What's the best cheap, car to possibly get my brother in law through school?

I’m leaning towards a 1994 Toyota Corolla (stick shift since that way at least the automatic tranny can’t go out) like the one I donated to Good Will last year. That car had 350K miles on it, and the biggest repair I ever did was to replace the clutch once at 125K miles, and again at 275K (it was going strong when I finally got rid of the car). It wasn’t my stellar maintenance either since I did good to change the oil every forty thousand miles or there abouts (actually it burned a quart every 1,500 miles or so, thus fresh oil was being added between changes. I also added Duralube every ten thousand miles for whatever that is worth). I can buy him (or in theory loan the money for) this sort of vehicle for about $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 .

Several of my friends say that we would do better getting him an old Honda Civic. However, they seem to run about an additional thousand or so for the same age and mileage range. In addition, I’ve noted that a good number of the older Hondas (but not older Toyotas) have engine damage from busted timing belts.

I even have a buddy who swears by old, Olds 98’s (he likes those from the late 1980’s which he says you can pick up for about $800.00). Is the answer an old Toyota, Honda, Olds or maybe even Chrysler “K” car (do I hear AMC Matador)?

I’d say the Honda Accord would give you more bang for the buck. Of the two (Toyotas and Hondas) they are IMHO better built and more durable. The Accord also does not have the same problem with the timing belt (where it breaks the valves) as the Civic because of different design.

*my qualifications=my s.o. is an excellent (and pro-Honda opinionated) foreign car mechanic. Therefore he knows the excellent foreign cars, and I get the knowledge through osmosis.

Based on numerous reviews and quality rankings, The top two cars in reliability and longevity are Honda and Toyota, and this goes back at least twenty years.

Choosing popular models ensures relatively inexpensive parts and maintenance.

From JD Powers, to Consumer Reports and reviews on sites like Edmunds.com, Toyota and Honda are consisitent winners. Finding an older model that has depreciated is safer with these cars because you can get high mileage at low cost from them.

Even anecdotal evidence will bear our these two car companies.

Either will probably have to be driven into the ground. I’d go with the Toyota, just because I’ve had a lot more experience with them.

Except that I had a '91 Civic DX that was a real POS. Plus it was expensive to repair. I hadda replace the entire ignition system, including the distributor, over about an eight month period (~$1000 total). Replaced the entire exhaust system, from manifold to tailpipe twice (catalytic convertor only once, though). Air conditioning condenser fractured, never fixed that since it was gonna run about $600. New radiator, new clutch, new alternator . . . all this happened in the eighty-thousand miles I put on it (I bought it with about 36,000 and got rid of it at about 115,000).

Bus pass and a bicycle! Bus pass and a bicycle!

Ten bucks for a used bike, fifty bucks a month for a bus pass. Bike repairs are way cheaper than car repairs.

Has he considered not having a car? It’s made my life cheaper and easier. This may not hold true for everyone, of course.

While not as widespread as the Toyota and Honda models, I’ll put in a good word for the Suzuki Sidekick and its successor, the Vitara. I have a 1997 Sidekick that has never needed anything beyond routine maintenance for nearly 90,000 miles, gets good mileage, and most importantly for me, has a lot of room - both in terms of leg and head room, and in rear cargo space - compared to the cars. It’s much more handy than a regular car for someone who needs to move from one apartment to another, or likes to go camping or barbecueing now and then.

Everyone else I have known or run into that with these vehicles can attest to their reliability. They may not be babe-magnets, but they will last.

The main problem is it doesn’t handle strong winds well (30MPH+) and can be bumpy on rougher roads (which are both occassional problems where I live).

I have a 1996 Toyota Tercel, bought it in '98. It is the sucessor to an 84 Corolla (affectionately called the Corroder or the Crapmobile), which rusted away on us thanks to a lifetime of sitting on the shores of the St Lawrence before it came into our possession. My father has a 97 Tercel and until he moved to Montreal (where he didnt need a car) my brother had a 94 Tercel. My sister has a '00 Echo.

Toyotas are reliable cars, they get good gas mileage, and are not as high on the theft list as Civics are (Civics are often stolen and broken into for parts). I haven’t had to put too much money into my car other than the usuals. Its at about 190 000KM and I plan on keeping it for at least another 2 years or so (I commute about 30 000km a year). I say two years only because by then I figure I can afford a new one - it could probably go longer, if it continues the way it is. My dads car is nearing 300K KM.

On the other hand, insurance can kill you. If your brother doesn’t NEED a car (some universities give free bus passes with tuition - mine did, anyways) maybe he’d rather save his money for things like food and rent!

I’ll sell him my 1991 Ford Escort for $350.

It looks like hell warmed over on wheels, but the engine and powertrain are in great shape, and it gets 27MPG.

It doesn’t have AC, so… well… wear shorts.

And the spedometer and most of the instrumentation is shot. But the odometer does work. It currently reads about 186,000 miles.

Did I say it gets 27 MPG?

And the engine was rebuilt a year ago, it has a new radiator, water pump, and timing belt, and the alternator and tires are only about two years old.

  1. With an AM radio. Needless to say horrible gas mileage. I’d reccomend an early 90’s civic (except Uncle Beer’s). I got one with 200k on it for $800, CD player, great body, really good fuel economy, only thing I had to replace was a radiator ever since I bought it. Any time I go into one of those oil change places they always do a “say what now?” when I give them my odometer reading.

A bicycle or walking won’t work since he lives with us ($150 per month rent) and we are about fifteen miles outside the city where his school is located. In addition, he works as a “framer” at various housing editions throughout the city. He has no credit, and no money (when he does get a little money he spends it on his beautiful girlfriend who happens to have two kids). In any case the decision has been made to help the guy the only question is which car to go with. In addition “his” car could serve as a backup for us if either of our autos ends up in the shop. I am leaning towards the Toyota Corolla since I’ve had personal experience with the vehicle. Are any years better than others? Most of the ones in our price range are between 1992 and 1995 with anywhere from 100K to 170K miles. My number one requirement is that the car not be an automatic transmission (then even if the engine fails, I know that if it is fixed there are no other huge potential problems lurking). Also, is the Camry comparible in durability? I have a friend with an 89 Camry who said he will sell it for about $2,000 (it has 120K miles, unfortuantely it IS an automatic).

This is just an off-the-cuff remark.
Honda Civic, great. Toyota Corolla, spiffy.
But NOT because they’re lower-cost-to-operate than an older domestic.
For the money you could save buying a '92 [ Escort | Cavalier | Small Domestic ], versus a '92 [ Civic | 323 | Corolla ], I predict you can pay all of the difference in repair costs between the two classes of cars in a 3-year span.
By the way, my take on things is that the absolute CHEAPEST car to operate is probably the absolute SMALLEST car. I suggest considering a Japanese “Kei” class vehicle. Think Ford Aspire, Ford Festiva, Geo Metro, Suzuki Swift, etc. At least consider it.

Don’t forget about the Nisssan Sentra (any year). As reliable as Toyotas and usually cheaper…

I have an 85 Honda Accord. 19 yrs old with 265k miles. About a week ago the original radio quit working, and I had to put a timing belt and a clutch in it.

Yea, but if he’s working and going to school, he’s not going to want to spend time sitting at the mechanic/by the side of the road at some ungodly hour.

Well, I’m not sure about the domestic vehicle argument here’s why:

a. In my local Trader (which covers the entire state of Indiana) domestic vehicles like the ones you named (of the same years) are only selling maybe $500.00 cheaper on average.

b. My biggest concern is that the engine not give out. My parents forced me to by a 1984 Ford escort from a cousin and I had to put THREE engines in that car. Ever since I have come to appreciate the value of a solid engine. Even a head gasket repair would eat up any savings. The fact that my 94 Corolla went 350 thousand miles and had approximately the same acceleration on the day GoodWill hauled it away as the day I drove it home, really impressed the shit out of me (especially since we only changed the oil maybe every 40K miles on average).

c. My second biggest concern would be the transmission if I was buying an automatic. However, that’s why I’m trying to stay with a stick shift.

d. Little things can also add up quickly. In the last three weeks I have had to replace the transmission speed sensor, and the engine idle fan on my 2000 Chrysler Concorde to a total cost of around $490.00. My 1998 Toyota Corolla had a bearing go bad on the air conditioner blower motor, and that was about $300.00 to repair. Pep Boys was going to charge me $800.00 for a new rack and pinion when all I needed was a new power steering hose on another recent, repair occassion. Also, the last time I had my struts, and shocks replaced the bill came to almost $800.00. In todays automotive repair market even “little” repairs can be devastating for someone who is just “getting by”. I will consider Nissan, I just don’t have much experience with them. We test drove an Altima way back in 1996 when we purchased our 1994 Corolla. We were buying from a Budget car sales dealer and we ended up getting the Toyota because he wouldn’t budge from wanting about $2.000 more for the Altima (then again since it was an automatic I doubt we would have gotten 350,000 miles out of the Nissan without having to pay for a transmission overhaul).

I am all but dead set on the toyota corolla (or an echo if i can find one) myself due to the low reliability to cost ratio. That is my dream car and when i graduate college i’m trading in my ford truck for one.

What ‘red’ midwest state are you in? Have you checked autotrader? I used to live on the east side of indiana near the ohio border and there are a few corollas from the 92-94 era with about 120k miles going for $1900 within 100 miles of my old zip code.

Roland Deschain, questions seeking advice and opinions belong in IMHO. Please read forum descriptions carefully before you start your next thread. Thank you.

Moved to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Go to your local bookstore and look for anything by Tom & Ray Magliozzi, aka Click & Clack the Tappet brothers. When I was looking for a used vehicle about 10 years ago that’s what I did. At the front of their book was a list of dependable used vehicles. At the top of the list was “late 80’s Dodge Ram D50 pickups”. These small pickups were made by Mitsubishi for Dodge.

I found an '87 D50 which has been very good to me. I’ve put 62,000 miles on it, and the odometer now reads 118,000+ miles. It has needed about $1200 in repairs during the 10 years I’ve owned it. It gets 20 mpg driving in town, more on the highway.