The Perfect Car

About a year ago, I bought an '95 Volkswagen Passat. It was a hasty decision, and I didn’t have it checked out by a mechanic first, and believe me, I learned my lesson well. I thought I could save money on payments by getting an older, inexpensive car, but I was wrong. I have had more trouble with this piece of crap than I even want to talk about.

So, I want to get a new or late model car, maybe a “certified pre-owned” thing with an intact warrantee. But I don’t know where to start. I wonder if there’s a survey I can take. Something that takes your demographic data and suggests models of cars that suit your lifestyle? It may sound lazy, but trusting my own instincts obviously doesn’t work, as my previous experience shows.

The IMHO question is: How did you come to decide to buy the car you currently own (or lease)? What factors did you take into consideration? What would you do differently if you had to start all over again with a different car? Horror and sob stories appreciated and sympathized with.

Research, research, RESEARCH. There are some good websites that give recomendations on new and used cars and they also have message boards like this one. There are usually people with a fair amount of knowledge that like sharing it. It all helps. After you’ve done your research, you’ve got to weigh it all out.

Every model of car is going to have people that don’t like it, even the worshiped Accord and Camary. As well, vehicles that are generally classed as ones to be cautious of have proponents.

Personally, our next vehicle will probably be a Subaru but I also really like most Hondas and Toyotas.

My 98 Jeep Cherokee has been uber-reliable. I haven’t even had to do the brakes yet.

My .02: If you’re looking for a new mid-sized car, I’d recomend the Accord, Camary and Legacy. The Legacy gives you the added bonus of AWD but is a little gutless compared to the other two.

The worst thing one can do is buy a car in a hurry, and in fact the entire car sales industry is built around getting prospects to close the deal without due comtemplation. If at all possible, leave yourself at least a month for the entire shopping and financing process, and always walk away from any prospective deal with which you feel even slightly uncomfortable. There are hundreds of millions of cars for sale; if you find one you like today, you’ll find one you like tomorrow.

If maximum reliability is your prime consideration, a late-model Japanese-designed sedan, or a Japanese/US light truck is the best bet.

My personal vehicle is a 2001 Subaru Impreza wagon, purchased mainly for its good reputation as a handler, excellent four-wheel drive system, and bulletproof engine and drivetrain. As a side consideration, I had enough cash on hand to buy it new outright; anything more expensive would have required floating a loan. Unless I hit the lottery, I will keep it for at least 100,000 miles.

I researched the car heavily on the Internet and in magazines, sent out for bids from local dealers by E-mail, dumped any that would not give firm price for the car + option package that I specified, took the lowest of five firm offers, and never set foot in a dealership, even for a test drive, until it was time to go pick up the car.

In all honesty, however, if economics were more of a consideration I would be foolish to buy new, as the first two years see the steepest decline in value. Also, if I had been shopping for a used vehicle, I would have had to have been less hands-off regarding dealer contacts.

There are a number of dealers, such as the CarMax chain, that specialize in off-lease vehicles; 2-4 years old with mileage usually less than 40K. Were I to buy a car right now, I probably choose an off-lease Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V from a reputable chain dealer.

I was shopping for a Nissan, but found a BMW for 60% of low book value. Much more car for the money, so I grabbed it. Ended up spending just a little more, but got so much more. That was the deciding factor for me, value per dollar.

CarMax is nice to shop, to see cars side-by-side, but they ask too much and don’t deal.

Fagjunk Theology: Not just for sodomite propagandists anymore.

I thought we were going to design our own perfect car. :frowning:

When I buy my car, reliability will be the chief factor. As well as cost. I won’t be able to buy anything more than a compact sedan (Civic, Corolla, etc.) at the low end, but I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to either a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla. Good for about 200,000 miles if you take care of it with almost no repair hassles.

I’m also thinking about a Nissan Sentra or Mazda something or other - but I don’t know enough about their reliability as compared to the two I mentioned above.

For the final decision I will be looking at Consumer Reports, etc. to find the most reliable car, then spend about a month or two bouncing from dealer to dealer playing them off one another and trying to get the best price and financing. Good times.

First, i went to alot of websites (eopinions, cartalk, and others i cant remember right now) and looked up the type of vehicle i was looking at. I wanted a small truck, so it came down to the S10, ford ranger, datsun, etc. I checked the stories to see which car model had the least problems. I decided ford ranger was easiest to find and the most reliable (supposedly you can get to 140k miles with only transmission problems).

I went to, and searched for a ranger. i wanted one with low mileage and a newer year model. The thing about autotrader is for every 100 dealers that sell cars for 100-130% of blue book, there is 1 or 2 that sells them for 60% of blue book, you just have to find out where they are. I eventually found a ford ranger with a blue book value of 10k that i bought for 6k.

However, i just learned that you can buy a used car warranty for about $1000 that supposedly covers everything.

if i had to do it all over again, i would probably get a warranty for safetys sake or shop for a car with low enough mileage that i could get a full coverage warranty that would last for 80k miles for about $1100.

Recent threads:

Used Car Price Negotiation

Used car prices and Kelley Blue Book

In those threads you’ll find links to Autotrader, which is a good way to shop, as well as Edmunds, NADA and Kelley Blue Book, all of which provide pricing info and reviews of recent automobile models. You’ll also find Autocheck and Carfax, two services that let you check a particular car’s VIN history for wrecks, repos, taxi/police use, water damage and a bunch of other stuff. I recently bought a car, and I used Autocheck because it seemed to consistently yield more data than Carfax.

As far as what to buy, you know best what configuration of vehicle will suit you. My approach, which has served me well in the past four purchases, has been to settle on one or two makes that I know to be quality cars and, once I know what I’m willing to spend, decide what year range to shop for what particular models.

That way you don’t have to learn about a jillion different models. You can also search the make and model your shopping for on google with “Service Bulletin” and/or “Recall” to see if it has particular problems.

Also, there may well be a message board for that particular make and model where you can ask people who know questions about the cars.

Those two threads have some pricing info you should be aware of. While I researched quite a bit on the 'net, I wound up buying the only one that I test drove. That was the case with the previous two, also. My experience was similar to that of gatepescado (same model even, I think).

Yeah, I forgot to mention warranties; I purchased a 3 year bumper-to-bumper warranty on a 1999 that was just out of factory warranty for $2000. BMW dealers honor it, but I can also use my own mechanics.

I also fall into the “more car for the money” boat. When I went shopping for a car my SO wanted the 2003 Toyota Celica GTS ($33-ish Canadian). I couldn’t afford it just then (insurance was $400 a month! Holy cow).

So the dealer (a really nice guy) showed me the New Toyota Matrix XRS. Same engine and tranny (6 speed manual) based on the same platform of the Corolla (and the suspension of the celica) and checking with my insurance company, it was $100 a month less to insure so I took it. The total price with all the options was $10K less than the Celica with more cargo room and almost the same zoom (0.2 seconds slower).

So for 10K less I got the heart of a Celica with the practicality of a station wagon with good power and dependability (I also got, for $1500, a full 6 year, 200,000 km warrenty).

      • Here’s my advice on buying a car: mileage and year don’t matter, at all. As long as it’s a commonly-available brand/model you can get parts for and it’s the basic style you want (SUV, compact, coupe, etc), you don’t care.
  1. the interior and exterior should be in good condition, little or no stains or rips in the interior, no major dents or parts missing or cracked.
  2. no rust, anywhere.
  3. on a level road the vehicle should accellerate and brake in a straight line with your hands off the steering wheel, and shouldn’t make any odd noises during accelleration or braking.
  4. the vehicle shouldn’t smoke a lot when you accellerate hard.
  5. the vehicle shouldn’t have a frame-mounted trailer hitch.
  6. it shouldn’t leak any fluids at all, before or after the test-drive–(-park it on a clean spot for 10 minutes after, and then look under the engine and transmission for leaks…).
  7. if buying directly from an individual, buy vehicles only from old people if you can, of middle-class or higher income–they tend to drive moderately and maintain their vehicles. Look at the seller’s house: if the house is maintained well, the car probably was also. If not, probably not.

-If a car doesn’t meet any of these requirements, pass it up. And expect to look a while, my last took 2 months, 30+ vehicles before I found one I liked.

Thanks, people. This is all helpful. Somebody pulling out of a parking spot hit my door a few weeks ago, and put a large dent in it. Unfortunately, she didn’t total it. Her insurance company is paying the $1200-$1500 to fix it, which means it goes to the body shop next week and I get a rental. But as soon as I get it back, I’m going car-shopping.

Incidentally, the following things are wrong with my car:

  1. The power moonroof doesn’t work. It can’t be opened manually either. And it’s starting to leak.

  2. Two of the doors don’t open. The other two don’t lock.

  3. Every time I turn the car on, the clock goes back to 12:00 and the trip indicator resets to zero.

  4. The rear passenger’s side window does not open at all. The front driver’s side window is about to go too.

  5. The worst problem - In traffic, the oil light starts flashing and a loud alarm goes off (beep beep beep…) even though I’m not remotely low on oil. The only way to stop the beeping is to shift into neutral and rev the engine up to 4000 RPM.

I bought this car one year ago. As I said, I’ve learned my lesson well.