while moving through snow pretty well.

Let me add one more thing. When I did my second round of graduate work, there were graduate students in the same program I was on that began one year before I did and were still taking courses a year after I had finished my coursework and moved on. I remember one student who had an older Porsche and lived in an upscale apartment with his wife. The Porsche wasn’t great on reliability, so he purchased a new VW Beetle in addition to the Porsche. He had to fight traffic every day on his way to campus. I chose to live in married student housing. There was a bus at the door to take me right down to campus. The old Rambler that I owned got us to the grocery and other errands and, on breaks, made the trips to visit family.
What you want to do as a graduate student is to hit the ground running your first term. This is what I did and I had the reputation of being a good student. There were students that were far more capable than I am but washed out. I had my major professors fooled into thinking I was a good student and I sailed right through the rest of my coursework and dissertation. Get yourself basic transportation, live as close to campus as possible and use your first term to prove yourself to be a capabe student.

I am a grad student, but I have an internship this summer with an oil company, and so that is most likely where my future will be. This means money is an issue right now, but even once the summer starts it will be less. So I am more concerned about the short term than long term.

When possible, I bike or take a bus, but the city my internship is in doesn’t have public transport, so I need a car within the next month. But while I’m finishing up grad school, I won’t be driving that much.

The biggest thing I’d carry around would be bikes and maybe camping gear for some weekends, but getting a bike rack takes care of most of that problem.

Fiats are too small and too expensive.

Also, my last car was a Neon that had numerous serious problems and then literally fell apart as the frame rusted through.

I’d consider a Caliber (driven one before). They are discontinuing them which does mean prices are dropping…if you want to buy one. To make myself clear, because apparently typing it once didn’t matter, I WANT TO LEASE.

Well, what do you want from us? You’ve already determined you are going to lease. You’re locked into a single manufacturer, and you probably know more about each of its models than any of us. So pick out the one you like. What more do you want?

@hingstma

You say money is an issue…and then you say “I WANT TO LEASE”.

Conflicting requirements…

Pick one…Leasing IS MORE expensive then buying. Good luck…You obviously don’t want sound advice.

IMHO, the Caliber is an appalling, car. I had the misfortune of renting one for a week on a ski trip. The 2.0L FWD SXT model I was given, had very little power, I was on the gas constantly (mountains around SLC), which meant the CVT kept the revs above 3500 RPM most of the time, the engine has a very unpleasant drone as well. The interior was cheaply appointed, and despite there only being 300 miles on the car, there were already squeaks and rattles manifesting themselves. Handling was sluggish for a small car, and the seats were uncomfortable. It’s only redeeming quality was that it returned 30+ MPG despite the flogging I gave it.