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With a budget of $5000 - $7500, which car?

I will be buying a new-to-me car sometime in next few months. I will be living around the Maryland, DC, Virginia area, so it will be getting lots of commuter miles put on it. I’ll be going to/from work everyday which will probably be about 80-100 miles a day. I want something reliable. At the same time I’m being cheap and paying cash, as I’m following the “Total Money Make Over” by Dave Ramsey. I’m willing to “drive like no one else so later I can …”. Albeit it is very hard, as I have had two BMWs (740i and 330i) in the past and I really enjoy driving BMWs. One of the reasons why I like BMWs, rear wheel drive.

This past Sunday I heard on the show a woman had to get three cars, each about $2,000 and the suggestion was late 80s, early 90s Volvo 240s or similar.

Given my budget is higher and I want something more reliable, what do you suggest I look at? Or am I wrong?

If I had $, I would probably get a 99-01 BMW 540, 6spd manual, but alas that will have to wait.

I think you should look at a 2002 Honda Civic EX or LX. I used to commute 100 miles a day in a 1998 Civic DX, and I can testify that the Civic can take that kind of punishment and keep going if you keep up with the maintenance. I can’t remember which one is which, but the EX and LX should have nicer features than my discount model. If you look hard enough, you can find one with a stick shift. If the test drive in a Civic bores you to tears, try the Civic Si to see if it is any better.

How about the newest Crown Vic you can find? Rear wheel drive, decent highway mileage, cheap to keep running and won’t be a theft target.

An older, stick shift Accord or Camry might be a good choice, if you can find one. Stick shift cars in the bread-and-butter lines tend to be cheaper used because “everybody” wants automatics. A Mazda 6 or 3 might give you a bit more of the driving feel of a BMW, but watch out for them possibly having been thrashed by some racerboy.

That’s a tough one. Share you affection for RWD…esp. with BMW. I used to drive Crown Vics with handling package as a cop. You could find one used, they are great handlers. You don’t need awd, but used Subaru Legacy Sedans are really fine driving machines and could be had in a manual.
Some FWD’s have good handling characteristics…but compared to a BMW, you’re spoiled. Agree the Civic is excellent for FWD handling otherwise and everything “Ranck” has too say.

That’s funny. I was thinking of the Crown Vic too, but with an 80-100 per day commute, I would not want to be driving one when gas goes back up to $4/gallon. I think it might happen as soon as next summer.

If you worry about the price of fuel, it might be worth it to get something with front wheel drive and a four cylinder engine. The Crown Vic is a good car, but unless you have a good reason to drive a V6 RWD vehicle, save your gas money.

Well, that’s why my second suggestions were more toward the stick shift Japanese brands. Better fuel mileage in their 4 cylinder versions. The Crown Vic is a V8, but seems to get low to mid 20s for mileage on the highway.

My quick and dirty calculations say 25,000 miles per year in the big Ford, assuming 22MPG would take about 1100 gallons of fuel. A 4 cylinder Camry or Accord might get 30MPG and would use about 800 gallons. So 300 gallons per year difference is about $1200 at your $4/gal figure. I personally wouldn’t want to do 100 miles per day in a Civic or other small car, so getting much more than 30MPG would be tough.

Another thought…though all others are very good. These are really scary times and value/economy for me would trump some other considerations. Arguably a Corolla is one of the most economical and better riding cars. If handling after a fashion were more important…a trip to a speed shop and new struts may help…
The Prism/Corollas I’ve had were no handling champs, but comfy enough and economical (35+mpg) with manuals that made them quite peppy and fun to drive. Great 1.8 motor.

Why do you need to live so far from work? There are many nice areas all over the DC/Baltimore area. You can live a lot closer that that. If you insist on driving a long commute, find a small car like a Civic.

For the moment work is south of the city, Fort Belvoir. In 6 months or so, work could become near Columbia, MD. I don’t actually live down there full time, right now I’m staying there Mon-Thu with a friend and coming home to my family on weekends. It costs me about $60 a weekend to come home in gas, and while I don’t want to spend the money (extremely tight right now), I need the mental recharge of seeing my family.

At the moment my wife and I are considering living in Centreville, VA. We’ve also considered Bowie, MD. Though we know nothing about Bowie, and I’m staying in Centreville currently and its okay.

I’m certainly open to suggestions.

Interesting replies and ideas. I had thought about Accords, Camrys, Civics, Subarus, Volvo S80|70, but a Crown Vic, that had not crossed my radar.

Let me add this to the discussion. In October my family will go from 2 adults and a 2-1/2 year old to, 2 adults and 2 kids. YEAH!! My wife’s car, or the kid mobile at this point, is a Sienna and we’re keeping that. Though my commuter car should also be able to handle the family.

I’m also 6’3", so any car I drive, the drivers seat has to be all the way back for my legs, leaving no leg room in the rear (unless we’re talking a BMW 7xxLi :slight_smile: ) So adding everything together I wonder if a Accord/Camry/Civic would really be able to handle it all. 2 adults plus 2 child seats takes up a lot of room. :frowning:

I have a commercial grade 60" mower I’m selling (our current house is 8+ acres), but I won’t need it. I estimate the mower to be worth about $7000. A guy in Northern VA is selling a 1997 Toyota 4Runner. He estimates it is worth $6500. His posting on craigslist says

If you want the best of both worlds, this is your vehicle. If you need a vehicle that can haul the kids, their friends, and their stuff…and you need/want the security of 4 wheel drive in the winter months, which will be here soon!.. then this is the best choice! This suv does it all well! It is a Toyota, so it should go another 150,000+ miles easy above the current 143,000 miles.
Must see to appreciate, paint is in fantastic shape as it has been garage kept all its life, the tires are almost brand new, it interior is in great shape and owned by non smokers since new (2nd owner here). Timing belt was done on schedule, it has REMOTE STARTER/ALARM (a $400.00 option) so no getting in a cold car in the winter. Get in nice and toasty, and the range is over 500 feet. Has Sony radio, cd player with remote control and detachable face for security, plus 3.5 mm line in to you can plug your ipod (mp3 player) directly into unit, and listen over car stereo (no weak fm transmitter). Oil has been changed every 3000 miles using Mobile One oil! I have carfax report for you to review for free as well. This price takes into account the $400.00 remote starter/alarm, plus approx. $800 worth of new tires.

I checked out CR and it only goes back to 1999 for 4Runners, but every year appears to be very reliable. I don’t think I’ve seen a better reliability report. Assuming this guy and I could reach an agreeable trade of mower/truck/cash, does this sound reasonable? Am I nuts? I know I would be paying more in gas, as the 4Runner probably gets low 20s.

I do/don’t worry about gas costs. My commute for the next year will probably be 80-100. If things go the way I want them too, I’ll be getting a new job later this year, near Columbia, MD. Then in April of 2010, I would move the family to Columbia and my commute time would then become <10 minutes. My current job has me at Fort Belvoir, so I’m looking for place to live that is about 50/50 between the two, and still affordable for us. The cost of housing in DC is high!!!

You don’t worry about gas costs? How does that fit into Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Make Over?” A “TOTAL Money Make Over” should include an examination (and possible reduction) of all of your expenses. You can’t just trade a Beemer for a 4Runner and call it a success.

I don’t think two kids really means you need an SUV. Just get a four door sedan and exercise some discipline when you decide how much junk to take with you.

If you get the 4Runner, make sure you get it thoroughly checked out by your trusted mechanic first.

I’ve heard Dave say something like those who were complaining when gas was $4/gal are not rich when gas is $2/gal. In the grand scheme of things, it won’t make that much of a difference.

Do you have school-aged children? If so, you might want to avoid Prince Georges County. Bowie is OK, but in PG you need to pay attention what schools they will attend. The Wilson bridge is a nightmare at rush hour, and if you live in Bowie and commute to Belvoir, you must use the Wilson bridge. If you transfer to Ft Meade (how’d I guess that?), Howard County away from Laurel is fabulous (I’m an incurable homer). Anne Arundel County is nice, too, but you have to watch the specific schools your children will attend. MD schools are county-based.

Ain’t BARC wonderful? Well, we like it here, since it benefits us. I’m curious: are you from Monmouth?

Anyway, I’d rent for the first 6 months and let Rich Uncle foot the bill while you “look” for suitable housing. If they might move you in six months, it is inappropriate to expect you to foot the bill for 6 months of a year’s lease. Try to put off buying anything until you know where you will be permanently.

I should have read this post before answering. I’d still rent for 6 months. Centreville is way to far from Columbia. You’ll contend with horrible traffic on I66 and I495. I95 north won’t be too bad in the morning, but plan on leaving at 5AM or earlier to get to Columbia from Centreville in anything less than 1.5 hours. In case you don’t know, DC has the worst commuting traffic in the US. Yes, that includes LA. And the worst is northern VA and the beltway. At least you don’t need to contend with schools yet. Rather than Centrevile, you might look south of Belvoir; from Woodbridge to Quantico.

Well, with additional information I’m even more strongly suggesting you check out some Crown Vics and Grand Marquis. Enough rear seat room for 2 car seats plus an adult, even with the front seat set way back. Huge trunk for hauling kid stuff. And, again, every mechanic in the country can work on it and the parts are cheap. They are quite reliable as well. You think taxi cab companies like seeing their cars in the shop?

I have an '03 Civic EX sedan with 5 spd stick. I’m 6’0" and I have the seat a couple of notches from it furthest back setting, it might fit you. The back seat is plenty big enough to handle the family for running around doing errands, perhaps tight for a longer trip. The trunk is surprising big for such a small car too. I get 40+ mpg at 70 mph on freeway trips, 35 overall. No reason not to save on gas, it may go back up again someday soon.

The Crown Vic is a bulletproof car. Bang for the buck – think about a Ford Taurus. Reliable and only a couple of years old will be in your price range.

Bought a 2000 Camry XLE for my son last October, $7,000 and is a great car, no problems with it at all. The Camry seats should go far back enough to stretch out your legs.

What do you guys/gals think about something like

I have always liked the look of these cars. I saw one on the drive home tonight. Then watched some of the news on TV and thought the cheaper the car the better. Given the state of economy it is very important that I clean up my fiscal house, quickly. I have never sat in one of these cars, but I suspect it’ll have a decent amount (i.e. more than accord/civic) in the back seat, while better MPG than a Crown Vic.

Thank you to all who have chimed in with their $.04, I appreciate it.

The post expired. What is it?

It was a link to a Volvo 240, a specific one on Here is a link to a search query for the type of cars I’m thinking about

No school aged children, an almost 3 year old and a new one coming in October. My wife and I talked last weekend and have decided upon Centreville / Fairfax for now. I don’t know if the job at Ft. Meade (nice guess) will ever happen or not. I certainly hope so, but the hiring process takes a long time. Worst case, if I do get the job and have to commute up there, I have a brother/sister-in-law who live near there, so I could probably crash at their place now/again if I had too.

No I’m coming from Buffalo, NY. We’re renting for the next many years, till we get finished with the baby steps. I figure about 2 years for out of debt (100%) and then time to save up for a house. Unless of course I manage to my consulting business off the ground again (though with this recession/depression) that is probably doubtful. I think for this move we’re okay not worrying about schools, but certainly will for the next one.