#1 Posted by BBAlpert (1526 posts) -

I've been driving a hand-me-down Ford Explorer since I first learned to drive, but it's starting to give up the ghost. The problem is that I really don't know shit about cars, so they all kind of look alike to me. I'm not super picky, but I'd still like to avoid getting something objectively crappy.

Any recommendations for cars that are/have

  • Automatic transmission
  • Good-decent gas mileage
  • Preferably on the cheaper end of the spectrum

I realize that those criteria don't narrow things down too terribly much, but that's one of the big reasons why I'm stumped. At this point the only thing I really have to go on is how much I like/dislike the look, but I feel like that's not a good way to make this big a decision and I don't have all that much of a difference in opinion about one car over another anyways. Do any of you duders have some tips on what to look for or avoid?

Thanks!

#2 Posted by Pr1mus (3950 posts) -

Are you buying new or used?

If new just start going around the different car dealership and look at the cheaper models they have and start educating yourself on the specifics once you've narrowed it down to a few models you like.

I've got a 2008 Hyundai Accent. That's definitely on the cheaper end and it's going through its fifth winter up here in Canada and i haven't had much in the way of problems with it so far.

#3 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

well buy a car with low mileage. make sure the body isn't all rusted out.

do some research on some cars that you like.

#4 Edited by JasonR86 (9742 posts) -

I recently bought a car and found cars.com and autotrader.com helpful.

#5 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

I strongly recommend looking up JD Power reliability/dependability ratings when buying used vehicles. JD Power's own website isn't the easiest to navigate so I recommend just going to autos.aol.com, search the model of car and year, then go into the reliability tab under the ratings and reviews category on the vehicle's page.

In order to save money on maintenance, it's best to spend a little more on a proven reliable model of car than to go cheap on the purchasing price and wind up with a car that costs $500+ per year just to keep running. Dependable cars manufactured in the last ten years that fit your description are Toyota Echo/Yaris/Matrix/Rav-4, Honda Civic and CR-V. I have an '03 Toyota Echo, and while it looks dorky as hell, thing is a goddamn tank as far as powertrain reliability goes. 30mpg in city without mods is nice too.

Stay away from cheap american trash. <--- personal bias. :D

edit---- Also, Nissan makes some solid cars too. I don't know specific models though. My brother had an Altima he drove for, I think, 400k or so before getting a new one. He only switched because he had the rear bumper dented in a fender bender and that totaled it as far as insurance company was concerned.

#6 Posted by MikkaQ (10316 posts) -

Stay away from cheap american trash. <--- personal bias. :D

If there's something to take away from this post, it's this. But also apply that to Japanese and Korean trash and only buy European. Well France is my national pride, but I know they've been shit lately as far as cars go. Okay so buy a German or Italian car. Or an old American one from before fuel injection became a thing.

#7 Posted by tourgen (4542 posts) -

Fiat 500c Pop

Fuuuuuuuck yeah son. Pop that sick fabric top. Fiat is know for it's dependability and great auto transmissions. O.K. that's a bald-faced lie.

mileage is alright tho.

#8 Posted by sarahsdad (1108 posts) -

My family's had good luck with Hyundais over the last dozen years or so. My first new car was a '99 Accent, and I only gave it up when it got too small for me+wife+baby. Nothing special for horsepower, but it was reliable and good on gas.

#9 Posted by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

@tourgen said:

Fiat 500c Pop

Fuuuuuuuck yeah son. Pop that sick fabric top. Fiat is know for it's dependability and great auto transmissions. O.K. that's a bald-faced lie.

mileage is alright tho.

People seem to think that car is ugly. I like it. >_<

#10 Edited by BallsDeep (30 posts) -

What is your budget? Because I can't really recommend cars If I don't know what you are willing to spend.

#11 Posted by Casey25 (141 posts) -

ummmmmmm just watch tv and see some car commercials and buy the one that looks the coolest, DUH!

(I dont get how car ads on tv can actually bring in sales, tbh)

#12 Edited by aurahack (2278 posts) -

A potential budget would be a good starting point, as well as a class of car you'll looking for. You have an Explorer now, is an SUV something you'd like to continue using or are you open to something else?

If mileage, price, and features are a concern, I'd recommend looking at something like a Ford Fiesta or Kia Rio. They're cheap, relatively versatile, and fun to drive. More so for the Ford Focus and Kia Forte, though those are slightly more expensive as they are a class above the former models.

Really though, shop around. Look up a bunch of different manufacturers and models, look around locally, and see what piques your interest. Your purchase will most likely reflect what you think works best for you and not necessarily what is best all-around.

#13 Posted by BBAlpert (1526 posts) -

Massive reply dump ahead. And on a side note, what the heck happened to green cars? I mean the color, not hybrid stuff. I looked at like 4 or 5 websites and the closest I could find to green in paint choices was this garish neon yellow-green/lime (and usually called something silly and non-descriptive like "electrolyte"). Not that it would make or break a decision, I would certainly like to see a nice forest or emerald green now and again.

@pr1mus said:

Are you buying new or used?

If new just start going around the different car dealership and look at the cheaper models they have and start educating yourself on the specifics once you've narrowed it down to a few models you like.

I've got a 2008 Hyundai Accent. That's definitely on the cheaper end and it's going through its fifth winter up here in Canada and i haven't had much in the way of problems with it so far.

New, most likely. I've actually been looking at Hyundais, my mom recently got a Santa Fe and it's pretty nice. I know how rough winters up north can be on cars, so the fact that yours is holding up well is a good sign.

I strongly recommend looking up JD Power reliability/dependability ratings when buying used vehicles. JD Power's own website isn't the easiest to navigate so I recommend just going to autos.aol.com, search the model of car and year, then go into the reliability tab under the ratings and reviews category on the vehicle's page.

In order to save money on maintenance, it's best to spend a little more on a proven reliable model of car than to go cheap on the purchasing price and wind up with a car that costs $500+ per year just to keep running. Dependable cars manufactured in the last ten years that fit your description are Toyota Echo/Yaris/Matrix/Rav-4, Honda Civic and CR-V. I have an '03 Toyota Echo, and while it looks dorky as hell, thing is a goddamn tank as far as powertrain reliability goes. 30mpg in city without mods is nice too.

Stay away from cheap american trash. <--- personal bias. :D

edit---- Also, Nissan makes some solid cars too. I don't know specific models though. My brother had an Altima he drove for, I think, 400k or so before getting a new one. He only switched because he had the rear bumper dented in a fender bender and that totaled it as far as insurance company was concerned.

Thanks, I hadn't thought to check out JD Power, but looking now it seems like a very good resource. And that's some good advice regarding maintenance stuff.

What is your budget? Because I can't really recommend cars If I don't know what you are willing to spend.

I'm thinking somewhere in the $15-25,000 range.

@aurahack said:

A potential budget would be a good starting point, as well as a class of car you'll looking for. You have an Explorer now, is an SUV something you'd like to continue using or are you open to something else?

If mileage, price, and features are a concern, I'd recommend looking at something like a Ford Fiesta or Kia Rio. They're cheap, relatively versatile, and fun to drive. More so for the Ford Focus and Kia Forte, though those are slightly more expensive as they are a class above the former models.

Really though, shop around. Look up a bunch of different manufacturers and models, look around locally, and see what piques your interest. Your purchase will most likely reflect what you think works best for you and not necessarily what is best all-around.

The main reason I'm driving an Explorer right now is just because it's what my Dad bought back around 95, who then passed it down to my older sister when she learned to drive and then to me when I learned. I don't mind driving an SUV (in fact, I think one of the only times I've ever driven anything that WASN'T a minivan or SUV was when I took my license test), and it certainly came in handy a few times when I was at college in upstate New York. But the fuel economy left a lot to be desired and the weather isn't quite as demanding in Washington DC as it was in Rochester, so something on the smaller side probably makes more sense now.

#14 Posted by aurahack (2278 posts) -

@bbalpert: Then I'd recommend looking to into some hatchbacks/coupes. The ones I mentioned earlier are a good starting point but you should additionally look into Nissan, Toyota, and Hyundai, as they also offer good cars in that range. Also, as a user mentioned above, if you want to stick to SUVs, my friend currently owns a Santa Fe and loves it. You'll definitely not get the mileage out of it like you will with a Yaris or Versa, but it does pretty great for a car its size.

Personally though, I'd really recommend taking a strong look at Kia. They get a lot of shit for their early efforts, (and rightly so, to some extent) but their models have been nothing short of excellent for the past couple years now. The Rio is not only a pretty good looking car but it performs nicely, gets great mileage, and Kia has a really good warranty plan on their cars. They've become way more common around here and my friend's dad bought himself an Optima mid-last year and he's sworn to that manufacturer for life now.

#15 Posted by AiurFlux (902 posts) -

Fiat 500. It's reasonably cheap, well built, good on gas, looks nice, small so it's easy to drive, pretty well equipped, and has plenty of factory options if you want to turn it into a little performance monster. If you do get one get the Abarth and maybe the SS kit.

#16 Edited by Poppduder (460 posts) -

From my experience, it's best to look around craigslist or car-specific classified magazines. You'll find a pretty varied selection, and usually much better prices. I found my car from a lady who was losing her eyesight. Its a 2003 dodge and it has 29,000 miles on it (!!!!!) and got it for $1,800. She just needed to get rid of it, and cut 200 from her asking price because "I'm a nice young man." Never would've gotten that deal from a used car lot.

I spent more on my digital camera than my car. ha.

#17 Posted by isomeri (1314 posts) -

Before making a recommendation I need to know two things. Where do you live, and what do you normally use your car for?

#18 Posted by MideonNViscera (2257 posts) -

@pr1mus said:

Are you buying new or used?

If new just start going around the different car dealership and look at the cheaper models they have and start educating yourself on the specifics once you've narrowed it down to a few models you like.

I've got a 2008 Hyundai Accent. That's definitely on the cheaper end and it's going through its fifth winter up here in Canada and i haven't had much in the way of problems with it so far.

haha Back in 2008 I got a 1995 Accent and rode it hard for 4 years. One of those years I even drove 200km a day, and took it off the highway at 90km/h or so. Accents rule. Some kid is still driving it actually.

#19 Edited by psylah (2181 posts) -

I recently picked up a pristine '04 350z for 10k, cash. Grand tourer, nearly spotless, leather interior, low miles.

You can afford a very decent car for 15-25k, especially if you can bring their price down.

My Z was supposed to be 15k, but when I went to test drive the car, I knew I would be getting grilled and pressured from the second I set foot in the door. I had a few things on my side to help with the price:

1.) Dress like a college kid. Beat jeans, worn-out shoes, crappy watch. The way you dress is a big factor in how these guys size up how much you would be comfortable spending. If I had gone in a suit and shoes from work, he'd be less lenient on the price.

2.) Bring ads for the same car you are looking for in the area that are cheaper. Before I went to look at the 350z, I went on Cars.com and printed out two other identical Z's in the area (granted, with higher mileage and not grand tourers) and brought them with me. When it came time to discuss price, I took those out and said "Here are two other cars. Tell me why I should buy your car and not go down the street to buy one of these." Within 5 minutes he brought his price down below the two others that were in the area.

In the end, I felt I got a sweet deal on a sweet car, and I am super happy with my z.

I love Nissans, and thanks to this car I'll probably keep buying them for the rest of my life.

#20 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

If you have a chance, ask for the VIN number on a car you are interested in and check the Carfax history. See if the vehicle has a history of major collisions. If there is something minor on there you can still use it as negotiation leverage.