Help me choose a new car

My trusty old 1987 Toyota Corolla finally died and now I face the dread of buying a car, which I’ve never really had to do. I’ve got about $2,500 to put down and a total budget of about $10,000. I guess I should go the used car route.

On the one hand, I want good fuel economy, reliability, safety, comfort (=leg room) inexpensive to maintain. On the other hand, my heart yearns for a PT Cruiser (I’ve never had a cool car in my life) as well as something that will give me enough room for comfort.

People have strongly recommended to me Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, but those are probably outside my price range, even second-hand. I know about a half dozen people with Mazda Proteges. Also recommended are Dodge Neon and Ford Focus. Also some recommendations for Subarus and recent model Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Ford Tauruses.

What do the teeming millions say? Which year and model is going to meet my stringent parameters?

I don’t think a relatively low-mileage '96 or '97 Camry would be out of your price range. I was looking at them earlier this year and they’re very nice cars - I actually liked the '96 more than the '97. I’d stay away from Neons and Focuses (Foci?) - they’ve had big reliability issues. The Accord’s not bad either, but older Camrys beat the older Accords in some respects.

The problem is that my Credit Union won’t finance a car older than 1999. Do you think I could get a Camry (in the Washington, D.C., area) in that range?

Maybe not a Camry, but how about another Corolla? My sister just purchased a new Toyota Corolla and it seemed roomy enough to me. She had first considered the Echo, but everyone we talked to said the Corolla was a better value and for her needs the Camry was probably too much. I just did a quick search at carmax to see what used Toyota Corolla’s were running in the Baltimore/DC area. I found several 1999 Corollas for just under $10,000. Alternatively, you can get an even more recent Chevrolet Prizm, which is the exact same vehicle as a Toyota Corolla. I used to have a 1992 Prizm and it was still going strong at just over 100,000 miles when I traded it in in 1999.


Have you checked out Saturn? We have an '03 Ion, and we really love it. You can check out their prices at their website, and there’s no dickering at the dealer. The price is the price. That alone is nice to know.

Autotrader found several 2000 Camrys in your area for <$10,000.

My parents bought a used one year old '03 Corolla for just under $10k. That included an extended warranty. And they got it at a dealership that usually tries to bend people over.

I would go for a Corrola or a Civic. I would also stay away from the Focus and Neon. I think Nissan makes a pretty reliable car too.

I have a 2002 Focus and absolutely love it. It’s my favorite car ever. No problems with it, handles like a dream. I’d suggest taking a look at least.
I suspect (based on the miniscule sample size of the cars owned by me and my immediate friends) that the lack of reliability in US manufactured cars as true once, but not any more.

Echoing the Corolla or Civic sentiment. I’ve had my '95 Civic for six years, and it’s a wonderfully reliable, economical, yet fun to drive car, and fairly cute, too. Before that, I had an '84 Honda CivicCRX that was reliable until I drove it through a flood at 170,000 miles.

I vote for the Mazda. I bought my second Mazda 323 (1991) in 1994, so I’ve had it for all these years. It has 198,000 miles and is still going strong, albiet with some creaks here and there. I should probably get a new car but don’t want to part with my friend. I understand that the Mazda Protege is the same car. They haven’t made the 323 since 1994 in the US. All I’ve ever had done is the tires, muffler, brakes, front axle, and one voltage regulator, plus of course tune-ups which I do myself. By the way, it still gets 43 miles to the gallon; I just measured it a couple of weeks ago. I’ve seen them in northern Maine for about $10,000 for a 2003.

If you’re going to go used, I’d reccomend a Japanese make.

Toyota, Honda, or Mazda.

I can personally vouch for Mazda. I had a Protege for about 11 years and 80,000 miles and it never had a mechanical problem at all.

All it needed was routine maintainence.

Oh, and it handled like it was on rails. For a bone stock suspension set up on 185 series tires, that’s pretty spiffy.

FWIW, I have a 1993 Honda Accord…she’s been a dream. I need to replace the radiator but she still keeps on going and going.

10,000 will buy you a decent Honda, not the best and not so brand new (they do keep their value as do Toyotas much better than domestic cars) but they are worth every penny.

I am not a big Toyota fan because of a POS one that my brother had…he was in high school and college and my mom drove it, it was yellow and the interior was brown, of all colors.

In either case, I have had four Hondas and this last baby of mine seems to deal well with my lack of funds to get her fixed but she still runs. My current Honda only has 89,000 miles on it, have had her since late 1996 and plows through some darn large snow banks when it has to be done.

I vote for a Civic. They’re good cars, great on gas milage. The only problem that I ever had with my old one was losing my headlight, but that was more my fault than the car’s.

I’d recommend getting an insurance quote first though. For some reason the insurance companies are saying that it’s more expensive to insure my civic over my mom’s accord. I know it’s partially because I’m under 25, but my driving record is clean. It has something to do with it being a civic.

Civics are very popular with a certain set of the younger population who like to either street race or pretend that they do. They are quite often modified, etc. Parts are also interchangeable with certain Acuras, I think. This basically means that there’s a higher rate of theft of Civics (or parts of Civics, even) to get spare parts. If demanded, I can probably find cites.

Thanks for all the advice, folks. Keep it coming!

I do love my old Corolla, but I’m thinking that I would like something a little bit bigger now that I have a family – something more comfortable for long-distance trips.

I can’t get my mind off the PT Cruiser, though. As I said, I’ve never had a car that I really liked the styling for. I’ve never liked the way the Civics looked.

I’m planning on taking a look at Camrys, Proteges, Corollas, Civics, Accords (and the PT as well). Maybe the Focus as well.

What about Nissan? Which models should I consider?

The PT Cruiser is based on the Neon platform. Mechanically they are almost the same.

Reason number 4 not to get a PT Cruiser.


Out of curiosity, how old are you? Around where I live, at least, if you’re driving a PT Cruiser… Everyone Under 40 Will Laugh At You. If you like the look, that’s great, but if it matters to you what other people think…