Hi, love the site. I want a play car, but my wife and I have to agree on the purchase.
First, the details on our current situation. My wife drives a 2001 Suburban with 120,000 miles on it. I’m driving a 96 Cherokee 4wd with a 5-speed and 90k on the meter. We’re both happy with our daily drivers.
What I’d like to have is a car with, say, 50-75k miles on it, maybe built in the mid-2000’s, that we could take on trips. Perhaps something less thirsty for $4/gallon gas than the other two vehicles. And I’d like to stay in the $7,000 to $12,000 range, with a preference for the lower end.
I’ve got it narrowed down to a few contenders:
Lincoln LS V8 – wish I could get it in a manual.
Honda Civic SI sedan – might be too pricey.
Mazda Miata – I’ve had one, loved it, miss it terribly. But wife would prefer a car that seats 4.
I don’t do my own work on cars, so reliability and cost of maintenance is a big issue. I prefer a manual, wife prefers auto, but that might not be a deal-breaker either way. The main thing is that I want a car that’s fun to drive. She likes ’05 Mustangs too, by the way.
I’m not saying I’ll get what you guys recommend…but I just might. Thanks!
All of those cars you mentioned should be perfectly fine. The LS is a great touring car and the powertrain with the V8 is definitely one of the nicer ones of the past decade. The Mazda’s are perfectly fine as is the Honda. Though that may ride a bit rougher than you may appreciate.
Are you ready for my advice? Wait it out. Used car prices are through the proverbial roof right now thanks to a confluence of factors. Low levels of retail sales over the last few years have been paired with fewer trade-in’s. Dealer consolidations have severely limited competition for late model vehicles. Buy here-pay-here lots are now dominant forces at the dealer auctions along with the price premiums they seek for the common ‘credit’ challenged customer.
All of this means that your money won’t go very far at the moment.
Let me show you a brief example of what I’m talking about.
Make/Model/April 2007/April 2011/Net Change
Toyota 4Runner $13,000 $20,500 $7,500
Ford Explorer $ 7,100 $14,200 $7,100
Toyota Prius $ 11,600 $ 17,300 $5,700
Honda Civic $ 8,700 $12,200 $4,500
* Data courtesy of Kelly Blue Book. Chart compares three year old vehicles from each period.
What this data doesn’t tell you is that prices of used cars are up nearly 20% since January. This is also the first time in history where values of cars have not gone down after tax season. In over a decade in this business I have never seen supply as dry and expensive as it is right now.
If it were me, I would wait until October and the first half of November and revisit the car buying decision. By then you will have dealers and individuals who will be off-loading their vehicles for far cheaper prices since there are no ‘spending’ holidays. No bonuses, and no tax money to inflate the price of your next ride. The quality of the offerings should be far better as well.
Anything you listed for your next ride should be fine. Make sure both of you drive it first… and then wait. Let the current bubble deflate a bit.
Your wife likes 2005+ Mustangs? I think you just found your answer. While I am far from a late model, overweight Mustang cheerleader (Fox Body ‘fo life, SON!) they certainly have the right hardware. It only needs a few cheap tweaks to hit the sweet spot. A Mustang GT with more aggressive rubber, uprated dampers + sway bars and an SCT tune is stupid fun. On the cheap. And they are fairly reliable, even if I see many with anywhere from 1-4 shorted out taillights. They are in your budget, just try to find one with the premium package and the stitched dash top: it makes Ford’s interior bean counting far less revolting.
Keep the wife happy this time, you won’t regret it. And if you do, getting a Miata and a divorce isn’t the worst thing to happen to a dude. Probably.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.